UW Major: Social Work
Director, Office of Community Services, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
When Lanikque Howard was growing up, her mom worked two jobs but was never able to get ahead. Howard wanted to help families like hers, so she became the first in her family to graduate from high school and went on to graduate studies in social work at UW–Madison.
Howard joined the UW’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) as a research assistant and worked closely with professor and then-IRP director Maria Cancian. When President Barack Obama tapped Cancian to lead the Administration for Children and Families, she chose Howard as a political appointee.
Later, Howard became the senior programs administrator at First 5 Alameda County, a public initiative to help children aged newborn to five years. In 2020, the Biden Administration asked her to return to federal service as the director of the Office of Community Services (OCS). “Every day, I see the vital role our programs play in helping to address persistent poverty and inequities. I am honored to serve in this role, and I will not waver in my commitment to making a tangible difference in the lives of the people we serve,” she says.
During her tenure, the OCS budget has doubled and she has expanded its antipoverty programs from five to nine. Howard now provides leadership and oversight in distributing approximately $12 billion to support a wide range of initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty.