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Portrait of Michelle Maryns

Tech Comm has been working hard to elevate issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Given Tech Comm's mission to translate University research to real world products and services, we want to ensure our innovation ecosystem at UMN is inclusive, diverse, and equitable As part of this commitment, Tech Comm recently hired a part-time DEI contractor, Michelle Maryns.

Michelle started in late December and will be with Tech Comm for about nine months. She will be working with Tech Comm's DEI working group, which includes 18 members, coming from Tech Comm and other offices at the University that support the innovation ecosystem (Carlson School of Management, Office of Discovery and Translation, Office of Equity and Diversity). Her work will focus on promoting stories of diverse researchers involved with commercialization, improving Tech Comm's outreach to innovators through its website, and establishing/tracking metrics that allow Tech Comm to track and measure improvements. These efforts are well aligned with similar goals by the USPTO to increase diversity of inventors submitting patent applications, as outlined by the USPTO director Iancu, who recently spoke at UMN.

From Michelle:

"As a tech entrepreneur, I am honored to be working with Tech Comm on their DEI efforts. I have always been interested in issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion because I am the daughter of refugees from Vietnam who grew up in a small town in Kansas that was known as the KKK capital of the world at that time. My personal experiences facing discrimination and injustice shaped my own commitment to improve understanding between people from different backgrounds. In 1998, I served as a television show host for a PBS-affiliate program about cultural diversity that was created to help address a series of hate crimes in our community at the time. I later became a foreign service officer and grew to love working in tech because of its potential to have a positive social impact on a large scale. Now, I am the founder & CEO of We Sparkle Co., a B2B SaaS social enterprise building a stronger and more inclusive economy by equipping underestimated entrepreneurs with the AI-powered tools they need to succeed. As we grow our early-stage startup, I'm excited to serve as the DEI contractor for the next few months and work with all of you on efforts to increase engagement with diverse innovators.

I would love the opportunity to get to know each of you and your ideas for how we can improve our DEI efforts. Please feel free to connect with me any time at maryn007@umn.edu. I look forward to working with all of you over the next few months!"