Ria Francisco receives Anderson-O’Connell Award for Outstanding Staff Service & Outstanding Staff Award

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Ria Francisco, senior grants administrator, plays a vital role in securing millions of dollars in research grants to faculty each year. Researchers depend on her to interface with National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and other federal agencies. Francisco has held several positions at the University of Washington related to fiscal management, and became the Senior Grants and Contract Manager in 2023. She cites the mentorship and support of leadership as key to her success. 

Recently, Francisco was honored with two awards for staff excellence, the Andersen-O’Connell Award for Outstanding Staff Service and the Outstanding Staff Award, at an awards celebration on May 14, 2024. The awards committee describes her as “an exceptional grants administrator who goes above and beyond. With a mastery of federal budgeting critical to research faculty success, she is independent, deadline-oriented, and gets the job done. Ria’s resourcefulness shines through her research-driven approach when working with faculty.”

Francisco explains what drew her to the nitty-gritty, detail-oriented world of research grant management. “What motivates me is having supportive faculty who enjoy their research. You want them to be successful and thrive in their research, so then you want to support the back-end things that no one really thinks about,” she said. 

“I always tell faculty and their teams, ‘Your job is to focus on the research, and I’ll focus on all the admin and finance pieces so that you can just move on with whatever research you need to do.’ I try to tell my two grant managers who are under my wing to have that same outlook.”

Her approach involves meeting with faculty regularly to understand their different workflows and project needs. “Everyone has different communication styles,” she said.

Navigating the complexity of UW’s many funders and their diverse specifications can be a challenge, but Francisco enjoys helping faculty grow in their research.

“Overall, I’m just proud of the faculty that I have worked with since 2016, since I’ve been in the department, who are steadily getting their funding,” she reflected. “All these faculty that were submitting when I was first starting, and they were first starting, I feel like I’ve grown with them. They’re starting to get all of their research funded, which is exciting for me.”

When she’s not wrangling grants, Francisco enjoys exercising, baking, and spending time with her two kids.

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