Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation in Practice

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Mike Hoa Nguyen

Second Advisor

Michele Tyson

Third Advisor

Laura Sponsler


Evaluation, Higher education staff, Job satisfaction, Research administration


The Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA) team provides critical research administration services for the research community at the University of Denver. As research funding continues to rise at the University of Denver, retention of research administrators is critically important. Job satisfaction is key to employee engagement and retention. Higher job satisfaction contributes to several positive outcomes for institutions, including lower turnover, higher productivity, lower costs, and employee loyalty. The need to retain experienced research administration professionals is highlighted by the fact that few formal educational routes exist that prepare employees for a career in research administration; rather, developing expertise takes a long period of on-the-job training. Consequently, strategies to increase employee retention are more important than ever for research administration leadership. Utilizing a qualitative inquiry methodology, this evaluation identified the nature of a research administrator’s work and explored how the elements of the work affect job satisfaction. Self-determination theory, a broad framework for the study of human motivation, links the concerns of organizational performance and employee satisfaction and wellness by suggesting that both are impacted by the type of motivation that employees have for their job activities. Evaluating the work environment of a research administration unit through the lens of self-determination theory provides the conceptual framework to guide the formation of processes and practices that positively impact both the organization and the employees. Several findings on the nature of the work and its effect on job satisfaction point to four recommendations as well as broader implications for practice. The four recommendations include increasing the frequency and clarity of communications with the SPA team; prioritizing employee retention across the institution; addressing the SPA team’s workload; and implementing more effective training programs.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Noelle L. Strom


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


158 pgs

File Size

826 KB


Higher education administration