English Alum Directs Oregon Dept. of Energy

February 10, 2015

Michael Kaplan, a ’99 English alum, was recently named Director of the Oregon Department of Energy by Oregon’s Governor, John Kitzhaber.

“Michael has brought stability and leadership to the Department of Energy, both supporting and building on the exceptional work of staff while providing rigorous fiscal oversight,” said Governor Kitzhaber in a press release. “His broad management expertise and his experience working with the Legislature will be invaluable as this agency focuses on some of the most pressing issues facing Oregon.”

As Director, Kaplan will play a critical role in coordinating Oregon’s energy policies and programs. The department itself provides a variety of financial incentives to ensure energy efficiency and is also tasked with oversight of nuclear safety programs, Kaplan said.

Prior to joining the department, he spent two and a half years in the Office of Governor Kitzhaber as Deputy Legislative Director. He also helped develop and lead the implementation of Oregon’s Hardest Hit foreclosure prevention program. 

Although Kaplan did not plan to work for the government after college, he said his English degree and the work he did to receive it “is responsible for a lion’s share of [his] progress to date” in the government field.

“I learned how to receive information, be critical of it, interpret it, and explain it to someone else,” Kaplan said. “Fundamentally, that is the core of what I do every day.”

Kaplan said it is important to be able to tell an employer why your degree prepared you for the position but even more important to tell them why your degree has made you better than other candidates. He said to do this with the “eloquence and grace you are currently learning to use.”

“I still have designs on coming home at some point and telling a class full of English majors that studying love and tragedy for 4 years was the most important and valuable thing I've ever done,” Kaplan said to Professor Michael Olmert. “There is no chance I'm this far along the path without you or that department."