On Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021, the Biden Administration appointed CofC alumna Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper to the position of deputy assistant secretary for postsecondary education. She will serve as acting assistant secretary, according to reports by Inside Higher Ed and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Cooper is a Charleston native, graduating from Burke High School and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Charleston. During her time at the College of Charleston, she was also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. After graduating from CofC, Cooper earned a master’s degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Cooper returned to the College of Charleston in 2016 as the recipient of the CofC Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award and again in 2017 as a featured Winter Convocation speaker.

Prior to her appointment, Cooper had been the acting president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy since 2008. The Institute for Higher Education Policy, or IHEP, is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization “committed to improving college access and success in higher education for all students, with a special focus on underserved populations,” as described on their website. The organization runs out of Washington, D.C., researching policies and practices to address the nation’s major issues in education. IHEP’s new interim president, Mamie Voight, said on behalf of the organization, “We are thrilled to see Dr. Cooper bring her equity-centered and student-ready mindset to her new role in the Biden-Harris administration and are eager to witness the transformative change she will bring to our nation’s postsecondary policies.” 

Before assuming her role at IHEP, Cooper held various leadership positions in the field of education. Dr. Cooper served as deputy director of the U.S. Education Department’s Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance; was a program associate at the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives from 2001-2004; and worked with the Council for Independent Colleges. Among Cooper’s many accolades, she received the Aspen Institute Presidential Fellowship in 2016, the Excellence in Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, and was named one of 25 up-and-coming higher education leaders to watch by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine. In 2016, Cooper co-authored and published her first book, Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success.

The College of Charleston English Department is proud to support Dr. Cooper in her new position. We look forward to seeing the changes that Cooper will bring to nationwide education for the advancement of equity and support for all students. Dr. Cooper serves as a role model to current and future CofC Cougars!