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Cottrell Scholar Adam Urbach Receives a 2016 LEAD Award

Adam Urbach, a Cottrell Scholar since 2005, has received a $25,000 LEAD Award to further his development as an academic leader.
Adam Urbach, a Cottrell Scholar since 2005, has received a $25,000 LEAD Award to further his development as an academic leader.

The aspiration to grow as an academic leader prompted Cottrell Scholar Adam R. Urbach (2005), professor of chemistry at Trinity University, to apply for an RCSA LEAD Award, which supports unique leadership advancement opportunities.

“The LEAD (Leadership Enrichment and Development) Award is open to all Cottrell Scholars who may be organizing leadership workshops or sessions at professional meetings, attending leadership training, or pursuing sabbatical opportunities that include leadership advancement components,” according to RCSA Senior Program Director Silvia Ronco. The size of the award, and thus the budget request, may vary depending on proposed activity, but it should not exceed $25,000, she noted.

Urbach applied for the LEAD Award in his 12th year as a faculty member at Trinity. He said a Cottrell College Science Award (CCSA) in his second year provided crucial funding that allowed him to grow his research efforts, which has to date included more than 40 undergraduate students and four postdocs.

Urbach’s laboratory studies the molecular recognition of peptides and proteins by synthetic receptors in aqueous solution. “These processes are at the root of structure and communication in biology as well as human endeavors to interface with biology, including the design of drugs and medical devices,” he said.

But it was also during his second year at Trinity that he was elected to the faculty senate, where he served for three years. “This experience opened my eyes to the entire university and challenged me to pursue projects that would positively impact the faculty,” he said.

In 2012, Urbach was encouraged to run for senate chair and was elected, serving for two years as vice-chair/chair-elect, and as chair beginning in the spring of 2014.

“At Trinity, the senate chair is also the chief faculty representative to the administration and the board of trustees,” he said. “Through the work of the senate and through biweekly meeting with the president and provost, I have been involved in many aspects of university administration during the past few years, the most impactful of which was the search committee for a new president (last year) and working with the new president during his transition into office this year.”

“This experience has motivated me to seek additional leadership experience,” he said.

At the suggestion of a colleague, Steven Bachrach, who had just completed a fellowship from the American Council on Education, Urbach applied for LEAD funding to enable him to attend the Executive Leadership Academy offered by the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of California at Berkeley. The five-day workshop is designed to prepare individuals to pursue executive academic positions. The session Urbach attended in July was titled, “Leading in a Multicultural and Global Environment.”

“The workshop was facilitated by leaders in higher education.  It encouraged me to assess my leadership potential and provided valuable perspective on the challenges of contemporary academic leadership,” he said, adding it was extraordinarily valuable meet and work with a group of aspiring administrators with whom he had much in common.

In addition, his experience has included being a facilitator at the “Postdoc-to-Professor at a PUI (P3) Workshops” at Hope College and Furman University, which involve approximately 40 postdocs who are actively pursuing careers at PUIs. Last summer, he was a plenary speaker at the American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry’s Graduate Research Symposium (GRS) at St. Edwards University.“I was there to represent the PUI track, and there was significant interest from the fourth year graduate student participants in this career path.”

As a result of these experiences, Urbach says he now feels ready to lead a major project.

“I will be on a one-year sabbatical in 2016-17, and in addition to my research plans I would like to embark on a major outreach effort,” he said.

He’s slated to host the spring 2017 P3 workshop at Trinity, which, he says, presents “an excellent opportunity for me to introduce something new and significant to the program.”

The P3 program was originally conceived by Hope Chemistry professor and Cottrell Scholar Jason Gillmore, and was funded from Gillmore’s NSF CAREER proposal, with increasing help from the American Chemical Society (ACS). “The ACS has taken over the funding of this program for approximately 25 postdoc participants. I propose to use funding from the LEAD program to expand this workshop to include 10 fourth-year graduate students,” Urbach said.

He said the workshop is already designed to prepare postdocs for careers at PUIs by educating them on the spectrum of PUIs with their differences in teaching/research balance, expectations for promotion and tenure, and resources available. It also provides extensive guidance on preparing job applications, writing grants, and starting a research lab.

“Fourth-year graduate students, such as the attendees of the GRS, would greatly benefit from this type of workshop because they are well positioned to choose postdoctoral experiences that would best prepare them for a successful transition to a professorship at a PUI,” Urbach said.

RCSA’s Ronco said Urbach’s enthusiasm and dedication to academic leadership tasks are what has made him a successful LEAD recipient.

“Adam’s LEAD award combines excellent academic leadership training with a high impact activity, positioning him as a leader and mentor at the national level,” Ronco said.

Eligibility for Leadership Enrichment and Development (LEAD) Award

Applicants must be at least 6 years beyond the year of their Cottrell Scholar award. For the 2016 competition, eligibility will be limited to Cottrell Scholars who received their award in 2010 or earlier. Eligibility is limited to one LEAD application per Cottrell Scholar per year.

 Application Process and Deadline

Applicants must provide a two-page description of the proposed leadership advancement activities and an itemized budget.  No special forms are required. Potential high impact will be a key criterion for selection of a LEAD award. Applications are due by close of business on November 1, 2016. Proposals must be submitted electronically as pdf files to RCSA Program Director Silvia Ronco at LEAD awards will be announced in March 2017.



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