Left to right: Christine Terry, Amanda Carr, Christal Huber and Sara Vassmer

Left to right: Christine Terry, Amanda Carr, Christal Huber and Sara Vassmer

The Connector team in the University of Missouri’s Division of Research, Innovation & Impact offers professional development for researchers and specializes in helping them develop a broader impacts plan, identify funding, find partnerships and engage with the public. 

Showcasing how Mizzou research, creative activities, resources and ideas benefit the people of Missouri and beyond is a powerful way to increase the likelihood that a grant proposal will be funded. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and many other federal agencies are now requiring researchers to justify not only the intellectual merit of their proposed research but also its broader impact on society.

“All federal agencies have some funding mechanisms that support what we think of as broader impacts, whether it’s training grants, K-12 outreach or broadening participation,” says Susan Renoe, associate vice chancellor for research development and strategic partnerships. “I see professional development and broader impacts as key ways to generate additional revenue streams and grow our research expenditures.” 

Renoe says new faculty are increasingly interested in joining higher education institutions that help them sharpen their research skills and be more engaged with their communities. A partnership between the Division of Research and MU Extension, The Connector has four highly experienced professionals ready to assist faculty, staff and students by providing services, programming and one-on-one consultation. 

What is The Connector’s role on campus?

The Connector is a collaborative unit that encompasses broader impacts led by Connector Director Sara Vassmer and Senior Programming Coordinator Christal Huber and professional development led by Director Christine Terry and Senior Coordinator Amanda Carr. 

While our two focus areas have their individual programming initiatives, our roles and work intersect daily. One of our biggest strengths is our ability to provide team proposal coaching for researchers that incorporates proposal development, broader impacts and engagement programming, as well as coordinating with the Division of Research's Strategic Development Proposal Service and Research Analytics teams for larger proposal initiatives.

What is your relationship with ARIS? 

The University of Missouri is the hub of the national Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society ( ARIS). Renoe is the principal investigator, and Sara Vassmer is the director of operations for ARIS. Most of the day-to-day work of ARIS is housed at Mizzou. The benefit of having an NSF-funded center for broader impacts on campus is the expertise and awareness of trends in broader impacts that we are privy to on a national and international scale. We take what we learn through our network and apply it to proposals that we work on.

How long has MU had the Connector? 

We have been called The Connector since 2018 when we developed a formal relationship with MU Extension. Before that, we were called the Broader Impacts Network (BIN). The BIN began in 2012 as a direct response to an increased emphasis on the NSF broader impacts criteria. We have evolved to incorporate professional and research development offerings as well as programming opportunities for faculty.  

Please describe your services in more detail. 

We offer comprehensive professional development and proposal coaching from the first thoughts and ideas generated for funding to connecting faculty to engagement programming and developing their broader impacts plan to final read-throughs before submission. 

Our services range from intensive fellowship programs that guide early career faculty through defining their research agenda and priorities to simple tasks like reviewing proposals and broader impacts plans. The Connector also has a lot of fun – we try to find low-barrier-to-entry ways for faculty to engage with the public. Our movie series with Ragtag Cinema, Extra Credit, is a perfect example of how we bring research to our community in a no-pressure environment.

Which disciplines can benefit the most from your programs? 

We welcome and encourage all disciplines to reach out to us. We especially encourage faculty applying to NSF to send their broader impacts plans to us for support. A few examples of faculty who have worked with us:

  • Jim Schiffbauer, associate professor of geological sciences, received support for his broader impacts and engagement work, including the Mizzou Rocks! Summer camp.
  • Jessica Rodrigues, assistant professor in special education, participated in our NSF CAREER Club.
  • Matthias Young, assistant professor of chemical engineering, worked with us to develop a broader impacts strategy for his CAREER proposal.
Anything else we should know?

When in doubt, reach out! If we can’t help you, we will find someone who can.

Request support

The Connector team offers professional development and will work with you to develop a broader impacts plan, identify funding and find potential partners. If we aren't the right folks to assist you, we will connect you to the right resource or person.

Be in the know

Connector staff lead popular programs that provide researchers with sustained support and training like the National Science Foundation CAREER Club and Mentoring at Mizzou. Sign up to be notified when registration opens for the programs that interest you.