WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education announced more political appointees that will lead various parts of the agency. The agency states these diverse and accomplished individuals will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Department, and work to quickly advance key education priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration.
Clarence “CJ” Powell, Special Assistant, Office of Postsecondary Education
CJ Powell most recently served as the higher education program analyst at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. In this role, he staffed the higher education civil rights coalition, a table of more than 50 national civil rights and policy organizations. CJ began his career in education equity as a college adviser in the College Advising Corps, assisting students in rural North Carolina in planning their post-secondary lives. Following graduate school, CJ served as the founding director of college preparation for a new high school in Nashville, Tennessee. CJ holds a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from the University of North Carolina and a Master of Science in education, in higher education, from the University of Pennsylvania.
Doralicia “Allie” Aguilera, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary
For over a decade Allie has been in operations, management, policy, and communications within government and nonprofits. Most recently, Allie supported Domestic appointments during the Biden-Harris transition. During the 2020 election cycle Allie served as deputy chief operating officer of Kamala Harris for the People and as a youth vote expert for various national voting organizations. She was previously a higher education and health care advocate at young adult non-profit Young Invincibles. Allie served at the U.S. Department of Transportation during President Barack Obama’s second term and prior to that worked on racial and gender equity issues in the office of the Mayor of New York City. Allie has extensive experience in campaigns and elections at the federal, state, and local levels and began her career at the Democratic National Committee. She is a proud immigrant and Virginian and a graduate of the University of Virginia.
Christian Rhodes, Chief of Staff, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Christian Rhodes served as Chief of Staff for Prince George’s County Public Schools. In this role, Rhodes supported the chief executive officer through management of specific business functions of the school system. He began his career as a political organizer for the Maryland State Teachers Association, a state affiliate of the National Education Association, and education advisor Office of the Prince George’s County Executive. Rhodes has a Master of Public Administration degree from the American University in Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Blanchi Roblero, Chief of Staff, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
Blanchi Roblero will serve as chief of staff at the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. Blanchi started her career at the U.S. Department of Education in 2012, where she managed a range of policy and funding areas, including appropriations, civil rights policy, higher education policy and other key policy issue areas. She has passionately engaged in advocacy efforts addressing immigrants’ and women’s issues in the education field. As a former student-immigrant herself, she understands the importance of empowering students by encouraging them to explore and learn stories about their communities to preserve history and promote inclusiveness.
Aaliyah Samuel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for State and Local Engagement, Office of Communications and Outreach
Aaliyah Samuel, Ed.D., was most recently a senior fellow at the Center on the developing Child at Harvard University and the executive vice president of Government Affairs and Partnerships at NWEA. Aaliyah is a bilingual executive leader with expertise from early childhood through higher education. Aaliyah is a former elementary special education teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Aaliyah has informed state policy agendas, assisted with developing cross-systems approaches to develop policy solutions that support children and families and leading systems-level change. Prior to NWEA, Dr. Samuel was the director of education at the National Governors Association (NGA). Aaliyah holds an undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University, a master’s from University of South Florida, and a specialist and doctorate degree from NOVA Southeastern.
Kelly Leon, Press Secretary, Office of Communications and Outreach
Kelly Leon most recently served as communications officer at the Kresge Foundation where she supported the foundation’s Education and American Cities grantmaking programs. She previously served as communications and advocacy officer at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. She also previously served as assistant press secretary in the Office of Communications and Outreach and as confidential assistant in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama-Biden administration. Prior to her work at the Department of Education, she served in strategic communications roles at the District of Columbia Public Schools system and George Washington University.
Ben Cobley, Senior Director of Digital Strategy, Office of Communications and Outreach
Ben Cobley joins the Department of Education after serving in numerous digital roles on President Biden and Vice President Harris’ Inaugural Committee and Presidential Campaign. Prior to his work for President Biden, Ben developed and implemented digital and communications strategies for candidates and causes at nearly every level. Ben holds a degree from the University of Iowa and served our country in Afghanistan as a non-commissioned officer in the First Infantry Division of the United States Army. Ben resides in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Danielle, and ten-year-old son, Thomas.
Vanessa Harmoush, Special Assistant, Office of Communications and Outreach
Vanessa Harmoush recently served as the Colorado communications director for the Biden for President campaign. Prior to that, Vanessa was communications director at Rocky Mountain Values, working on issues of health care and climate. She also worked at the Colorado State Legislature for the Speaker of the House and prior to that at the State Innovation Exchange. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Colorado – Boulder. Vanessa is born to Lebanese immigrants, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado.
Latricia Hardman, Confidential Assistant, Office of the Under Secretary
Latricia Hardman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Alabama State University. She recently served as a deputy organizing director on the Georgia Senate Runoff and the Biden-Harris campaign in North Carolina. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Loredana Valtierra, Special Assistant, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
Loredana was recently education policy counsel for the House Committee on Education and Labor under Chairman Bobby Scott and worked on K-12 and juvenile justice policy. Prior to her position on the Committee, Loredana worked to promote equitable school policies for girls of color and represented pregnant and parenting students at the National Women’s Law Center. She has also represented immigrant children and families and is a former 7th grade English teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Loredana is a proud Chicagoan and daughter of immigrant parents.
