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Employee Spotlight

Guided to BYU

During her formative teenage years growing up in the midwestern United States, Catherine Cooper looked up to former three-term Michigan governor and presidential candidate George W. Romney. She enjoyed reading about him in the news as he ran for president of the United States in the 1968 election. She would proudly tell her friends, “We belong to the same church!” Now, nearly fifty years later, Cooper has had the opportunity to work for an institute created in Romney’s name for almost twenty years.

Catherine Cooper
Catherine Cooper

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cooper endeavored to follow spiritual promptings throughout her professional career. After she graduated from BYU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, those spiritual promptings guided her to find full-time work at WordPerfect and Novell and then part-time work as an independent consultant; the same promptings eventually led her to the Romney Institute of Public Management (later named the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics) at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Before applying to work at BYU Marriott, Cooper prayed for inspiration. “I received a clear impression,” she says. “I was to find a full-time job that offered benefits and paid a specific amount.”

After interviewing for many positions In Utah County, Cooper arrived at an interview for a position as department secretary with the Romney Institute. When her salary was finalized, “the pay was the same to-the-dollar amount that my answered prayer had specified earlier,” says Cooper.

Working for the Romney Institute as department secretary, director of student services, and eventually associate director has done more for Cooper than merely confirm the reality of spiritual promptings she receives throughout her life. While working in her second position with the Romney Institute, Cooper earned her EMPA in 2006. Her work has also blessed Cooper with a love for students earning the MPA degree. Her responsibilities as associate director include chairing the admissions committee, monitoring the status of students’ applications, and advising students about their classes and lives—regularly meeting with the students directly.

“By doing a lot of listening and a little bit of talking, I’ve seen miracles happen,” Cooper says. “I truly feel that Heavenly Father has given me impressions of things I need to tell or ask students.” When she is helping students achieve success, Cooper doesn’t give minimal effort. “My heart has been fully invested in helping BYU Marriott’s MPA students find academic success,” she says.

Cooper’s success in her own quest for lifelong learning has been reinforced as she has worked for the Romney Institute. “I’ve had experiences that have surprised, changed, and blessed me,” says Cooper. Whether that learning came from advising students or discussing ethics with professors who are part of the Romney Institute, those experiences changed the way she views the world.

Though Cooper will be retiring in August 2021, the difference she has made in the lives of students will remain. “Most of our students come to BYU with a hunger to learn and make the world a better place,” says Cooper. As she advises and directs them, she has helped them make a positive impact in the world.


Writer: Rebecca Nissen