Cancian nominated assistant secretary for children and families

Feb. 14, 2014

by Megan Costello

President Barack Obama has nominated Maria Cancian, an associate dean and professor in the College of Letters & Science, for assistant secretary for children and families (family support) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Maria Cancian

Maria Cancian

Cancian, the Letters & Science associate dean for fiscal initiatives and social sciences, and professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the School of Social Work, has served in top leadership roles across the university. Her research considers the relationship between public policies and changes in marriage, fertility, employment and family well-being.

Once confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Cancian will assist the Administration for Children and Families in administering more than 60 programs with a budget of more than $49 billion to promote the economic and social well being of families, children, individuals and communities.

"Maria is an outstanding administrator and scholar — she will bring this experience and leadership to Washington," said UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank. "I want to thank her for everything she has done for our campus and congratulate her on the honor of being selected to serve the American people."

In the College of Letters & Science, Cancian led new fiscal policy developments to strategically allocate the college's annual $350 million budget. She also directed the Institute for Research on Poverty from 2004-08 and served in state and national posts as a W.T. G¬rant Distinguished Fellow at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families in 2010, a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2001-02 and a visiting fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California in 1999.

"Maria is a remarkably capable, wonderful administrator, scholar and person," says Letters & Science Dean John Karl Scholz. "The college is losing great talent, but that loss is balanced by the gain to America."

Her ongoing research projects consider the implications of multiple partner fertility for family organization and policy, as well as the interactions of the incarceration, child welfare and child support systems. She is principal investigator, with Daniel R. Meyer, for the Child Support Research Agreement and the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration.

Cancian has been a faculty member at UW-Madison since 1993. She received a B.A. from Swarthmore College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Cancian also continues the university's legacy in health and human services. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (BS'63, JD'66) served as U.S. secretary of health and human services from 2001-05 under President George W. Bush and former UW Chancellor Donna Shalala served as U.S. secretary of health and human services from 1993-2001 under President Bill Clinton.