Values and victories are equally important to Athletic Director Jen Cohen

She started working at the UW athletic department in 1998 and was promoted to athletic director in 2016. We quizzed her about her job.

What has kept you working at the UW for so many years?

“It goes back to the people and the values of the people associated with our University, our city and our region. There is a passion for developing people and for constant improvement. I have been so lucky to be around many amazing people that have taught me, developed me and cared for me.”

What’s it like running UW athletics?

“It’s an honor. Husky athletics has a long history and tradition in the city. It’s a point of pride. Having the opportunity to serve a school that is so beloved and respected is a powerful experience.”

During a normal time, how many Husky sporting events do you attend a week?

“That’s a great question. It’s not just sporting events, it’s fundraising, it’s community events and engagements. Obviously, we’re in a non-traditional time. I’m used to a pace where we work seven days a week and have activities, games, contests, events, engagements, pretty much every day of the week and in the evenings.”

Favorite Husky sports memory?

“I got that question the other day when I was on a panel. I had such a hard time answering that because I have so many. They usually are centered around some incredibly competitive moments, like watching Kelsey Plum break the NCAA scoring record. I had tears streaming down my face watching this woman take over a game. And [softball pitcher] Danielle Lawrie on the mound, she was like a dragon when she won the national championship.”

What did you want to accomplish when you took the AD job?

“I was in a unique position because I’ve been at the University for so long. I understood some of the strengths and weakness of the athletic department. College athletics are fascinating because you have a lot of stakeholders and they’re often times in conflict with one another. I wanted to get all of our stakeholders aligned around our purpose, and that is to develop students so they can go on and do extraordinary things in our community.”

Will more women and people of color have opportunities to work in sports administration?

“I sure hope so. I think we’ve seen progress for underrepresented minorities. One of the things I’m proud of is that the Pac-12 has the most diverse athletic-directors’ room: We have three Black athletic directors and the first ever Asian-American athletic director, Patrick Chun, my buddy at WSU. I’m the only woman. I want to see more women and more diversity in our industry.”

Should women’s sports get more attention?

“One of the great things about the University of Washington is that our women’s programs are beloved. You look at what Heather Tarr has built with women’s softball and the real love affair this community has with our softball program. … We have really strong numbers and viewers for women’s gymnastics. Our women’s volleyball and women’s basketball programs have a lot of community support. The student-athletes in the women’s programs work just as hard as the men’s programs, and they equally deserve to be admired for the work that they do.”