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Employee Experiences

Catherine Cooper, the heart of the MPA program, receives President's Appreciation Award

Catherine Cooper, associate director for the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics, was one of four administrative recipients of the 2019 President’s Appreciation Award. The award was presented at BYU’s annual university conference on 27 August 2019 and is given to employees who demonstrate exceptional commitment to the university and the values of competency, integrity, teamwork, respect, innovation, and accountability.

Catherine Cooper
Catherine Cooper

Before the announcement at university conference, the Administrative Advisory Council sent a letter to be read during a Romney Institute department meeting to inform Cooper and her colleagues of her selection.

The letter describes Cooper as “the heart of the MPA program and the lifeblood of our curriculum” and “exemplar of ministering to the one.” The letter continues, “She is truly motivated by her love for each student and her desire to see that they get the very best possible.”

The multiple letters submitted to nominate Cooper for the award highlight the unique trust she builds with each student and how deeply and personally she cares for them. One nomination stated her level of devotion well: “People don’t fall through the cracks in our department because Catherine is always watching out for them.”

Cooper was initially shocked upon realizing the person described in the announcement was her. She looked around the room at her colleagues and began to cry with appreciation as she responded to the kind words said about her, quipping, “I hope when I grow up, I can be all of that.”

Cooper has been working at BYU for eighteen years as a student administrator and says she is a better person thanks to the opportunity to work with her colleagues and the students in BYU Marriott’s MPA program. “An MPA degree provides students with increased confidence, competence, and connections,” she says. “Our goal is to meet student needs, respond with a ‘yes’ whenever possible, and assist students to reach the milestone of a successful graduation.”

She enjoys caring for the nearly 250 students enrolled in the MPA program at any given moment and says the sweetest part of her work at BYU has been the opportunity to receive divine help in guiding them. “The BYU Marriott MPA program is one part of an incredible collage of BYU pieces doing its part to bring light and knowledge to the sphere of public service and ethics,” Cooper says.

BYU president Kevin J Worthen expressed this sentiment during his 10 September 2019 campus devotional, says Cooper. “You are not here by accident,” Worthen said. “You have been gathered here by God.” In her almost two decades at BYU, Cooper says she has experienced the truth of his words firsthand.

“We are cogs in the BYU education wheel, but what a grand wheel to be a cog in, for we are influencing people for eternity,” she says. “This wheel matters, and I’m so glad to be a part of this whole.”


Writer: Anne Wallace