- Director of White House Domestic Policy Council under President Barack Obama
- Former executive vice president of the Center for American Progress
- Chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
Areas Of Expertise
- Domestic Affairs
- Law and Justice
- Social Issues
- Economic Issues
- The Presidency
Melody Barnes, professor of practice in public affairs and codirector of the University of Virginia's Democracy Initiative, is a co-founder and principal of MB² Solutions LLC, a domestic strategy firm. Barnes serves as an independent director on the boards of Ventas, Inc.; Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation; Public Policy Advisory Board; Uber; the Marguerite Casey Foundation; and Year Up. Barnes also chairs the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. From January 2009 until January 2012, she was assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
As director of the Domestic Policy Council, Barnes provided strategic advice to President Obama and worked closely with members of the cabinet coordinating the domestic policy agenda across the administration. Under her leadership, innovative new policies, practices, and partnerships were initiated to address significant national challenges, including education, health care, and the federal government’s relationship with local governments and communities.
Until July 2008, Barnes was the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research institute and think tank. From December 1995 until March 2003, Barnes worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee; she served as his chief counsel from 1998 until she left the committee in 2003. Barnes’ experience also includes an appointment as director of legislative affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and serving as a principal at the D.C.-based consulting firm The Raben Group. She began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City.
Barnes received her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1989. In 1986, she received her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history. Barnes’s media appearances include This Week with George Stephanopoulos, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose, Morning Joe and NewsHour.
Melody Barnes News Feed
The second differentiating component behind the Democracy Initiative is that UVA is, to quote Co-Director Melody C. Barnes, “also studying the rest of the world and making connections between what is happening here and what is happening in democracies around the world.”