Under Secretary James Kvaal and IUN Chancellor Ken Iwama
Officials from the U.S. Department of Education — Under Secretary James Kvaal, Chief of Staff Melanie Muenzer (IUN graduate, 2005) and Confidential Assistant Jack Hurley — visited Indiana University Northwest Monday, January 23, 2023, meeting with students, administration and leadership, Chancellor Ken Iwama and others.
“We know an important meeting when we see it,” Iwama said. “… It means something to us. It means recognition of IU Northwest and Indiana University. It means recognition of you (the students), that the highest echelons of federal government want to talk to you and learn about you and your institution.”
Kvaal served in the White House under President Clinton and President Obama prior to his current role, where he leads the Department’s work on higher education, student financial aid and career and adult education.
“We have been working very hard on student loans and higher education, trying to make sure everyone can afford their debts, trying to make sure everyone has a fair opportunity of graduating and going on to a better life,” Kvaal said.
“When we do that kind of work, it’s very important to us that we hear the voices of students and we make sure that we understand, from their perspectives, the problems we’re trying to solve.”
Kvaal and his team — which includes Muenzer, who received her Master of Public Affairs degree from IU Northwest and spent years in the Department of Education under the Obama Administration — met with a diverse group of students representing Group Scholars, TRIO Student Support Services and Student Government Association, along with federal work-study employees and student employees in the STEM Center.
Federal funding has helped several Northwest campus programs, such as Transforming IU Northwest for Opportunities in STEM (TRIUNFOS) and Student Support Services. Together, the federal officials listened to IU Northwest students, who shared stories of their paths to college, why they chose the Northwest campus, their employment opportunities, future goals and more. One of those students, freshman nursing major and Gary resident A’Reya Davis discussed how thankful she was for the opportunities IU Northwest has already presented her, including the Group Scholars Program, chance to meet Kvaal and his team and more.
“I’m really glad I had this experience,” Davis said, “because if I didn’t go to school, I would have never been able to go to events like these and I’m really, really grateful.”
Following a conversation with students, Kvaal spent time with IU Northwest administration and leadership to discuss how the campus was using federal grants and funds.