Juan Sepúlveda was appointed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on May 19, 2009, to the position of director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. In this capacity, he is responsible for directing the efforts of the White House Initiative in engaging Hispanic students, parents, families, organizations, and anyone working in or with the education system in communities nationwide as active participants in improving the academic achievement of Hispanic Americans.
For the last 20 years, Sepúlveda has been a senior executive, strategist, and advocate in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, with a focus in community development, capacity building, and transformational management. Prior to assuming his current position at the Department, Sepúlveda was president of The Common Enterprise (TCE), which he founded in 1995 as an outgrowth of a national Rockefeller Foundation initiative to help build stronger communities across America by making nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, governments, businesses, and communities more effective as they tackled significant critical social issues in more than 35 states and nationally.
Since 2004, Sepúlveda has been the host of the weekly KLRN public television series “Conversations,” focused on the people and organizations making positive and innovative contributions to communities in San Antonio, South Texas, and the U.S.
After participating as one of 17 Americans in the French-American Foundation’s Young Leaders program in 1998, he was selected in 1999 to be part of an American study group to examine the French early childhood education system. The focus of the study was the role of public education for two- to five-year-olds in France and the implications of the French successes for the U.S.
Under the auspices of the Pew Charitable Trusts, Sepúlveda was selected in 1997 as one of a dozen team members to help run the first-ever Bipartisan Congressional Retreat for the 105th Congress, working with Members to develop more civil and productive collaborative efforts. Their work resulted in the Hershey Accords, which implemented new Congressional working rules and regulations.
From 1992 to 1995, he worked with the Rockefeller Foundation, where he helped establish Democracy Roundtables, a national network of community-building efforts to encourage citizens to go beyond traditional ideological and partisan perspectives to accomplish common goals. Through the development of a strategic partnership with Trinity University, he also led local efforts aimed at high school education reform specifically focused on strengthening ties between teachers, students, parents, and community members. Working with six public high schools from six different school districts, Sepúlveda helped create two citywide leadership programs in San Antonio, organized Putting Kids First, a series of School Board Candidate Citizen Forums, and convened innovation and reform conversations between school-community teams and national, leading education experts. He also worked closely with the International School of the Americas, a nationally and internationally recognized public charter high school.
Having grown up in a working class Mexican-American neighborhood in Topeka, Kan., Sepúlveda has been involved in community organizing and politics since the age of 16, when he was the first high school student hired to work for the Kansas Secretary of State. He also worked closely with the late Willie Velasquez and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and permanently moved to San Antonio, Texas, in the late 1980s, making it his new home. He completed a political biography of Willie and an organizational history of Southwest Voter, The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez—Su Voto Es Su Voz (Your Vote is Your Voice), published by Arte Público Press in May 2004.
Sepúlveda has served on numerous U.S. delegations, and national and local boards, such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Center for Policy Alternatives, the Communications Consortium Media Center, the National Civic League, and MDC, and has often been a guest lecturer at universities around the country. He also co-founded the San Antonio Latino-Jewish Dialogue Group. In November 2002, he was named the first recipient of the Hobby Visionary Award by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an organization committed to improving public policies and private practices that influence the economic and social conditions and prospects of individuals, families, and communities in Texas. Named after former Texas Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Texas history, the award recognizes outstanding leadership, vision, and commitment to the challenges faced by low- and moderate-income Americans. Sepúlveda received a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. The third Latino ever to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, he graduated with a combined degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from the Queens College of Oxford University. He received a J.D. from Stanford University and has been admitted to the Texas Bar.
He is married to Teresa Niño, director of external affairs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services. They have two children, Michael and Victoria, both in college and both alumni of City Year—Chicago. Juan and Teresa currently live in Washington, D.C., but San Antonio, Texas, remains home for them.