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Staff Feature: Randy Sheets

By McKenzi Roe

Randy Sheets, assistant director of Sponsored Programs, manages contractual and administrative activities related to MSU collaborations with for-profit entities for Business Connect at the MSU Innovation Center.

As supervisor for the research administration staff, which is responsible for finalizing contracts, budgets and other transactional documents, Sheets also is the contract lead for all for-profit entities sponsoring clinical trials or conducting clinical research at MSU.

“In my role as administrative lead for Business Connect, I’m also responsible for communication and coordination with all the other campus administrative offices,” Sheets said. “I play a lead administrative role in addressing compliance issues related to applicable federal regulations, board policies and state law impacting our collaborative activity.”

Sheets has been with the Innovation Center since 2009. Current projects include a number of adjustments relative to human research activity. In the last seven months, COVID has contributed to changing business models for clinical trials and research, as well as a fair amount of revamping for federal regulations, implementation and reporting requirements.

When asked how his role has changed since the beginning of the pandemic, Sheets provided some insight into how his work, to a certain degree, hasn’t really changed at all.

“I can actually function in much of my role exactly as we previously have, with contract markup and Zoom meetings,” Sheets said. “The part that’s really changed is the focus on these scheduled meetings. There’s no impromptu collaboration, and there’s an absence of casual conversations. This absence can inhibit what I’d call ‘issue spotting’ and maintaining team interactions. One effective tool to help mitigate that loss is to make sure those casual conversations can occur at the beginning or end of the Zoom meetings.”

Despite these challenges, Sheets remains optimistic.

He highlighted his excitement in building various relationships with hospital partners across the state and the potential with the McLaren facility that will open on south campus in early 2022. University and private sector collaborations can have an immediate positive impact on faculty, students and the healthcare we can deliver to the local community.

Carrying on this theme of looking forward to the future, Sheets emphasized his own 2021 professional goals of making administrative functions seamless and allowing the focus to be on the relationship between company and faculty as opposed to the administrative functions of the university.

“My intent is to understand how all administrative functions at the university works, whether tied to research or not,” Sheets said. “I know that will never happen, given the size and complexity of MSU, but I will never stop trying to figure it all out, and I’ll continue to ask, ‘Is this the most efficient way to accomplish this requirement?’ and pass on what I know.”

Connect with Randy Sheets at sheetsd@msu.edu.