Owensboro native appointed to Biden-Harris Administration

May 21, 2023 | 12:10 am

Updated May 20, 2023 | 10:27 pm

Wesley Whistle was raised in the small farm community of Panther, just miles outside of Owensboro. Earlier this year, he was appointed to serve in the Biden-Harris Administration as Special Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary.

Inside the department’s organizational structure, the Under Secretary coordinates policies, programs, and activities related to vocational and adult education, postsecondary education, college grant aid, and the Federal Student Aid. The Under Secretary oversees the Office of Postsecondary Education, the office of Federal Student Aid, and the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

In this role, Whistle represents and advises the Under Secretary on key policy issues and enforcement conversations across the Department and leads speechwriting for the Under Secretary. He also leads policy development on a range of higher education accountability issues, including coordinating with other offices at the Department and the White House and designing/drafting policy solutions.

“While my focus is on accountability, I also work on student loan issues and, given our office’s position, I’m engaged on a variety of other areas including the implementation of FAFSA simplification and the Department’s student success work,” he said.

Whistle said he always envisioned himself living and working in Washington, D.C.

“When I was a student at West Louisville Elementary School, my social studies teacher, Lois Kuegel, made government and history really interesting to me and she brought our class to DC to see President Bush get inaugurated and I fell in love with the city,” he said. “That really stuck with me and led me to study political science at Kentucky Wesleyan College. While I was a student there, I worked at the Kentucky state legislature for a legislative session and knew I wanted to work in the public policy arena which.

That resulted in Whistle going to the Martin School of Public Policy at the University of Kentucky for graduate school, where he completed my Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in education policy.

“Teachers like Mrs. Kuegel, Melissa Jarboe at Apollo, and many, many others really had a big impact on me,” he said. “But I also know education, particularly, higher education, is one of the surest ways to provide someone with the opportunity of a better life. And I think higher education is a truly meaningful experience.”

Whistle said not only does it give someone specialized skills and knowledge to get a good job, it is a time where students get to explore new things, focus on a subject they are interested in, and often when they really find themselves.

Whistle’s career trajectory has, and he said he thinks will always be, one that goes between institutions of higher education and government/policy. Aside from a few stints in state government, he has focused on higher education in all of his roles.

After finishing his masters, he worked in administrative roles at the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and Kentucky Wesleyan College doing data analysis, accreditation, assessment, and more.

“I loved working in institutions, but I really wanted to move to D.C. and work on federal higher education policy because it is the one place where, if successful, I can make a positive impact on students across the country by improving higher education,” he said.

So in 2017, Whistle made the move to D.C., working at a couple of think tanks on higher education policy for a few years while also working an education contributor for Forbes.

“Still, I really had an itch for public service so I joined the staff of Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania as his education advisor. I loved that work, getting to work on legislation, helping constituents, and supporting a great boss,” he said. “Then I got the opportunity of a lifetime to join the Department in this role.”

Whistle’s most immediate goal is to finish his PhD, but long-term he wants to return to a college or university in a leadership role of some sort.

“There’s nothing like a college campus to me and I’d love to be back around students and get to work closer on the ground to making a difference in their lives,” he said.

His advice to others with big aspirations are to work hard, accept opportunities, take risks, and pursue your passion.

“My dad really taught me the importance of hard work, both directly and by watching him work hard to provide for me and often helping others. It takes more than hard work, but few things will be handed to you,” he said. “If you have big aspirations, I don’t know how you can achieve them without pursuing opportunities that are put before you and taking some risks along the way.”

May 21, 2023 | 12:10 am

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