Building Boldly: Cook Named Director of CEL

After three days living on the streets of Compton, CA, Jocelyn Cook had a newfound appreciation for means of income, regular meals and her toothbrush. The simulation during an undergraduate spring break service trip redefined her concept of need. Cook was stirred by a conversation with a homeless woman, who said she most misses “being human. Because when you’re homeless,” the woman told Cook, “people walk right over you, like you don’t exist.”

“That moment is seared into my mind,” Cook says. “I feel like it’s such an important piece that we ought never forget about human connection, the power of a handshake and the power of being in a community with someone.”

The encounter is just one of the transformative moments Cook has carried with her. Others include working in a medical clinic in Sierra Leone, researching cyclical famine in Uganda and creating a platform to remove barriers people face in volunteering on the North Shore of Boston. And it’s a pursuit she brings to Gordon in her new role as director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL).

Launched in 2013, CEL equips students—in and beyond Gordon—with skills to develop creative solutions to real-world challenges. “With CEL, I see a rich opportunity to lead students to start something good that is impactful in our communities and transformative in our world.”

“As a thought leader and innovator who has a track record for inspiring others to take action in big and small ways,” says President D. Michael Lindsay, “we are excited for Jocelyn to leverage her experience and bring to CEL an enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit with proven success in founding and building an impactful nonprofit organization.”

In 2014, Cook’s dynamic view of social change led her to found SPUR, an organization that cultivates a “Community of Doers” by “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.” Taking its cue from Hebrews 10:24, SPUR facilitates volunteer opportunities for individuals of all ages. Offerings include an enrichment program for children, a skills-based summer camp (where, last year, participants constructed a 7- by 10-foot playhouse for a social service agency) and donation drives that recently provided 662 students with backpacks and 612 students with school supplies.

Cook’s meaningful work leading SPUR—which she will continue alongside her new role at Gordon—has earned several honors. She has been recognized as an Unsung Heroine by Governor Charlie Baker and Representative Lori Ehrlich, was an honoree for the Peter J. Gomes Service Award presented by Congressman Seth Moulton, received a Points of Light Service Award and was recognized by the New England Patriots as a Difference Maker of the Week.

Originally from Washington, Cook earned degrees from Multnomah University and Northeastern University, along with a graduate certificate from Boston University School of Public Health. Cook views each stop—from the homeless simulation in Compton to international affairs in Africa—as a vital step in her journey, shaping her skills and passions: “I find great joy in building something—taking an idea, even if it seems bold and far out of reach and working tirelessly to bring it about,” she says.

Now at the helm of CEL, Cook looks forward to building and setting a strategy. But before she sets her plans in motion, Cook says she must get to know Gordon’s community: “What speaks to students’ hearts? What are the things they wrestle with? What is the change they want to see in the world?”

While higher education is a different setting than her previous work, Cook says she was compelled to lead CEL because “I passionately believe the work ahead is deeply important. The opportunity to educate, wrestle with and challenge students to start something good. To lead a revolution which rises up hundreds of mission-driven businesses which make the world a better place. I want students to engage in conversations, explore world views, lean into fears and discomfort in full confidence that our work will contribute toward bringing about the Kingdom on Earth.”

Whether Gordon students start a venture of their own or engage with CEL to deepen their knowledge base, like her experience with the homeless woman, Cook wants students “to be bold and contemplate the scary and then say, ‘Let’s do something about that.’ Because if it breaks our hearts, it surely it breaks God’s.”