During any political cycle, there is always a lot of discussion about jobs. It is harder to argue with more jobs, that’s why it makes for such campaign fodder. I personally believe jobs that are created by encouraging entrepreneurship are critically important. That is why I get excited to hear about people and organizations that are actively trying to do things to bring more jobs to Mississippi by growing our existing companies and encouraging new ones to develop. In the past year, I have come to know Kathleen (Kathy) Chapman, who is on the front lines promoting new jobs for Mississippi and the region.
While she is a native of Long Beach, Chapman spent many years out of state before recently returning home. She graduated from Florida State University, then obtained a graduate degree from Penn State University, followed by law school at the University of New Hampshire. Prior to law school, Chapman spent 15 years as a computer software engineer and two years as a research meteorologist. She was a former adjunct professor of law at the University of New Hampshire Law School and also a former instructor of computer science at Pennsylvania State University. She recently returned to her home state and works as associate counsel for patents at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) detachment at the Stennis Space Center where she prepares and prosecutes patent and trademark applications and assists with technology transfer of NRL’s many inventions.
I met Chapman as she was spearheading the efforts to form the Gulf Coast Patent Association (GCPA), which was formed in mid-2010 as an action-oriented education forum for patent attorneys, economic development professionals, educators and consultants to improve the commercialization prospects of new intellectual property for the purpose of improving economic development in the 5-state Upper Gulf Coast Region of the U.S. Starting any type of organization is a challenge. It feels like you are pushing a big boulder just trying to get it rolling. Many companies and organizations fail in the early stages because there is just not enough momentum and endurance to get the boulder moving. Chapman is the type person you want on your team when trying to start something. She is a catalytic person who brings passion, energy, and focus to the task at hand.
The GCPA has gained significant traction in its short existence with over 75 members from five states. Members of the GCPA have been active in providing education to entrepreneurs in the region on how to commercialize technology and better leverage intellectual property to grow businesses. The organization also seeks to help bridge the gap with entrepreneurs, venture financing, and service professionals. Chapman, who serves as the chair of the organization, is passionate about creating jobs and promoting the region. As I learned, she has always been someone who takes initiative in what she believes in.
Throughout her career, she has been actively involved in professional and civic organizations, which aligned with her values. She shared that she believes “each participant has a perspective that is important to an organization, each participant should be encouraged to propose strategies to reach the goals of the organization, and that a healthy organization sets a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and encouragement.” She emphasized to me that effective leaders crop up in all walks of life and that we should watch for them and learn from them. What strikes me about Chapman as a leader is that she knows that people have to count the cost of leadership. Leading is about being selfless versus selfish. In a world of “takers” and “givers,” Chapman is a giver who leads by listening and aligning people toward important goals.
I am glad that Chapman’s life journey brought her back to Mississippi, and I know that she along with the members of the GCPA will make an important contribution to the rebuilding and revitalization of the Gulf Coast. I hope that we all continue to encourage opportunities for entrepreneurs to take risks and make this a great state!