Grand Challenge Accepted

By Johnny Holden
May 22, 2023
Tessa Green

In the first of a new series profiling the people working tirelessly behind the scenes to help make The University of Texas at Austin the number one public research university in the world, we talk to Tessa Green, Executive Director for Research Development at the Office of the Vice President for Research, Scholarship and Creative Endeavors.

Tessa Green has been working on the Forty Acres since 2005. She joined the OVPR in 2017 and supported the design and implementation of the university’s three cross collaborative Bridging Barriers Research Grand Challenge programs.

Since 2017 her role has expanded but she is principally responsible for supporting Deputy VP for Research (DVPR), Jennifer Lyon Gardner, in setting strategic priorities and activities to advance research development at UT, overseeing cross-cutting Research Development (RD) support functions and associated staff; as well as serving as delegate to the DVPR for special projects and engagements.

Despite having high-level responsibilities, Green’s colleagues are the first to say that she is always willing to step into whatever role is required of her.

"Some days I’m a project leader, or the representative for OVPR interacting with researchers. Other days, I’m knee deep in a spreadsheet of data or dragging carts of supplies across campus. It really just depends what’s needed."

Critical to making UT Austin the number one public research university in the world is our ability to attract the brightest and best faculty and staff on offer – a responsibility that both Green and the OVPR team more generally, take very seriously.

"My work supports our goal to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and central research administrations in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness, all while showcasing the impact of research at UT."


Green’s Grand Challenges

Green joined Jennifer Lyon Gardner’s Research Development (RD) team in 2017 to support the then-new Research Grand Challenges initiative, Bridging Barriers.

The RD team works closely with the UT Austin research community, serving 1,001 PIs this most recent fiscal year.

"When I joined the team in 2017, my focus was on building the UT Research Grand Challenge initiative and the infrastructure needed to support its programming. Under the leadership of DVPR Lyon Gardner the services that Research Development provides have expanded to include proposal development, collaborative engagements, relationships, and communications. My role has been to help operationalize those services."

Having nurtured the growth of UT’s Research Grand Challenges to the halfway point in their research life cycle, Green has passed the Bridging Barriers baton to her colleague, Cinda Christian, Executive Director for Research Collaborations and Impact, allowing her to focus on the much wider remit of research more generally at UT Austin.

"I love being at the level of the VPR office and seeing the breadth of research that happens at UT," she said. "It can sometimes be overwhelming thinking about the number of clients we serve and the volume of research at UT but it’s interesting and rewarding work."

No person is an island and Green’s success in helping realize UT’s mission to become the number one public research university in the world is largely thanks to the people on the OVPR Research Development team she works with.

"This is a really fun group of people that enjoy what they do and are all really good at it too. Being around smart, inquisitive, and collaborative people challenges me and makes me better at my job."


"Texas is Not the South"

Originally from South Carolina, Green moved to Austin in 2004 from New York City. "This is the longest I’ve lived in one spot in my life but I’m still not sure I’d consider myself a Texan," she said. "Having grown up in the south I still feel very connected to southern culture (no Texas is not the south). But I do love Austin and feel it’s a great combination of all the things I loved about living in the north/big city and the south/small town feel. My friends and immediate family are here so in that way, I’ve made Texas my home."

Green’s two sons, Beau (11) and Hudson (8) occupy much of her time when she’s not on campus. As an active and adventurous person though, she has embraced and actively participates in the activities her kids love - archery, baseball, and swimming.

She has also made global travel a top priority on her downtime - having traveled all over the world and to almost all 50 states. "If I had to choose my favorite destinations so far, I would have to say Thailand and the Davis Mountains in West Texas," she noted. “McDonald Observatory is just such an incredible resource to have right here in our own state.

Tessa Green also loves to be creative: especially making art out of found objects, and rearranging furniture.

Top of the list though is an activity almost all of us can relate to. "My absolute favorite pastime is starting, but never actually completing, various craft projects."