Vice Provost for Research and Engagement

Thaddeus Guldbrandsen, Ph.D.

Vice Provost for Research & Engagement
MSC 51, Speare Administrative Building, 2nd Floor, Room 220C

Dr. Thaddeus Guldbrandsen is Vice Provost for Research & Engagement at Plymouth State University, a position established in 2012 to support high impact educational opportunities for students, research and scholarship programs for faculty, and an enhanced quality of life for communities in New Hampshire and around the world. Thad’s research, scholarship, teaching, and administrative work stands at the intersection of the humanities, social science, and community-­economic development. Much of his work in New Hampshire has been related to sustainable development, work that has earned him recognition as the “Young Professional of the Year” in 2011 and on the list of “Forty under 40” young professional who make a difference in New Hampshire. Beyond New Hampshire, he has been involved with anthropological work on globalization and democracy. As part of that work, he is co-­author of the award-­winning book, Local Democracy Under Siege: Activism, Public Interests, and Private Politics (NYU Press 2007), and several other publications on globalization & democracy, regionalism, immigration, and urban development. Funding for his work includes the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others.

Throughout Thad’s work, he finds creative ways to involve students in research and public engagement. He has taught courses in, globalization, urban anthropology, anthropology of North America, Community Engaged Research, and First Year Seminar. He was trained as an urban anthropologist, with a doctoral degree in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of New Hampshire. He is a 2011 graduate of Leadership New Hampshire and a 2014 graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education Management Development Program.  He completed a timber framing (“post and beam” building) program in 2003 at Fox Maple School of Traditional Building before designing and building his own house and barn using trees he harvested from his land.

Vice Provost for Research & Engagement Job Description 

As Vice Provost for Research & Engagement at Plymouth State University, Thad is called to support and help create opportunities for engaged learning for students, support faculty research and scholarship, and harness the resources of the university to enhance the quality of life for communities in New Hampshire and around the world.  To accomplish these goals, the work of the Vice Provost falls into the following areas:

  • Academic Affairs leadership:  As a member of the Academic Affairs leadership team, the Vice Provost works closely with Provost Julie Bernier, the deans, and other senior administrators to enhance the student learning, faculty scholarship, and the overall academic quality of Plymouth State University.  The Vice Provost also serves on the Extended Cabinet, the university-wide leadership team.
  • Academic service learning:  The Office of Service Learning falls under the purview of the Vice Provost, and he work closely with Jessica Dutille (Service Learning Coordinator), other members of the Engaged Learning Council, and off-campus partners to ensure high quality engagement between students and organizations around the region and around the world.  Service learning plays an especially important role at Plymouth State University, whose motto is, Ut Prosim, that I may serve.  Hands-on learning and community engagement, provides students with real world opportunities to apply what they learn at PSU.
  • Community engagement and economic development:  Part of the work of the Office of Research & Engagement is to sustain collaborative relationships with businesses, community organizations, and government agencies, especially in areas the relate to faculty research and scholarship, student engagement, and grant-funded work.  He works closely with Steve Barba (Director of University Relations), Ben Amsden (Director of the Center for Rural Partnerships), the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, the Advancement Office, and others around campus to ensure that Plymouth State University has a positive impact on the economy and quality of life in our local communities and beyond.  The Office of the Vice Provost is currently (2014) working with several off-campus partners, including: government agencies and social service Agencies in the Lakes Region to better support new immigrants and refugees; businesses and nonprofit organizations to enhance recreation and tourism opportunities in the Plymouth Region.
  • Faculty research & scholarship: The Office of Research & Engagement supports faculty research and scholarship in a variety of ways.  As Chair of the Research Advisory Council, Thad works with faculty to identify new opportunities for research at PSU, redress obstacles that inhibit faculty scholarship, and generally promote a culture of research and scholarship at PSU.  The Vice Provost and the RAC administers the Faculty Research and Scholarship Fund, an annual internal grant program to support faculty research.   The Office of the Vice Provost facilitates faculty workshops, training, and collaborative meetings that lead to on-gong research and scholarly activity at PSU, as well as partnerships with off-campus organizations.
  • Federal compliance:  The Vice Provost is PSU’s liaison with state and federal funding agencies and our Congressional delegation on matters that pertain to external funding.  He serves as the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) and work closely with the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), and the Conflict of Interest (COI) review committee (when it is needed).
  • Fellowships: The Office of Research & Engagement is charged with promoting and supporting student and faculty involvement in fellowship programs at PSU, such as Fulbright, Rhodes, etc.
  • Grants & contracts: The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) at PSU, which falls under the purview of the Vice Provost, supports faculty, staff, and students with their external funding efforts.  This office includes both “pre-award” and “post-award” grant administration.  He works closely with colleagues in OSP, Tara Disalvo (communications and project management), Jahnay Picket (pre-award), and Liane Sutcliffe (post-award).
  • Intellectual property & technology transfer: The Office of Research & Engagement Serves as the intellectual asset management office at PSU, working with the support of TreMonti Consulting.  In this capacity, the Vice Provost serves as the technology transfer officer (TTO) at PSU.
  • Student research and scholarship:  The Office of Research & Engagement supports student research and scholarship, hosting the annual student research conference (the Student Showcase of Excellence), leading the Student Research Advisory Council, administering the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) and Student Research Grants (SRG), connecting faculty members with resources and information that helps them to involve students in their work, and generally sustaining a conversation on campus about student research.

