Ashley Gillespie’s transition to the Mississippi University for Women lasted a day and a half.
That’s when the ping of emails into Gillespie’s mailbox started to sound and signaled the start of her new job as director of the Office of Sponsored Projects and Grant Writing at The W.
Don’t worry, though, because the thought of having a little more than eight hours to settle into the position didn’t faze Gillespie. Instead, she welcomed the opportunity to talk with professors about their proposals and to tell them she shares their enthusiasm for getting things done and helping The W move forward.
“In two or three weeks, I was having two meetings a day with faculty with all of these really innovative and creative and truly unique things they wanted to do,” Gillespie said.
“It is really exciting to know I don’t have to come here and rejuvenate them. I just need to give them the tools and the support to try to get funding for all of these ideas.”
Gillespie, who is from Starkville and graduated from Starkville High School, earned a bachelor of arts degree in communication from Mississippi State in 2007. She also took her first job in research administration in the sponsored programs office at MSU. Gillespie remained at MSU until January 2010, when she accepted a job as grants and contracts specialist at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
The move allowed Gillespie to broaden her horizons from a Research 1 (R1) institution like MSU to a PUI, or Primarily Undergraduate Institution, like SFA. She returned to work at MSU as a grants and contracts specialist for the MSU
Forest and Wildlife Research Center/Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station from September 2012 to July 2017. Gillespie then went to an even bigger R1 school when she took a job as a senior grants and contracts specialist/senior administrative program coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin. In her time at Texas, Gillespie helped launch the concierge program in which she provided specialized assistance and training to faculty and staff on the OSP proposal process.
Gillespie said the opportunity to return to the Golden Triangle and to be more in touch with faculty members motivated her to take the job at The W.
“The opportunity to be a director is a no-brainer,” Gillespie said. “To be able to do that at home, in my own community, at a university that has all of these ideas and just needs the resources and support to bring them to fruition was just amazing to me. I felt everything I had done to this point had prepared me for this.”
Gillespie plans to adapt the typical standards of an office of sponsored projects and grant writing to the needs at The W. To do that, she intends to put plenty of resources on a page for OSP on The W’s web site. She hopes the templates and the forms she will put on the site will help create a structure that saves time for everyone. Gillespie said her time at SFA, whose status as a PUI is similar to The W, gives her confidence she can create “the bones” to lay the foundation. She said she has plans to digitize records and to create a shared database for faculty and staff. Gillespie believes both of those things and the new web page will help make the process easier for everyone.
“I am going to do a lot more for folks now than hopefully I will need to do later because I think no matter what the needs are and no matter how much you give and do the extra here, the goal is to get us officially moving like all of our sister and brother institutions,” Gillespie said. “There is a standard, and I want to have that while giving the extra but leading them to that standard.”
Gillespie, who is a certified research administrator, doesn’t think she could have written a better job description for herself at The W. She feels the experience she gained at three universities of different sizes has prepared her for the challenge of helping The W move forward. To that end, Gillespie said she is excited to work with professors on their ideas to help everyone take the next step.
“It is just great for me to be able to do this job and make this kind of impact,” Gillespie said. “It kind of feels full circle. Even though I am still really young in my career, I just feel like I have done a whole lot, and I really proud of what I have done. I am really excited about being here and they have entrusted with me this mission to move us forward.”