MnDRIVE Environment Community Coffee Series


Partnership is at the heart of MnDRIVE Environment’s mission. Our Summer Coffee series facilitates informal conversations designed to connect University researchers with partners in industry, government, and the non-profit sector. 

Finding and Keeping Productive Research Partnerships
Our June panel featured Nate Johnson, Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and Todd Dejournett, Senior Engineer at Geosyntec. They discussed strategies for building productive research partnerships.

  • Nate Johnson emphasized that successful partnerships welcome input from everyone involved in the process. These teams come to rely on one another and support equitable contributions from all team members. 
  • Todd DeJournett highlights the value of collaboration with faculty leading to innovative opportunities with the potential for substantial involvement by industry partners. 

Panelists also agreed on the value of personal and professional networks in identifying potential collaborators. 


Innovative MnDRIVE Demonstration Projects
In July,  Paige Novak (Professor, University of Minnesota), Dan Forbes (Associate Professor, Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship), and Gary Feyereisen (Adjunct Assistant Professor, College of Food and Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences) shared challenges and successes in scaling their research solutions from recent Demonstration Projects. Some of the take-home messages from this discussion included:

  • Paige Novak identifying patience and persistence as necessary characteristics when connecting with external partners.
  • Dan Forbes highlighting the importance of understanding the business model in scaling up and commercially marketing their project.
  • Gary Feyereisen stressing the importance of open and consistent communication and the need to build trust through informal conversation.

The group also identified the importance of networking to connect ideas with outside organizations and discussed the need for those organizations to view the implementation of new technology as an investment. 


Exploring Public Engagement Strategies
Our August session highlighted educators and engagement specialists from the Bell Museum, Market Science, and the School for Environmental Studies who discussed strategies for communicating about the impact of MnDRIVE research and opportunities to connect with the public. 

The conversation explored approaches for interacting with policymakers and underrepresented communities. 

  • Seth Thompson (Director of Outreach, College of Biological Sciences) emphasized that engagement requires effort and pointed to resources at the College of Biological Sciences for those developing outreach programming.
  • Holly Menninger (Director of Public Engagement and Science Learning, Bell Museum) and other panelists recognized relationship building and listening as fundamental elements of community engagement. 
  • Liz Dengate (Environmental Science Teacher, School for Environmental Studies) pointed out that education starts with a conversation and highlighted the importance of establishing common ground when connected with the public. 


Overall, the Summer Coffee Series provided a casual setting for members of the MnDRIVE Environment Community, and those considering collaborative public/private research partnerships, a chance to share knowledge and learn from colleagues. 

Please join us for upcoming MnDRIVE Environment Listening Sessions, Coffee Series, and future public programming. We always welcome ideas or suggestions on topics for discussion, so please reach out to Jeff Standish <> with your contributions. For more information, please visit the events page on the MnDRIVE Environment Website. 

Recordings of the summer series are available here.

© 2022 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement