Valerie Jarrett, who served in a leadership role in the Obama administration as senior adviser to the President, will join the University of Chicago Law School as a distinguished senior fellow. Jarrett's appointment begins Jan. 1, 2018.
Jarrett will bring deep and wide-ranging experience in the legal profession and public policy to the University of Chicago community. She will work directly with students and faculty at the Law School and across the University, participating in academic seminars, conferences and student-led initiatives. Jarrett expects to continue her work on a variety of issues, including gender equality, criminal justice reform, health care and civic engagement.
“Valerie Jarrett’s experience in the White House, her understanding of issues in law, policy and public service, and her deep personal connections to the University of Chicago will bring extraordinary experience and perspective to our community,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “I am pleased that her involvement in the Law School and across the University will provide our students, faculty and community at large the opportunity to learn from and with her, amplified by this rich experience and history.”
“I am both delighted and honored to return to the University of Chicago as a distinguished senior fellow, and embark on this new journey with the students, faculty and wider Chicago community. With a rich history, a world-class interdisciplinary program and a vibrant student experience, I can’t think of a better location to continue my own lifelong learning than the University of Chicago,” Jarrett said.
The appointment marks Jarrett’s return to the University of Chicago community. She previously served as vice-chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and chair of the Board of Trustees at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She left those posts in 2009 for the White House, where she served for all eight years of the Obama administration.
Jarrett’s leadership experience comes from both the public and the private sectors. Her public service career began in 1987, when she went to work for Mayor Harold Washington as deputy corporation counsel for finance and development. She later served as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley, as commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, and as chair of the Chicago Transit Board. Immediately before joining the Obama administration, Jarrett was the CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate development and management company.
She joined the University of Chicago Board of Trustees in 2001 and became vice-chairman in 2006. Her service on the Medical Center Board began in 1996; she became vice-chair in 2002 and chair in 2006. Jarrett has served on several corporate and civic boards, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Navigant Consulting, USG Corporation, the Museum of Science and Industry, and WTTW. She currently serves on the boards of Ariel Capital Management Holdings, Inc.; Lyft; and 2U, Inc. She is also a senior adviser to the Obama Foundation and ATTN:.
Jarrett served as co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team, and then became the longest-serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama. She oversaw the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. She also chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls and co-chaired the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
“We are thrilled to welcome Valerie Jarrett back to the University of Chicago,” said Thomas J. Miles, dean of the Law School and the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics. “Her extraordinary career, which encompasses legal practice and corporate leadership, as well as public service at both the local and highest national levels, is an inspiration to our students. Her deep expertise in many areas will be a tremendous resource for students and faculty alike.”
Jarrett and her family have deep roots in Hyde Park and at the University of Chicago. Her father, the late James Bowman, was professor in the Departments of Pathology and Medicine at the University and the first African-American to be tenured in the Division of Biological Sciences. Her mother, Barbara Bowman, AM’52, a widely respected leader in early-childhood education, taught at the Laboratory Schools while earning her graduate degree in education, and has a large extended family with roots in Hyde Park.
Jarrett attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Northfield Mount Hermon, a boarding school in Massachusetts. She earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Stanford University in 1978 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981. Her daughter, Laura Jarrett, is an alumna of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.