Alum Moves From the White House to Harvard

Alum Moves From the White House to Harvard

Matt Shiraki '06 is pursuing a master`s degree in public policy at Harvard after working in the White House.

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

August 3, 2009

It’s not a bad start for a Cedarville University grad — working for the White House right out of college, then landing a job with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. But Matt Shiraki’s ’06 career is just getting started. This fall, he’ll be pursuing his master’s degree in public policy, with a concentration on health care policy, at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“My experience in Washington really validated my decision to pursue public service,” Shiraki says. “I cannot think of a better opportunity to further prepare me than studying at the Kennedy School. In addition to gaining valuable analytical skills, I believe the training will equip me to become a better advocate for issues I care deeply about, such as making educational opportunities and quality health care more affordable and accessible to all.”

Surprisingly, it’s only been a little over three years since Shiraki graduated from Cedarville with a degree in social studies education. But it was clear from early on that he was interested in politics. As a student, Shiraki interned for two U.S. senators, led the school’s College Republicans chapter, and was elected president of the Student Government Association.

Shiraki left the University with his diploma and a job at the White House during the George W. Bush presidency, where he worked in the offices of intergovernmental affairs, presidential correspondence, and strategic initiatives. One highlight was serving as White House Liaison to Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Shiraki finished his time in the administration as assistant to the deputy secretary and director of external affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he spearheaded a department-wide initiative to host a series of conferences on biomedical and pharmaceutical innovation.

Now, he feels ready to take the next step at the Kennedy School. And Shiraki credits Cedarville for preparing him for his work and studies and for developing in him a desire to influence the lives of others. “The University not only encouraged me to serve,” he says, “but also provided life-changing opportunities to do so, whether it be helping with hurricane recovery efforts in New Orleans, assisting with missions work in Honduras, or tutoring kids at the elementary school across the street.”

Dr. Thomas Mach, a professor of history at Cedarville, considers Shiraki one of the University’s “bright lights.” “It always seemed like Matt was ready to move on to the next great adventure in his life,” he adds. “He set his sights high and has consistently pursued them. As a result, he’s been very successful. I think he’s an example to all Cedarville students of the type of impact they can have when they leave here and the opportunities that are available to them.”