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UD alumni lead Delaware’s civil service departments

Photos by Maria Errico, Evan Krape and courtesy of Claire DeMatteis

As a publicly funded, sea, and space institution, the University of Delaware is committed to the intellectual, cultural, and ethical development of its undergraduate and graduate students as citizens, scholars and professionals. UD graduates often become leaders within the state, known for their creativity, integrity, and dedication to service.

In 2022, two UD alumni, both known for their commitment to public service, joined several other Blue Hens in Delaware Gov. John Carney’s cabinet. Claire DeMatteis, class of 1987, alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences and member of the UD board of trustees, was appointed secretary of the Delaware Department of Human Resources, and Mark Holodick, who received his doctorate in 2008 in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), was appointed secretary of the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) in January 2022.

“Both Claire and Mark will bring years of experience and commitment to public service that will benefit all Delawarens,” Carney said in a press release. “I look forward to continuing to work with these two in their new roles.”

Dedication to public service

DeMatteis and Holodick share a commitment to public service exemplified by their impactful careers in government and education. Prior to her appointment in January, DeMatteis served as special assistant to Carney, overseeing the management of federal stimulus funds received by the state of Delaware and assisting with crisis management projects across state government.

DeMatteis also served as commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction (DDOC), special assistant to Governor Carney overseeing reforms to Delaware’s corrections system, and serving in a senior position with the Delaware Department of Labor.

Among other accomplishments, DeMatteis worked with the DDOC team to implement over 40 reforms over a 12-month period to ensure safety in Delaware correctional facilities. These reforms included strengthening safety and security in correctional facilities, improving officer training, expanding opportunities for inmates to receive education, vocational training skills, and treatment for related disorders. to substance use, a contract with a new medical and behavioral care provider, improved training and equipment for probation. accountability and stronger diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“It’s no surprise that Claire has worked for a U.S. Representative, a U.S. Senator, and a Governor of Delaware,” said Joseph A. Pika, James R. Soles Professor Emeritus at the Joseph R. Institute of Public Administration. Biden, Jr., School of Public Policy and Administration. “She combines bubbly enthusiasm and icy competence, which makes her extraordinarily effective at working with people and completing difficult tasks. She is always looking for new challenges, just as she did as an undergraduate student. when she participated in a nationwide competition among college students to interview the US President – ​​out of thousands of applicants, she finished in the top 10. She was an excellent student and is now an excellent ambassador for UD.

Prior to his appointment in January, Holodick served as Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, overseeing 16 schools with more than 10,000 students, and later as Senior Leadership Specialist with CEHD’s Delaware Academy of School Leadership (DASL).

His work at DASL focused on supporting Delaware students by supporting their academic leaders. During his tenure, he trained superintendents, directors, and assistant directors, was responsible for the DASL director preparation program, supported district teams in developing director pipeline programs, and assisted two school boards to seek principals.

Holodick was also instrumental in the development and implementation of the Governor’s Institute for School Leadership at UD, a collaborative effort between UD and the DDOE, the governor’s office, and the districts of the Delaware to provide professional learning and mentorship to experienced assistant managers and superintendents.

The importance of relationships

For DeMatteis and Holodick, building strong, trusting relationships with their colleagues is central to their public service careers. DeMatteis said she defines herself as a government leader through the relationships she builds over time.

“In my experience, being an effective government leader requires building and maintaining strong relationships,” DeMatteis said. “I have held federal and state government positions since my sophomore year at UD, working for the Senate Majority Leader. These relationships and the priority given to relationships before tasks have allowed me to achieve results in some difficult assignments, both in the public and private sectors. »

She also pointed out that the relationships she built at DDOC were integral to her success in implementing the many security and educational reforms in Delaware’s correctional facilities.

“By stepping into a very male-dominated culture, focusing on building relationships, I gained the trust of correctional leaders and officers, and we implemented the necessary reforms that reshaped the correctional system. of Delaware,” DeMatteis said.

Holodick has also identified the ability to build trust, communicate empathy, and foster relationships as some of his core values.

“First and foremost, you have to focus on building relationships and building trust with your colleagues,” Holodick said. “When moving into a new leadership position, it is essential to spend a lot of time observing operations within the organization and seeking feedback from all stakeholders on what is working and what needs attention. particular. It is important to adapt, to be ready to listen to various points of view and to make the necessary changes based on what you observe and hear. You should also show empathy and treat all of your colleagues with respect and dignity. This allows us to build a strong team to focus on our essential work: strengthening opportunities and outcomes for all students and families. »

Jackie Wilson, director of DASL and assistant professor in the School of Education (SOE) at CEHD, recognizes these traits in Holodick, predicting that they will help her in her job as secretary of education.

“Mark’s ability to bring people together to collaborate on tough issues will be very important as he tackles the challenges of improving Delaware’s underperforming schools,” Wilson said. “Mark’s experiences as a secondary school principal and superintendent give him credibility when working with various stakeholders who are looking for someone with experience in leading schools and school systems, which is a complex job.”

The value of a DU training

DeMatteis and Holodick also share fond memories of their time as students at UD, both noting that their UD degrees supported their careers in public service. DeMatteis earned undergraduate degrees in communications, political science and journalism. She credits her teachers with helping her develop critical skills in writing, self-discipline and creativity.

“My teachers were top notch, and many are still friends today,” DeMatteis said. “I enjoy being a good writer, and it’s thanks to the exceptional teachers I had at UD. The discipline, creativity, curiosity, innovation, and relationships that I learned and built at UD have served me well throughout my career.”

As a member of the UD Board of Trustees and an assistant instructor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies, DeMatteis continues to serve UD, mentor UD students, and actively participate in the UD Alumni Association.

Holodick, a graduate of the School of Education’s doctoral program in instructional leadership, also highlights UD’s outstanding faculty. His doctoral project on special education also directly supported his work as a secondary school principal.

“My advisor, Bob Hampel, a professor at SOE, was instrumental in helping me select a topic directly related to my job as principal at Concord High School,” Holodick said.

“My doctoral work on inclusive classroom programs dramatically changed the way we approach everything from planning to analyzing data and looking through an equity lens. I’m proud to say that our approach to our timetable development has changed dramatically and that the needs of all students, not just some, have been taken into account when planning.

DeMatteis and Holodick join several other UD alumni in the Governor’s Cabinet, including Michael Berry (Arts and Sciences, 1989), major general in the Delaware National Guard; Jeffrey W. Bullock (Arts and Sciences, 1982), Secretary of the Department of State; Jason Clarke (Arts and Sciences, 2000), director of information in the Department of Information and Technology; Shawn Garvin (Arts and Sciences, 1982), Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Molly Magarik (Arts and Sciences, 2002), secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services; and Nicole Majeski (Arts and Sciences, 2001), Secretary of the Ministry of Transport.