WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced senior political appointees who 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.
Sheila Nix, Chief of Staff
Sheila Nix comes to the Department of Education after leading Tusk Philanthropies. She has nearly three decades of leadership in political, domestic policy, and innovative nonprofit operations. She recently worked on the Biden for President campaign as a senior advisor to then Sen. Kamala Harris. During the second Obama/Biden term, Nix served as the Chief of Staff to Dr. Jill Biden and as a Deputy Assistant to President Obama. In that position, she coordinated policy and communications for signature efforts serving veterans, teachers, students, and women and girls across the globe. Nix also served as Chief of Staff to then Vice President Joe Biden on the 2012 Obama/Biden campaign. She has helped develop policies on education, health care, and transportation as Deputy Governor of Illinois and as Chief of Staff to two U.S. Senators. In addition, Nix served as the U.S. Executive Director of Bono’s ONE Campaign. She holds a law degree from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University.
Claudia Chavez, White House Liaison
Claudia Chavez most recently served as a member of the Education Agency Review Team for the Biden-Harris Transition and on the Biden for President campaign as Midwest Deputy Director. Prior to joining the Biden campaign, Chavez held different positions with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, including Deputy Director for Legislative Council and Government Affairs. Chavez is an Illinois native and graduate of Illinois State University.
Suzanne Goldberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach, Office for Civil Rights (serving as acting Assistant Secretary)
Suzanne Goldberg previously served as the inaugural Executive Vice President for University Life at Columbia University and the Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law and founding director of the Columbia Law School’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, and co-director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law. Before Columbia, she was on the Rutgers-Newark Law School faculty and an adjunct faculty member at Fordham Law School. Goldberg began her legal career as a staff lawyer with Lambda Legal, working on a variety of LGBT law reform cases and legislative and public policy initiatives.
Ian Rosenblum, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (serving as acting Assistant Secretary)
Ian Rosenblum most recently served as the founding Executive Director of the Education (Ed) Trust–New York, a statewide policy and advocacy organization committed to educational equity. Prior to leading Ed Trust–NY, Rosenblum served in the administrations of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
Emma Leheny, Principal Deputy General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel (serving as acting General Counsel)
Emma Leheny joins the Biden-Harris administration from the National Education Association (NEA), where she served in the Office of General Counsel. Prior to that, she was Chief Counsel of the California Teachers Association (Association). Before joining the Association in 2010, Leheny practiced education, labor, and employment law for a decade in a California law firm, where she rose to partner. A graduate of Brown University and Northeastern School of Law, Leheny began her career as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Warren J. Ferguson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then as a Skadden Fellow, representing low-income parents pursuing higher education.
Donna Harris-Aikens, Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning, Office of the Secretary
Donna Harris-Aikens served as a member of the Education Agency Review Team for the Biden-Harris Transition and was a member of the Democratic National Convention Committee Platform Committee. She served as Senior Director for Education Policy and Practice at the National Education Association (NEA), where she advocated for students, educators, and working families to support equity and excellence in education, and to ensure working families had the right to organize and the opportunity to thrive in our global economy. Prior to joining NEA, Harris-Aikens served in leadership roles for the Service Employees International Union and Advance CTE and was an attorney in an education boutique law firm.
Ben Miller, Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff
Ben Miller is a temporary appointment as a Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff. Before joining the agency, he was the Vice President for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress. He also previously served as a senior policy advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education.
Ben Halle, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications, Office of Communications and Outreach (serving as acting Assistant Secretary)
Ben Halle served as the Biden for President Communications Director in Michigan, where he led communications strategies and developed messaging for the President’s winning campaign. Prior to that, Halle served in senior communications roles on campaigns and in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rich Williams, Chief of Staff, Office of Postsecondary Education
Rich Williams has spent his career working on college affordability, student debt, and consumer protection policies. Most recently, he helped lead an initiative at Pew Charitable Trusts working to devise policies that better support struggling student loan borrowers. Prior to his work at Pew, Williams led efforts to strengthen consumer protections for college students at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and helped craft higher education policy and strategy as the Senior Higher Education Policy Advisor for the House Committee on Education and Labor. Williams is a first-generation college graduate who received a bachelor’s degree in history from Northern Arizona University after attending Coconino Community College.
Greg Schmidt, Senior Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
Greg Schmidt returns to the Department after six years at the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, where his work included representing institutions, organizations, and students in a variety of K-12 and post-secondary education matters. He also worked as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Prior to his legal career, Schmidt taught fifth grade at P.S. 213 in Brooklyn, New York, and served as a senior policy advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the Department.
Jasmine Bolton, Senior Counsel, Office for Civil Rights
Prior to joining the Biden-Harris administration, Jasmine Bolton was a senior staff attorney at the Bail Project, where she helped coordinate the expansion into new jurisdictions in the South. Before that, Bolton was a policy analyst for the Warren for President campaign, where she focused on a broad range of interrelated topics such as criminal justice reform, K-12 education, and rural communities. Prior to that, she worked as a Legal Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she focused on educational equity, combating the school-to-prison pipeline, and improving youth access to mental health services.
Alex Payne, Special Assistant, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
Alex Payne previously worked in the House of Representatives for Congresswoman Kim Schrier and prior to that the Committee on Education and Labor. Payne started out as a high school social studies teacher in Eastern North Carolina through Teach for America. His first job in Washington, D.C., was at the Partnership for Public Service partnering with the Department of Education on improving their Best Places to Work and FEVS results.