Experts

Melody Barnes

Executive Director of the UVA Karsh Institute of Democracy

Fast Facts

  • 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
  • Expertise on democracy, public policy, health policy, civil rights

Areas Of Expertise

  • Domestic Affairs
  • Health
  • Law and Justice
  • Social Issues
  • Economic Issues
  • Leadership
  • Politics
  • The Presidency

Melody Barnes is executive director of the UVA Karsh Institute of Democracy and W.L. Lyons Brown Family Director for Policy and Public Engagement at the Democracy Initiative, an interdisciplinary teaching, research, and engagement effort led by the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia. She is the J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance at the Miller Center and is also a distinguished fellow at the UVA School of Law. A co-founder of the domestic strategy firm MB2 Solutions LLC, Barnes has spent more than 25 years crafting public policy on a wide range of domestic issues. 

During the administration of President Barack Obama, Barnes was assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. She was also executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and chief counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her experience includes an appointment as director of legislative affairs for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City. 

Barnes earned her BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with honors in history, and her JD from the University of Michigan. She serves on the boards of directors of several corporate, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations.

 

Melody Barnes News Feed

Moderated by Melody Barnes, executive director of UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy and the W.L. Lyons Brown Family Director for Policy and Public Engagement of the Democracy Initiative, the Carr’s Hill event featured a discussion between StoryCorps founder and president Dave Isay and UVA President Jim Ryan and a conversation with the first two UVA students to record a conversation for the program. In a departure from StoryCorps’ original format, which records conversations and stories shared by people who know each other, One Small Step invites people who may hold opposing views on a variety of topics and who aren’t in each other’s daily lives to get to know each other in conversation.
Melody Barnes UVA Today
Melody Barnes, executive director of UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy and co-director of the Democracy Initiative, talked about the overarching goal of the new partnership. “We know one conversation can’t change the longstanding challenges our country and our communities must confront, but One Small Step is … one, small step forward. It’s an opportunity to create dialogue, perhaps find that you have something in common with someone surprising, or to disagree productively and with respect. One Small Step complements our research, teaching, policy and public engagement efforts,” she said.
Melody Barnes UVA Today
The University’s Miller Center and Democracy Initiative hosted a roundtable discussion on economic mobility and the American dream as a part of its Democracy Biennial Celebration Saturday afternoon. The conversation framed the conversation around America’s economy following the economic contraction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and whether the federal government’s response perhaps plots a better path towards economic stability for many Americans. Melody Barnes, director of the Karsh Institute of Democracy and co-director of the Democracy Initiative, moderated the conversation.
Melody Barnes The Cavalier Daily
University of Virginia President Jim Ryan introduced the second UVA Democracy Biennial event by considering the current state of democracy. “In some ways, this may be the most urgent moment for democracy we’ve faced, certainly in our lifetimes,” Ryan said. “Yet I see reasons for optimism that our democracy will not only endure, but thrive.”
Melody Barnes UVA Democracy Biennial
University of Virginia President Jim Ryan introduced the second UVA Democracy Biennial event by considering the current state of democracy. “In some ways, this may be the most urgent moment for democracy we’ve faced, certainly in our lifetimes,” Ryan said. “Yet I see reasons for optimism that our democracy will not only endure, but thrive.”
Anna Katherine Clay
In the midst of a global pandemic, historic and controversial events related to race and inequality, divisive elections, and deepening polarization, it would be an understatement to say that democracy faces significant challenges. The inaugural UVA Democracy Biennial: Crises, Opportunities, Freedoms event, hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, the Karsh Institute of Democracy and the College of Arts & Sciences’ Democracy Initiative, will be held later this week to look at both the current state, as well as the future, of democracy.
Melody Barnes UVA Today