Like many transplants to theÂ Washington, D.C., area, Katie HuckfeldtÂ â€™13 struggled at first to find her footing.Â But, she says, the Mines AlumniÂ Associationâ€™s D.C. M Club smoothedÂ her transition when she relocated thereÂ after graduating from Mines with anÂ environmental engineering degree.Â â€œIt was so nice to come to a new cityÂ and find people from my school,â€ saysÂ Huckfeldt. â€œIt was really beneficial, notÂ just professionally but personally.â€
After reaching out to other alumni,Â Huckfeldt found a career as a patentÂ examiner at the U.S. Patent andÂ Trademark Office. Now, she spendsÂ her days reviewing applications forÂ inventions related to electronic shoppingÂ to determine whether they meet theÂ basic rules and legal requirements to beÂ patentable. And her Mines education has proven invaluable.
â€œEvery examiner who is hired is taught the â€˜lawâ€™ part of patentÂ law, but from the start we have to be able to understand theÂ technical details of the applications,â€ she says. â€œWhile a lot of theÂ inventions I work on are very relatable and things you encounterÂ every day, understanding the actual software and systems behindÂ them requires an engineering and math background.â€
Eager to give back to the D.C. alumni M Club, she now serves asÂ its coordinator, a role that allows her to use her event-planning skillsÂ and help new residents the way others helped her. The M Club hasÂ about 300 members and a busy social calendar that includes happyÂ hours, outings to see the Colorado Rockies play the WashingtonÂ Nationals, and, most recently, a river boat cruise amid D.C.â€™s famousÂ cherry blossoms.
M Clubs serve an important purpose in the alumni associationÂ by giving members a sense of local community within a largeorganization. The D.C. M Club plays an important role for graduatesÂ because D.C. is â€œa city of transition,â€ Huckfeldt says. Mines alumniÂ can meet interesting people and network in a place that canÂ sometimes be intimidating. D.C.â€™s diversity is part of what makes theÂ section special, she says. â€œWe have people from all over the nationÂ and the world.â€
As someone whoâ€™s experienced the benefits of membershipÂ firsthand, Huckfeldt especially enjoys seeing new faces at mixers.Â â€œI love being able to say, â€˜Hey, need someone to hang out with? YouÂ got it. Need advice on where to live, where to work? Iâ€™ve got anÂ alum for you to talk to.â€™â€
Huckfeldt thrives on the event-planning part of her role, becauseÂ there are so many things to do in the D.C. area. She welcomesÂ suggestions from members and strives to come up with outings andÂ activities that work with membersâ€™ schedules. â€œI also try to plan forÂ all budgets and ages,â€ she says.
One event she recommends to other M Club coordinators is aÂ group trip to an â€œescape room,â€ which she calls â€œa great team-buildingÂ experience.â€ The one she attended in D.C.â€™s historic GeorgetownÂ neighborhood drew 23 alumni, ranging in age from 20 to 70, whoÂ searched for clues and solved a series of puzzles. The group â€œgot outÂ with five minutes to spare,â€ she says. â€œIt really made everyone comeÂ together.â€
But getting people to attend events was a struggle whenÂ Huckfeldt first became the M Club coordinator. She boostedÂ attendance by scheduling events regularly, getting to knowÂ members individually, and becoming a trusted resource for newÂ residents. â€œThe D.C. alums know my name, and they know they canÂ contact me if they need anything,â€ she says.
Huckfeldt gives Mines a lot of the credit for her achievements,Â saying that the institution put her in an amazing position to succeed.Â A Littleton, Colorado, native with a strong interest in scienceÂ and math, she made a group of friends during her freshman yearÂ who kept her focused and met regularly to study. She honed herÂ communications skills as a staff member of The Oredigger, whereÂ she worked her way up from reporter to editor-in-chief. She alsoÂ worked in the Admissions Office and for Mines magazine. AnÂ alumna of the McBride Honors Program, she now serves on itsÂ advisory board.
Huckfeldt applauds the recent decision by Mines and the alumniÂ association to eliminate dues and open membership to all alumni.Â She expects the change to boost involvement in alumni sections,Â especially among younger graduates who may have tight budgets.
Paying dues â€œcan be intimidating as a young alumnus becauseÂ you donâ€™t make a lot of money,â€ she says. â€œFor younger alums, itâ€™sÂ just too hard starting out. All of us would love to give back onceÂ weâ€™re a little more stable.
â€œWe all have great jobs, great careers. Weâ€™re well aware thatÂ Mines gave us these opportunities.â€