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FPG's Implementation Division welcomes new lead

headshot photo of caryn ward smiling at camera; ward is wearing a light blue shirt and standing outside in front of pink and green shrubbery

FPG's Implementation Division welcomes new lead

September 21, 2021

Senior Implementation Specialist Caryn Ward, PhD, director of the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG), was recently named head of the Institute's Implementation Division.

“FPG’s Implementation Division provides an opportunity for shared learning and networking to facilitate getting to FPG’s vision of transforming children's lives through innovation in research, practice, and policy,” says Ward. “The division provides an opportunity to learn from each other about effective strategies and help establish relationships with different schools on campus, with different stakeholder partnerships, as well as funders. I want to strengthen the infrastructure to facilitate that.”

Ward is committed to fostering a culture of collaboration and leadership opportunities for others. “I also want to create a culture where folks feel comfortable asking hard questions of each other that will help us all grow and where people can network and collaborate on projects that will help further individuals’ careers as well as FPG’s mission and vision,” she says. “And I want us to have fun and good relationships with each other so we know that we can pick up the phone or get on Zoom and support each other when needed.”

As a step toward creating a culture of leadership opportunities, Ward is changing the division’s structure. “We’ll be forming a core leadership team that will provide leadership opportunity for FPG staff,” she says. “This shared leadership model will allow folks to take an active role in creating the work of the division and give us different perspectives and voices from various teams in the division to inform what our work should look like.”

Ward sees the leadership team as an important element in ensuring that the division’s leadership is diverse. “The leadership team will also provide a space for those hard racial equity conversations and help us identify what we need for our own individual journeys in relation to racial equity,” she says. “The team will also support us in thinking about the implications for our work and how are we attending to equity explicitly in our implementation practice as well as in our implementation research.”

“We have started equity conversations in our collaboration with the Technical Assistance (TA) Division and will continue them as we learn together,” she says. “The director of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office at FPG, Betsy Clifton Ayankoya, MEd, attends our Implementation Division meetings as a resource for ongoing professional development opportunities related to racial equity, which is critical to the division’s work.”

Another innovation Ward is excited about is the development of a mentoring program for FPG implementation specialists and TA staff. “In collaboration with the TA Division, we’re creating this program, which we have not had formally within FPG,” she says. “We’re excited to learn from the division members about their needs and the best strategies to address those needs and then formalize a mentoring program for staff at all stages of their career.”

Ward is looking forward to continuing the Implementation Division’s internship program, partnering with graduate schools on campus including UNC's School of Education and the Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Grad students get to work with one or two Implementation Division members and are provided opportunities for research and implementation work,” says Ward. “This has generated great experiences, tools, research questions, and collaborations between FPG and the other schools on campus.”

She notes the importance of collaborating with other units since FPG is part of the UNC broader campus. “We have excellent colleagues who we can learn from and collaborate with to further FPG’s mission and vision,” she says. “These internships help keep us moving forward to progress toward our goals and our ultimate work of transforming the lives of children and families and the communities that they reside in.”

Collaboration is important to Ward. TA Division lead Sherri Britt Williams, MPH, and Ward and are both new to their division leadership roles. “Sherri’s fantastic and it’s great to have another division lead who is new so we can learn together as we step into this position,” says Ward. The two have already met to make plans for the year and have set quarterly meeting dates for joint division meetings, which will begin in October. “We re-envisioned the purpose of our collaboration and a new structure for that partnership,” she says. “I am excited to share that at our first meeting and get feedback and input from both sets of division members. Our collaboration with the TA Division is great for shared learning, networking, and continuing our discussion to ensure we’re attending to equity; I’m excited to continue this work.”

Ward says that her door is always open. “I really want to hear from people as to what they envision and what they see as the needs for the division going forward,” she says. “I’m hopeful that we can build off the great work and leadership that my predecessor, Allison Metz, provided the last two years and extend that to continue to grow the division’s work.”