Alum applies SOU and United Nations experiences to his university teaching in Japan
Mark Cogan ’04 grew up in Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast and attended and graduated Gold Beach High School. His first full time job right out of high school was as Webmaster for Wind Tracks magazine, which covered windsurfing on the Pacific coast and across the country. Before pursuing higher education, he worked for a country living magazine, followed by a year at the Medford Mail Tribune as a Publications Specialist.
Originally, Mark enrolled at SOU through the Office of International Programs, hoping to spend a year or two in the United Kingdom studying medieval history, however, those plans were derailed by the September 11 terrorist attacks. On campus in Ashland however, Mark immersed himself into campus life though he was a non-traditional student at age 24.
While living in Baker Hall on campus and in the Ashlander Apartments on Siskiyou Boulevard, he engaged in a number of student activities. He wrote for the Siskiyou student newspaper all four years, served as Production Editor and wrote a column that sought to bridge the liberal-conservative divide on campus. Cogan also served as an Associated Students of SOU (ASSOU) student senator and was named Senator of the Year in 2004. He also kept busy by playing the trombone for the Raider Band at athletic events and he sang in the university choir for Dr. Paul French.
Professors Les AuCoin, Bill Hughes, Rosemary Dunn Dalton and Don Rhodes were among his favorite teachers. “Rosemary taught a memorable course called Psychology of Women which I found to be excellent because she challenged our preconceptions and she loved for us to push back on her during classroom discussions. That’s not always the norm at some big universities,” Mark said.
After graduating in June 2004 with bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology, he served as a volunteer on former Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Afterwards, he was named managing editor of weekly Curry County Reporter in Gold Beach and helped the paper win multiple national journalism awards. Up for a challenge, Mark decided to attend graduate school at Norwich University in Vermont, where he earned a master’s in diplomacy and conflict management.
In an attempt to “reinvent” himself, he pursued a second master’s degree in peace and conflict studies in Austria, where he was able to meet a recruiter for the United Nations. In early 2010, he was named Communications and Media Officer for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Thailand, where he helped build the Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network, which won an award from the World Economic Forum in 2013. Thai youth were extremely vulnerable to corruption in society which was considered socially acceptable. From a small core group of youth leaders, the network grew to more than 4,000 Thai students from 90 universities. “What we did was train dozens of college graduates to help train and educate Thai youth on the dangers of corruption in society. It really made a difference and it was very gratifying to take some of the lessons from Don Rhodes’ courses at SOU, and apply them overseas,” said Cogan.
After meeting his future wife in Thailand, Cogan went on to serve for a number of United Nations agencies, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, including a consultancy in Afghanistan.
In 2015, a graduate school mentor of Mark’s decided to retire after 35 years from a private university in Osaka, Japan. Recommending that Cogan apply for the job opening, he contacted the university and was quickly granted an interview. Starting in January of 2016, he was granted a tenure-track position, as Assistant Professor. Three years later he was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor.
In his six-plus years at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan, Cogan has published a number of scholarly articles, with an emphasis on Southeast Asia, security studies, peacebuilding and human rights. He has published more than 140 articles, columns and policy papers featured in the Bangkok Post, South China Morning Post, The National Interest, The Diplomat, among others. His first edited book, Alternative Approaches on Peacebuilding: Theories and Case Studies will soon be published by Palgrave MacMillan and he also plans to finish his PhD. “Nobody teaches you how to be a professor. You go with what you know and rely upon your past experiences to help guide you in research and teaching. I draw on my experiences from Thailand. I also always take good notes and read as much as I can,” Cogan said.
“I count my experience at SOU as one of the great highlights of my life. I’m proud of the fact that I tried to do as much as I could while I was there, from earning two degrees, participating in as many extra-curricular activities as I could, immersing myself in iconic student traditions, from living on campus, living in the Ashlanders, making regular visits to Omar’s and more. To me, SOU was formative and consequential, it set me up for later success in life, as well as affording me the opportunity to make lifelong friends. I would not trade my college experience for anything.”