She is Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of education today — but Brenda Dann-Messier has worked to improve access to higher education since her days as a JWU graduate student. Role with US Education Department Now, Dann-Messier is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s principal advisor on higher-education issues. She runs the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), which oversees the administration of 7 grant programs totaling about $1.7 billion annually. She also manages 60+ postsecondary education programs, totaling nearly $2.5 billion annually. Lifelong Career in Education Previously, Dann-Messier served as president of Dorcas Place Adult & Family Learning Center in Providence. The center provides educational and job placement services, college preparatory classes and family literacy programs for welfare recipients. Dann-Messier also worked at the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University. Keynote Speaker at RI Economic Summit Dann-Messier recently returned to RI to address strategies for strengthening the state’s workforce, from job training needs to the role of career and technical education.