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Brenda Dann-Messier '73 confirmed as U.S. education department assistant secretary


Brenda Dann-Messier
RIC graduate Brenda Dann-Messier, was confirmed in September by the U.S. Senate as assistant secretary for vocational and adult education in the United States Department of Education.

Dann-Messier, president of Dorcas Place Adult & Family Learning Center in Providence and a member of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, had been nominated for the position in June by President Barack Obama.

As assistant secretary, Dann-Messier will be working for President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Under Secretary Martha Kanter. She will serve as the principal advisor to Duncan on departmental matters related to high school, career, technical and adult education, as well as community colleges and workforce and economic development.

She will also represent the U.S. Department of Education at national and international meetings related to vocational and adult education.

“I expect that her sincere interest in and knowledge of adult students will lead to policies that will improve education in our country,”said RIC President Nancy Carriuolo. “I am intensely proud that she is a RIC alum as well as my colleague and friend.”

Dann-Messier received a BA and MEd from Rhode Island College and an EdD in Educational Leadership from Johnson and Wales University. She was a member of RIC’s 2005 Alumni Honor Roll (secondary education).

As a member of the Board of Governors for Higher Education, she has chaired its Academic and Student Affairs Subcommittee. She was also a member of the Board of The Providence Plan and served on Mayor Cicilline’s Poverty Task Force and Pathways to Opportunity Committee.

Prior to coming to Dorcas Place, she worked at the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University. Dann-Messier previously worked for the Department of Education during the Clinton Administration, serving as Secretary Richard Riley’s Regional Representative for Region I in Boston.

She also directed two TRIO programs – the Rhode Island Educational Opportunity Center and the Educational Talent Search Program of the Community College of Rhode Island.

Dann-Messier has been a frequent presenter at conferences and forums, including the National Commission On Adult Basic Education, Council for Opportunity in Education, National Center for Family Literacy, and the European Access Network. In 2009, she was named an advisor to the U.S. Delegation for UNESCO’s Sixth International Conference on Adult Education in Brazil.