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Dr. Mary Alice


Dr. Mary Alice McCarthy is founder and director of the Center on Education and Labor, a policy development and research center in New America, a think tank and civic enterprise that seeks new approaches to American politics, prosperity, and purpose in the Digital Age. Under her direction, the Center analyzes and advocates for policies that better connect learning and economic opportunity. The Center has a dual focus — on education policies that shape the quality of postsecondary education and on employment policies shape the quality of jobs.
Prior to joining New America, Dr. McCarthy worked at both the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, where she drafted policy guidance and led a variety of technical assistance initiatives related to community colleges, career pathways, credentialing, and competency-based education. She has extensive international experience, including collaborations with the OECD’s Directorate for Education and Skills and the International Pathways Colloquium.
Dr. McCarthy earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina. Her doctoral research examined the impact of neoliberal economic reforms on the Chilean labor movement. Dr. McCarthy also has an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Ph.D. | UNC-Chapel Hill
M.P.A. | Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
B.A. | University of Colorado-Boulder

Past Experience
Senior Analyst | Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
Senior Analyst| Office of Career Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
Executive Director | Riecken Foundation
Director of Training | World Library Partnership

How has education changed your life/your family?
When I was a sophomore in high school and on a trip to a local botanical garden, a young women asked if she could share my bench on the bus. I was surprised to see someone I did not know and even more surprised by her foreign accent. Her name was Uta, she had recently arrived from Germany, and she would be spending the next year at my high school as an exchange student. We spent the ride chatting and by the time we had reached our destination I had decided to follow her example. Two years later, I spent my senior year of high school in a small town in northwestern Spain, becoming fluent in Spanish and forever changed by an experience that opened my mind to a world full of different cultures, perspectives, and people. And it all started at school.

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