Montserrat Garibay, Senior Advisor for Labor Relations, Office of Secretary
Montserrat Garibay was the secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO. Previously, she served as vice president for Certified Employees with Education Austin, a merged union local with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and the American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations. An activist on education and immigration issues, Garibay came to the U.S. from Mexico City as an undocumented immigrant and became a citizen 20 years later. She has been instrumental in promoting opportunities for all students, including those from immigrant families. She promoted passage of the Texas version of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. A bilingual pre-kindergarten teacher for eight years and National Board-Certified Teacher, she is a graduate of the National Labor Leadership Initiative with the Worker Institute at Cornell University. Garibay is a University of Texas -Austin graduate with a master’s degree in Education.
Christopher Rush, Director of Educational Technology, Office of the Secretary Chris joins the department with a critical focus on reimagining the role of technology and innovation in teaching and learning, as we move towards a post-pandemic world. He also co-founded New Classrooms Innovation Partners, a nonprofit focused on new instructional models including the School of One personalized learning program, named one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Inventions of the Year. There he has served as both chief program officer overseeing model design, build and nationwide school implementation as well as de facto chief operating officer/president overseeing day-to-day organizational activities. Previously, Chris most notably worked in the Office of Accountability at the NYC Department of Education to co-lead and salvage the design and development of NYC’s $95MM+ Achievement Reporting and Innovation System; launched an ed-tech consulting services practice at Amplify Education; specialized in financial management and IT development services at IBM; launched a pair of tech startups during the dotcom bubble; and taught earth sciences for the Upper Dublin (PA) School District at Robbins Park Environmental Center. Chris is a Pahara Fellow alum of the Aspen Institute, a recipient of the Robin Hood Heroes award, and holds a Master of Science in information technology and a Bachelor of Science in management science and information systems. He is a recurring university guest lecturer at Stanford and Harvard Business Schools and sits on a number of boards of national social impact organizations.
Monique Dixon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Office for Civil Rights
Monique L. Dixon previously served as deputy director of policy and director of state advocacy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Inc. In these roles, she was responsible for assisting with the development, coordination, and implementation of LDF’s overall federal policy and legislative reform priorities with a focus on criminal justice and education. She also serves as the lead architect of LDF’s state and local legislative and policy activities, including LDF’s Justice in Public Safety Project, which used policy and legislative advocacy, public education, community organizing, litigation, and communications strategies to advance laws, policies, and practices that would result in unbiased and accountable policing and community-based public safety systems. Dixon also served as co-chair of the Education Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Juliana Herman, Chief of Staff, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Juliana Herman previously served as chief of staff and senior advisor at the Markle Foundation. Prior to that she was a deputy chief and Broad Resident at District of Columbia Public Schools, a senior policy advisor in the Office of Senator Michael Bennet, and an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.
Scott Sargrad, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs, Office of the Secretary
Scott Sargrad was most recently vice president for K-12 education at the Center for American Progress. Previously, he served in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama Administration as deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; senior policy advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development; and Presidential Management Fellow in the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Sargrad began his career as a special education paraprofessional, math teacher, and cross-country and track coach, and is a graduate of Haverford College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jen Mishory, Chief of Staff, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Jen Mishory most recently served as a senior fellow and senior policy advisor at The Century Foundation, working on policies related to higher education finance at the federal and state level, workforce development, and health care coverage. Prior to joining TCF, she co-founded and served as the executive director of Young Invincibles. While at YI, Jen led initiatives focused on policy solutions to a range of economic challenges facing today’s young people.
Maggie Murphy, Director of Advance, Office of the Secretary Maggie Murphy has been a social studies teacher since 2013, and has taught in Texas and New York. Maggie worked on the Biden-Harris campaign as director of surrogate advance. On President Obama’s re-election campaign, she was a political trip coordinator for Mrs. Obama. Since 2011, Maggie served on President Biden’s advance teams on domestic and international trips. Maggie is a graduate of Scripps College and earned her master’s degree in education from Southern Methodist University.
Donametria “Tria” Stallings, Confidential Assistant, Office of the Secretary
Tria Stallings is a proud Delawarean and recently served as a partnership associate for the Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee. Prior to the PIC, Tria worked on the 2020 Biden-Harris presidential campaign in several capacities, including as the Virginia African American Vote Director on the state coordinated campaign. Prior to her time on the campaign trail, Tria worked on Capitol Hill for two members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Tria is a proud graduate of two HBCUs. She earned her Master of Arts in political science from Howard University and her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Delaware State University.
Kabrillen Jones, Special Assistant, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Kabrillen Jones most recently served as a consultant for UPD Consulting and a business analyst for education technology firm Crocus. Prior to these roles, she served as a policy analyst for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education, where she worked on a variety of K-12 issues with a primary focus on regulation and guidance on special education. She is a graduate of Spelman College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jordan Matsudaira, Deputy Under Secretary, Office of the Under Secretary
Jordan Matsudaira is an associate professor of economics and education policy at Teachers College Columbia University. His research leverages administrative data, working with government and institution partners, to understand and improve education and labor market programs and policies aimed at promoting the mobility of low-income Americans. He previously served as chief economist of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, where he contributed to higher education access and accountability initiatives and policies to support lower-wage workers and workforce development. He is also visiting associate professor at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center, and a non-resident fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.
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