Alumnus Miguel Cardona Tapped to Be Biden’s Education Secretary

Miguel Cardona speaks at Neag School Educational Leadership Forum in 2017.
Four-time Neag School alum Miguel Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., ’12 ELP served as one of the 2017 Neag School of Education Educational Leadership Forum’s featured speakers. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Editor’s Note: The following announcement about alumnus Miguel Cardona was originally published on UConn Today.

Miguel Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., ’12 ELP is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be the country’s top education official. If confirmed by the Senate, this would mark the first time a University of Connecticut alum has held a Cabinet-level position in the White House.

“He will help us address systemic inequities, tackle the mental health crisis in our education system, give educators a well-deserved raise, ease the burden of education debt, and secure high quality, universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in the country,” Biden said in a statement issued late on Tuesday, Dec. 22. “As a lifelong champion of public education, he understands that our children are the kite strings that keep our national ambitions aloft — and that everything that will be possible for our country tomorrow will be thanks to the investments we make and the care that our educators and our schools deliver today.

“On the national stage, he will no doubt shine as an engaged and competent leader at a time when our schools are facing challenges like never before.”

— Dean Gladis Kersaint

Cardona, who currently serves as the Connecticut Commissioner of Education, has a long association with the Neag School of Education, earning four post-graduate degrees and certificates from the School while moving from teaching fourth grade in Meriden to his appointment by Gov. Ned Lamont to be the state’s education commissioner.

“I feel blessed to have had great learning opportunities at UConn over the last 20 years,” Cardona said in a 2017 interview. “The Neag School is a tremendous resource, not only as a school of education, but as partners as we work to improve education in Connecticut.”

Miguel Cardona.
Alumnus Miguel Cardona takes part in meetings at the UConn Storrs campus following the Neag School’s launch of the University Principal Preparation Initiative, a project supported by the Wallace Foundation. (Ryan Glista/Neag School)

Cardona’s ties with the Neag School and UConn go beyond earning degrees; he represented Meriden as a partner district on the Neag School Leadership Preparation Advisory Board; was an instructor in the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) for several years before becoming education commissioner; and was a guest instructor in an Executive Leadership Program course on school district leadership.

“We are beyond thrilled and extraordinarily proud that UConn alumnus Dr. Miguel Cardona has been nominated to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education,” says UConn President Thomas C. Katsouleas. “As a product of Meriden schools who earned his master’s degree and a doctorate from UConn’s Neag School of Education, Dr. Cardona exemplifies the very best of public education in our state, which he has served as a classroom teacher, a principal, and as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education. We are very proud of his ties to UConn, not only as a recipient of multiple degrees, but as an adjunct instructor in the Neag School of Education and an advocate for his students and colleagues.”

“His nomination to serve as the country’s top educational leader is an amazing credit to Dr. Cardona’s talent, commitment, and passion, as well as a tribute to public education in Connecticut. On behalf of our entire University, we wish him the greatest success,” says Katsouleas.

The news that Cardona will be Biden’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Education was greeted with excitement throughout the Neag School of Education.

“A four-time alumnus of UConn’s Neag School of Education, Miguel has continued to contribute his time and energy to our students, faculty, and alumni, including having served as an adjunct faculty member, shared his expertise as part of educational leadership program initiatives, and graciously volunteered to take part in our community events,” says Dean Gladis Kersaint. “On the national stage, he will no doubt shine as an engaged and competent leader at a time when our schools are facing challenges like never before.”

Miguel Cardona.
Cardona gives his acceptance speech for Outstanding Principal during the 2013 Neag School Alumni Awards. (Tom Hurlbut/Neag School)

“I can’t imagine a better choice for Secretary of Education,” says Dean Emeritus Richard Schwab.  “As a graduate student, he always took his academic work seriously so he could be the best educator he could be.  As an alum, he has helped our university-based programs stay deeply connected with local schools and has helped us actively recruit the brightest and best from all backgrounds to our teacher education programs.  He is also one of our most respected adjunct professors helping the next generation of school leaders prepare to be effective building principals.”

Richard M. Gonzales, Director of Educational Leadership Preparation Programs, says Cardona’s skills as an educator and administrator stem from deeply rooted personal qualities and commitments.

“Miguel is first and foremost a family man. Who he is as an educator and leader stems from his parents’ success story of migrating to Connecticut from Puerto Rico and being a husband and father to his family,” Gonzales says.

“All public educators can take pride knowing he is someone who knows and understands our nation’s educational needs and will work tirelessly to improve our system.”

— Richard Schwab, Dean Emeritus

Even after becoming Connecticut’s education commissioner, Gonzales says, Cardona still made it a point to participate in the Neag School’s work with educators across the state.

“We are fortunate to have enjoyed Dr. Cardona’s service as an adjunct instructor in UCAPP for a few years before his appointment as Commissioner of Education,” Gonzales says. “His passions for education and social justice were evident in his teaching. His service to the program didn’t end at the close of a course or even when he became Commissioner. True to his word, he has continued to this day to answer calls and texts for support from me and his former students.”

“Miguel’s success is also a testament to our great educators in the state of Connecticut,” Schwab says.  “A product of our public schools and great universities.  All public educators can take pride knowing he is someone who knows and understands our nation’s educational needs and will work tirelessly to improve our system.”

Cardona’s nomination, like those of other Cabinet nominees, has to be approved by the U.S. Senate. Typically, many nominees go through the Senate vetting process, which includes committee hearings, prior to Inauguration Day, but there is no set timetable for when nominations are voted on.

Watch Miguel Cardona talk about what drew him to the Neag School of Education.

Watch President-Elect Joe Biden introduce Cardona as his choice for secretary of education.