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Office of Research and Grants launched

New office is the first stone in the foundation of a one-stop shop in the Office of the Provost for supporting faculty in student-centered research and scholarly endeavors.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

Microscope with slide

In response to ever-increasing research endeavors and the campuswide emergence of a desire to advance research at Lipscomb, Lipscomb President Dr. Candice McQueen announced the establishment of the Office of Research and Grants this past spring. 

The new department brings the university’s grant pursuit function, formerly housed in the Office of Advancement, into the Provost's Office along with the university’s other major research components: the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the Student Scholars’ Symposium.

Having broken into the ranks of national colleges and universities classified as research institutions in 2015, Lipscomb continues to grow in the area of research. Most recently, the work of the Lipscomb Impact 360 strategic planning process has solidified the goal to grow into a more comprehensive research institution, said McQueen, upon creation of the new office structure.

“The establishment of the Office of Research and Grants is a direct result of the growing success of our grant writing efforts and awards,” said McQueen. “Establishing this office provides an essential foundational piece that fully supports student-centered research while fostering and supporting faculty research.”

Robyn Saakian headshot

Robyn Saakian

The first leader on board is Robyn Saakian, formerly advancement’s director of grants and now the new director of research and grants. Saakian’s management has led Lipscomb to attain approximately $14 million in public and private grants for academics and research in the past five years.

Prior to joining Lipscomb, Saakian spent more than a dozen years in Washington, D.C., overseeing international development-related grant programs for two national nonprofit organizations that were funded primarily by federal grants and foundation dollars.

Since coming to Lipscomb, Saakian has helped Lipscomb procure grants from the:

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services;

  • Kern Family Foundation;
  • National Endowment for the Humanities;
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation;
  • National Science Foundation;
  • Nissan North America;
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission;
  • National Historical Publications & Records Commission;
  • Scarlett Family Foundation;
  • Lilly Endowment Inc.;
  • Tennessee Department of Education; and others.

“There are people on campus who have such a passion for academics and intellectual development,” Saakian says. “There is a spirit here of investigation and exploration—brilliant faculty who know the opportunities grants and research can bring to the scholarly pursuits of their departments and their students.”

Initially, Lipscomb’s Office of Research and Grants will continue Saakian’s work partnering with faculty to develop and submit funding proposals, but will also bolster processes related to post-award management and compliance of externally funded grants, said Saakian. This work includes developing and communicating new policies, implementing a new grants management system, hiring new staff for post-award accounting and training efforts for faculty and student researchers.

In addition, the new office will work to create a future University Research Council, which will recommend to the provost policies and procedures to enhance the university’s ability to realize its potential in research and creative and scholarly activities.

Grant-funded, donor-funded and institutionally funded research and scholarship has all grown at Lipscomb over the past 15 years, fueling four new doctorate programs, a pathway program for pharmacy students to earn a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, faculty partnerships with some of the nation’s top institutions, a University Research Professor designation for faculty, the annual campuswide Student Scholars Symposium and countless bench science opportunities for students at Lipscomb and elsewhere to learn the art of the scientific method and discovery.

“Over time, the goal is to develop a one-stop shop for faculty to be supported in their research endeavors,” said Provost Dr. Craig Bledsoe. “The establishment of this office shows how much we at Lipscomb value research, not only as a transfer of knowledge into our world, but also as a firm foundation for the teaching of our students every day in the classrooms. 

“Students work one-on-one with faculty in scientific bench research,” he said. “They partner with faculty in social science and business analysis, they carry out hands-on engineering projects under the guidance of faculty and in-class curriculum is informed and updated based on our faculty’s continued scholarship.”