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Our Strategic Approach

Real world problems don’t respect disciplinary boundaries, and neither do we. William & Mary’s Global Research Institute (GRI) advances W&M by investing in student and faculty research teams that create new knowledge and make a difference in the world. The work at GRI attracts millions of dollars to W&M every year, supporting top talent, training hundreds of students, and generating resources that are invested across the university. In August of 2020 GRI had 25+ Principal Investigators and/or affiliated faculty, 200+ students, and 25 active grants and contracts, with a half a dozen additional proposals under review by external funders.

This document is an introduction to our approach and initiatives. When COVID-19 hit in spring 2020 we knew we needed to articulate a crystal clear focus on our model of change and on our core priorities. While the pandemic has already caused us to adjust our operations, across the board cost cutting would be shortsighted in the face of uncertainty. Instead, we need to balance our response to the far-reaching impacts of the external environment while staying committed to our approach to invest in activities most likely to support and generate new research 12-36 months in the future. To do so, in the upcoming year we will need to pause, reduce, and/or eliminate some of our current activities in order to stay focused on investments that are likely to attract new resources and support W&M’s mission: creating new knowledge and cultivating future leaders to meet the most pressing needs of our time.

In our approach, there is no single defining action or “light bulb” moment. Rather, we focus on building teams of diverse thinkers and investing in early-stage initiatives to support a pipeline of applied research. This strategic focus has delivered strong results, and each step in the GRI approach builds momentum to elevate W&M researchers and their evidence-based insights. This same process creates student leaders as they contribute to all aspects of the research process, engage our partners, and help to build and sustain our culture. The flywheel model (described below) clarifies how we allocate resources to best contribute to W&M. We focus on the factors that enable excellence and that will support W&M’s core mission, and this approach allows us to make a finite (and flexible) number of investments that maintain a strong pipeline of projects to attract additional resources by creating knowledge that matters.

As GRI grows, we remain committed to our founding proposition that good ideas can come from anyone. All our projects integrate students, faculty, and external partners to conduct applied research. We also deliberately invest in scholars and students who take both work and community seriously. When we’re not analyzing data on W&M’s supercomputer, running field experiments with community partners, or implementing a large-scale survey, you’ll find us enjoying BBQ and exchanging ideas on the front porch of our research home. A creative culture of innovation, fun, and willingness to think differently has been essential to our success. By helping to support, incubate, and scale the ideas of diverse research teams working on real-world problems, we bring W&M to the world and the world to W&M.  Big ideas live here.