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March 2009
Heels in the White House
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President Barack Obama has tapped several UNC College alumni for top White House posts. Melody C. Barnes (pictured), who received a B.A. in history with honors in 1986, now heads the White House Domestic Policy Council; Cassandra Butts '87 Political Science is Deputy White House Counsel; Rashad Hussain '99 Philosophy/Political Science is Deputy Associate Counsel; and Rob Nabors, who earned a master’s in political science here in 1996, is Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. D. Jordan Whichard IV '07 Political Science is White House Trip Coordinator.

“I think my interest in politics really comes out of my love for history,” Barnes said in a C-Span interview.

As the president’s top domestic policy advisor, she will be responsible for coordinating a range of policies that Obama says will be critical to economic recovery.

A native of Richmond, Va., Barnes earned her law degree at the University of Michigan. She served as co-director of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama transition team, and she was a senior policy adviser during the presidential campaign. Before that she was executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, and she spent eight years as chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kennedy called her “a rare talent with [an] impressive intellect” that “will serve President Obama well.”

Here’s a video of Barnes’ comments when she was appointed.

Rob Nabors was born in Fort Dix, N.J., and grew up in a military family, living in Arizona, Virginia, Germany and South Korea. As a graduate student at UNC, he co-authored a paper with political scientist Thomas Oatley. “Redistributive cooperation: Market failure, wealth transfers and the Basle Accord,” was published in the journal International Organization in 1996.

After UNC, Nabors headed to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the agency he now helps lead. He served as a program examiner, rising quickly to senior adviser. In 2000, he went to work for the powerful House Appropriations Committee, becoming staff director in 2004.

Obama said Nabors has the ideal combination of professional and political experience to help lead OMB. “Rob will bring to this post experience in the executive branch, at the OMB, where he helped the Clinton administration achieve balanced budgets, as well as in the legislative branch, where he led the appropriations committee staff.”

Cassandra Butts, who grew up in Durham, N.C., has 17 years of experience in politics and policy, with expertise in civil rights issues, domestic policy, health care and education. She received a law degree from Harvard where she first met Obama. She previously was counsel to Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, did litigation and policy work for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and spent seven years working for Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. She also was a senior vice president for domestic policy at the Center for American Progress.

Rashad Hussain recently served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. He was a law clerk to Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the sixth circuit. He previously served as a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee. He has a master's degree in public administration and Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard as well as a law degree from Yale, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Jordan Whichard began working for the Obama campaign in Iowa soon after he graduated from UNC, helping to lay the groundwork for campaign trips on a day-to-day basis. He was hired as a full-time member of the national advance staff of Obama for America in November 2007 until Election Day 2008. After the election, he joined the Presidential Inaugural Committee as an event manager and helped to manage production of the inauguration event for the public.




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