About the Commissioner

Brenda Dann-Messier


Brenda Dann-Messier, Ed.D., was appointed Commissioner of Postsecondary Education in August 2017, having previously served as Acting Commissioner from April 2017. Throughout her career, Dr. Dann-Messier has focused on promoting student success and developing the workforce at every level. Under President Obama, she served as Assistant Secretary of Education of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (2009-2014). 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, and in 2013, she was named Acting US Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. Dr. Dann-Messier has also worked as an education consultant, most recently with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), where she helped states develop integrated pathways for college- and career-readiness.

Dr. Dann-Messier is an alumna of Rhode Island College, where she earned a B.A. in history and secondary education, as well as a master’s in instructional technology. She went on to earn an Ed.D. in educational leadership from Johnson & Wales University. Dr. Dann-Messier began her career in higher education at Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island, before taking a position in the US Department of Education during 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.