Warwick, RI—At a special meeting on March 27, 2017, the Council on Postsecondary Education named Brenda Dann-Messier, Ed.D., as Acting Commissioner of Postsecondary Education, following the announcement that Jim Purcell would step down and take a role in Alabama. She is expected to begin the role in early April.
Bill Foulkes, Chair of the Council on Postsecondary Education, commented: “We are fortunate to have Dr. Dann-Messier join our efforts at this critical time for higher education in Rhode Island. She has significant experience nationally, and, as a former member of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, knows Rhode Island’s issues. The Council felt confident that she would be able to provide leadership immediately.”
On her appointment, Dann-Messier said: “I am looking forward to working with the Council and the institutions to move forward with the exciting initiatives already underway, including the RI Promise Scholarship, dual and concurrent enrollment, and the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center.”
Dann-Messier is a nationally recognized education consultant, who has spent her career developing and implementing policies that promote student success and develop the workforce at every level. Under President Obama, she served as Assistant Secretary of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, where she led the Department of Education's efforts in adult education and career and technical education and helped shape the administration’s policies on community colleges and correctional education. In 2013, Dann-Messier was named Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. She currently consults with Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), helping states develop integrated pathways for college- and career-readiness, and she is on the faculty of Johnson & Wales University.
Dann-Messier is an alumna of Rhode Island College, earning a B.A. in history and secondary education, as well as a master’s in instructional technology. She then went on to earn an Ed.D. in educational leadership from Johnson & Wales University. Dann-Messier began her career in higher education at the Community College of Rhode Island, before taking a position in the Education Department of the Clinton administration and later serving as President of Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center in Providence. She served on the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education from 2006 to 2009 and on the Board of the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority from 2007 to 2009.