Melody C. Barnes is the Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives, and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.
Barnes is responsible for developing a wide-ranging set of initiatives across our campuses to prepare our students more fully for leadership roles – to arrange opportunities to interact with world leaders who visit us, to ensure that our most outstanding students are successfully availing themselves of opportunities for major scholarships and fellowships, and to look for areas of collaboration among our existing programs to recognize and cultivate student merit and leadership. As a Senior Fellow at the Wagner School, Barnes' deep experience and expertise in policy innovation will add immensely to the breadth of research and practice for which NYU Wagner is well known. In her university role, she will work closely with Wagner’s Research Center for Leadership in Action.
A former Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Barnes has most recently been working as a private consultant and as chair of a new initiative at the Aspen Institute. From January 2009 to January 2012, she provided policy and strategic advice to President Obama and worked closely with members of the Cabinet coordinating the domestic policy agenda across the Administration. Prior to her work in the White House, she served on the leadership team for the Obama-Biden Transition Project and as Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to the Obama for America campaign. From 2003 to July 2008, she worked at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research institute and think tank, where she was named Executive Vice President for Policy in 2005. From 1995 to 2003, she worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, serving as his chief counsel from 1998 onwards. Melody began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City.
Barnes received her bachelor's degree in 1986 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with honors. She received her law degree in 1989 from the University of Michigan Law School.