In her job, Laura Altieri is accustomed to being behind the scenes. So when she was named to the Crain’s Cleveland Business “20 in their Twenties” list, she was in unfamiliar territory: the spotlight.
As proposal developer at the Great Lakes Energy Institute, she plays a crucial role in securing grant money for energy-related research conducted at Case Western Reserve University. But once the grant is accepted, her name is nowhere to be seen.
She’s completed nearly 50 proposals in her year with the institute, working with faculty across the university who are seeking funding for projects in line with the institute’s mission of energy sustainability. With her help, Altieri said, faculty members can focus on their cutting-edge research, rather than the details of the grant-proposal process.
Recently, one faculty member she worked with won an award after submitting his first proposal. He remarked that, without Altieri’s help and input, he likely wouldn’t have submitted it.
“That was validating,” she said.
And though Altieri knows that some grant proposals would be completed whether or not she was there, she considers the extra element she adds essential to the process.
“If we want to win these multimillion-dollar awards, we need to be the best at not only the research, but articulating the research and the impact that it has,” Altieri said.
At the institute, she’s the one tasked with articulating that during the proposal process. It’s a skill she honed while working with organizations that depend on funding to operate: AmeriCorps VISTA and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
While she loved working in the social services, when Altieri saw the proposal developer position at the institute, she couldn’t pass up the chance.
“An opportunity to work on such big issues as we tackle at the Great Lakes Energy Institute was exciting to me,” she said. “Being at the cutting edge of energy research is something that really has the potential to make long-lasting impact, so that really excited me.”
Altieri is already seeing the impact of her work. And so are others, which is why her supervisor, Grant Goodrich, associate director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute, nominated her.
She was humbled by the honor.
“I was blown away that I was even nominated, to be honest,” she said. “To have that kind of support from the people who you work directly with—you don’t get that everywhere. To win it, I frankly wasn’t expecting it.”
Soon, even more will have a chance to see Altieri’s work up close, as the Great Lakes Energy Institute will celebrate its 10-year anniversary during the 2018 calendar year.
1. What’s your favorite place in Cleveland?
The Cleveland Museum of Art, hands down. For a city the size of Cleveland to have an institution like CMA is incredible. I try to go once a month. Plus it’s free, which is just really cool.
2. If you could have any superpower, what would you pick?
Telepathy—to read people’s minds. People have so much going on at any given moment. It would provide such interesting insight as to why people do what they do.
3. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My mind would change every week. I could never settle on one thing. One week I’d want to be a doctor and the next week I’d want to be a journalist and the next week I’d want to be a teacher. I was very fluid with my dreams.
That’s why I like my role here: I get to do a little bit of writing, I get to learn about all different types of research, I get to meet people from ARPA-E and the Department of Energy. I feel like my vast interests have made me well suited for this job.
4. Throughout all of your schooling, what was the most important lesson you ever learned?
To read between the lines. When you get a history degree [she studied history and political science at Kent State University], it’s all about looking at history and trying to see what was there but we didn’t see it at the time—not taking everything as what you see on the surface, but digging down and really trying to see what’s there but isn’t being stated.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The people I work with, within [Great Lakes Energy Institute], but also the different faculty and staff members [across the university]. You’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere with a more supportive environment than the Great Lakes Energy Institute. Because we’re such a small department, I think that’s an asset for us. The support everyone provides each other is really unique.