My CRA Journey

Amanda Castilleja, Contracts & Funding Specialist, Saskatchewan Health Authority


What prompted you to enroll in the Research Administration Certificate?

A few months ago, I reached out to my boss to discuss opportunities for continued learning. I have been in my position for less than a year and desire to become more adept as a Contract & Funding Specialist.  I informed my boss that I was interested in participating in some of the webinars that CARA had scheduled.  Instead of registering for the webinars, she offered me the opportunity to start the Research Administration Certificate program. 


How many courses have you completed to date?

I am enrolled in one course, Contacts & Reporting taught by CARA’s Executive Director, Sarah Lampson, and author, Katie Porter.  I plan to continue taking one course per semester for the upcoming terms.    


What has been helpful to you in balancing your other responsibilities with your studies?

I was quite pleased and somewhat tentative about the opportunity to go back to school.  It had been fourteen years since I was last a student and now, as a single mother, I was unsure if I could handle the additional responsibility.  Fortunately, two of my colleagues who are also full-time working mothers are enrolled in the program and they were able to give me some helpful advice to get started.  It was very reassuring to talk to someone already in the course and to hear how they were managing the coursework around family and professional responsibilities.

I am fortunate to have a portion of my work time protected for my studies.  I am grateful for my employer’s practical support of time dedicated to learning and developing my skills. Only a few weeks into the Contracts & Reporting course, I am certain that it will be a worthwhile investment of resources for both me and my employer.  


What is the best part of the certificate for you?

Research administration is a specialized field.  In my experience, it has felt as though other people in our department or institution are unfamiliar with the specifics of that my position entails.  This can sometimes leave me feeling somewhat isolated in my role.  Perhaps others can relate to this experience.  It is empowering to know that through this program, I have access to experienced professionals who can help educate and equip me to do my job well.  Additionally, I am encouraged by my hardworking peers and look forward to building professional connections throughout the program. The course information is clearly laid out with much detail; this allows me to review the requirements for each week and allocate my time accordingly.  The weekly structure of the course and the independent learning style has made for a smooth transition into being a student again. Even being new to a fully online learning platform has been easier to adjust to than I expected.  The student site, My Canvas, is easy to navigate, and the instructors provide ample directions about requirements.

I have already experienced that the content of the Contracts & Reporting course is easily able applicable to my work.  As a student, we are provided with quality resources that we can use in our day-to-day work in the research administration field.  I have confidence that the knowledge I obtain through this course specifically and the program, in general, will greatly enhance my ability to succeed in my role.      

What advice would you give someone considering the Research Administration Certificate?

If you are considering the Research Administration Certificate program, I would strongly encourage you to pursue it.  It is an affordable way to advance your career by obtaining highly relevant education.  It would be beneficial for someone who has been in the field for a significant amount of time and wants to sharpen their skills. Or, if you are like me and are new to the field but want to do your best, this is a great way to grow and develop while you are working in your current position.  Chose to grow and go for it!