You know the old adage “it’s all in a day’s work”? For Jane Coen, UL’s global manager of corporate citizenship, that day’s work is also “all in the family.” Coen’s father devoted his entire 40-year career to UL, and its public safety mission. His commitment and spirit inspired a similar sentiment in his daughter.
During high school and college, Coen spent several summers working at UL as part of a program that offered seasonal employment to children of employees 16 and older. Despite this early start at UL, she first opted to pursue a career in education, going back to school to complete the coursework necessary to gain an Illinois state teaching certificate. Coen spent two years teaching reading before a loss of state funding put her full-time role as an educator in jeopardy. That’s when, in 1981, she got the call – the one that would bring her back to UL, the place she’s called her work home for the last 36 years.
“That call offering me a chance to come work for UL full-time came out of the blue, but I accepted the offer with the full disclosure that I intended to return to teaching when a new opportunity presented itself. That was 36 years ago,” Coen says, laughing. “UL has always been a part of my family, and while that legacy and my father’s passion brought me here, the mission and the wonderful people I’ve had the privilege to work with are what have motivated me to stay at UL all these years.”
In her role, Coen applies the same spirit of service dedication found in her work as a teacher to help develop and drive global corporate social responsibility (CSR) employee engagement initiatives and campaigns. She collaborates with UL leadership in various business units and functions throughout the company to identify opportunities for strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations at the local, national and global levels. Coen helped build this program -and her newly created position - in 2008, after having spent the prior two decades in administrative services management roles, as well as serving as UL’s Corporate Secretary for 10 years.
Whether spearheading a national effort to support Red Nose Day, kicking off the Changing Lives Annual Giving Campaign, mobilizing global disaster relief efforts or encouraging participation in the Corporate Giving Program, Coen demonstrates how CSR programs can inspire and engage employees.
“I look at my role at UL as helping the company fulfill its commitment to being socially responsible and a good corporate citizen,” Coen says. “I apply that same commitment to my own personal life, which drives where I invest my time outside of work.”
Since her early years, that “do-good” approach has centered largely on both her love for dogs and for providing service to people. After saving up to pay for her first dog and training classes, the training school invited her, at age 15, to become a class instructor.
But it wasn’t until her close friend, Kathi, became paralyzed at age 24 after surgical complications that Coen realized the indispensable role a dog can play in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.
She helped Kathi and her husband train their new dog to assist Kathi with daily activities, such as picking up objects or going for motorized wheelchair walks alone in her neighborhood.
Encouraged by Kathi, Coen trained dogs to meet the needs of others who were hearing impaired, elderly or suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Along the way, Coen earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. In addition to teaching several dog training classes per week, her passion has now grown to include bringing certified therapy dogs to visit residents and patients in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities.
“That early experience with Kathi helped to develop within me a greater sensitivity and heightened awareness of recognizing ways in which we can help others around us,” Coen says. “Whether through our knowledge or through our talent, if we’re willing to give back, we can really make a difference in people’s lives. That certainly applies very closely to what I do at UL today.”
In addition to providing strategic counsel to UL teams on their CSR efforts, Coen’s work has garnered speaking invitations from organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Community Health Charities, and Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship, among others. For the latter, she contributed to a research project, later published in industry peer review journals, that focused on the development of a framework to measure the impact of community involvement.
The pull of education is a consistent theme in Coen’s life. She has completed several executive education programs with the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and UL University. She has also taught a UL University course called UL Leadership Culture, developed to show how to make sincere, long-term investments in people.
“It’s wonderful when you’re excited to wake up in the morning and come into work. To really enjoy what you do and the people that you work with. I’m very fortunate to be in that situation – one that has carried me and inspired me to serve over the last 36 years.”
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