Texas Tech University

Alumni Appointed to Top Positions in Federal Government

Glenys Young

October 11, 2017


Don Wright will lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and A. Wess Mitchell will oversee U.S. ambassadors in Europe.

Two Texas Tech University alumni have been named to high-ranking governmental positions.

Don Wright

Following the Sept. 29 resignation of Tom Price as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Texas Tech alumnus Don Wright became the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Don Wright
Don Wright

Wright had been the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since Feb. 10. He remains the director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a position he has held since January 2012. He has worked in HHS for 10 years.

From 2003 to 2007, Wright worked in the U.S. Department of Labor as director of the Office of Occupational Medicine for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Wright received his bachelor's degree at Texas Tech in zoology and animal biology before earning his medical degree from the University of Texas and a master's degree in public health from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He is board-certified in both family medicine and preventive medicine and is a fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine as well as the American Academy of Family Physicians.

A. Wess Mitchell

A. Wess Mitchell has been selected as the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

In the U.S. Department of State, the Secretary of State is the highest-ranking official. Below that person is one Deputy Secretary of State, below the Deputy are a few Under Secretaries of State, and below the Under Secretaries are Assistant Secretaries of State in charge of the world's geographic regions and Assistant Secretaries of State for functional bureaus such as science and environment or global security.

A. Wess Mitchell
A. Wess Mitchell

Part of the job of an Assistant Secretary for a particular geographic region is to serve as the supervisor for the U.S. ambassadors in that region.

“In the State Department, the Assistant Secretary is seen as a very high-level, very important position,” said Ambassador Tibor Nagy, Texas Tech's vice provost for international affairs. “The current administration has not filled many of these positions, and it's a real boon for Texas Tech to have an assistant secretary who graduated from here. It shows what a good job Texas Tech does with its graduates.”

Mitchell earned his bachelor's degree in history and political science from Texas Tech in 2001 followed by a master's degree in German and European studies from Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, and a doctorate at the Freie Universität Berlin.

He served as president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a foreign-policy institute dedicated to East-Central Europe, and served on numerous policy boards in both the United States and Europe. He has co-authored two books: “Unquiet Frontier: Vulnerable Allies, Rising Rivals and the Crisis of American Power” in 2016 and “The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable” in 2009.

“All the regions of world are very important,” Nagy said, “but U.S. relations with Europe are especially critical because of NATO, the European Union and the history of our relations, including U.S. involvement in European affairs, post-World War II.”

Mitchell's appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 28 and he will be sworn in Nov. 2.

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