From L&S to the White House

February 16, 2021

Among the Berkeley experts who have been appointed to the Biden administration, we are proud to say that six are alumni from the College of Letters & Science. They majored in fields including political science, history, Latin American Studies, mathematics, French, and economics, and from these varied starting points, they each blazed a trail to national service.    

Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, graduated from L&S with a bachelor’s degree in history. Adewale Adeyamo, Deputy Treasury Secretary, studied political science. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, director of Intergovernmental Affairs, earned a degree in Latin American Studies. Reema Dodin, deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, graduated with a degree in political science and economics. Olugbenga Ajilore, senior advisor in the US Department of Agriculture, studied applied mathematics and economics. Jennifer Granholm, secretary of the Department of Energy, received a B.A. degree in political science and French. 

It is no coincidence that L&S has contributed so many alumni to the new administration. The value of an education in L&S does not lie just in the degree itself, or even in the knowledge acquired in the major program. Its value grows from the broad intellectual growth L&S nourishes: the ability to take up multiple perspectives on difficult problems, question hidden assumptions, assemble evidence critically and intelligently, and pursue inquiry courageously. In all these ways, L&S prepares its undergraduates to become engaged citizens who can serve others in the contemporary world.   

Across L&S’s nearly 80 majors within 38 departments, students receive a rigorous education that can give them a critical foundation for a huge range of careers and endeavors in life. For example, an undergraduate can begin by studying history and continue a journey that goes all the way to heading the Department of Homeland Security, as Alejandro Mayorkas did.  

President Biden has said, “Building a diverse team will lead to better outcomes and more effective solutions to address the urgent crises facing our nation.” Our alumni certainly contribute to the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the new administration; equally, the intellectual diversity they encountered within L&S will make them leaders who will be invaluable in service to our nation. With an L&S education, students encounter the vast range of human experience and learn to make better sense of the world in all its complexity. A graduate of the College of Letters & Science will be ready to meet the urgent challenges of our time.

We extend our warmest congratulations to the following L&S alumni--and faculty members--selected to serve in the Biden administration:

  • Adewale Adeyamo, Deputy Treasury Secretary
  • Olugbenga Ajilore, Senior Advisor in Agriculture’s Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development
  • Reema Dodin, Deputy Director of White House Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of the Department of Energy
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
  • Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Danny Yagan, Associate Professor of Economics and Chief Economist for the Office of Management and Budget
  • Janet Yellen, Professor Emerita of Economics and Business and Treasury Secretary