Building campus connections

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) at UNI is building campus connections through its annual Scholar Connexus. At this fun, energetic event for faculty and staff, each participant is matched with a sequence of four conversation partners based on shared or complementary interests.

Scholar Connexus

“Connexus is a cornerstone of UNI’s research and scholarship development approach,” says Tolif Hunt, director of Research and Sponsored Programs.

“Connexus is a cornerstone of UNI’s research and scholarship development approach,” says Tolif Hunt, director of Research and Sponsored Programs. “In one event, we are able to create research collaborations, inspire new ideas, and pair researchers with people they should know on campus, such as IP experts or IRB committee members. Not only is it effective, but it is also enjoyable and something that many faculty and staff look forward to every year.”

Connexus has been refined each year since it was first offered in 2010. The most recent event, in October 2017, had 49 participants from 30 different departments, offices and centers. There were about 190 matched conversations, plus informal networking during breaks - overall, several hundred opportunities for people to exchange ideas, get excited about their own and others’ research, and explore potential collaborations.

Connexus participants engage in four 15-minute long, one-on-one conversations, with breaks for refreshments and networking. In addition to research interests and areas of expertise, some matches are based on level of experience. New faculty benefit from making connections with experienced colleagues from other departments, while established faculty and staff enjoy learning about the exciting scholarship their new colleagues are bringing to campus. 

Scholar Connexus has many benefits for research development and scholarly activity at UNI. As a hub for research activity, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs can make investigators aware of shared interests. Creating a space for these introductions and conversations increases the institutional knowledge of research interests across campus, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, and ultimately benefiting students in their classes and research experiences.

The positive impact of Scholar Connexus on UNI student learning and engagement in the classroom, labs and community is a driving force behind the event. Faculty who are active in collaborative research and scholarship, especially those who seek external funding for their projects, are always working at the cutting edge of their field. This translates into dynamic classroom experiences, opportunities for students to participate in impactful community engagement projects, and opportunities to develop applied technical skills in laboratories and other on-campus research settings as they work alongside UNI’s faculty and staff.