WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced more political appointees that will lead various parts of the agency. These diverse and accomplished individuals will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the agency, and work to quickly advance key education priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration.
Joanna Darcus, Senior Counsel, Office of General Counsel
Joanna Darcus was most recently a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center where she did consumer protection litigation and was a member of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, focusing on higher education finance issues facing low-income people and communities of color. Prior to that, Joanna was a supervising attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia where she represented hundreds of low-income consumers sued by debt collectors or struggling with student loans.
William Desmond, Senior Counsel, Office of General Counsel
William Desmond served as an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel for the Biden-Harris Transition. Prior to that, he worked as a senior associate in the Washington, D.C., office of WilmerHale, an international law firm. While attending law school, he interned in the Economic Crimes Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and in the Educational Opportunities Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Michelle Asha Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education (will serve as acting Assistant Secretary)
Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., is a strategic and collaborative leader with more than 20 years of experience in postsecondary education. Through her work and lived experience, Michelle has witnessed first-hand the transformative power of education. Michelle has held key roles and leadership positions at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (U.S. Department of Education), Council for Independent Colleges, Association of American Colleges & Universities, and King’s College (Wilkes-Barre, PA).
Julie Margetta Morgan, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary
Julie Margetta Morgan most recently served on the Biden-Harris Transition as a member of the COVID-19 response team. Prior to joining the transition, she served in a variety of economic and domestic policy roles, including Vice President of Research at the Roosevelt Institute, senior domestic policy advisor for Warren for President, and co-founder and executive director of the Great Democracy Initiative. She has more than a decade of experience in student loan oversight, regulation, and policy development, including serving as senior education counsel to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Melanie Muenzer, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary
Melanie Muenzer most recently served as the Associate Vice President and Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives at the University of Oregon. She was also an elected member of the board of education for Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. She previously served at the U.S. Department of Education from 2009-2015 under the Obama Administration as White House liaison, chief of staff in the policy office, and deputy assistant secretary for higher education policy. Prior to her work at the Department of Education, she served on President Obama’s 2008 campaign and his presidential transition team.
Ramin Taheri, Chief of Staff, Office for Civil Rights
Ramin Taheri returns to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights, where he was a senior attorney between 2010 and 2014. He recently led the Washington, D.C., chapter of Democrats for Education Reform and was previously general counsel and director of advocacy at Chiefs for Change, a nonprofit education advocacy organization whose members lead district and state education systems. Taheri has also served as a special assistant to the Deputy Mayor for Education in Washington, D.C., and as a senior policy advisor in the Department’s Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.
Jessica Cardichon, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
Jessica Cardichon’s most recent position is serving as the Director of the Washington D.C. Office and Director of Federal Policy at the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) where she plays a leadership role in the organization, including developing and advancing LPI’s federal policy agenda. She is also the lead author of Advancing Educational Equity for Underserved Youth, among numerous other LPI publications. Jessica began her career teaching in New York City for seven years and then working for Teachers College, Columbia University, as a program manager for implementation of early career educator induction programs. Upon moving to Washington, D.C., she served as education counsel to Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. She then served as Senior Director for Federal Policy and Advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Nick Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
Nick Lee most recently served as a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While at the Gates Foundation, he focused on supporting grantee efforts to make public K-12 and higher education funding more adequate and equitable. Prior to this role, he completed his first federal government stint in civil service roles at the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget during the Bush-Cheney and Obama-Biden Administrations focusing on federal student aid programs.
Tariq Habash, Special Assistant, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
Tariq Habash joins the Biden-Harris Administration after years fighting on behalf of 45 million student loan borrowers. Most recently, Habash helped launch the Student Borrower Protection Center, a national research and advocacy nonprofit where he led the Investigations Project to protect student loan borrowers. Prior to this work, Habash was a senior policy associate at The Century Foundation, working on higher education affordability, accountability, and consumer protection issues. He holds degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Miami.
Chauncey Alexander, Special Assistant, Office of Communications and Outreach
Chauncey T. Alexander holds a doctorate in instructional management and leadership from Robert Morris University as well as a master’s degree in organizational leadership, and a bachelor’s degree in communication. Chauncey has served in many roles including digital engagement manager for President Biden’s inauguration, editorial writer on the Biden-Harris campaign, and the digital engagement coordinator for the Democratic National Convention.
Una Corbett, Confidential Assistant, Office of the Secretary
Una Corbett served on the Biden-Harris Transition team, working as an executive assistant to Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona and as a member of the vetting operations team. Previously, she was a field organizer with the Biden for President campaign in Pennsylvania. She graduated in May 2020 from Harvard, where she studied history and literature.
Philip Kim, Deputy White House Liaison, Office of the Secretary
Philip Kim was most recently the western regional deputy director for the Biden-Harris campaign. He is an alum of the DNCC Public Engagement team, the DNC Political and Organizing team, and Senator Booker’s presidential campaign. He is also a former secondary mathematics educator and a graduate of UC Berkeley.
Sara Garcia, Special Assistant, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development
Sara Garcia is coming to this position from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While there, she served as a program officer for the North America, Policy and Finance Team. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, Garcia worked as a senior research and advocacy manager for the Postsecondary Education Team at the Center for American Progress (CAP). Her work at CAP focused on equity issues within higher education finance as well as higher education access and success. Garcia got her start in D.C. as a higher education fellow for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute fellowship program.