Gretchen Cook-Anderson

Executive Director, Ignite


Gretchen Cook-Anderson, inaugural executive director of Ignite, a budding nonprofit (of parent organization LabCentral), is an award-winning marketing executive with 25+ years of promoting biotechnology, global education, space and Earth science discoveries for NASA, Mars candy, entertainers in Hollywood, candidates for political office, and a host of household products (at Edelman PR).

In her new role at Ignite, she’s leading efforts to cultivate greater diversity, equity and inclusive culture across the global biotech industry – from labs to leadership, and from the STEM student pipeline to the entrepreneurs advancing life-changing innovations that heal, feed and fuel our world. 

Until recently, Gretchen served as Associate Vice President, Assistant to the President & Director for Diversity Recruiting & Advising at IES Abroad, one of the largest providers of academic study and internship programs abroad which educates about 9,000 US college/university students abroad each year across 35 international cities. Gretchen led diversity and inclusion-related marketing outreach, resulting in 151% growth in enrollment diversity during her 10+ years at IES Abroad. In 2014 and again in 2016, her efforts garnered Diversity Abroad’s EDIIE (Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion in International Education) Award, and an achievement award from IES Abroad in 2018.

In May 2021, Gretchen was awarded NAFSA’s (the Association for International Educators) inaugural Award for Impact in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in International Education — a distinction from the most prominent, global professional association in the field.

She is active as a board/advisory member for several organizations (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Facing History & Ourselves, North Hill Senior Community, Beacon Academy and the Japan-US Friendship Commission) and independent schools (Belmont Hill School & Dana Hall School), cares deeply about social justice, equity, and inclusion, and speaks publicly and consults on related themes dozens of times locally and globally each year.

Gretchen was honored in October 2020 among the inaugural 50 Most Influential Businesspersons of Color by the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce (MetroWest region). She was also recognized in February by the Massachusetts Legislature as a 2021 Black Excellence on The Hill honoree. 

Gretchen is an alumna of Spelman College (B.A. Political Science); The Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (dual M.A. International Economics/Japanese Studies); and the IES Abroad program (undergrad junior year) at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. She is a former Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations; Charles E. Merrill, Jr. Scholar; Toyota Motor Sales Scholar; Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellow; German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Leaders Fellow; and former adjunct faculty of Japanese language at Howard University. Gretchen is based in suburban Boston and is a wife and mother of three children.