The Biden-Harris presidential administration officially takes office on Jan. 20 — bringing in a new slate of Penn affiliates to serve as political appointees in the White House.
Alumni will serve in leadership roles across multiple spaces, ranging from the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach to Biden's White House COVID-19 Response Team.
Rohit Chopra, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Rohit Chopra, who received his MBA from the Wharton School in 2009, was named the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a Jan. 18 press release announcing several key administration posts. The CFPB regulates the offering of consumer financial products and services under federal law and educates consumers to make informed financial decisions.
Chopra is currently a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, a position that has allowed him to push for remedies against lawbreaking companies and to increase scrutiny of dominant technology firms, according to the press release. He previously served as assistant director of the CFPB from 2010 to 2015, leading the agency's efforts toward decreasing student loans.
Gary Gensler, Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission
The Biden-Harris Transition Team named 1978 Wharton graduate and 1979 Wharton MBA graduate Gary Gensler as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the Jan. 18 press release. He previously served in the Obama-Biden administration as chairman of the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2009 to 2014.
Gensler has held numerous roles within the Treasury Department and recently served as chairman of the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission.
Maria Zuber, Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
On Jan. 15, the transition team announced 1980 College graduate Maria Zuber as the co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in a press release naming key members of Biden's White House Science Team.
Zuber, who majored in astronomy and geology at Penn, currently serves as the vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leads MIT's Climate Action Plan. Zuber, who has held leadership roles on ten missions at NASA, is the first woman to lead a science department at MIT and the first woman to lead a NASA planetary mission.
Seth Schuster, Regional Communications Director
The transition team named 2020 College graduate Seth Schuster as regional communications director in a Jan. 15 announcement of additional White House communications, press, photo, and digital strategy team members.
At Penn, Schuster majored in political science and minored in history, and also conducted research at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and worked as a reporter at The Daily Pennsylvanian. He previously served as a national communications assistant, a communications fellow, and a communications intern on the Biden-Harris campaign.
Jason Miller, Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget
Jason Miller, who graduated from the College in 2000, was named the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget in a Jan. 15 press release announcing additional key administration posts.
Miller, who majored in politics, philosophy, and economics while at Penn, led the U.S. Trade Representative Agency Review Team on the Biden-Harris transition team in efforts to prepare the agency for day one of the administration. He also served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the National Economic Council in the Obama-Biden administration.
Isabel Guzman, Small Business Administrator
Isabel Guzman, a 1992 Wharton graduate, was appointed to Biden's Economic and Jobs Team as the small business administrator in a Jan. 7 press release.
Guzman currently serves as the director of the Office of the Small Business Advocate under the Office of Business and Economic Develop of the California Governor's Office. Under the Obama-Biden administration, she served as the deputy chief of staff and senior advisor in the U.S. Small Business Administration from 2014 to 2017.
Erin Wilson, Deputy Director of Political Strategy and Outreach
Erin Wilson, a 2005 College graduate and Philadelphia native, will serve as Biden's deputy director of political strategy and outreach according to a press release issued on Jan. 5. Wilson has been part of the Biden campaign since April 2019.
In an interview with the DP, Wilson said that since the start of the campaign Biden's team remained clear about the need for "enacting meaningful change on behalf of working families across America and to help to rebuild the trust in government."
Wilson will work with Biden's Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, which is traditionally responsible for providing the president and his senior staff with information about the political environment, constituent outreach, and advancing the administration’s agenda.
She is currently the deputy executive director to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a role in which she plans virtual inauguration events, citing health, safety, and the incorporation of all communities as her primary goal.
Wilson graduated cum laude with Bachelor’s degree in political science and government and said that Penn was the place where she completed some of her earliest political work as a student. While on campus, she helped students register to vote through the nonprofit organization, Rock the Vote. She also said that her professors and courses help foster a love of civics and political engagement.
"The President-elect Joe Biden has a unique and special relationship with the University of Pennsylvania and with Philadelphia as a whole, and it's part of the reason why working with him is so personal to me, and that affiliation and sense of community from Philadelphia is something that we will take with us into the White House," Wilson said.
She said that the Penn community has been a big supporter of the Biden-Harris campaign, adding that from the early stages of its launch, they had very engaged students in Penn Democrats and Penn for Biden who helped support the campaign.
Sonya Bernstein, COVID Senior Policy Advisor
2012 College graduate Sonya Bernstein was named to Biden's White House COVID-19 Response Team in a Dec. 29 press release after serving as a COVID-19 advisor on the Biden-Harris transition team. Bernstein majored in political science at Penn and received her Master of Public Administration from the Fels Institute in 2012.
Ashley Williams, Deputy Director of Oval Office Operations
2019 Penn Law School graduate Ashley Williams was named deputy director of oval office operations in a Dec. 30 press release appointing additional White House staff members. Williams, who was the trip director for the transition team and served in the same role on the Biden-Harris campaign, will be the first Black woman to fill her upcoming role. Oval Office Operations staffers are responsible for managing the president’s personal schedule, private engagements, and day-to-day affairs.
Williams also worked as senior assistant to Jill Biden during the Obama administration, and was previously a special advisor and director of special projects at the U.S. Department of State for the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
She simultaneously obtained her master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University and her Juris Doctorate from Penn in May 2019.
Michael Hochman, Deputy Staff Secretary
1991 College graduate Michael Hochman was appointed deputy staff secretary within the Office of the Staff Secretary, in which he will largely aid in preparing the daily briefing book and ensuring that details regarding actions, speeches, events, correspondence, and press releases are adequately vetted.
Hochman, who majored in communication at Penn and received his J.D. from Boston College Law School in 1995, has extensive experience working in both federal and state courts. He has also served as an advisor and officer for several state and national political campaigns and committees.
Tarun Chhabra, Senior Director for Technology and National Security
Tarun Chhabra, a former visiting fellow at Perry World House, was announced as Biden's senior director for technology and national security in a Jan. 8 press release announcing members of the National Security Council.
Chhabra, currently a senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Security and Emerging Technology, previously worked for the Obama-Biden administration on the National Security Council as the director for strategic planning and director for human rights and national security issues.
Peter Harrell, Senior Director for International Economics and Competitiveness
Peter Harrell, who has taught at Penn Law, was named senior director for international economics and competitiveness in a Jan. 8 press release.
Harrell is currently working on the transition team's State Department Agency Review Team. In the Obama-Biden administration, Harrell served on the State Department policy planning staff and as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.
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