Two Faculty Share Their Experiences at the National Science Foundation

September 19, 2017

After three-year appointments at the National Science Foundation (NSF), two College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) faculty have returned to the college this fall—though they’ll continue to bridge the gap between the federal government and the university in part-time roles.

Margret Hjalmarson is now the director of the PhD in Education program at the college. Eamonn Kelly has returned to Mason as an associate dean for research at CEHD.

Hjalmarson, who just finished a three-year appointment coordinating the review process for grant proposals at NSF, got to see how technology was impacting education—as well as how traditional teaching methods were being improved upon.

“It was interesting to see things that were both innovative and cutting edge, but also some things that were studying the way classrooms are currently working, the way teaching is currently happening,” Hjalmarson says.

Kelly spent his three years as a senior advisor to the assistant director of Education and Human Resources Directorate at NSF, working with senior staff, advising on budgets, responding to questions from Congress and people from the education field, and more. He also sat on several committees, such as NSF INCLUDES and NSF 2026 (which provides money to ambitious projects), and traveled to visit other leaders in the field—most recently the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Kelly had also spent time working at NSF between 1997 and 2000, and then again from 2005 to 2006. Hjalmarson’s three-year appointment was her first time working at NSF.

According to Hjalmarson, NSF often hires people from the field of education for these temporary appointments, bringing new talent—often with fresh perspectives—into the federal fold. It’s particularly beneficial to the university, she says, because the position provides “a better understanding of the interaction that can happen between the federal government and grant funding in the university as an organization.”

And even though Kelly and Hjalmarson are staying at NSF in part-time roles, they won’t be the only connection between Mason and NSF. According to Kelly, there are several more Mason faculty members who have taken NSF appointments and are currently working in government positions.

“We have quite a presence there,” Kelly says.