This is the first in a series of short interviews “Better know the peacebuilders at PeacePlayers.” As it is our first time conducting these short, more personal interviews, we started in our Washington, DC headquarters. We plan on expanding to our program sites so that you can get to know our team!
I was able to sneak Brian Cognato, Technical Assistance Program Director, away from his busy Monday schedule to ask him a few questions about himself and his role within PPI.
Oscar Norsworthy (O): What did you study in college and how did you apply what you learned in the classroom to your work at PPI?
Brian Cognato (B): I double majored in English and International Relations at the University of Maryland in College Park. My initial role here in the office was in fundraising, mostly grant writing, so it turns out that I was able to utilize both of those skill sets right away. The most important thing I learned in school was how you need to write for specific audiences, and that outweighs the need to write something “pretty.” It doesn’t matter if its “good” or “bad,” as long as the writing resonates with the audience your communicating with.
O: What did you before PPI and how did you hear about this project?
B: Actually, I interned with PPI the summer after my Junior year at Maryland, which then turned into an internship all of senior year, which then turned into a full time position when I graduated. So I’ve been here for just about my whole career so far. I first heard about PPI when Dave Cullen and Trevor Ringland won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on ESPN. I was taking a British history course in London at the time, and learning about The Troubles, so the need for an organization like PPI resonated with me.
O: What is your role within PPI?
B: I’m leading our new ”Technical Assistance Program,” which takes what we have learned in our sites and shares it with interested partners. Since its inception in July 2011 we have worked on projects in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Yemen, and Chicago. My biggest responsibility is ensuring that we lay the groundwork for sustainable change after a project ends.
O: What movie defined your childhood and what song defined your high school years?
B: As for the movie, probably Rocky. Maybe Rocky 4. Growing up near Philadelphia, those movies were just in the air – I remember going to Phillies games when they were terrible, but they’d always play the Rocky song to try to rally them for a win. When it comes to what song defined my high school years, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I was a huge ska fan in high school (laughing). My favorite song was probably “Point/ Counterpoint” by Streetlight Manifesto. (Brian later e-mailed 3-4 times changing his favorite song, until he finally settled on “Rudie Can’t Fail” by The Clash.)
Thanks for reading! If you think of any questions you’d like to hear the PPI team answer, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was written by the Communications and Development Intern, Oscar Norsworthy. He is a Junior majoring in Sociology at The George Washington University.