40 Under 40 Class of 2007

Denise Cogman

Age 34. Executive Officer, Springfield School Volunteers

Faith. That’s what Denise Cogman says moves her forward in life, and is what gives her strength in her position within the Springfield School system, managing close to 3,000 volunteers and enriching the lives of the city’s many students.

A little faith also went a long way when Cogman began searching for a career; she said the path she embarked on was markedly shorter than she expected it would be. As a student of social work at Western New England College, Cogman said she was in the midst of a hectic senior year — completing an internship advocating for homeless families, studying for final exams, and serving as a resident assistant.

“One day, mock interviews were being held on campus, and it reminded me that I needed to get my résumé together,” she said.

Cogman went to WNEC’s career services office with a simple request — “help me?” — and got more help than she’d bargained for. A staff member noticed Cogman’s internship scribbled among the notes she’d brought along, and said she’d just gotten a tip about a position with similar responsibilities within the Springfield school department.

“She just got on the phone, and the next thing I know, I have a part-time job in the homeless tutorial program,” said Cogman. “I still didn’t have a résumé, though.”

She excelled in the part-time position, and was offered a full-time program-manager job soon after. Just last year, the executive officer position opened up, and Cogman submitted her now-completed résumé.

It’s a position with many diverse responsibilities; Cogman is charged with developing an annual plan for school volunteers, managing the department’s budget, and spearheading recruitment initiatives. A current goal is to increase diversity among her volunteers, in order to better mirror the constituency her department serves.

“That’s one goal we’ve really worked hard on, reaching out to African-American and Latino communities,” she said.

Cogman still marvels at how quickly her career track has moved along, but added that a position in education is a good fit for her personal values.

“I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, and that’s a big part of what we do — teach people,” she said. “When I want to share something about myself, I always return to that. Faith and family — that’s who I am.”