Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2002Kellogg School of Management
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Michael Muñoz '95

Alumni Profile: Michael Muñoz '95

An advocate for children
Michael Muñoz ’95 draws on his business leadership to help strengthen the Department of Education

About a year after passage of No Child Left Behind, a congressional bill promising a new era of accountability in U.S. public education, Michael A. Muñoz ’95, whose own story has Hollywood elements to it, realizes he may be playing the role of a lifetime.

As deputy assistant secretary for performance improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, Muñoz is tasked with developing and implementing management systems to give the program, a top domestic priority for President George W. Bush, a chance to succeed.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Muñoz, a former Army officer who had built a successful consulting career in health care and other businesses, says he felt compelled to serve his country.

While weighing the opportunity at Education, a friend told him: “They’re trying to do a turnaround at Ed, and, if you’re successful, you’ll affect every child in the country.”

Among the law’s provisions are stipulations that schools put a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom by 2006, and annually test students in grades three through eight for progress in reading and math.

Muñoz knows firsthand the importance of education. Born in East Los Angeles, he was orphaned at age 9. His older brother David, David’s wife Win and his grandmother Antonia Peralez cared for him.

When David was accepted at Harvard Medical School, the family moved to the Boston area, where, in his first winter, Michael played goalie in neighborhood ice hockey games because he didn’t know how to skate.

“I lost four teeth,” he says. “For Christmas, I got a face mask.”

He returned to Los Angeles to finish high school, he says, but “I resisted the advice of my high school guidance counselor to pursue the automotive trades.”

Instead, he went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and served for four years.

A 1995 MBA graduate of Kellogg — with five majors — Muñoz says he learned importance of teamwork, “where you take a disparate group of people and create a single purpose.”

With a wide range of business experience — health care, environmental, retail, e-commerce, utility, investment banking and consumer products management — Muñoz responds well to new challenges.

A key part of his work at Education is the One-ED plan that seeks to create a unified department through a five-year strategic plan. Education has an operating budget of about $1.2 billion, which has been constant over the last five years,with about 5,000 employees.

“The work has increased as additional educational legislation has been passed,” he says. “Like everyone else we are being asked to do more with less. We have not increased our productivity at the same rate as the private sector. When you add this to the fact that 50 percent of our managers will be eligible to retire in the next five years, we know we have a problem.

“Our challenge is to create management systems that align every employee’s work with the President’s Management Agenda so that we deliver services to our nation’s children,” he says. “We have to make sure every dollar is used effectively.”

— Daniel Cattau

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University