Brenda Dann-Messier ’00 Ed.D. Educational Leadership Education and Workforce Consultant; Adjunct Faculty, JWU East Greenwich, R.I. When Brenda Dann-Messier went to Washington, D.C., she brought a binder full of letters from Rhode Island. The year was 2009 and she was shifting from a decade as president of Providence’s Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center to a White House-nominated, Senate-confirmed position as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), where she would manage 85 employees and a $1.7 billion budget. The letters, addressed to President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, came from former Dorcas Place students, who explained their reasons for pursuing adult education and described their future dreams. Dann-Messier kept them on her desk at the new job, and “when the bureaucracy got to be tough and inflexible, I would remember that I was there really to support the students and to help them reach their goals.” Her achievements in Washington are now a matter of public record. Dann-Messier’s name appears next to Duncan’s on landmark policy documents like “Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education,” and “A Reentry Education Model: Supporting Education and Career Advancement for Low-Skill Individuals In Corrections.” She represented the United States at international conferences, while also making frequent domestic trips to, say, a prison in Maryland or a community college in El Paso. Nowadays, Dann-Messier is back in Rhode Island, working as an independent consultant and co-teaching a class on community and family engagement at the same JWU program from which she graduated 15 years ago. Its experiential, cohort-based program is a model for “really preparing leaders for real-life experience,” not simply dispensing lofty, abstract ideas. That’s high praise from someone who has been around the world and back to discuss education policy.
Thirteen JWU graduates who are redefining achievement