May 20, 2019 | Lee Cannon

From left to right: Vice Chancellor Mladen Vouk; Laura Kroeger (ORI); Jobi Cook (Associate Director, NC Space Grant); Sasha Campbell (Digital Communications Manager, Office of Research Commercialization); Derek Gatlin (Grant Proposal Developer, PDU); Nicole McIntosh (Coordinator for Research and Outreach, WRRI); Andrea McCarrick (Scientific Technical Editor, NCICS); Megan Bortner (Accountant, ISSC); Andrew Thrasher (Research Scholar, NCICS); Julie Leibach (Science Writer, NC Sea Grant); Meg Chester (Director of Finance and Compliance, PowerAmerica); Spencer Rogers (NC Sea Grant). NOT PICTURED: ORI Award for Excellence nominees James Rennie (Research Associate, NCICS) and Brooke Stewart-Garrod (Research Associate, NCICS). Photo by Lee Cannon.

Vice Chancellor Mladen Vouk presents Nicole Wilkinson McIntosh with her certificate of nomination for the Office of Research and Innovation Awards for Excellence.


Nicole Wilkinson McIntosh, research and outreach coordinator for the state’s Water Resources Research Institute, was recently nominated for the annual Awards for Excellence in the North Carolina State University Office of Research and Innovation. Wilkinson McIntosh helps to coordinate the annual grants competition, manages WRRI’s interaction with the Urban Water Consortium and Stormwater Consortium, and coordinates a variety of workshops and an annual conference, all aimed at increasing the knowledge and research base of the state’s water resources. Her work helps transfer that research into the hands of practitioners and decision makers.

“Nicole is working extremely hard to serve the citizens of North Carolina, our region and our nation. She is an excellent ambassador for NC State’s Think and Do approach to the Land Grant Mission,” said WRRI deputy director John Fear, who nominated Wilkinson McIntosh and honored her work at the April 26 awards ceremony.

Fear cited as one contribution Wilkinson McIntosh’s work to help rural water providers understand their distribution system losses, which can reach more than 40 percent in some cases, using water system audits. Through a partnership she helped establish between WRRI, the state’s Division of Water Infrastructure and Cavanaugh & Associates, water providers better able to identify and implement best practices to become more viable and better serve North Carolina’s citizens.

Another of Wilkinson McIntosh’s accomplishments, Fear said, was working to re-invigorate WRRI’s Urban Water Consortium (UWC) and establish the Stormwater Consortium (SWC) as an independent industry consortium at NC State. These consortia help address the needs of drinking water utilities and permitted stormwater programs in cities and towns. As with the rural water partnership, Wilkinson McIntosh worked to revive the cooperation on joint fact-finding processes that engage academic institutions, environmental and engineering consulting firms, and state agencies, to benefit all members of the consortia.

Dr. John Fear presents highlights from his nomination of Wilkinson McIntosh at the ORI Awards of Excellence Ceremony.

“These unique consortia are the envy of many of our sister Water Research Institutes across the nation,” Fear stated, “and their success is directly attributable to Nicole’s efforts.”

Wilkinson McIntosh also serves on the boards of directors for the North Carolina Water Resources Association (NCWRA) and for the Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR), expanding the capacity of WRRI to benefit water resources statewide and nationwide.

Perhaps her most visible accomplishment is the NC WRRI Annual Conference. Each year of her time organizing the conference, Fear said, Wilkinson McIntosh has added innovations and extra benefits, including student opportunities – such as pre-conference trainings and mentorship programs – a larger variety of session topics and engagement from additional partners. The conference has grown significantly under her leadership, and on March 21 and 22, it attracted the largest crowd of water-resource professionals, academics and students in its 21-year history, with nearly 400 attendees.

“Each year, Nicole strives to enhance the conference and make it better than the year before” Fear noted. “Keeping a recurring event like this fresh and relevant is a constant battle, but Nicole’s efforts have been truly remarkable.”

Spencer Rogers shakes hands with Vice Chancellor Mladen Vouk as he receives one of the annual Awards for Excellence.

Spencer Rogers receives one of the annual Awards for Excellence from Vice Chancellor Mladen Vouk. Photo by Lee Cannon.

Award Winners

One nominee from WRRI’s sister program, North Carolina Sea Grant, was one of two winners of the award. Spencer Rogers is the coastal construction and erosion specialist at Sea Grant and has worked for the program for over 40 years.

Laura Kroeger, research program specialist, won the second award. Rogers and Kroeger will represent the office at the NC State University Awards for Excellence Ceremony, on June 11.

“All 13 nominees for the 2019 Awards for Excellence have shown they are among the university’s highest achievers,” Vice Chancellor for Research Mladen Vouk said during the awards announcement. “I thank you all for the phenomenal work you’ve done over the last year and the dedication you have shown to our university and the state of North Carolina.”

The 2019 nominees in the ORI group included: Julie Leibach, the NC Sea Grant science writer and digital content specialist, and Jobi Cook, associate director of sister program NC Space Grant.

Rogers’ Four Decades of Service

As a Sea Grant employee for more than four decades, Spencer Rogers has regularly gone above and beyond to provide scientific, research-based information to coastal property owners, government agencies, designers and building professionals — earning a statewide and national reputation as one of North Carolina’s “go-to people” for coastal construction and erosion knowledge.

Rogers’ focus on coastal safety has been a tremendous service to North Carolina residents, property owners and visitors. Of particular note are his research and outreach efforts related to rip currents and coastal construction.

“I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that his research and outreach relating to rip current safety has and will save lives,” notes Frank Lopez, Sea Grant’s extension director.

Read more about Rogers on the North Carolina Sea Grant news page.

Laura Kroeger head shot

Laura Kroeger. Photograph courtesy of NC State University Office of Research and Innovation.

Kroeger Serves Research Enterprise

Kroeger’s current role requires working with all parts of ORI and its partnering divisions and colleges, as well as external local, regional and national collaborators. But her main focus is to provide essential administrative support to the Vice Chancellor for Research’s four advisory committees — the Research Leadership Academy (RLA), the Research Operations Council (ROC), the Research Support Council (RSC) and the University Research Committee (URC).

Kroeger got her start as the Springboard office manager, where just one of her many jobs was to serve as the always smiling face who greets each and every office visitor. She quickly became university program associate in 2017, before moving to the role of research program specialist in 2019.

Her nomination letter noted that one thing all who’ve worked with Laura seem to agree upon is that she is committed to providing customer service of the highest quality.


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