Learn how real students navigate their way through the graduate school admissions process and grad school itself with our What is Graduate School Really Like? series.
Meet Kerin, a USC Rossier Master of Education student and senior research administrator with plans to improve his graduate program and his professional field.
Kerin, thank you for sharing your story with us!
I understand your professional background is in research administration. What is this field, and how does it differ from grant management?
Kerin: Well, research administration is the role that embodies all aspects of managing a grant (grants management). The roles and responsibilities of a research administrator span a multitude of important series of events such as: grant proposal development; grant proposal submission; managing the spending, monitoring goals and milestones, and tracking fund regulations; preparing and submitting reports; and leading to grant closeout. All of these events in managing a grant occur across a lifespan of an award and it is the responsibility of a research administrator, as the gatekeeper, to make sure research faculty execute the sponsored research project according to plan and sponsor regulations.
Congratulations on nearing the end of your Master of Education program! How does this degree dovetail with your career goals and your interest in research administration?
Kerin: Thank you! You actually caught me as I was polishing up my thesis paper and capstone project and can confidently say I am extremely proud of what I have achieved, so far. It helps me get one step closer to my ultimate goal of developing a robust training curriculum for research administrators – one where important behavioral considerations are taken into account and supported by evidence-based research on how to effectively design, develop, implement and evaluate meaningful instruction. I aspire to create a credentialing program that speaks more directly to what research administrators encounter day-to-day and provides the necessary tools and resources for us to excel at what we do best for the sake of the important research being conducted.
What attracted you to Rossier specifically? What have you enjoyed about the Rossier program and experience?
Kerin: Rossier’s mission of access, equity, and inclusion spoke volumes to me. As a first-generation college student now entering levels of higher education I never imagined would be possible, it was important to me that the program itself not only allowed me to apply the knowledge and skills right away, but that it fostered a culture of opportunity.
After meeting with directors, professors, and current students I knew that this program was the perfect fit for me. I soon discovered the program to be so perfectly designed because all of the evidence-based research supporting success in learning and achievement were embedded in the way the program was designed and delivered – the professors walked the talk!
I’ve enjoyed all of those “ah-ha” moments and the friendships I made along the way. Who knew I would leave this online program with so many dear friends. Speaking to that effect, I am very proud of the community we built together through the Lambda Delta Tau Society, my program’s graduate student government organization.
You mention that you are a staff-member at USC. What is your role?
Kerin: I am, indeed. I am Senior Research Administrator. I support the management of grants from cradle to grave: from pre-award grant proposal development to post-award grant closeout and everything in between.
I genuinely enjoy what I do because I not only get to be at the forefront of novel research, but get to understand the impact it can have in the greater community – from the development of new antibodies in infectious diseases to the discovery of new gene therapy approaches to help normalize blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. Although I am not the scientist actually conducting the research, being a research administrator makes me appreciate the awesome work that is being done and motivates me to do my best.
READ: How to Write a Grant Proposal: 6 Tips for Winning the Big Bucks! >>
How has being a member of USC’s triathlon team enriched your graduate school experience?
Kerin: Oh man! Well, just like with founding the Lambda Delta Tau Society I believe I thrive better in collaborative settings. I used to be on the swim team in high school and failed miserably. Switched to indoor volleyball and was captain the last three years of high school. The truth behind that is that I learn so much from being in a team setting: the discipline, dedication, motivation, and drive. You also meet the most compassionate people in these teams. Probably due to the release of endorphins after a good workout.
All jokes aside, managing it all has been difficult but it has taught me time management skills and the importance of maintaining mental and physical health.
What are your top tips for managing graduate school, employment, and outside interests?
Kerin: My top tips are to build genuine connections with your peers, collaborate with one another, share best-practices, and have fun along the way! There is truth behind the benefits of your social structures, and I was so grateful to have experienced that through this program with my cohort, faculty, and staff.
