Claremont McKenna College alums William Moses CM ’83 and Candace Valenzuela CM ’06 will now have the chance to leave an imprint in Washington: Both were recently appointed to positions within the Biden administration, joining Larry Andre CM ’83, who began in January as U.S. ambassador to Somalia.
The White House announced March 31 that Moses will serve on the Board of Advisors for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. An executive order issued by President Joseph Biden on Sept. 3, 2021 states that the administration wants to “strengthen the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to provide the highest-quality education, increase opportunities for these institutions to participate in and benefit from Federal programs, and ensure that HBCUs can continue to be engines of opportunity.”
The Board of Advisors for HBCUs will assist the administration in these goals. As manager of the Kresge Foundation’s Education Program and former director of the Watson Foundation, Moses brings insight to the federal government regarding the provision of continued educational opportunities for students from marginalized communities.
CMC played a major part in developing his career interests in expanding access to higher education, Moses said in an interview, stemming from an undergraduate class he took on the Holocaust.
When asked to relate the issues examined in the course to those in the current global state of affairs, Moses mentioned then-ongoing apartheid, which led him to pursue a Watson Fellowship in South Africa learning about the opposition movement. During his time abroad, Moses recalled asking an activist how he could help the struggle and being told to fight racism back home as well.
Prompted by this experience to pursue making opportunities in education more accessible to students of diverse backgrounds in the US, Moses went on to serve as the head director of the foundation that brought him abroad. Originally, he concentrated on helping colleges find and nominate students of color for the fellowship, before shifting his focus.
“It dawned on me that if I really wanted to get more students of color, I should go to colleges where students of color go to school,” Moses said, “and that’s when I first started looking at historically Black colleges.”
After his position at the Watson Foundation ended, Moses brought this interest in working with HBCUs to his role at the Kresge Foundation.
“So for the last twenty, 25 years, I’ve been first interested in and curious about HBCUs, and for a long time kind of a champion of their great work,” he said.
As he has yet to be sworn in, Moses said he only has a baseline understanding of what his role on the board of advisors will entail, but believes it will involve meeting with the other board members three to four times a year, which is one aspect of the job he said excites him the most.
“I care so much about historically Black colleges and universities, it’s just such a thrill to know that I’ll be serving with people who also care so much about them,” Moses said.
He brought up some of the leaders with whom he will work, including Lisa Jackson, a former head of the Environmental Protections Agency, Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University and actress and activist Taraji P. Henson.
In addition to his role as the managing director of the Kresge Foundation’s Education Program, Moses additionally serves as part of the leadership for College Promise, a non-profit founded to provide free community college for all Americans. This gives him some experience in the realm of serving on a commission, he said, but being on the HBCU Board of Advisors will be “another step.”
Despite his prominence in his field, Moses said he didn’t always know that this was where he wanted to end up.
“Go into the fields that you care about, and work on them and build expertise, but know that sometimes, the path will take you in a way you didn’t expect… as you get exposed to new ideas and new things,” he advised current students.
Valenzuela was appointed as the regional administrator for Region Six within the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs in March. Valenzuela’s accomplishments include fighting for faculty and staff while serving on her district’s school board, running for Congress in her district of Texas and working at Metrocrest Services, a nonprofit which addresses poverty in the Dallas area.
Valenzuela will act on behalf of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas in her role, leading one of ten HUD regions across the country. Valenzuela will ensure the department actively helps families in her region, and manage the operation of HUD’s field offices within her territory.