You’ve Got Mail

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  1. Hello CSU! Welcome to my first blog attempt as your new Training and Information Coordinator in the Office of Sponsored Programs. I am Kathryn O’Hayre and join Colorado State after 11 years in Sponsored Programs Administration at CU Boulder in both Central and Departmental Administration. From those various perspectives, I have a few strategies to help us build effective communication in email.

1. Utilize identifiers in the Subject Line

2. Change the Subject Line if the topic changes

3. Include any relevant deadlines, if applicable

4. “CC” with Care

5. Review your message for tone, clarity, and balance



One of the most common details that connect faculty investigators, administrators, and our sponsoring agencies are the identifiers. The most common identifiers are Agency Award #, KR PD#, Sponsor, and Project Title. While a KR PD # is a helpful internal campus identifier, the Agency Award number is the best universal identifier between all stakeholders. Also, make sure your acronyms are defined once or common knowledge to eliminate guesswork. Including this information in our communications gets everyone on the same page and aids in facilitating timely responses.

Subject Lines

“RE: Inquiry” won’t trigger your memory or draw as much attention as “RE: NSF Extension Adams CBET 12345”. Sometimes an email chain can evolve and change topics as more details arise. For example, you may consider it appropriate to change from “RE: Tuesdays Meeting Notes” to “RE: Revised Budget CBET 12345 Request” or if the subject has changed altogether, consider beginning a new thread.


Sponsor deadlines are common throughout the award lifecycle from proposal submissions, reporting, or invoicing. As the deadline approaches, you may consider using the “High Importance” (Red Exclamation Point) feature in Outlook – just be careful to only use when a deadline is quickly approaching. 

CCs, BCCs, and Other Buttons

The “TO” field is for contacts we write to directly or from which a response is needed. The “CC” field is for recipients that need the information for awareness. You can clarify why a new CC is looped into your response. Did you know, if you entered a blind copy (BCC) and the next recipient selects the Reply All function, the reply email will be sent to all recipients and all receivers will see your address. Lastly, speaking of “Reply All”, assess if all of the contacts from the previous email still need your next response. For instance, maybe I was looped into a conversation between the Sponsor Technical Officer and CSU PI for setting up a prior approval request. I remove the Technical Officer outside of our Institute and CC the applicable Department or Central Administrator while we discuss details for the formal request.


Have you heard of the 7-38-55 rule? The rule consists of 3 elements of communication. Words, tone, and body language respectively account for 7%, 38%, and 55% of personal communication. In our world of email, body language isn’t a factor, so words and tone have more weight. It is important to review content for tone, clarity, and balance. Questions you can ask:

• Do my words and rhetoric mirror the tone I am trying to set?

• Is there too much detail or not enough?

• Are action items defined?


We all speak different languages, even in our Sponsored Programs realm. Whether you are deep in the technical work, reconciling the actuals to budget, or negotiating aspects with our Sponsors, we all appreciate a clear message. Our specialized roles and responsibilities keep our process running efficiently – the key bridge is our communication. Like a fantastic puzzle, I like connecting the ideas and people around me, so feel free to reach out on Microsoft Teams or by email if you have ideas, want to collaborate, to share your perspective, or send gifs of The Office! I look forward to meeting you in our virtual world and seeing you on campus.

Blog post by Kathryn O’Hayre, Training and Information Coordinator, Office of Sponsored Programs