May 5—The board of directors of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, known as seCTer, announced Tuesday that Executive Director Nancy Cowser is resigning effective June 30 and leaving for a role at Mitchell College.
Cowser, who has been executive director since late 2016, will be starting the following week in her new role as Mitchell College's chief advancement and alumni relations officer. SeCTer's board of directors is searching for a new executive director, and details will be posted on the nonprofit's website, www.secter.org.
Cowser said her husband is a Mitchell College graduate, plus the school's focus on different learners "is deeply personal to me," as she has had family members who have struggled with traditional education.
Citing increased hiring at Electric Boat, she commented, "We can't afford for anyone to be not at the top of their game, and sometimes that requires thinking differently about how people learn, and we saw that during COVID. Distance learning was great for some people and it was a nightmare for others."
Mitchell College President Tracy Y. Espy said in an email statement, "We are beyond thrilled to have Nancy joining us as Chief Advancement and Alumni Officer in July. She brings tremendous experience to the role and will be key in Mitchell College's growth, expanding our connections in the community and enhancing relationships with Mitchell alumni."
Before starting at seCTer, Cowser worked in mortgage banking, manufacturing, social services and health care, and said fundraising and community engagement have been themes for her. She holds an undergraduate degree in finance from Boston College and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
SeCTer Board Chairman Mark Oefinger, retired Groton town manager, said in a news release that shortly after joining seCTer, Cowser saw the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy through to completion, and it went on to win national recognition.
"The entire board appreciates the time we have had with Nancy, the long-standing impact she will have on our organization and the entrepreneurs that rely on us," Oefinger said.
Cowser said one of her proudest accomplishments was developing Leading the Way, a 2019 event linking Electric Boat procurement personnel with suppliers.
She also said she is proud that early in the coronavirus pandemic, seCTer got a grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development to support its ability to defer loan payments for many clients.
SeCTer has helped businesses including breweries, manufacturers and gyms, Cowser said, noting that "some of them just needed time to recoup, and others needed funding to pivot into new roles."
She said that prior to her arrival at seCTer, the organization operated with a decade of budget deficits, but a team effort turned the finances around.
"Everything is aligned for me to be able to make this decision and leave seCTer healthier than ever and ready for somebody to take it even further," she said.
Cowser also served as chairman of the board of the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce last year, and she serves on the board of the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut.