Jonathan A. Kaplan has served as president of Walden University since September 2007. Prior to joining Walden University, Jonathan had a distinguished career in government, public policy, and law. He served in the White House as chief of staff of the National Economic Council and special assistant to the president for economic policy under President Clinton. Prior to his government service, he practiced law as an associate at Covington & Burling, a leading international law firm.
SM: Jonathan, what is your personal history leading up to this company?
JK: I was born in Boston and come from a long line of educators. My grandmother was a high school teacher, my mother chaired our local school committee, and my father headed the state board of education for many years. I was raised to care deeply about education not only as a means of individuals pursuing their own self-interest and potential but also as a great opportunity for society to raise itself up. Education has always been something that motivated me to get involved in public policy in my own career.
I spent a good deal of time after college and law school working in politics at the federal level in Washington. Today I find as the president of Walden University a great opportunity to continue pushing for something I care deeply about, which is education. We enable individuals to pursue their potential and at the same time, through our mission of affecting positive social change at Walden, enabling our more than 40,000 students and more than 40,000 alumni around the world to have a positive influence on us.
SM: What career steps led you to Walden?
JK: I graduated Harvard College almost 25 years ago. I went to work in Washington in the area of public policy. I spent a lot of time working with the Senate. Later I went to law school, and afterwards I worked at Covington & Burling, a law firm in D.C. I spent five years working in the Clinton administration, three of which I served as a special economic assistant for economic policy to the White House. I worked on education policy as well as other issues.
After I left the White House, I decided I did not want to go back to the legal world. I wanted to go into something more entrepreneurial. I thought it would have a more significant impact on the world. About eight years ago I ended up working for Walden University. I have been a part of the Walden apparatus for the past eight years and have been president for the past three years.
SM: Tell me a bit about the genesis of Walden.
JK: Walden University was founded 40 years ago, in 1970, by Bernie and Rita Turner, who were two teachers. Their objective was to help adult learners effect positive social change through education at a distance. Obviously Walden has evolved greatly since then. Today we are entirely online as an institution with more than 35 degree programs.
The vast majority of our 40,000 plus students are in graduate education. Many are teachers, but we also have nurses, psychologists, public health administrators, counselors, and other careers.