1971, Elementary Education
Service and leadership
Alumna reflects on her journey from MSU Denver to President Obama's leadership team.
Katherine Archuleta served as the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) from 2013 to 2015. The Denver native was the 10th director of OPM and the first Latina to head the agency. She is a long-time public servant who has held a variety of senior positions in local and federal government.
In honor of MSU Denver’s 50th anniversary, Archuleta shared some reflections on her alma mater and her distinguished career.
Is there a specific memory from your time at MSU Denver that has stuck with you?
I remember the moment I decided to become an educator. I have this vision of being in a classroom with my peers. It was a diverse group of students – age, ethnicity and gender. I think back on that experience and it really set a standard for me about how I wanted to work and live my life. I wanted that diversity and exchange of ideas. When I made the decision to become a teacher, it was because of the experiences I had here in the urban core with such a wide variety of people.
How did your time at MSU Denver transform you?
Because the campus is integrated into the downtown experience, students here get a much more realistic view of how they can apply their studies to the community. They see the vibrant city of Denver around them and can visualize how they’re going to apply their studies in so many different ways. They also get a sense of the growth of the city, a feeling of what a city is really like — the campus is not separate — it’s a part of the whole Denver scene. That was important to me even back then before the current campus existed. I felt like a part of Denver in a way that I don’t think other campuses really provide.
I also learned how important it is to serve the community. That commitment was nourished here, supported by my professors. The education I got at MSU Denver set me on the path to where I am today.
What does the director of OPM do on a day-to-day basis?
As the head of human resources for the government, I was responsible for leading the efforts toward recruiting, hiring, developing and handling retirements for the entire federal workforce. We didn’t do that all out of our office, of course, but we supported the processes in all the departments and agencies across government.
Of your many career achievements, which makes you most proud?
Well, certainly my service to President Obama. I absolutely never expected to serve on the president’s leadership team. I was born about four blocks from the Auraria Campus in the North Lincoln Projects. So if you think about that – I began my life in subsidized housing. And from there, I rose to be among the leaders of this country. That is an achievement I am supremely proud of, and I feel grateful and honored that the president selected me for that job.