University to Government and Back Again
Alta Charo, Roberta Gassman and Jo Handelsman
- What were you doing before your government service?
- What lead you to go there?
- What did you do there?
- What lead to your return to UW and academic life?
- What experience did you take from your faculty life that benefited your government service?
- What did you learn in your government role that is now influencing your academic life?
R. Alta Charo (AB biology, Harvard 1979; JD law, Columbia 1982) is the Sheldon B. Lubar Distinguished Research Chair and Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin. Her previous employment includes the congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the US Agency for International Development. She served on President Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and was a member of President Obama's HHS transition team, followed by two years as a senior policy analyst at the FDA during his administation. Charo is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the IOM), where she co-chaired the committee on guidelines for embryonic stem cell research and on human genome editing. At present she co-chairs the Academies' Regenerative Medicine Forum, and is a member of ethics advisory committees on synthetic biology, gene drive and neuroscience at DOD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Charo is a fan of Star Trek and Jane Austen, in equal measure.
From 2011 and until returning to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work as a Senior Fellow in 2013, Roberta Gassman served in the administration of President Barack Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training in the United States Department of Labor. Gassman represented the Department and Administration before diverse national audiences and oversaw major national programs and Senior Executive Service administrators within the Department’s Employment and Training Administration. The programs she led included two first started in Wisconsin, Unemployment Insurance and Registered Apprenticeship.
Gassman is also Wisconsin’s longest serving labor secretary, having served in the Cabinet of Governor Jim Doyle as Secretary of Workforce Development from 2003 through the beginning of 2011. In that role she led over 1600 employees in strengthening Wisconsin’s workforce, providing training, employment and dislocated worker services, working with employers to fill jobs, enforcing workers’ rights, and administering Unemployment Insurance, Registered Apprenticeship and Worker’s Compensation.
As a Senior Fellow on the UW campus, Gassman currently teaches graduate students on macro practice and public management. She has worked as a social worker with the elderly and teens and has held additional top leadership positions in state, city and county government and in the private sector. She has served with two Wisconsin governors, a mayor, a county executive, as a senior bank vice president and as the president of her own public affairs and communications firm.
She earned her B.A. in social work, with distinction, and her M.S.S.W. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has won many Wisconsin public service and professional awards, including being honored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work with its “2010 Distinguished Alumni Award,” which included the establishment of the “Roberta Gassman School of Social Work Opportunities Fund” and the “Roberta Gassman Distinguished Lecture Series.” She has been named a “Woman of Distinction” by the YWCA and among “Madison’s 25 Most Influential” and “Madison’s Top 100 Women” by Madison Magazine. Gassman has held numerous national and state professional and community leadership roles and is an elected member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, the Overture Center Foundation Board of Directors, the Edgewood College Board of Trustees, the Madison Community Foundation Board of Governors and the Board of Visitors for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work. She is also a member of the Downtown Rotary Club of Madison and TEMPO and previously served as President of the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission.
Gassman lives in Madison with her husband, attorney Lester Pines, and they have two grown daughters, Anna Gassman-Pines, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, and Jenny Gassman-Pines, an attorney in private practice in Minneapolis, and three grandchildren.
Dr. Jo Handelsman is the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her previous role, she was appointed by former President Barack Obama as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) where she served for three years until January 2017. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Molecular Biology and has since authored over 100 papers, 30 editorials and 3 books. She is responsible for groundbreaking studies in microbial communication and work in the field of metagenomics. Notably, in 2011, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama and in 2012, Nature named her one of “ten people who mattered this year” for her research on gender bias in science.
More information coming soon!