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LoboNet CONNECT links academia with tech community

March 21, 2014 - By Kim Delker

What does an engineering student, an art student, a professor, a scientist and an entrepreneur all have in common?

Actually, a lot more than you'd think.

Members of these groups and others from the community have been attending a new event called LoboNet CONNECT, which is designed to bring academia and the technology business community together every month to talk about their similarities and where they might collaborate.

Because there is a tendency for students to interact with only students, academics with only academics, and business people only with other business colleagues, mixtures of the groups infrequently happen.

"It's tough to know who is the right person to talk to and who the right contacts are," said Eric Renz-Whitmore, community manager at New Mexico Technology Council. "We started LoboNet CONNECT as a way to get people together so they can begin to build those relationships."

LoboNet CONNECT meetings are held the fourth Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. The next meeting will be March 26 at Slate Street Café, 515 Slate Ave. NW, Albuquerque. Future meetings will be at the ArtBar by Catalyst Club, 119 Gold St. SW, Albuquerque.

Past topics of meetings have included a speed networking event and a panel discussion with local technology innovators.

LoboNet CONNECT was the brainchild of Pamela Weese, director of development for University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering; Michalis Faloutsos, head of UNM's Department of Computer Science; Lourdes McKenna, Computer Science department administrator; and Renz-Whitmore.

Each coming from a different perspective, Renz-Whitmore, Faloutsos, McKenna and Weese agreed on the fact that there are a lot of missed opportunities for connection among UNM students, faculty, business leaders, investors and others in the community who could benefit from knowing each other and talking about what they are working on.

And holding the meetings in a fun setting makes them seem like less of a formal networking event and more of a relaxed social event where natural conversations can take place.

The fruits of some of these discussions include, but are not limited to, job and internship leads, entrepreneurial ideas, and research collaborations.

Networking is a key factor for growth and success. Faloutsos said.

"It is true that who you know is as important as what you know, especially in the business and startup world," said Faloutsos, who recently sold his Web security startup.

"Our message at UNM is that we want to include you, and we want to be accessible to the community," Weese said. "LoboNet CONNECT is a way to connect UNM with the outside world."

The group began meeting in November, and the attendance numbers have been steadily increasing, from around 30 at the first meeting to around 60 now. The attendees run the gamut, from students and faculty members in engineering, business and art, to members of the local technology business and industry community.

The organizers of LoboNet CONNECT want to spread the word about the group and invite all in the UNM community and beyond — regardless of specialty area — to check it out.

Weese said when people from different areas and backgrounds begin sharing ideas, the possibilities are endless, and the more diverse the group, the better.

"We really want to mix it up," Weese said.