Nancy Coughlin, JD '95 -- Nancy Coughlin is looking to take the YWCA of Darien/Norwalk in New Directions.

As interim executive director, Coughlin hopes to expand the organization's successful job training program for women planning to enter or reenter the workforce.

"My short-term goal is to expand the New Directions program," she said. "How far would I like to expand that program? As far as it can go, as far as there is demand and as far as there are resources."

New Directions offers career coaching and job skills training to women, who through separation, divorce or the death of a spouse, need to return to the workforce to support themselves.

There are few programs in this area that help women in such a way, said Coughlin.

"We get most of our Norwalk participants through the New Directions program," she said. "The biggest limitation for us with respect to Norwalk is that we're physically located in Darien. If we can have a better physical presence in Norwalk, I think it will help us serve that population better."

Kate Foster serves the YWCA part-time as coordinator of New Directions. About 30 women are currently enrolled in the program, and come mostly from the Norwalk, Stamford, Wilton and Greenwich areas, she said.

The program has a flexible fee of $110, said Foster, but New Directions serves women regardless of their ability to pay.

The fee is flexible, she said, because there is a tremendous need in Fairfield County for a program that helps women entering the workforce.

"Judging from my experience, there seems to be a groundswell of women who are single heads of households and need to make more money," said Foster. "I think there's a lot of women in this area who could use our support."

The YWCA of Darien/Norwalk operates on a lean annual budget of $450,000, which is used to support its numerous programs and events geared toward women and families, said Coughlin, who has been a member of the YWCA since 1999.

She joined the YWCA as interim executive director June 15, replacing Maija Judelson, who recently left the position to relocate with her family to Utah.

Coughlin will serve in her new capacity while the YWCA conducts a full search and decides on a permanent executive director for the organization.

Coughlin is the former director of a job-reentry program for women. She worked for more than six years at a shelter for battered women and their children in New Hampshire before leaving to practice employment and civil litigation at a law firm in New York City.

Coughlin holds a law degree from Suffolk University and a bachelor's degree from the University of New Hampshire.

She lives in Darien in with her husband and four young children.
The Hour, July 6, 2010