Mom Truths from Working Moms

Sunday, October 11 at 4:00 pm CT

Moderator: Jennifer Cohen, Director of Athletics, University of Washington

Named the University of Washington’s 15th Director of Athletics on May 24, 2016, Jennifer Cohen has been with the UW for 21 years, primarily overseeing the athletic department's fundraising efforts.

In four years under her watch, Cohen has led Husky Athletics to unprecedented success in the classroom, in competition and in the community. Additionally, Cohen secured a 10-year, $119 million apparel partnership with adidas that launched July 1, 2019.

Most recently, Washington measured an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 989. This marks the eighth consecutive year that UW's overall APR rate measures above 980. Football posted a four-year, NCAA-FBS record score of 999 and led the Pac-12 for the third straight year. Women's tennis, beach volleyball and men’s basketball earned NCAA public recognition for earning rates in the top 10-percent in their respective sport. In addition, the department cumulative GPA for the 2019-20 academic year was an astounding 3.35.

Highlighting the excitement on the field in Cohen’s first four years were three-straight New Year’s Six bowl game appearances, including a pair of Pac-12 titles and a trip to the College Football Playoff in 2016. In 2018, the Huskies returned to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2001 after defeating Utah in the Pac-12 championship game. In Cohen’s four-year span, the Huskies have won a total of 11 Pac-12 championships.

Cohen is credited with bringing in Mike Hopkins to lead the Husky men’s basketball program in 2017. In his first season, Hopkins guided the squad to a 21-13 record – the biggest turnaround in a season since 1937-38. Hopkins followed that up with a Pac-12 regular season conference title and a return to the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19 for the first time since 2010-11.

Cohen and her team led the "Drive for Husky Stadium" campaign, in which the department raised over $50 million in gifts for the renovation of Husky Stadium, which was completed in August 2013. Cohen has also led development efforts for a number of other initiatives, including the renovation of Hec Edmundson Pavilion and the Conibear Shellhouse, the construction of the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility, the Husky Legends Center, Husky Golf Center and various scholarship endowments.

A native of Tacoma, she joined the athletic department staff in 1998 as an assistant director of development before moving to the university's central development office to focus on fundraising efforts on behalf of the office of undergraduate education. She also spent time with the UW's regional gifts program before returning to athletics to oversee the department's major gifts program.

A 1991 graduate of San Diego State University, Cohen earned her master's degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports administration, from Pacific Lutheran University in 1994.

Her professional experience includes a variety of roles in intercollegiate athletics administration at Pacific Lutheran, the University of Puget Sound and Texas Tech University. Cohen has two sons, Tyson (18) and Dylan (15).

 

Panelists

Jocelyn Gates, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator, Boston College

Jocelyn Gates joined the Boston College Athletics staff in July 2017 in the role of Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator. In this role, Jocelyn has oversight responsibilities for several areas including Human Resources, Strength and Conditioning, Compliance, and Student-Athlete Development, and also serves as the departmental Deputy Title IX Coordinator. She has sport oversight for women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s golf.
 
Prior to BC, Jocelyn spent time at the University of South Florida as the Senior Associate Athletics Director/SWA where she was in charge of improving the student-athlete experience and served as the athletics Title IX liaison. She also worked closely with the football team, women’s basketball team, and the men’s and women’s golf teams at USF.
 
Before arriving to USF, she worked at Duke University as the Assistant Director for the Iron Dukes, and the Special Assistant to the Vice President/Director of Athletics. She also served as the Diversity and Inclusion Post-Graduate Intern at the NCAA National Headquarters in Indianapolis, IN.
 
A native of Wilmington, DE, Jocelyn is a graduate of Howard University where she lettered four seasons as a member of the women’s soccer program. After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, she earned a Master of Science Degree in Kinesiology – Sport Psychology from Georgia Southern University.
 
Jocelyn is married to Dennis Gates, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Cleveland State University. The couple have 2 children: daughter Avery (6) and son Duke (2).

Joni Taylor, Head Women's Basketball Coach, University of Georgia

Joni Taylor’s success over her first five seasons as Georgia’s head coach has garnered national attention. She herself has won numerous awards, while mentoring a total of five All-SEC honorees and three WNBA Draft picks.

During the 2017-18 campaign, the Lady Bulldogs had a breakout season, finishing second in the SEC standings with a 26-7 record. As a result, Taylor was named a semifinalist for the prestigious Werner Ladder Naismith National Coach of the Year Award.

The team’s 26-7 overall record marked the most wins for a Georgia squad since the 2012-13 season. The Lady Bulldogs also hosted the NCAA tournament first and second rounds in Athens for the first time since 2003.

This comes just two years after she won the coveted Spalding Maggie Dixon National Rookie Coach of the Year honor after compiling 21 wins in her first season as head coach in 2015-16.
Her success is not solely what happens on the court. She has been heavily involved in the Athens community, creating the award-winning Beyond Basketball – a meeting place for women in Athens to discuss happenings and issues in and around the area.

Under her guidance, two Georgia student-athletes  – Marjorie Butler and Haley Clark – have earned the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, while five (Shacobia Barbee, Tiaria Griffin, Pachis Roberts, Caliya Robinson and Mackenzie Engram) have garnered All-SEC honors.

