Marisa Lago

bird's eye NYC

Long before Marisa Lago was appointed by President Biden to serve as Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, she studied physics at The Cooper Union. She chose physics for an interesting reason: “I loved physics, but it was also the first subject I had to work hard at. It wasn’t intuitive, and I had to study. My teacher saw that I loved the topic, so she gave me special assignments, and extra problem sets. She had me reading Scientific American articles. I chose physics because I love a good challenge, and physics made me work hard.”

Marisa LagoThat love of learning, not to mention the discipline to study hard, eventually brought Lago to Harvard, where she earned her law degree before embarking on a career that would lead her to a series of public service jobs focused on expanding economic opportunity. As the daughter of Spanish immigrants who worked hard to provide for their family, the Brooklyn native understood the need for increased economic opportunities for workers and their communities.

She has held a number of highly important posts in city, state, and federal government: Lago has also served as Director of the New York City Department of City Planning and Chair of the City Planning Commission, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets and Development, Director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Chief Economic Development Officer for the City of Boston, President and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, and Director of the Office of International Affairs for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Today, as head of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), she helps shape the future of international trade and U.S. economic competitiveness and engages in commercial diplomacy across the globe. In her role, she leads the federal government’s efforts to promote U.S. exports, encourage investment into the United States, and ensure fair trade and compliance of U.S. trade laws and agreements.

The consistent thread running through all these positions is her drive to improve lives: “A large part of what has guided my career is that there are folks who come here from other countries and there are people living in the United States from all different economic circumstances, and we can do something to help them.”

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.