Coven, 41, is one of the administration's top budget officials, tackling education, poverty, wages, and the labor market and trying to ensure that the federal budget helps people get ahead. "Even in a tight budget environment, we can still make smart investments that give more people a shot at the American Dream," she says. "I'm hopeful that we can make further progress in areas like early education, which puts young people on track to succeed in school and in life." The daughter of two mathematics professors, Coven grew up in Middletown, Conn., home to Wesleyan University. She earned degrees in economics and law from Yale University. Then she came to Washington, where she worked in policy and communications for then-House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt; moved to the Consumers Union; and later joined the highly regarded left-leaning think tank, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to do legislative affairs. Coven joined the Obama administration in 2009 as special assistant to the president at the Domestic Policy Council. In 2011, she jumped to the Office of Management and Budget, where she says she's "right in the middle" of trying to combat poverty and hardship, conditions made worse by the Great Recession. "The federal budget is one of the most powerful tools we have," Coven says.