AUC Welcomes Martha Cooley as Secretary to the Board of Trustees
Martha Cooley is the new secretary to AUC’s Board of Trustees and director of the North America office, bringing more than a decade of experience in effecting top-level priorities and collaborating with senior executives.
Before joining the University, Cooley was manager of board operations at Barnard College and director of administration and assistant to the CEO at YMCA of Silicon Valley. During this time, she also consulted with the educational nonprofit, Let’s Get Ready.
Cooley lives in New York City and holds a BA in English literature from Barnard College. She has a background in trade and academic publishing as an acquisitions editor. A fiction author, Cooley has published three mystery novels with William Morrow/HarperCollins: Ice Shear, Flame Out and Faint Trace.
News@AUC caught up with Cooley to learn more about her new role at the University.
Why did you decide to join AUC?
Earlier in my career, I worked as a book editor. I was very aware of AUCs excellent reputation in producing high-level scholarship, and there is no better publisher when it comes to Middle East and Egyptian studies. When I saw the job, I got excited. I really liked AUC and thought I could take the experience I had in project planning, communication, governance and administration –– and make a difference. The job was one of the few that could bring together both sides of my experience, including my board work as well as my office administration background, which I hope will be helpful in the New York Office.
What is your main role as secretary to AUC’s Board of Trustees?
There are a few different facets to the secretary’s role. First, I ensure that the board meetings follow the high standards set by the University in its bylaws as well as all other legal regulations. Second, I want to be sure that the trustees have all the information they need to engage with the strategic questions important to the University. Finally, I act as a liaison between the trustees and the University. Most of the trustees have a deep connection to AUC and its mission, and I work to enrich that connection, particularly for trustees who are in different parts of the world.
When do you plan on visiting Egypt and AUC?
I will be attending the board meeting in June and plan to come to Cairo early so I have the opportunity to see the campus and meet my colleagues, who have all given me a very warm welcome over Zoom. It will be my first time visiting the country.
You have higher education experience as manager of board operations at Barnard College. What do you like about working in the higher education field?
My work takes place in the background — both in board operations as well as the workings of the New York Office — but it is wonderful to hear about the scholarship, teaching and learning that take place at AUC, and the excitement that comes from students as they explore new areas. I’ve been able to attend some of AUC’s Zoom seminars on different topics — all excellent — and the sessions provide a connection I appreciate as I work in New York.
You’ve worked in project planning and with senior executives, including company boards and CEOs. What did you enjoy the most about your previous jobs?
I have been lucky to work with several presidents and boards, and I'm continually impressed by their sense of purpose and commitment to the missions of the organizations. They all bring such wonderful experience and knowledge to the table — knowledge and experience that they generously share. At every single organization I’ve worked at, they are always looking to answer important questions, such as: “How can we make our institution stronger?” “How can we improve the lives of our students and support our faculty?” And “How can the good work of the University advance the larger community?” It is always so inspiring.
Tell us your favorite…
Movie: Kurosawa’s Ikiru
Book: It’s hard to choose one. I have a whole shelf of favorite books. If forced to pick, I would say Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Music Genre: As a child of the 1980s, I have to say the music of that decade is my favorite. New wave, power ballads, alternative — I love it all. Duran Duran and Prince have been in heavy rotation lately.
Who is your hero?
Harriet Tubman. She lived most of her life after the American Civil War in a town I grew up in, and I appreciate her bravery, the lives she saved, her fight for the dignity of all people, her sense of justice, and how she constantly met new challenges with all her strength and intelligence –– long past the point where most people would have given up.
What are you most proud of?
I’ve published two novels and a novella under the pen name M.P. Cooley. All are crime fiction. I like solving mysteries.
What is something that people may not know about you?
I’ve been in The Oprah Magazine, a publication here in the United States.
What world problem do you wish to solve?
Improving literacy. Being able to read opens up opportunities, encourages critical thinking and connects us with others.