Staff Profile: Regina Coles, Dean’s Office, Director of Sponsored Programs
As the director of sponsored programs in the Dean’s Office, Regina handles it all. And her to-do list is long: fielding questions from investigators, creating budgets, reviewing and editing proposal documents, approving proposals for the College, preparing requests to sponsors and administrative actions, communicating with collaborating institutions, updating internal guidance and processes … and a whole lot of troubleshooting. “Every day is different; I guess it’s a good thing that I like variety,” jokes Regina.
Regina was first drawn to the world of research during her undergrad days as a psychology student at the University of Richmond. “I first started working in the memory and aging lab under Dr. Jane Berry,” says Regina. “Some of my first interactions were doing data collection, where I administered cognitive and memory assessments to older adults and individuals with schizophrenia. During my senior year, I completed a research project investigating the underlying mechanisms of memory recall for affective stimuli.”
After graduating, Regina managed various projects and clinical trials in the areas of cancer, stroke, chronic disease, health education and behavioral psychology, for large institutions up and down the east coast. “One of my first jobs was as a research assistant in a cancer hospital in Philadelphia, where I worked on two prostate cancer studies,” says Regina. “One project was a qualitative study where I interviewed prostate cancer survivors about their decision-making process and what factors contributed to their treatment choice. Those were some of the most honest, insightful and hilarious conversations. They were kind of like therapy sessions, as many of them had not shared information about their diagnosis and treatments with their own spouses. This is by far one of my most favorite memories.”
Regina joined VCU in 2012 when she was hired by Danielle Dick, Ph.D. (currently in the Department of Psychology) as a project coordinator to oversee her portfolio of projects. At the time, Regina was wrapping up work in D.C. at Georgetown University where she handled clinical trial recruitment for a large NIH U54 grant. The grant was ending and Regina was looking to get out of the NoVA/D.C. area. And the opportunity to move back to Richmond was very appealing. In 2016, Regina began working in the sponsored programs office. For Regina, the new position was perfect. “This seemed like a natural transition as I had spent 14+ years working closely with various faculty investigators submitting proposals, managing their awards and administering related programs,” she says.
"[Moving to the Sponsored Research Office] seemed like a natural transition as I had spent 14+ years working closely with various faculty investigators submitting proposals, managing their awards and administering related programs.”
Over the years, Regina has continued to hone her skills in research administration. She received her master's degree in psychology from Villanova University and a graduate certificate in research administration from the University of Central Florida. She also earned her Certified Research Administrator certification, a recognized hallmark in the field.
And if you speak to any of her colleagues, you’ll quickly learn that Regina is an invaluable asset in the Dean’s Office. “One of Regina’s many amazing qualities is that she never gets frustrated or flustered,” says Josh Langberg, Ph.D., associate dean for research. “In case you haven’t noticed, we faculty can be a demanding bunch. This tendency is significantly exacerbated in the context of grant submissions and management where everything operates on a tight timeline and under firm deadlines. Missing a submission deadline or a progress report or violating an agency policy can mean the loss of millions of dollars. Regina handles it all with grace, patience and understanding. I have never seen her raise her voice in a meeting or respond with frustration or anger in an email.”
These days, Regina is running the sponsored research office from her home, as everyone adjusts to life with COVID-19. That doesn’t mean her to-do list has gotten any shorter. “There have been so many rapid changes to research operations and sponsor guidance in the past six weeks. I am just doing my best to stay on top of it all,” she says. Luckily, Regina has found a new way to destress. “I’ve been binge-watching a lot of shows. Several friends recommended ‘Poldark,’ ‘Outlander’ and ‘Downton Abbey.’ Candidly, I've never terribly been interested in historic British dramas, but I started with ‘Poldark’ and now I've moved on to ‘Outlander.’ I had no idea what I was missing. I'm totally hooked!”