‘Demystifying Tech’ seminar

Photo courtesy of GT Institute Relations

This past Thursday, the second seminar in a series known as “Demystifying How Georgia Tech Works” took place in the student center. Presented by the Office of Institute Relations (IR), Lynn Durham, the Vice President of Institute Relations here at Tech, led a panel to explain the role of IR in advocating for Tech.

Opening the seminar, Durham noted that the key areas IR focuses its resources on include federal, state and local governments as well as businesses and communities. The department attempts to use advocacy and relationship-building to “[enhance] the image of Georgia Tech, [build] support for its causes and [serve] the state of Georgia.” Chris Burke, the Executive Director of Community Relations for IR spoke first about Tech’s interactions with communities. The community relations group attempts to “encompass the gray areas” that are not covered by the government and economic development groups. 

Community relations aims to focus on communities within a five-mile radius of campus, and they emphasize Tech’s interactions with children in these communities in particular. Programs including CEISMC Summer PEAKS camps and Middle Grades Discover GT Days attempt to reach out to young people in nearby neighborhoods.  

Burke explains their mission: “Because we are a state university it is our responsibility to welcome all people here.”

Next, Caulder Harvill-Childs, Director of State Relations, elaborated on IR’s role in advocacy within the state government. He explained that the key project for the state relations team is to secure important funding for Tech Square Phase III. The state relations team is working to gain over $30 million in bonds to fund the project from the state. 

They are also advocating at the capitol to stop B-budget unit reductions. These budget cuts could severely harm vital funding for Tech, and the governor is currently attempting to decrease these budget areas by as much as four to six percent. In the federal sphere, Executive Director of Federal Relations Robert Knotts works with his team to secure federal research funding, prepare experts from Tech to testify for congress and advocate with congress members to further Tech’s goals, he explained. 

Recently, Dr. Abdallah, the Executive Vice President for Research at GTRI testified in front of the congressional science committee. 

“[Expert testimony] is a way to influence policy … and also a way to enhance the Tech brand,” Knotts noted. The federal relations team also works to secure federal funding for important research here at Tech. As much as 70% of research funding at Tech comes from a variety of federal agencies. The largest portion of federal-funded research at Tech comes from the Department of Defense.

The final speaker was Greg King, Associate Vice President for Economic Development. The economic development group hopes to grow a strong economy in Atlanta and throughout Georgia by fostering pathways for partnership with businesses. King noted strong relationships with both local and large national companies are important to IR. Additionally, professional education at Tech is geared toward building a partnership between corporate employees and the school. 

Overall, IR reaches out to the government, corporate groups and community members alike in order to further Tech’s mission of “Progress and Service.” By serving the community and advocating for Tech’s goals, IR hopes to maintain Tech’s reputation and expand its opportunities in the Atlanta area and across the country. 

You can learn more about the Office of Institute Relations and find contact information at the site gov.gatech.edu.