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An HBCU first: AUTM elects JSU innovator Campbell to its 2021 Board of Directors

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Dr. Almesha L. Campbell said, “I understand well the challenges of underrepresented minorities in research and development.” She’s established many initiatives at Jackson State University and is now working to help other HBCUs build their own technology transfer ecosystems.

Dr. Almesha L. Campbell said, “I understand well the challenges of underrepresented minorities in research and development.” As the assistant vice president for Research and Economic Development at JSU, Campbell has established many initiatives at her alma mater and is now working to help other HBCUs build their own technology transfer ecosystems. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Dr. Almesha L. Campbell, assistant vice president for Research and Economic Development at Jackson State University, has been elected to the AUTM 2021 Board of Directors – a first for an HBCU.

AUTM, a 3,000-member organization has worked diligently to ensure a diverse membership. It describes itself as a nonprofit leader aiming to “educate, promote and inspire professionals to support the development of academic research that changes the world and drives innovation forward.”

AUTM-LogoBased on the organization’s mission, professional peers at AUTM voted enthusiastically for Campbell, who has been the driving force behind innovation and tech transfer at JSU for a decade. Campbell will serve a three- year term on the board. Campbell said she and her AUTM colleagues will benefit from their shared knowledge because throughout her JSU tenure she’s been providing strategic direction and vision and identifying partnerships in commercialization and innovation initiatives. This means JSU has worked with many other academic institutions along with funding agencies and industry stakeholders.

“If I am to be true to my role on the AUTM Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, I must be motivated to contribute from the highest level of the organization,” Campbell said.

As an 11-year employee at JSU, she added, “I understand well the challenges of underrepresented minorities in research and development. I also have built a solid network at HBCUs and continue to ensure the participation of their faculty and students in innovation and commercialization.”

Because of that, she’s proud to serve on the EDI Committee, which aims to ensure that underrepresented groups earn the same opportunities as others – not in a segregated climate but rather in a heterogeneous tech transfer environment.

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Campbell helped launch the NIH-funded EnRICH health care pre-accelerator for HBCUs. EnRICH is an acronym meaning “Engaging Research and Innovators for Commercialization at HBCUs.”

Outgoing AUTM chair Marc Sedam also recognized the importance of JSU’s role and the addition of Campbell to its board.

“Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion across programming has led to important changes in accessibility and representation, not the least of which was AUTM’s most diverse slate of elected directors in history, including the first elected director from an HBCU,” Sedam said. He called these efforts “an important milestone but the next of many future steps toward an inclusive profession and technology transfer ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, along with EDI, Campbell also serves on the AUTM Women Inventors Special Interest Group. She said the people she met on these committee, and the awareness that there is a lack of diversity in the tech transfer field, increased her desire to serve on the AUTM Board.

“I believe I can bring a unique perspective and, as a board member, will be more aptly positioned to effect change in the organization and pave new paths for people from underrepresented groups as future members of AUTM,” she said. Although JSU is one of a few HBCUs with a dedicated tech transfer office (TTO), Campbell expects her experience at a small TTO – and especially from an HBCU – will become a valuable asset to AUTM.

In fact, since Campbell has been at JSU, she has developed an innovation ecosystem by introducing many programs and opportunities to students, faculty, staff and external constituencies.

Among these initiatives are Innovation Month; Innovation Fellows; Young Innovators Program; and the creation of the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. She also serves as principal investigator for the JSU I-Corps Site program, which trains teams of faculty and students to commercialize their ideas.

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Now, she’s working to help other HBCUs build their own ecosystems by learning from and partnering with JSU on a number of activities. She’ll be able to further accomplish that while simultaneously serving on AUTM’s board.

Moreover, the multifaceted Campbell juggles a number of other responsibilities, too. Her current role includes assisting in the oversight of grants and contracts, sponsored programs, research compliance and federal relations.

Recently, she helped launch the NIH-funded EnRICH (Engaging Research and Innovators for Commercialization at HBCUs) health care pre-accelerator for HBCUs. Like her EDI committee, EnRICH also pursues equity, diversity and inclusion in innovation.

And, EnRICH goes even further by training faculty and students to critically evaluate the commercial potential of new health care technologies. It also focuses on intellectual property protection and commercialization in an established startup accelerator program.

This pre-accelerator is just another example of the many innovations Campbell is leading in an effort to fulfill her purpose.

“I am committed to developing a pathway for underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in tech transfer. In fact, I am developing a program for students at JSU to engage in tech transfer, and will employ best practices learned from AUTM,” Campbell said.