Meet Jennifer Cox, NASW’s newest board member

Jennifer Cox, who recently retired as a science writer and communications director at North Carolina State University, has been elected to the NASW Board as a board-member-at-large.

Cox, who is a member of NASW’s Programs Committee, received the Diane McGurgan Service Award in 2017. Her volunteer efforts include chairing the Communications Committee for the World Conference of Science Journalists in 2017 and helping to organize the ScienceWriters2012 meeting in Raleigh. She is also the treasurer and SciWri Congress representative of SCONC, the Science Communicators of North Carolina.

Cox ran for the board position after a mid-term vacancy arose in June.

Q: Tell us about your background and career?

I’ve loved science and adventure since I was a little kid. I was the kid running around catching lizards and frogs and playing with biology and science kits. I’m still that kid when I see a frog or snake. I’ve also loved reading and creative writing since childhood. So when I realized in college that I could be a science writer and combine both loves, I was thrilled.

I’ve spent most of my career at NC State University as a science writer and editor in the College of Engineering. I started out as the editorial assistant in Engineering Communications in 1984. Last December I retired from the university as director of Engineering Communications.

There were several brief stints when I worked outside the university. I was an adjunct faculty member of a local community college where I taught English and reading. And I briefly worked as a horseback riding instructor and a veterinary assistant, where I learned mouth-to-snout resuscitation of newborn puppies. My first communications job was as a DJ at a local country and gospel radio station, WBZB 1090AM, while I was in high school. I did weekend shows and occasionally filled in during the week for the gospel music guy when he was too hungover to work. So I’ve done a little of everything.

Now that I’m retired, I’m hoping to work on a few projects that I’ve been knocking around in my head for the past 10 years. Right now they’re just loose notes in a box. I’m doing a few freelance projects, but I really hope to focus on my projects in 2020.

Q: You've worn a lot of hats as an NASW volunteer. What inspires you to donate your time?

I joined NASW in 2010 and attended my first SciWri conference that same year. It was held in New Haven, Conn. In 2011, I was tapped by NC State University to serve as NC State’s co-chair for the planning committee for ScienceWriters2012, which was held in Raleigh and hosted by Duke University, NC State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m not sure if that counts as volunteering for NASW, but my year and a half on that planning committee certainly prepared me for my volunteer work that followed.

The next year (2013) I joined the NASW Programs Committee (it used to be called the workshops committee) — my first formal volunteer work for NASW — and have served on that committee since. I’ve volunteered for a number of other opportunities since then, including serving as the communications chair for the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco, on the communications working group, and as a judge for the Excellence in Institutional Writing Award.

One of the most important things my parents taught me is that when you belong to an organization, you should volunteer and be involved beyond just checking a box that you belong. When you volunteer, you really get as much as you give. The work I’ve done for NASW has been rewarding and fun. I’ve met so many wonderful friends through my volunteer work for NASW and for our local science writing group, Science Communicators of North Carolina.

Q: What kinds of initiatives/programs are you interested in developing or supporting as a board member?

I’ve been very impressed with the work that has been done by the Board and the membership regarding equal opportunity and diversity, so I’d like to help out in that regard, if possible. It’s been very encouraging to see how involved many of our PIO members have become over the past several years. I’d like to help with their efforts to propose more workshop sessions at conferences, and I’d like to help find more opportunities to bring PIOs, freelancers, and journalists together to improve and support science writing. And I’d like to work on building our membership. NASW is such a broad organization that has so much to offer members that I hope we can find ways to retain current members while reaching out and encouraging nonmembers to join.

Q: What do you like to do when you're not working?

About four years ago I took a pottery making class and have become very interested in working with clay and exploring the various ways of firing clay bodies. Also I am a silversmith, designing and making silver jewelry using found objects, such as sea glass or fossils, or using cabochons that I’ve cut and shaped from flat slabs or found rocks. I love using my hands and imagination to create unusual and beautiful objects. I also love playing with my dog Guinevere and spending time with my family and friends.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I am very grateful for all of the support and encouragement I’ve received from everyone. I’m the type of person who enjoys tackling challenges and solving problems, so I’d like members to know they can reach out to me at any time.

Contact Jennifer at jjcox@nasw.org.

Nov. 18, 2019

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