Taylor entered her current position as Georgia's head coach with 13 seasons of coaching experience at the Division I level, including seven within the Southeastern Conference. The Meridian, Miss., native joined the Georgia staff in 2011. Prior to arriving in Athens, Taylor coached at LSU from 2010-11, at Alabama from 2008-10, at Louisiana Tech from 2005-08 and at Troy from 2002-05.

During each of those coaching stops, Taylor has displayed the ability to both sign premier prospects and then help those recruits develop into highly successful players.

Taylor helped Alabama and LSU land top-5 individual prospects in the classes of 2010 and 2011, respectively, and also spearheaded the Crimson Tide's recruiting class for 2010 that ranked among the nation's top 10. She helped Louisiana Tech ink the 2006 Miss Basketball for both Alabama and Mississippi and Troy sign two future Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year honorees.

Taylor herself was a highly sought after basketball prospect. She was the 1997 Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi after leading Meridian High to a 67-7 record during her junior and senior seasons. She also won three state titles in track and field and was selected as the school's Homecoming Queen.

At Alabama, Taylor was a significant contributor to four teams that reached post-season play -- the 1998 and 1999 NCAA Tournaments and the 2000 and 2001 WNITs. She was a two-year starter and scored 716 points, grabbed 555 rebounds and blocked 103 shots, which is No. 4 among the Tide's career leaders.

Taylor also was a standout off the basketball court. She was recognized as one of the most influential African Americans on the Alabama campus in 2001, was named to the SEC's Community Service team for women's basketball in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and was awarded a post-graduate scholarship from the SEC for her community service record. She received her bachelor's degree in Education from Alabama in 2002.

Taylor and her husband Darius have two daughters, Jacie (3) and Drew (born Feb. 19, 2019). Darius is an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

Dionna Widder, Chief Revenue Officer, Houston Dynamo and Dash

Dionna Widder is in her second season with the Houston Dynamo and Dash and serves as the club’s Chief Revenue Officer. Widder is responsible for the revenue-generation strategy and execution for the Club, including overseeing the ticket sales and service along with the corporate partnership sales and marketing teams for the Houston Dynamo, Dash, and BBVA Stadium.  Dionna was recently honored by the Sports Business Journal as a member of the Game Changers Class of 2020.  The Sports Business Journal Game Changers list is published annually showcasing women who are making indelible impacts on the sports community.

Before making her move to Houston, Dionna was the Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Under Widder’s leadership, the Cavs recorded more than 250 home consecutive sellouts at the 20,562-seat Quicken Loans Arena. Among the keys to the Cavs’ strong sales results were a switch to an innovative year-round membership model and a strong focus on personalizing the organization’s interactions with its members. The Cavaliers received the NBA’s Membership Platform of the Year after the 2017-18 season, and Widder was named to Crain’s Cleveland Business 40-Under-40 in 2017.

Prior to joining the Cavaliers, Widder spent two years as a Director in the NBA’s Team Marketing and Business Operations group, providing league support to individual teams with a focus on ticket sales, corporate partnerships and marketing functions to NBA, WNBA and G-League teams.

Widder broke into professional sports in 2006 upon graduating from Central Michigan University with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and WNBA’s Indiana Fever. She advanced rapidly within the club, starting out as a group sales executive before being named the Director of Group Ticket Sales and ultimately Sr. Director of Ticket Sales.

Widder is a native of Flint, Michigan and reside now in Houston along with her husband Mark and their three children, seven-year-old fraternal twins Wells and Ellis and three-year-old daughter Rowan. As a passion project, Dionna hosts a podcast titled Women Blazers, which is features conversations with women who are leading the way in the sports and entertainment industry.

Natalie Winkelfoos, Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education, Oberlin College

The first woman to hold the position at Oberlin College, Natalie Winkelfoos was named the Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education in 2012 and promoted to Associate Vice President for Athletics Advancement in 2017. Winkelfoos serves as a member of the President's Senior Staff.  

Named the Division III Administrator of the Year by Women Leaders in College Sports in 2015 and a Division III Under Armour AD of the Year in 2018, Winkelfoos raised approximately $40 million dollars to date that has transformed Oberlin’s athletics facilities. She has a proven track record of generating philanthropic support for the department and is an advocate for inclusion, mental health and leadership development.
 
Winkelfoos served on the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Diversity Committee with conference presidents and Executive Director to create a conference-wide program to mentor females and minorities. Additionally, she was part of a working group that produced Oberlin’s first-ever varsity student-athlete transgender inclusion policy.  Notably, has presented at a number of conventions and conferences regarding social justice and student-athletes, athletics fundraising, embedding inclusion into an athletics department, balancing family and a career in athletics and has been recognized as an industry influencer by the Women in Sports and Events organization.

She sits on the board for Women Leaders in College Sports and holds memberships in National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the National Association of Athletic Development Directors, and the National Association of Division III Athletics Administrators

Winkelfoos has been inducted into the Baldwin Wallace University Hall of Fame, Bucyrus High School Hall of Fame along with the Crawford County Sports Hall of Fame.

Most importantly, Natalie is the mother of a spirited eight-year old boy, Griffin Reimer-Winkelfoos.


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