Joe Cozzolino '87: "UMass Dartmouth was the place I wanted to support."

Engineering foundation led to a career in cutting-edge fiber optic technology

Joe Cozzolino '87

Joe Cozzolino knows what it takes to be a UMassD student.

He knows their character and work ethic. The drive and determination they have to succeed. The curiosity that ignites their desire to explore new solutions to problems. These students made a choice to study at UMassD. And they’re proud of it.

He knows—he was one of them.

Cozzolino is a 1987 graduate of then-Southeastern Massachusetts University; his wife, Eileen (Paul) Cozzolino, a member of the class of 1988. And now his son, Drew, will be graduating in 2022.

UMass Dartmouth is where Cozzolino and tens of thousands of other graduates discovered their passions and built the foundations for current success. He majored in electrical engineering and has since held a range of senior executive positions at the world’s leading communications companies.

“The core foundation of the technical knowledge I gained at UMass Dartmouth was the building block to my career,” he said.

For Cozzolino, a physics class introduced him to the emerging technology of fiber optics. He developed an enthusiasm for advances in technology that would make him a leader in data and telecommunications years later. At that moment, he knew he wanted to be a part of this new concept and shape how it would revolutionize the way we communicate.

“In 1984, fiber optics was a new technology,” he said. “After graduation, I pursued finding a company where I could enter this new space. If not for my classes sparking this interest that drove my career forward, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Cozzolino is a prime example of a UMassD graduate who built a solid background in the classrooms on Ring Road and was motivated to take it even further. He later fulfilled his interest in business with an MBA from Anna Maria College, and leveraged his experience to executive-level positions in data communication organizations. Today, he is an executive partner at Siris Capital Group, a private equity firm that assists data, telecommunications, and technology companies in growth in emerging areas. He has also held senior vice president positions at Cisco Services and Motorola.

Growing up in the working-class city of Worcester, MA, Cozzolino is no stranger to the financial obstacles to obtaining a college education. He himself relied on financial support while he attended UMass Dartmouth’s predecessor SMU.

“If it weren’t for scholarships and aid, I never would have had the financial capability to finish my degree,” he said.

Cozzolino, who is also treasurer of the UMassD Foundation Board, is grateful for the educational foundation UMassD provided him, and makes today’s students a priority. “When I became fortunate enough to have the resources, I decided that UMass Dartmouth was the place I wanted to support,” he said.

Cozzolino was motivated to become a donor to unrestricted financial aid when he learned that the average tuition gap for a student completing their academic year at UMassD was $3,000. “If I can just help two, three, or four students to complete their degree, it would be the right thing to do.”

But, supporting UMassD students can extend beyond financial contributions, he says. Mentoring and helping students navigate the journey from college to the real world is invaluable.

“If you don’t have the resources to donate, give with your time. Talk with students, coach them, and share the value of your experience,” he said.

Cozzolino is proud of where his UMassD education brought him. So, when his son Drew’s experience at a Boston-area college wasn’t what he expected at the end of his freshman year, his father suggested taking a look at UMass Dartmouth. Here, he found the right fit.

“He has been thriving,” he said. “He found a home and a social family that eluded him before.”

Drew now majors in management information systems at UMassD. Like his father with a combined interest in technology and business, Drew has also added a minor in economics. He’s the treasurer for his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta, leading their charitable activities.

“You get a phenomenal education at UMass Dartmouth, academically and socially,” he said. “UMassD gives that to so many students, especially those on the SouthCoast. Any support you give adds up to helping a student complete their education. It’s so important to help make that happen for them.”

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