Harnessing the Power of Human Energy
Bradley Ritts, a geologist by training, has spent much of his career helping organizations find and extract vital energy resources. As the University of Idaho’s new associate vice president for research, Ritts now mines and harnesses energy on an entirely different level: through relationship building. In his new role, Ritts is helping foster U of I’s interdisciplinary research activity, bolster its research infrastructure, promote the university’s collaborative atmosphere and engage external stakeholders.
Ritts’ experience includes technical and leadership roles at Chevron Corporation and in the geology departments at Utah State University and Indiana University. With that experience, and a recent posting at Stanford University in California, Ritts is in a strong position to build and strengthen its internal and external ties in ways that will grow U of I’s research enterprise. “To me, the world is a potential set of partners,” Ritts said. “We just need to consider our strengths, plot our goals and directions and look closely to see where those research strengths intersect with the outside world. Wherever we see that intersection, we should make it clear we want involvement.”
Ritts most recently applied this straightforward formula at Stanford University, where he served as managing director of the Stanford Natural Gas Initiative, a collaboration of more than 40 Stanford research groups with industry partners and other external stakeholders. Together they found new and innovative ways to attain the greatest social, economic and environmental benefits from natural gas. “Like Stanford, U of I has engaged in some highly cross-disciplinary research projects, but we can do even more,” Ritts said. “There are many strengths that U of I can be proud of: agriculture, natural resources, and cybersecurity to name just a few. We just need to make it clear how new groups, both internal and external, can come in and participate.” Ritts works to foster those research connections internally by regularly connecting with faculty and senior administrators through U of I’s Research Council, Office of Undergraduate Research, College of Graduate Studies and other groups.
“I enjoy making connections,” Ritts said. “I enjoy watching faculty come together on cross-collaborations. I enjoy seeing faculty develop new knowledge alongside stakeholders. Not only does it serve a purpose. It gives me the opportunity to learn about fields I wasn’t involved with before.”