When Jill Tincher got her start at the University of Miami almost 30 years ago, she knew nothing about sponsored projects administration.
With a knack for finances and an appreciation for the nuances of research administration, she quickly gained her footing in establishing a sponsored funding support program.
“I started off in a department working side by side with faculty obtaining and maintaining their sponsored funding,” said Tincher. “I developed and implemented a comprehensive sponsored projects educational program for both faculty and staff, eventually running the institutional Pre-Award Office and creating the Strategic Initiatives unit responsible for systems, reporting, innovation and training.”
Her success at Miami did not go unnoticed. In 2019, the University of Georgia came calling with an offer she couldn’t refuse: executive director of Sponsored Projects Administration.
Sponsored Projects Administration serves the UGA research community by providing professional guidance, customer service and reduced administrative burden throughout the sponsored project lifecycle. The SPA team wears a multitude of hats: reviewing and submitting proposals; accepting award funding; providing project spending guidance and oversight; and ensuring audit compliance, to name a few.
Even though Tincher knew nothing about Athens, it was love at first sight.
“When I came for my first visit, I fell in love with the city, the campus, the hills and forests,” she exclaimed. “After the first and second interviews, where I met engaging and knowledgeable people dedicated to growing research, I was sold. I knew I wanted to become a part of this community invested in making UGA and Sponsored Projects Administration an even better place.”
Arriving at UGA in June 2019, Tincher set out to build upon the solid foundation established by SPA predecessors.
“First and foremost, the SPA bones were good when I came on board,” she said. “So much great work occurred before I arrived.”
Tincher aimed her focus at implementing four key themes within SPA: customer service, processing time, process improvement, and communications and training.
For Tincher and her team, it boiled down to engaging UGA’s research community and providing a smooth process for all sponsored projects. From handling a wide variety of awarding vehicles (e.g. grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, etc.) and implementing improvements to the Grants Portal, to refining processing times and maintaining university-wide partnerships for institutional reporting and systems integration, the SPA team had a plan for success under Tincher’s leadership.
“Many wonderful developments have occurred to improve timely and efficient award setup, including new tools for award setup, budgeting, award management and closeout,” Tincher said. “To better engage with the research community, we’ve hosted and participated in several training sessions, including an Introduction to Sponsored Projects class, to help lay the foundation of what sponsored projects are and how we can effectively manage this funding.”
Just as Tincher’s strategic plan began to take off, everything came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. She quickly found herself and her team maneuvering new and challenging obstacles.
“I was in the midst of a campus-wide meet and greet with the research community, and SPA had just launched the new Introduction to Sponsored Projects class. All of a sudden, the world as we knew it stopped,” she said. “Everyone had to adapt to remote work while ensuring the work continued to get done correctly and on time. It was a trying time for everyone, but we worked hard, communicated frequently and collaborated on solutions.”
Thanks to the efforts of the SPA leadership team, and the help of Zoom meetings, Tincher successfully overcame the hurdles of the pandemic and is back on track to achieve the goals she set out for SPA upon her arrival at UGA.
“I look forward to picking up where I left off a year ago—meeting more university leaders, faculty and staff, hearing what is working, learning pain points, and collaborating on solutions,” she said. “I also look forward to continued collaboration within SPA and across the institution to find ways to work smarter and facilitate the growth of research at UGA. Remember, the sky’s the limit!”