President Barack Obama nominated two Trinity graduates to key posts in the new administration: Susan Flood Burk ’76 to be Special Representative of the President, with the rank of Ambassador at the U.S. Department of State, and M. Patricia Smith ’74, to be Solicitor at the U.S. Department of Labor; Smith will be the third highest ranking official in the federal agency. Both nominations must be confirmed by the Senate. Earlier in March, President Obama nominated Trinity graduate and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In nominating Burk, along with several other key nominations, President Obama said, “These individuals bring the breadth and depth of experience to do the important work of keeping America safe and secure and strengthening our economy. I am grateful for their decision to serve, and am confident that they will be valuable additions to my administration as we work to tackle the enormous challenges ahead of us.”
Susan Burk currently serves as the deputy coordinator for homeland security in the Office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism at the Department of State where she has had responsibility for coordinating the department’s handling of cross-cutting policy issues related to homeland security and counterterrorism. Prior to assuming her present duties, Burk was the Department of State’s principal deputy assistant secretary for nonproliferation controls in the Bureau of Nonproliferation where she led efforts to respond to and prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional weapons. She also served in various positions in the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency where she focused on regional and functional nuclear nonproliferation issues. She led U.S. preparations for the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference. At Trinity, Burk majored in political science and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a master of arts in government from Georgetown University.
M. Patricia Smith, nominee for Solicitor, U.S. Department of Labor, is currently the commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor and co-chair of New York State’s Economic Security sub-cabinet. She oversees the New York State Department of Labor with an annual budget of $4 billion, with 3,700 employees in 80 offices throughout the state and serves as advisor to Governor David Paterson on workforce and labor policy. Previously, she served for 20 years in the Labor Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the last eight as bureau chief. Her responsibilities included representing the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board in all state and federal litigation and advancing an affirmative docket enforcing New York’s labor laws. In 1996 and 1997, she argued and won two Employment Retirement Income Security Act cases before the United States Supreme Court. Before joining the Office of the Attorney General, she worked for a variety of legal services organizations representing unemployment claimants, minimum wage workers, workers in federal job training programs and job seekers. She majored in political science at Trinity and graduated with honors. She earned her law degree, cum laude, from the New York University School of Law.
In nominating Smith, along with several other key nominations, President Obama said, “I’m confident that these distinguished individuals will use their unique talents to help us take on the important work that lies ahead. Each of the people announced today brings a commitment to public service and a dedication to meeting the goals of my administration and I look forward to working with them in the months ahead.”