Look Hoos Building Bridges

“Oh my gosh, there are so many people I need to thank! Where do I even start?” Kayla Calvo proclaims with a smile. Calvo is a recipient of the 2022 Hoos Building Bridges Award, one of a select group being recognized for driving the creation of cross-disciplinary partnerships and generating positive outcomes across Grounds. According to UVA Today, the award “honor[s] recipients for their leadership, collegiality and efforts in establishing strong relationships.” The award is a reflection of the broad excellence and forward thinking Calvo demonstrates daily in her role at the integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV).

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iTHRIV's Kayla Calvo

Calvo is the Director of Finance for iTHRIV. She ensures that the needs of the organization and the researchers iTHRIV supports are met. On a typical day Calvo handles a large variety of accounting and grant administration responsibilities. She is also known to drop everything to support a fellow research administrator with submitting a funding proposal. She handles all of this with grace and professionalism.

Calvo joined UVA in 2014 as a temp tasked with reorganizing the Division of Infectious Diseases’ financial documents. It was during this time that she was first introduced to research administration. Just over a year later, while working as an Administrative Assistant within the Department of Medicine, Calvo’s career took an unexpected turn: “My supervisor recognized that I would be a great research administrator, so I took it upon myself to read the SF424 application guide to learn how to submit an NIH proposal.”

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iTHRIV's Karen Johnston, Jennifer Phillips, Kayla Calvo, and Sandra Burks

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Phillips, Burks, and Johnston take a moment to celebrate Calvo with

UVA President Jim Ryan

It was through this experience that she identified a gap affecting personnel within research administration: the lack of a structured mentoring program. “I thought that the University needed a formal training program for research admins. This is such a specialized job and there are so many rules and regulations that it is really hard to figure things out without help from others.” At that moment, she came up with the idea to create the Research Administration Portal for Training and Resources (RAPTR). “I have always felt it was important to have a mentor. As I gained experience, I made myself available to any new research administrator for advice and training.” The goal of RAPTR is to increase the knowledge base of the research administration workforce by creating training programs, providing tools and resources, and standardizing research administration processes.

The real catalyst for RAPTR’s creation came about as the result of a chance conversation. Calvo recalls, “When I was training a new research admin in late 2019, I was talking to a colleague in iTHRIV about how I really wished we could develop a program to train research administrators. She took it to our PI, Karen Johnston, who loved the idea!” With Dr. Karen Johnston’s support, Calvo formed a working group to develop the program.

The newest program within RAPTR is RAMP UP, the Research Administration Mentoring Program and University Partnership. RAMP UP is currently a pilot program and is a partnership with iTHRIV, the School of Medicine Office of Grants and Contracts, the UVA Office of Sponsored Programs, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “RAMP UP is the accomplishment that I am most proud of! We have been developing this program for about 9 months and the response to the program announcement has been overwhelmingly positive! My favorite part of this process has been working with other departments on this program,” Calvo says.

Calvo has big plans for RAPTR. She aims to create a thriving mentoring program with a community of research administrators from across the University. Currently the program provides training for new research administrators, but Calvo envisions implementing certificate programs and a continuing education program for all research administrators at UVA. Looking ahead, Calvo foresees this program branching out to other institutions in Virginia and across the Clinical Translational Science Awards Program (CTSA), a nationwide consortium. “It is our hope that other institutions can take our framework and implement these programs for their research admin workforce!”