Alumni Feature on Denise Coogan

photo of Denise Coogan
Denise Coogan

Current location: Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Hometown: Lincoln, IL

UIS Degrees: BA Biology/Life Sciences 1993 and MA Environmental Studies 2018

My current position

I am the Environmental Partnerships Manager, Subaru of America, Inc. In this position, I assist the national parks in becoming zero landfill. Subaru is helping the national parks reduce their waste and improve their recycling. We have started with three (3) pilot parks, Denali, Grand Teton and Yosemite. The three parks are doing very well implementing the new program and there has been a reduction of waste per visitor, as well as an increase in the amount of waste being recycled. The Subaru of Indiana manufacturing facility has sent nothing to a landfill since May 4, 2004. We have taken our expertise in the field and are gifting it to the national parks.

What led me into the field of sustainability

I have always loved nature and the environment. I credit my father and brother with instilling in me a sense of awe and excitement when learning about the world around us. Almost 30 years ago, I started working as an environmental manager for a manufacturing facility in Lincoln, IL and then moved onto Subaru of Indiana for many years. Understanding the environmental regulations and applying them to various types of manufacturing was always a thrilling undertaking, I’ve always been blessed to work for companies that put the environment first.

Career Highlights

I am proud that I helped Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) become a zero-landfill plant in 2004. As the Safety and Environmental Compliance Manager for SIA, I contributed to the safety record at the facility—the best safety record in the auto industry. I am very honored to work with the park rangers of the National Park Service and to help them reduce the waste and prepare the service for another 100 years of being “America’s Best Idea.”

Why I pursued an online degree at UIS

When I moved to Indiana it was difficult for me to travel all the way back to UIS. The online degree program was an excellent solution for me. It allowed me to stay at a university I loved and still be able to work for a company I love. When I moved to NJ, two years ago the online program allowed me to finish my Master’s degree, something I’ve always wanted to do.

Highlights of my online degree

I’ve always been proud of the degrees I obtained at UIS. I believe my education in the sciences has helped me throughout my career. The instructors at UIS are very knowledgeable and always pushed me to do my best. I especially enjoyed my final capstone project and working with Dr. Styles. She believed in my project and was a support through the process. I really didn’t think I would be able to finish, but her course was well-organized and the assignments were all structured in a way that allowed me to build on the final report. I also had help from a dear friend who is a professor at Valparaiso University, Dr. Dean Schroeder, that helped me along the way and never gave up on me.

What I consider most beneficial from my online master’s degree:

There are many things that I felt were beneficial, but if I had to choose one thing it would be the other students. I really enjoyed reading about their point of view, I liked how the instructors kept the conversations moving along, and, I really appreciated the respect the students showed towards each other. It was a good experience. I have taken other courses in other universities, some of them online, and my experience was not positive. Coming back home to UIS made me appreciate just how lucky I was to earn my degree from such a reputable institution.

Someone who has inspired me

My cousin, Tony Feldman. He has always been by my side, believing in me when I couldn’t. And also my dear friend of more than 50+ years, Tom Barr, for always making me laugh.

Outside of work

  • Hobbies: Photography, traveling, snorkeling
  • Interesting fact: I have trained a golden retriever to be a therapy dog. We visit hospitals, nursing homes and school libraries.
  • All-time favorite movieYoung Frankenstein.
  • Favorite bookThe Old Man and the Sea

Thank you for the honor of being able to share my experience with my fellow students at UIS.