Obama taps U-M talent for administration

U-M faculty and alumni are playing key roles advising the country's most powerful leader in shaping policy.

President Barack Obama, a Harvard law graduate, tapped the expertise and opinions of at least 16 people with U-M ties for transition teams, advisory roles and cabinet positions.

"The University has long encouraged students, faculty, staff and alumni to be active citizens in our democratic society," says Teresa Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. "We are pleased that a number of them have taken on important roles in the Obama administration."
Law School faculty, staff and students gather at Hutchins Hall to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The Law School was one of many locations on campus that offered viewing parties to witness the historic Jan. 20 event. Many members of the campus community also drove to Washington, D.C., to take part in inaugural events. (Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services)

Rosina Bierbaum, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, serves on the Agency Review Team for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the office she ran at the end of the Clinton Administration.

Bierbaum says it "was music to my ears" hearing Obama's inaugural address advocating the importance of restoring science, combating climate change, protecting our natural resources and creating a clean energy revolution.

"His bold, new plan to rapidly develop science-based solutions to achieve a sustainable planet is exactly what we need," says Bierbaum, who viewed the speech with many environmentalist friends in Washington, D.C., before joining the throngs to watch the parade with her nephew from Chicago.

The Law School had the most U-M representatives with nine people in prominent positions.

"These numbers demonstrate so many extraordinary aspects of a Michigan Law education," says Law School Dean Evan Caminker. "It's not just about our commitment to public service or the wide-ranging expertise of our faculty. These are alumni and faculty whose opinions have been sought out by the most powerful leader in the world — and that's strong evidence of just how excellent our faculty and students really are."

In addition to Bierbaum, the list includes:

• Melody Barnes, Law School, director of President Obama's Domestic Policy Council

• Randy Beers, master's in history, homeland security transition adviser

• Susan Crawford, Law School professor, led the team's Federal Communications Commission review

• Sally Katzen Dyk, Law School professor, was selected for the transition team's Agency Review Working Group

• Valerie Jarrett, Law School, Obama senior adviser

• Eugene Kang, LSA alumnus, an Obama aide

• David Katz, Michigan Daily alumnus, Obama's personal photographer

• Lisa Konwinski, bachelor's in political science and law degree, deputy director of legislative affairs

• Paula Lantz, chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy, served as co-chair of the Public Health Subcommittee of the Healthcare Committee that advised the Obama-Biden campaign staff

• Cecilia Muñoz, English and Latin American Studies, director of Intergovernmental Affairs. She is a former Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

• Ken Salazar, Law School, Interior Secretary

• Daniel Tarullo, Law School, led the transition's approach to aiding the automotive industry

• Professor Mark Van Putten, a U-M Law Public Interest/Public Service Faculty Fellow, chosen for the team working within the Department of the Interior

• Donald Vereen, master's in public health, team leader for the Executive Office of the President of the Obama-Biden Transition Agency Review Team

Obama approached Dr. Sanjay Gupta, U-M alumnus and CNN's chief medical correspondent, to possibly become the next U.S. surgeon general.