McGimpsey announces shift in career

UND VP for Research & Economic Development eyes retirement, says he’ll leave post in December

Vice President for Research and Economic Development Grant McGimpsey has a plan for research excellence at UND but the hunt for external federal funding is challenging and highly competitive among the country’s research universities. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/UND Today.

Vice President for Research & Economic Development Grant McGimpsey announced this week that he will be leaving his post later this year in preparation for retirement. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/UND Today.

UND Vice President for Research & Economic Development Grant McGimpsey has spent the past 30 years in academia, and he thinks the time might be right for a change.

He’s eyeing something different, as in reconnecting with family in Canada, pursuing his passion for writing, continuing his newfound interest in blues guitar and perhaps playing some golf.

He informed division staff and his colleagues in the Grand Forks community this week that he plans to retire from full time work at the end of December, eventually moving back to his native Ontario, Canada, with wife, Margot, a project manager in the Provost’s office.

McGimpsey, a career chemist, has led UND’s research division since Sept. 8, 2015, taking over for interim vice president Barry Milavetz, and the last permanent VP, Phyllis Johnson. He also has led the UND School of Graduate Studies.

McGimpsey said their two grown boys – one a recent college grad, the other working toward a degree – are back in Toronto and looking toward the future. The McGimpseys want to be closer to them as they launch their fledgling careers.

“We certainly feel that tug to get back and provide a home base for them,” McGimpsey said.

Grant McGimpsey

McGimpsey instituted myriad changes at UND that have put the University’s research, scholarship, creative activity and economic development enterprise in an even stronger position than when he arrived. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/UND Today.

Impactful changes

Before UND, McGimpsey held a similar position as head of research at Kent State University in Ohio, overseeing an enterprise credited with inventing liquid-crystal display technology. He spent 22 years at Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic Institute, a highly ranked private science and engineering college, as a faculty member and administrator.  While in Worcester, he also worked in economic development and started two technology-based companies and believes his connection to the business world may find an outlet in future entrepreneurial activity.

When McGimpsey reflects, he sees a myriad changes – some big and others more behind the scenes – that have put UND’s research, scholarship, creative activity and economic development enterprise in a stronger position than when he arrived.

This fall, thanks to McGimpsey’s insistence, UND will launch “Novelution,” a data system that gives faculty, administrators and research staff the ability to submit proposals, receive and manage grants, extract data regarding grants and proposals and build budgets. UND worked with North Dakota State in Fargo to contract with Novelution. “It essentially makes the faculty’s job of writing proposals easier and more streamlined,” McGimpsey said. “When I was at Kent State, I oversaw the implementation of a system like this and it resulted in a 30 percent increase in proposals submitted.”

McGimpsey also drove UND’s improved documenting and reporting of research expenditures. One result: In FY16, UND reported research expenditures – external and internal funding spent on research, scholarship and creative activities – totaling roughly $70 million. For FY17, that number was more than $100 million.

McGimpsey says the spike doesn’t mean UND spent significantly more money on research, rather the University simply was more comprehensive about how it categorizes and records its robust efforts.

“That wasn’t done to make us look better, although, we do look better compared to other research universities,” McGimpsey said. “It was done so that we could understand all of the investments that we were making in research and better focus these to attain higher levels of external funding.”

This drive for higher funding is reflected by McGimpsey’s work in reorganizing UND’s areas of research emphasis, through the One UND Strategic plan, which resulted in UND’s Grand Challenges. They’re a broad set of five research areas – (1) promoting energy development and sustainability, (2) addressing biomedical needs, (3) helping rural communities, (4) driving developments in autonomous vehicles, and (5) storing and analyzing information in the era of big-data – aimed at diversifying the state’s economy and addressing societal challenges.

“The One UND Strategic Plan has put these Grand Challenges at the focus of our research efforts” he said. “I truly believe that focusing on these Grand challenges is how we are going to broaden our research and succeed as a University.” As evidence of UND’s commitment to the Grand Challenges, McGimpsey has provided nearly $4M in internal research funding to promote greater activity in these areas.

Grant McGimpsey

McGimpsey (above at a recent UAS conference in Grand Forks) has led an effort at UND to address a number of “Grand Challenges” in the State through research, including how to better store and analyze data collected from UAS and other platforms with the help of  High Performance Computing. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Future role?

At the School of Graduate Studies, McGimpsey is most proud of a shift toward a focus on the opportunities – academic, professional, social, cultural – that graduate students can take advantage of.

“Our goal is to have our graduate students say ‘wow, this was a great opportunity for me, I’ve accomplished a lot and I have been really well prepared for my professional career by coming to UND,’” he said. “We want our graduates – Masters and Ph.D. to view UND in a very positive way and that obviously means providing students with both educational and social experiences.”

Tom DiLorenzo

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo

McGimpsey also developed the “Gradvocates” initiative, which assigns one faculty member in each college, who is strongly invested in graduate education and wants to provide the best experiences possible.

He also helped institute workshops and programs, such as GRAD (Graduate Research Achievement Day) and 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) that encourage graduate students to think beyond their research and to develop communication and networking strategies. This year, UND’s 3MT winner, Ian Foerster, went on to also win the west regional in Las Vegas in the judged competition that rewards graduate students for explaining their research quickly and in a way that the general public can easily understand.

Having the opportunity to lead the research division and the Graduate School at UND has been an incredibly rewarding one, and working with my phenomenal staff, I think we’ve accomplished a lot together,” McGimpsey said.

On the subject of his staff, he said “I have encouraged all my staff to take advantage of professional development opportunities in order to grow in their careers, take leadership roles as we continue to develop our research enterprise, and create a cross-trained management unit.   On his own time at UND, McGimpsey says “this has also been a great learning experience for me; the academy is a place of infinite variety where you never stop learning, never stop moving forward. What other career offers that kind of opportunity?”

As attention shifts to the next stage in his life, McGimpsey has discussed with UND President Mark Kennedy and Provost Tom DiLorenzo ways he might continue to help the University remotely after he leaves UND.

“I have some great colleagues here, both at the University and in the community, and it’s been great working with faculty as well as the business community – economic development is the other part of my job,” McGimpsey said. “I would very much like to continue to be part of the University community in the future.”

DiLorenzo said whatever the future holds, McGimpsey’s presence on campus will be sorely missed. The provost added that he will put a process in place over the next few weeks that will address the transition process.

DiLorenzo also wished the McGimpseys well in the next chapters of their lives.

“Grant has done a terrific job as both the vice president for research and economic development and the dean of the School of Graduate Studies,” DiLorenzo said. “His work with the Grand Challenges has put UND on the path to making state, regional and worldwide impacts. We will also miss Margot as she has become an integral member of our online team at UND. Her efforts have allowed UND to move into this global opportunity very quickly.”