Previous Work with the Center for Rural Partnerships at PSU and the Center for the Study of Community at UNH

Thad came to PSU in 2005 as the founding director of the Center for Rural Partnerships and faculty member in the departments of Social Science and Environmental Science & Policy. Under my leadership, the Center grew from a staff of one to include six staff members, mostly funded by contracts and grants. The Center led dozens of initiatives, developed strategic partnerships with off-­‐campus organizations, and created numerous service-­‐learning and research opportunities for PSU students. As part of the Center led initiatives in sustainable development, regional heritage, alternative energy, creative forestry practices, local food, and more. The work of the Center has been funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the US Department of Education, and several other agencies, foundations, and organizations. A key component of that work has been collaboration. Facilitating collaboration is a hallmark of work at the Center for Rural Partnerships. The Center has been a catalyst for innovative engaged scholarship among students and faculty and has arranged valuable partnerships for PSU with regional organizations, helping to expand our reach and attract new funding to the institution. Prior to coming to PSU, Thad was Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Hampshire and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Community, a collaborative endeavor with UNH and Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Community Engagement, Voluntary Activity, and Personal Interests

Untitled4[Caption: Guldbrandsen, with Chancellor Ross Gittell (Community College System of New Hampshire) and two Canadian administrators, presenting as part of the higher education panel at the NH-Canada Trade Forum]

Voluntary activity and community leadership is an important aspect of Thad’s impact, whether coaching an elementary school basketball team, serving on a committee in town, or helping to lead a region-wide economic development initiative.  Most of his voluntary activities have revolved around community-economic development, social justice, the environment, and education.  These interest have called him to serve on several different boards and committees.  He is currently serving on three boards, which all capture his interest in sustainability, education, and the promise of a significantly brighter future.


He serves on the Board of Trustees of Sterling College in Vermont, one of the smallest accredited, four-year colleges in the United States.  Sterling is one of a handful of federally-designated “work colleges,” which provides students real, hands-on experience.   Sterling students also explore the wilderness back country, help raise their own food on the Sterling Farm, work a team of draft horses, and other useful skills that complement their liberal arts education.   Sterling is a small school with a big vision for environmental sustainability.


Thad serves on the Lakes Region Board of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, New Hampshire’s most important funder of nonprofit organizations.  The Charitable Foundation serves an important role significant matters of public concern.


“Rethink Tradition” is the motto of the Canterbury Shaker Village, where Thad serves as on the Board of Trustees.  The Shakers embraced utopian ideals as exhibited in their innovative inventions, elegant design, hard work, sustainable agriculture, and communitarian spirit.  Thad works as part of that organization as they continue to preserve an important 200 year legacy and a special place (a National Historic Landmark) that provides enriching learning opportunities for contemporary visitors.

During the 2014 Session, Senate Bill 392 established a commission on rural affairs. The purpose of the Rural Affairs Commission is to better represent the interests of rural communities in the State Legislature and in New Hampshire in general. The Commission is particularly concerned with the economic vitality and overall quality of life in rural New Hampshire. For more information, see:  Thad serves as the at-large representative of the University System of New Hampshire.


Thad and his two sons enjoy mountain biking, skiing, paddling, swimming, and many other activities that bring them to beautiful places outside in New Hampshire and around the world.


In 2003 Thad attended Fox Maple School of Traditional Building.  He designed and built his own house (2004-05) and barn (2006) and managed RockTreeFarm, a small barnyard and woodlot (2006-2011), with as many as 90 fowl (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys), lambs, goats, and horses.  He harvested and milled trees for lumber for the house, built a small balsawood model of the house, acted as the general contractor on the project, and hired subcontractors to do more technical things. More recently, Thad has been working to restore a Craftsman style bungalow in a livable, walkable neighborhood in the village of Plymouth, NH.

Guldbrandsen CV Resume 2014

Office of Sponsored Programs

RAC Members

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Center for Business and Community Partnerships

Ben Amsden
Director of the Center for Business and Community Partnerships
(603) 535-3276