Michelle Asha Cooper to Deliver 2024 College of Education Commencement Address

Alyssa Leventhal, Yi Feng, and Madeline Martinucci to Share Stage as Student Speakers
240510_Michelle Asha Cooper

Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. ’06, vice president for public policy and executive director at Lumina Foundation, has been named the 2024 College of Education Commencement speaker. She will give the keynote address on Tuesday, May 21 in the Reckord Armory at 9 a.m. for the undergraduate ceremony and 12 p.m. for the graduate ceremony. 

"We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Cooper as we celebrate this momentous occasion with our graduating students and their families," said College of Education Dean Kimberly Griffin. "Her passion to promote education equity and her ongoing support for every student's success will serve as inspiration to all and encourage EdTerps to reflect on their own potential to make a transformative impact in society."

Cooper is a former deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education who previously served as president and CEO of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) for more than 12 years. She has held leadership positions with the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the American Association of Colleges & Universities, The Council of Independent Colleges, and King’s College.


Cooper knows firsthand the transformative power of education and the vital importance of advancing racial and economic equity, and making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. She is among the nation’s most influential voices in championing access and success for all students in education.


"I am honored to be invited to address the Class of 2024 at the upcoming commencement ceremony," said Cooper. "My message aims to instill hope, offering guidance as they embark on their professional and personal paths with excellence."


Cooper will be joined on stage with undergraduate student speaker Alyssa Leventhal ’24 and graduate student speakers Yi Feng, Ph.D. ’23 and Madeline Martinucci, M.Ed. ’24.


Leventhal is graduating with a bachelor's degree in special and general elementary education. Throughout her time at the University of ſ, Leventhal has been actively engaged in various student organizations and extracurricular activities. She has served as a student ambassador and peer advisor for the college, as well as president of the Teacher Education Association of ſ Students. She was also a member of the Undergraduate Provost Student Advisory Council and a research assistant in the Early Childhood Interaction program.

Beyond College Park, Leventhal is actively engaged in community service initiatives through her participation in the Baltimore Hunger Project, and involvement with mentorship initiatives and tutoring programs for elementary school students. 

Leventhal's approach to education prioritizes inclusivity in the classroom. Through her internship experience and work as a substitute teacher in several Title I elementary schools, she has recognized the importance of ensuring that all students, particularly those from culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse backgrounds, feel acknowledged and valued. 


Feng is an assistant professor in quantitative psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. A first-generation college student, Feng graduated from the University of ſ with a doctorate degree in quantitative methodology: measurement and statistics. During her time at ſ, she participated in several student organizations, serving as the president of the Graduate Student Organization UPASS. In this role, she organized social events, peer mentorship programs, and professional development workshops for fellow peers. 

Feng’s time at ſ taught her how transformative education can mark profound change in people’s lives, and despite working thousands of miles away from the university, she continues to carry the spirit of the College of Education everywhere she goes as she strives to see the potential in every student and to help them learn, grow, and succeed.  


Martinucci is graduating with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in secondary social studies from the Integrated Masters and Teacher Certification Program. A native of the San Francisco Bay area, Martinucci graduated last May with a bachelor's degree in history and minors in secondary education and Spanish. After graduation, Martinnucci will begin her career as a Social Studies teacher in ſ.