Outside the Office: Volunteering with Professional Organizations

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Several employees at the Office of Technology Transfer extend their expertise in the technology industry to outside professional organizations.

Among these employees are Laura Fritts, Director of Patent and License Strategy and Chief Intellectual Property Officer; Kimberly Dunn, Compliance Associate; Linda Kesselring, Operations Director; Kevin Lei, Director of Faculty and Start-Up Services; Patrick Reynolds, Assistant Director of Faculty and Start-up Services; Quentin Thomas, Marketing Manager; and Sarah Wilkening, Licensing Associate.

The majority of the above OTT employees volunteer with the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). AUTM is a nonprofit organization that supports individuals involved in technology transfer through education, professional development, and advocacy, among other activities. Through these methods, the organization provides knowledge of technology transfer beyond Emory and forges connections between members, which is why many employees opted to join.

Each involved OTT member contributes to AUTM in a different capacity, ranging from assisting with marketing to hosting instructional webinars. For example, while Fritts serves on the AUTM Public Policy Legal team, Dunn previously served on the Distance Learning Committee organizing speakers for AUTM-hosted webinars and was Chair of the Intellectual Property Portfolio Management Committee. As chair, Dunn helped develop and manage an annual course for three years before recently joining AUTM’s TOOLs Committee.

Having been an AUTM member for over 20 years, Kesselring currently serves as chair of the website committee. As chair, she works with AUTM staff focused on marketing and communications and organizes work, activities, and conference calls to “meet objectives for the AUTM website.” This is done through tasks like supporting the website’s redesign and providing regular statistics.

Reynolds chairs AUTM’s Better World Project committee, a group that selects stories submitted by technology transfer offices about how their technologies “make the world a better place.”

“It’s easy to get in the cycle of only knowing what is happening in your own office,” he said. “The Better World Project allows me to see the great work that institutions and [technology transfer offices] around the world are doing.”

Thomas, another AUTM volunteer, occasionally serves as a presenter on Annual Meeting webinar sessions and recently left the Marketing Course Committee after working with this group for three years. He noted that his work with AUTM increases exposure of Emory’s OTT office and fuels additional opportunities, while also allowing him to learn new skills and gain knowledge from colleagues at other institutions.

In addition to those who volunteer with AUTM, several OTT employees cite benefits from volunteering with outside organizations. Lei volunteers with Certified Licensing Professional (CLP), Inc. as a member of The CLP Exam Development and Maintenance Committee. The CLP program certifies professionals that demonstrate experience and proficiency in the licensing and commercialization of intellectual property after they take and pass a 150 multiple choice question exam. When the organization recruited volunteers to revise exam questions in 2019, Lei took this opportunity.

“I thought it would be important to be involved and help maintain the high standard of the CLP program, because it takes dedicated volunteers to develop a quality certification program,” he said.

Wilkening primarily volunteers with the Patent Agents of Georgia, an organization she co-founded under the Georgia Intellectual Property Alliance. This group aims to foster community among Georgia’s past, present, and future patent agents and coordinates networking events for “science-lovers that want to stay at the frontlines of research without having to do the research.”

“I wish I would have known about this career path earlier in my life … Being a patent agent can be a rewarding career opportunity,” she said. “This organization has brought together technology transfer and patent professionals from all over Georgia, and I have had the honor to help branch those networking opportunities.”

Fritts has volunteered as a lawyer with the Executive Committee for Atlanta’s IP Inn of Court and the Advisory Board for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Georgia PATENTS. As a volunteer, she has helped inventors file patent applications, saying, “The benefits to the organizations, my office, and me personally far outweigh the burden of the work.”

Dunn also volunteered with the Georgia Association of Paralegals’s Atlanta Legal Aid Society. With this organization, she assisted domestic violence victims in filing appropriate documents involving scenarios like temporary restraining orders and coordinating temporary housing. She listed obtaining a “diverse network of knowledge and experience” among several benefits she received from volunteering.

“Volunteering is like continuing education: we constantly learn something new,” she explained. “The most important benefit is the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.”