Under Secretary, director of OPM to speak at Commencement

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In a message of hope to graduating students, two speakers will persuade the audience to appreciate the value of higher education.

U.S. Undersecretary of Education Dr. Martha J. Kanter and Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry were selected as guest speakers at Cal State Fullerton’s 2012 Commencement Ceremony. The Academic Affairs office helped select the speakers.

“In general, the vice president for Academic Affairs office takes leadership in identifying commencement speakers,” said Keith Boyum, emeritus professor of political science.

Kanter was nominated for her position by President Barack Obama in 2009, and confirmed by the Senate two months later. She works under U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

According to her Ed.gov biography, Kanter oversees policies, programs, activities related to postsecondary education, adult and career technical education, federal student aid and five White House Initiatives on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In order to help education, Kanter’s job is to plan and implement Obama’s goal to have “the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020” in the U.S.

In fact, that is what Kanter’s speech will be about.

“In her remarks, Dr. Kanter will discuss President Obama’s 2020 goal for the United States to once again have the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by the end of the decade,” said Alex David Sanchez, who works in Kanter’s office, in an email.

Kanter will also talk about her life at the ceremony.

“Dr. Kanter will share her own story and celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class,” Sanchez said.

Kanter wants graduating students to inspire family members to follow in their footsteps.

“She will call on graduates to inspire others in their family to also complete higher education in order to help move the country forward,” Sanchez said.

Kanter is the first community college leader to be appointed as the undersecretary. She served as the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which is one of the largest college districts in the country and has 45,000 students and a budget of over $400 million.

Kanter began her career as a teacher at alternative high schools in Massachusetts and New York. Later, she started the first program for students with learning disabilities at San Jose City College. She then served as the director, dean and vice chancellor for policy and research at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento. She was vice president of instruction and student services at SJCC. She was even president of De Anza College for 10 years.

Last year, Kanter was appointed to the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is a federal advisory committee to the State Department. UNESCO helps with the “worldwide humanitarian development and values by coordinating efforts and delivering expert advice on issues of education, science, communications and culture,” according to the commencement ceremony’s press release.

Kanter graduated from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She received her master’s degree in education, concentrating in clinical psychology and public practice, from Harvard University. Finally, Kanter has a doctorate in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco.

Berry, the other guest speaker, has been the director of OPM since 2009. He is “responsible for recruiting, hiring and setting benefits policies for 1.9 million federal civilian employees,” according to his bio.

He wants to build a workforce of people who mostly serve Americans.

He has worked for the federal government for more than 20 years.

Berry served under former President Bill Clinton as deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for law enforcement at the Department of the Treasury, where he was in direct authority for over 40 percent of the Federal law enforcement community. This includes the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF).

Berry later served as the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget at the Department of the Interior.

He also served director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as well as the director of the National Zoo.

Berry graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, earning a bachelor’s degree in government and politics. He received his master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University in 1981.

However, there are people who have never heard of the speakers.

“I’d rather … know who’s speaking. If I don’t know who they are, then what’s the point of them coming, and they’re supposed to be guest people,” said Chris Koshak, who works at the Nutwood Cafe. “I don’t really care.”

Berry will be speaking May 19, while Kanter will be speaking May 20. Both speeches will begin at 8 a.m. on the sports fields north of Titan Gym.

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