This is our second annual stakeholder report. W&M’s Global Research Institute is a distinctive organization within academia with a proven model capable of delivering immediate results to support the strategic goals outlined in W&M’s Vision 2026.
The GRI model is distinctive among universities for three key reasons:
- The promotion of interaction between both internal and external partners. GRI reaches across silos within the university and bridges the academic-practitioner divide beyond it;
- The integration of students into all of its projects (which is now being emulated by research centers at UPenn, Notre Dame, UT-Austin, USC, and Harvard) and;
- The execution of a “seed to scale” model. Academic research in the 21st century requires robust external funding, beyond what it can derive from internal university sources.
Progress on FY22 Goals
- Plan and execute events that drive research: In partnership with President Katherine Rowe, and with GRI’s AidData providing intellectual leadership, we hosted William & Mary’s Inaugural China Convening — “Separating Fact from Fiction: China's Growing Global Influence and its Implications.” This convening brought over 120 participants from universities, U.S. government agencies, partner country governments, international organizations, and media organizations to Williamsburg to share research findings and tackle questions related to China’s influence operations, its development finance programs, and the prospects for international cooperation with China in the 21st Century. We have also laid the groundwork for the first two “Gates Forums” (in collaboration with W&M’s Chancellor and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates), with the first forum to focus on strategic communications as a tool of U.S. foreign policy in December 2022. The second forum will focus on new forms of development finance as tools to advance U.S. national security. GRI has also been awarded funding by the Charles Koch Foundation and the Jost family to host two separate meetings here in Williamsburg that bring together scholars and practitioners of U.S. national security policy during the 2022-23 academic year. These events, in addition to dozens of others hosted by GRI, have helped raise the profile of W&M and make the Institute a destination for meetings where people explore evidence-based solutions to real-world problems. In addition to these high profile events, we also host dozens of smaller events where students interact directly with visiting scholars and policymakers. While these smaller events don’t generate headlines, they do generate new ideas and research opportunities for William & Mary students and faculty.
- Catalyze and scale research teams: One of the primary constraints to conducting high quality research is personnel. W&M’s Provost, Peggy Agouris, invested in GRI’s Post-Doctoral Program for Academic Diversity, which helped us increase the number and diversity of our researchers capable of mentoring students and increasing our labs’ competitiveness for external grants and contracts. The success of that pilot investment generated additional external funding to scale the program. This included foundation support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as multiple individual donors, including a $1.5 million gift from Tom McInierney, a member of W&M’s Reves International Advisory Board. These Post-Docs are embedded in existing research labs, mentoring students and increasing the number of research outputs and grant proposals. We also supported labs, such as DIGLab and Ignite, that are focused on growing their research impact and securing sustainable funding. This work was enhanced immensely through a partnership with W&M’s Entrepreneurship Hub.
- Space for the future: Our COVID years highlighted the costs of remote work, especially if that work relies on collaborations between researchers who don’t already know each other. This past year, we worked with the university to find a space that would help us support the growth of GRI as well as collaborate with other campus partners. This fall the university plans to move a portion of our team into a three-year temporary space at W&M’s Campus Center, co-locating with W&M’s Institute for Integrative Conservation and Whole of Government Center of Excellence. We will use this time together to pilot new ideas and develop processes for bringing people together in both formal and informal settings to create intellectual “collisions” that are the lifeblood of creative multidisciplinary work. While the old Campus Center is a temporary solution to a pressing space problem, we are working with our colleagues in W&M’s Advancement Office and the Provost’s Office to identify and fund a world-class research facility that will enhance the work of GRI.
Proposed FY23 Goals
- Create Collaborative Multidisciplinary Space: We are committed to identifying permanent space that can house our full research team and our closest campus partners. Along with other university-wide centers, we have been tasked by the Provost and President with breaking down barriers to collaboration on “research of consequence.” This year, we will explore different aspects of co-locating multidisciplinary research teams by making use of the second floor of the old Campus Center as the temporary home. Knowing that this space will be demolished in three years, we will work with our campus partners and W&M Advancement to identify a long-term solution to our space problem. It seems unlikely we can create and sustain world class research if our physical space is not fit for purpose. For this reason, we will focus intently on this issue in the upcoming year.
- Increase Impact of GRI Research Community: As we explain in this report, GRI defines and measures impact in multiple ways. First, we need to increase the impact of our basic research. Because the best applied research is grounded in high-quality basic research, we remain committed to attracting and retaining talented researchers who can make major advances in disciplinary knowledge that is published in leading peer-reviewed journals and books. We provide direct support toward this objective by funding book workshops and start-up (seed funding) grants, and indirect support by providing a productive research ecosystem. Second, we will continue to develop high quality partnerships outside William & Mary with actors who have the authority and resources to apply the insights of GRI research. These partners include funders, government agencies, corporations, and international organizations. Third, we will increase the coverage and dissemination of GRI research through continued investments in our internal communications team and by partnering with an external media relations team. We have seen direct uptake of our research as a result of media coverage and have observed indirect positive impact on our partnership efforts. Finally, we define impact in terms of the effects we have on our students — we will enhance the skills, networks, and opportunities of our students so that the investments we make now will shape outcomes in the world for decades to come. In this respect, I am particularly excited about our new Global Scholars Program that we are piloting with William & Mary’s DC Center.
- Identify Resources and Implement “Accelerate” Research Model: In November of 2021, GRI was asked by university leadership to write a business plan that would explore the possibility of substantial growth. Well, they don’t teach you how to write a business plan in Professor School, but the GRI team received substantial expert assistance from folks inside and outside W&M (special thanks to COO Amy Sebring and my freshman hallmate, Tim Carroll). This allowed us to forecast both financial returns and strategic returns to W&M in the event GRI received a substantial investment in our core infrastructure. We forecast that an $8 million investment over 5 years would return $38 million in additional funding to support applied research and that it would return accelerating and measurable increases in: publications, press coverage, number and quality of faculty researchers, student research opportunities, internships, and external partnerships with corporations, NGOs, and government agencies. The process we undertook has convinced me that GRI needs to identify and secure these unrestricted resources, either from internal sources or through external fundraising that is not tied to a specific lab or project deliverable. I’m convinced that such an investment in GRI’s core infrastructure will catalyze outsized growth in both financial and strategic returns to William & Mary and will focus on identifying these resources during FY 23.
As always, thanks to you, our stakeholders and partners. Our ability to support student-faculty research at a world-class level depends upon your support. As educators we have provided high-touch experiential learning opportunities to thousands of students, who have graduated to deliver profound impact across government, industry, and the non-profit sectors. Teaching through research is a calling card for GRI as we pioneer a research-infused model of the liberal arts. Teaching students is not a by-product of our work – it is an essential component of the GRI mission.Together we can make William & Mary a leader in applied research that makes a difference in the world.
Director, Global Research Institute
William & Mary