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Role Model Profile: Denise Cook

Role models are the key to success to moving our Techbridge Girls from a spark to transformation.
Like each girl we serve, each role model has her/his own story.

Denise CookLike many women who entered STEM careers in the 1980s, Denise wasn't surprised that she was the only girl in the classroom and the workplace.

"As a child, I was the outlier. I never liked baby dolls," says Denise. Rather, she preferred toys that allowed her to make or build things and dreamed about being an astronaut and be the first "to go to Mars."

Denise enjoyed science and math, though her passion wasn't something shared with her network of girlfriends. Fortunately, Denise had family and teachers who encouraged her interests, especially the one teacher who encouraged her to participate in a Cornell University summer program for high school students from inner-city schools. Her experience at Cornell inspired Denise to pursue a career in chemical engineering. She earned her degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and went on to work at Procter & Gamble, Kodak and Kaiser Permanente. Among her many professional accomplishments, Denise was the first African American woman to win the Most Outstanding Technical Paper (Journal Award - for her process design work) in the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) publication.

Denise is grateful for the supportive adults in her life and is happy to do the same for today's generation of girls exploring their interest in STEM subjects. This is Denise's third year volunteering as a role model for Techbridge Girls at Oakland's Martin Luther King Elementary School, which she finds most rewarding. She particularly enjoys working on the hands-on experiments with the girls.

"I volunteer as much as I can," says Denise. "I try to get my friends involved too." She asks them, "Who believed in you? Who gave you the nudge that let you pursue this field? If you connect to just one girl, it will be worth it!"


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