2022 Michelson IP educator awardees highlight the value of teaching IP at community colleges 

By Justin Chapman

This article was originally published by Inventor’s Digest.

The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property is expanding its support of infusing IP education into a broad range of educational curricula.

At the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship’s annual conference in Boston in Fall 2022, the Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property (Michelson IP) awarded the Michelson IP Educator of Excellence Award to Business Administration Professor Diane Sabato and History Professor John Diffley of Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts. As part of the honor, their department received a $5,000 award from Michelson IP and NACCE.

The two recipients demonstrated leadership through their innovative and successful approaches to teaching intellectual property, inspiring students and fellow educators with workshops and programs to expand IP literacy.

“The 2022 IP Educator of Excellence Award was an unexpected and humbling honor for Professor John Diffley and me,” Sabato said. The award “affirms the work that we’ve been doing to promote intellectual property for our students and others across the country.”

The award, presented annually in partnership with NACCE, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to IP education for budding entrepreneurs, inventors, makers and creators. Last year, three Santa Monica College faculty members received the inaugural award.

The Michelson-NACCE Vision

In a 2022 article in the Western New England Law Review, Sabato, Diffley, and attorney Richard Kosakowski wrote that Michelson IP and NACCE are working to close the “IP education gap” by supporting educators to infuse IP education into a broad range of educational curricula.

“It is vital that IP education be infused into educational curricula as widely as possible,” they wrote. “If not, any young person today who does not understand at least the basics of intellectual property—and its value and role in science, business, arts, and the professions—will find him or herself at a distinct disadvantage in the world of tomorrow.”

Composed of educators, administrators, college presidents, and entrepreneurs, NACCE focuses on igniting entrepreneurship in their communities and campuses. The organization empowers college leaders to approach overseeing a community college with an entrepreneurial mindset while growing the community college’s role in supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in their local ecosystem.

Since 2017, Michelson IP has worked alongside NACCE to provide a first-of-its-kind IP curriculum to member colleges, predominantly in the community college arena. The pilot phase included a dynamic community of practice that fueled the modular buildout of an undergraduate IP curriculum, eventually leading to its adoption at more than 85 NACCE colleges.

In 2020, five institutions were accepted into Michelson IP’s IP Educator in Residence Initiative. The selected educators—Pamela Bogdan of New Jersey’s Ocean County College, Gary Cors of Florida’s Pasco-Hernando State College, Gary Graves of California’s Fullerton College, Lucio Lanucara of Central New Mexico Community College, and Sabato and Diffley of Springfield Technical—worked to advance IP literacy efforts throughout the NACCE ecosystem at community colleges across the country.

“NACCE has greatly enjoyed working alongside the Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property to continue to close the IP education gap. We look forward to seeing this community of practice grow among community colleges across North America,” NACCE President and CEO Rebecca Corbin said.

Michelson IP is an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, founded by Dr. Gary K. Michelson. The goal of the IP Educator in Residence Initiative is to “seed new opportunities for vibrant, local entrepreneurship education,” he said.

Guide for educators launched

The faculty leads of this community of practice also launched “IPxEd 101: A Guide for Teaching Intellectual Property For Innovative Educators.” It acts as a resource for fellow educators at community colleges looking to be champions for IP curricula in their classrooms, institutions and communities. The guide includes practical applications of free and openly licensed IP curricula, academic discussions, thoughtful insights, best practices and valuable resources.

The guide educates students on how to leverage IP to create opportunities, build businesses and generate wealth. It equips professors with the tools and resources to teach students how to protect and defend IP. 

According to the guide, these five main takeaways aided this community of practice with how to best promote IP education on community college campuses:

  • IP education is a pathway for ideas, transforming them into real world action and value.
  • IP education is for students, by students, due to its student-centered inclusivity.
  • IP education encourages innovative problem solving when launching new ventures.
  • IP education underscores digital literacy for today’s high-tech economy.
  • IP education is multi-disciplinary, with applications across business, STEAM, design and more.

IP and other intangible assets make up 90 percent of the market value of all S&P 500 companies today. Younger generations are increasingly entering the creator economy, starting businesses, or developing entrepreneurial ideas.

IPxEd 101 guides students inside and outside the class on their intellectual property journey.

“IP awareness and education is particularly important for community college students, as it can be a critical factor for them in recognizing, claiming, and protecting the value of the products of their own minds,” Sabato said. “IP can hold the key for them to build wealth, grow entrepreneurial ventures, and add value to the world around them.” 

The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property provides no-cost IP educational resources to empower budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson IP is an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, which focuses on a range of issues, including digital equity, smart justice, and open educational resources. It operates with support from Alya and Dr. Gary K. Michelson, members of The Giving Pledge. To access more resources, please visit MichelsonIP.com.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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