NACRO Leadership Decade in Review
As we march toward the 10th annual NACROcon in Seattle next August, we’ll be counting down the years by highlighting a Board member, beginning with our newest members and working towards those there at the beginning.
J. Mark Nolan Executive Director, Office of Corporate & Institutional Partnerships, Carnegie Mellon University
Editor: How did you get started in NACRO - Where has it taken you over the years in your career?Mark: I have been involved in NACRO since our colleagues formed the idea -- with the first organized meeting/conference taking place at the University of Minnesota in 2007. It was (and remains) a pleasure to meet with colleagues at other universities contemplating the challenges of multi-dimensional relationships (sponsored research, gifts, IP discussions, forming industry consortia, collaborative pursuits of federal funds, etc.).Active participation and affiliation with NACRO has provided more job opportunities than one could imagine -- with regular contacts coming in from recruiters for positions at other universities. In fact, I know my involvement was a key reason I was contacted for the position I have now (which says a lot about the value campuses and recruiters see in my affiliation with NACRO). Active members routinely recommend other members for these open positions. If one is active and engaged with our colleagues at other universities -- one is most likely up to date on the changing role of CR officers in our complex relationships with companies.Editor: What is your perspective on how NACRO has shaped CR in the past?
Mark: I think that an early NACRO white-paper, "Five Essential Elements of a Successful Twenty-First Century University Corporate Relations Program", published in 2011, has best helped me shape the understanding of how Corporate Relationships need to be appraised at Carnegie Mellon University. In fact, I use figure #3 from that document as a teaching tool here at CMU on how to qualify inbound opportunities and how to expand existing corporate relationships. Who actually needs to be involved? How can we protect valuable faculty time? How can we move much faster from inquiry, to interest, to signed agreement? If we are not providing rewarding relationships for our campuses, we are nothing more than "tour guides," and I'm not a tour guide!Editor: How do you see (or what are your challenges to today's NACRO) on the future of CR?Mark: I believe a challenge for CR, in general, is a focus by some university leaders on just one metric: gift dollars. We need to show the correlation between student recruiting/engagement. We need to show our value and abilities in developing research collaborations, increasing corporate participation in executive education. Though many of us are outside tech-transfer, we need to recognize and demonstrate our important role in the commercialization/IP licensing domains.
More often than not, our ability to generate corporate gifts is tied to these other issues and opportunities. In fact, in many cases the funding from these other "monetizable" corporate engagement opportunities far exceeds corporate gifts. To be clear, I am not against talking about gifts with companies. I just want to be sure that we have served both the university I work for and the corporation we work with by aligning our interests through multiple engagement levels. NACRO's role in this should be to share some of these successes -- not only to serve as models of good practices for our members, but examples of the possible for our campus' leadership. Editor: Parting shots / wisdom / insights???Mark: Become fluent in all-things-corporate at your campus particular campus (forms of sponsored research, commercialization, IP, co-location facilities, etc.). Put yourself in the middle of these conversations between your campus and corporations. Protect faculty and administrator time -- and don't be a tour guide. Go close some deals!