Skip to main content

April 2012

U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary to Address SCU’s Graduate Students at Commencement June 15

The woman President Obama is counting on to help educate America's workforce of the next decade, Martha J. Kanter, will address SCU's graduate students at their 2012 commencement ceremony Friday, June 15.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 13, 2012 —The woman President Obama is counting on to help educate America’s workforce of the next decade, Martha J. Kanter, will address SCU’s graduate students at their 2012 commencement ceremony Friday, June 15. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the University’s Leavey Events Center.

Kanter is the under secretary of education for the U.S. Department of Education, nominated to the post by President Obama and confirmed in 2009. She was formerly chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which serves more than 45,000 students with a budget of about $400 million. 

In attendance will be about 600 students receiving advanced degrees from the School of Engineering, the Leavey School of Business, the School of Education and Counseling Psychology, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

In her role at the DOE, Kanter oversees policies, programs, and activities related to postsecondary education, adult and career-technical education, and federal student aid. She also oversees five White House initiatives: for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders; Hispanics; historically black colleges and universities; tribal colleges and universities; and faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.

President Obama has tasked her with implementing his goal for the U.S. to have “the best-educated, most-competitive workforce in the world by 2020,” as measured by the proportion of college graduates over the next decade. She and her team are also working to implement President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative, designed to bolster community college attendance, access, affordability, and quality.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Under Secretary Kanter to SCU,” said Michael Engh, S.J., president of Santa Clara University. “She has dedicated her career to improving both access and quality of higher education—goals that have also been part of Santa Clara since its founding.”

In 1977, after serving as an alternative high school teacher in Massachusetts and New York, Kanter established the first program for students with learning disabilities at San Jose City College. She subsequently served as a director, dean, and vice chancellor for policy and research for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento. In 1990, she returned to San Jose City College as vice president of instruction and student services until she was named president of De Anza College in 1993, serving in this position for a decade until her appointment as chancellor.

She is the first community college leader to serve in the under secretary position.

Since taking her post, Under Secretary Kanter has overseen the successful scaling up of the Direct Student Loan program, resulting in a 50 percent increase in college enrollment of Pell Grant recipients, to nine million students. She works closely with postsecondary partners across the nation to boost American innovation and competitiveness, improve the quality of teachers and adult education, and modernize career-technical education.

Her many awards and honors over the years include being named Woman of the Year by the 24th Assembly District; the Excellence in Education award from the National Organization for Women's California chapter; the John W. Gardner Leadership Award from the American Leadership Forum-Silicon Valley, and Woman of the Year for Santa Clara County by the American Association of University Women.

In 2011, Kanter was appointed to the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a federal advisory committee to the Department of State that supports worldwide humanitarian development and values.

Under Secretary Kanter holds a doctorate in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco; a master’s degree in education with a concentration in clinical psychology and public practice from Harvard University, and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Brandeis University. She holds honorary degrees from Palo Alto University, Chatham University, Lakes Region Community College, Moraine Valley Community College, and the Alamo Colleges.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121


commencement,graduate-commencement,Martha Kanter