By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Rickey McCallum’s new role as the recently named Vice President at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park expands on work that he was already doing to build bridges between the private sector and the institution.
It’s an approach that the Knoxville native and Farragut High School graduate describes as developing “holistic partnerships.” Now, as of July 1, helping advance the Research Park becomes job one.
McCallum says the 177-acre site adjacent to Alcoa Highway was already an important stop for representatives of companies he was hosting during the past five years as Associate Director for Industry Engagement and Strategic Research Partnerships in UT’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Engagement.
That work involved what McCallum described as providing “concierge engagement” services to companies looking at a variety of ways to interact with the university – internships, scholarships, recruitment of graduates, and philanthropy to name a few.
“Cherokee Farm was always involved as a part of any meeting I had with a prospect,” he said. His new role expands beyond just showing people the Park and turning over the recruitment of the prospect as a future tenant to the Park leadership. Now, McCallum and Tom Rogers, the newly named UT Research Park President and Chief Executive Officer, will be the duo responsible for turning a lead into a tenant.
“I didn’t even hesitate about taking the job when I was approached,” McCallum said. Part of the easy decision was the professional growth opportunity that he saw. The other was to work with Rogers whose network of contacts and reputation in the community were assets that he plans to leverage.
So, how does McCallum see his role playing out? It starts with the way he approached his five-year tenure in the Office of Corporate and Foundation Engagement and early mentoring that Taylor Eighmy, former UT Knoxville Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, provided.
“He expanded my outlook on how I could be an extension to help college-based development officers,” McCallum. In other words, if you understand their agenda and help them achieve it, they’ll be supporters of what you are trying to do on a broader scale.
In addition to Eighmy, now President of the University of Texas at San Antonio, McCallum also cites the personal growth he has experienced under his direct supervisor – Marc Gibson, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Corporate and Foundation Engagement. They are not only colleagues, but friends, and McCallum expects them to continue to collaborate to build those holistic partnerships that serve UT and the companies. – and says he expects to
How did the new UT Research Park Vice President approach his previous role at UT?
“I’m a headhunter by nature,” he says, and one of his favorite tools to identify prospects is LinkedIn. Those skills will still be part of his repertoire along with two others that he honed in his former role – working closely with the college Deans, Department Heads and faculty to understand what they need and how the Research Park can help achieve their goals.
“A very critical component to our success will be faculty and staff buy-in,” McCallum says.