Daniel Pendergast understands the importance of mentoring students, but his opportunities to do so as senior director of operations in Case Western Reserve University’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO) are limited.
His work demands full attention to the complex and time-consuming process of guiding university-based research and technology to the commercial market.
Which makes his selection for a 2017 J. Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring all the more meaningful.
Pendergast mainly works with faculty, graduate students and external businesses. He oversees one or two undergraduates a year to assist licensing managers and learn by observing and taking on other assigned tasks relevant to the tech-transfer process.
“You’ve got law, business and science intersecting in an interesting way here,” said Pendergast, 37, who joined TTO in 2003.
To guide the students under his watch, Pendergast leans on his own experiences as an undergrad and graduate student at Case Western Reserve, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. He then turned his attention to business management, completing his MBA at the Weatherhead School of Management in 2014.
He will be recognized along with other award winners during commencement ceremonies May 21.
An undergraduate student who nominated Pendergast for the award first met him in March 2015 through the university’s program connecting students with professionals in their career fields of interest. Pendergast needed a student for an open work-study position.
The student soon learned that working for Pendergast was much more rewarding than just a boss-employee connection. Pendergast cares about helping each student succeed in school and with life choices, the student discovered.
“A lot had been going on in my life, both inside school and outside of school, and the stress was often times too much for me to handle,” the student wrote in the nomination. “I looked tired, exhausted and just completely worn out. Mr. Pendergast offered support in many ways.”
Pendergast recalled speaking with the student about encountering such stress himself when he was an undergrad at CWRU. He had long talks with the student.
“It was a perfect storm, a stressful environment coupled with growing into an adult. You are expected to do both at the same time,” Pendergast said. The student remains part of the technology transfer staff and is doing well in the job and in school, Pendergast said.
Pendergast also enjoys discussing CWRUcible, a program he helped create.
“It’s a program we (in TTO) designed to help get software-based inventions to market by partnering Weatherhead School of Management students and Case School of Engineering students to work together,” he said. “I’m happy this program is rolling along.”
Pendergast is now arranging external mentors for students in the program.