Do you have any study tips that sound crazy but really work?
Kerin: Hmm… well, what works best for me might not work for everyone else. But, I like reading while on my spin bike. It sounds crazy only because one might think, “How can you focus on one thing and not the other?” Well, I found that by doing a light spin workout and reading on my iPad I get two things done: reading assignments and get a workout in. Also, the gratifying sense of achievement afterwards for killing two birds with one stone is amazing and since my brain is activated during that time and after, I am able to reflect on the reading better. So, it might sound crazy to some but trust me, it works. At least for me, anyway.
Can you tell us more about the Lambda Delta Tau Society? What prompted you to found it?
Kerin: The Lambda Delta Tau Society was founded on the desire to be part of a community and predicated on three pillars: to reach, to engage, and to empower one another and our surrounding communities. Funnily enough, it was at our admitted graduate student’s dinner that I asked Dr. Helena Seli, a great mentor and the mastermind behind my M.Ed. program (known by it’s initials LDT), if there was a graduate student government I could be a part of. It was initially predicated on the fact that I was seeking guidance and mentorship from a peer. It was at that round table that she said no, and so I said, “Well, we should start one!” As crazy and overly ambitious as it was, the other admitted graduate students in the LDT program sitting at that table were on board with the idea.
Rome was not built in a day and it certainly was not built by one person. I have all of them to thank for trusting my vision and – most importantly – for taking the initiative to contribute to the program, the Rossier community, and surrounding communities in their own special ways. The organization wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the collaborative effort.
How does this organization “Reach, Engage, and Empower” members of underserved communities?
Kerin: So, Lambda Delta Tau Society is founded on the efforts to reach, empower, and connect peers, faculty, USC community, and especially the local community with the opportunities that learning design as a profession can offer. As such, the LDT Society created three main initiatives: 1) LDT Lecture Series: Professional/Career Development Initiative, 2) LDT Cardinal and Gold Mentorship Program: Peer-to-Peer Mentorship, and 3) LDT Communities: Community Service.
The professional and career development and peer-to-peer mentorship initiative aims to ease the process of acclimatizing to graduate school through mentorship where a second-year graduate student in the LDT program (the Gold Mentor) is paired with a first-year graduate student in the LDT Program (The Cardinal Mentee) and participates in organized online-bonding activities.
The mission of the LDT Communities annual event is to reach out to communities in need of support through shared interest in the field of Learning Design and Technology. The LDT Society secured a community partner and grant funding to help identify a group of underserved children at KIPP Corazon Academy to enrich their learning in a crucial developmental period and provide them with learning experiences they otherwise would not be able to afford: a trip to USC’s very own Wrigley Marine Biology Institute at Catalina Island to learn about marine biology and environmental sustainability. This provided an opportunity for an LDT graduate student to design, develop, implement and evaluate a learning experience and an opportunity for the children involved.
The mission of the LDT Lecture Series is to provide and host a free webinar where distinguished guest speakers present on topics related to Learning Design and Technology. This event is held once a semester and hosts span from the corporate industry, academic, military and even our own peers in positions to share best practices.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years from now?
Kerin: In five years, I see myself as an adjunct professor while maintaining a leading role in research administration. The goal is to gain the necessary skills and experience that will help me in my long term efforts in developing a master’s program in research administration at USC. I am poised to do so, ready to lead change in this awesome field and share with the rest of the world the opportunities research administration has to offer.
I’ve recently been admitted to Rossier’s EdD program in Educational Leadership. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to pursue my dreams, make my parents proud (especially my dad who is watching over me), and continue to pay it forward.
Do you have questions for Kerin? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Graduate School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
You can learn more about Kerin by checking out his website.
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- Fitting In and Standing Out: The Paradox at the Heart of Admissions, a free guide
- Writing About Overcoming Obstacles in Your Application Essays, a short video
- What is Graduate School Really Like?, a collection of student interviews