See where key Biden Cabinet and staff picks earned undergraduate degrees.
With a new president comes a new supporting cast to fill out important roles in the White House and at top government agencies. Following the inauguration of Joe Biden, a new Cabinet is beginning to form around him, some of whom are familiar faces to Biden, longtime public servants who held positions in former President Barack Obama’s administration. Others are moving up from state and local government positions to federal roles. Regardless of the last post they held before joining the Biden administration, they all had the benefit of a college education, earning the skills needed to blaze individual paths to their respective positions. Here’s a look at where Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and many top officials tapped for service in the Biden administration went to college. Not all of the Cabinet appointees have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as of publication.
Alma mater: University of Delaware
U.S. News rank: 97 (tie), National Universities
A student of history and political science at the University of Delaware, Joe Biden followed those passions to law school, graduating from the Syracuse University College of Law in 1968 before entering local politics in 1970. Over nearly five decades in public service, Biden served as a longtime senator from Delaware before being tapped as Obama’s VP in 2008.
Alma mater: Howard University (DC)
U.S. News rank: 80 (tie), National Universities
Kamala Harris is unique as vice president in many ways — the first female, the first woman of color and the first graduate of a historically Black college or university. After graduating from Howard, Harris went on to earn a law degree from the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California in 1989. Prior political experience includes serving as district attorney for San Francisco and later attorney general of California before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Harris also ran as a Democratic candidate for president in 2019, ultimately dropping out and accepting the VP slot.
Position: Vice President
Alma mater: United States Military Academy (NY)
U.S. News rank: 15 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
A service academy graduate, Lloyd Austin served in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 2016, a stretch of more than 40 years. Additionally, the retired four-star Army general earned master’s degrees in education from Auburn University in Alabama and in business management from Webster State University in Utah. Upon his confirmation, Austin became the country’s first Black Pentagon chief.
Position: Secretary of Defense
Alma mater: Stanford University (CA)
U.S. News rank: 6 (tie), National Universities
In addition to graduating from Stanford University’s undergraduate program in economics, Xavier Becerra earned his Juris Doctor degree, or J.D., from Stanford Law School. Becerra previously served as attorney general for the state of California and as a 12-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Position: Secretary of Health and Human Services
Alma mater: Harvard University (MA)
U.S. News rank: 2, National Universities
Antony Blinken is one of several Ivy League graduates joining the Biden administration. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard, Blinken earned his law degree at another Ivy League school, Columbia Law School. Blinken previously served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of state.
Position: Secretary of State
Alma mater: Harvard University
U.S. News rank: 2, National Universities
Another Ivy League graduate who earned a degree from Harvard, Pete Buttigieg was also a Rhodes scholar who studied at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Buttigieg served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, before launching a failed Democratic presidential campaign in 2019.
Position: Secretary of Transportation
Alma mater: Central Connecticut State University
U.S. News rank: 105 (tie), Regional Universities (North)
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Central Connecticut State University, Miguel Cardona went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in education from the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. Cardona was previously the commissioner of education for the state of Connecticut and got his start as an elementary school teacher. He also served as a school principal for 10 years before climbing the ranks to become Connecticut’s top education official.
Position: Secretary of Education
Alma mater: Ohio State University–Columbus
U.S. News rank: 53 (tie), National Universities
After completing her undergraduate work in business at Ohio State, Marcia Fudge added a law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. Fudge worked in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and was elected mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, before going on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 2008.
Position: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Alma mater: Harvard University
U.S. News rank: 2, National Universities
Merrick Garland holds an undergraduate and a law degree from Harvard. Garland’s long legal resume includes stints as a Supreme Court clerk, a partner in a private practice, a federal prosecutor during the George W. Bush administration and most recently chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Garland was also nominated by Obama to fill a Supreme Court seat during the 2016 election but the Senate, under Republican control at the time, did not act on the nomination.
Position: Attorney General
Alma mater: University of California–Berkeley
U.S. News rank: 22, National Universities
After graduating from UC–Berkeley, Jennifer Granholm earned a law degree from Harvard. Granholm served as a federal prosecutor and later as Michigan’s first female attorney general before ascending to the governor’s mansion in 2002. Granholm was reelected governor of Michigan in 2006.
Position: Secretary of Energy
Alma mater: University of New Mexico
U.S. News rank: 187 (tie), National Universities
A nontraditional student, Deb Haaland earned an English degree from the University of New Mexico in 1994 at age 34. She went on to earn a J.D. in Indian law at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Haaland previously served as head of the New Mexico Democratic Party and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. Haaland will be the first Native American to serve as a presidential Cabinet member.
Position: Secretary of the Interior
Alma mater: Georgetown University (DC)
U.S. News rank: 23, National Universities
After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in government from Georgetown University, Ron Klain earned a law degree from Harvard in 1987. But his interest in politics preceded his education, when Klain interned for a Colorado senator at age 15. Klain has long-running ties to Biden, having assisted with his failed 1988 presidential campaign. Klain served as chief of staff for Vice President Al Gore for almost four years and in the same capacity from 2009 to 2011 during part of Biden’s VP stint.
Position: Chief of Staff
Alma mater: St. John’s University (MN)
U.S. News rank: 102 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
After graduating summa cum laude from St. John’s University in Minnesota with a degree in history and Spanish, Denis McDonough earned his master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown. Another familiar face from the Obama administration, McDonough previously served as chief of staff to the 44th president and as deputy national security adviser.
Position: Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Alma mater: William & Mary (VA)
U.S. News rank: 39 (tie), National Universities
A graduate of William & Mary, Jen Psaki has long served as a communications pro for Democratic politicians. After working on John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign in 2004, Psaki was part of Obama’s successful 2008 and 2012 presidential bids and later served as State Department spokesperson under Kerry before becoming the White House communications director from 2015 until the end of the Obama presidency.
Position: White House Press Secretary
U.S. News rank: 272 (tie), National Universities
After earning an undergraduate degree in earth and environmental science, Regan tacked on a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. His appointment to the Environmental Protection Agency marks a return for Regan, who worked on air quality and energy programs for the EPA during both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. In 2017, he began serving as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
Position: Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Alma mater: Hamilton College (NY)
U.S. News rank: 9 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
A graduate of Hamilton College, Tom Vilsack went on to earn a J.D. from Albany Law School in New York. A veteran of Iowa politics, Vilsack served as mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and in the state senate prior to his election as governor in 1998. Vilsack unsuccessfully ran for president on the Democratic ticket in the 2008 election, dropping out early in the process. Vilsack was later appointed Obama’s secretary of agriculture, a position he held from 2009 until January 2017.
Position: Secretary of Agriculture
Alma mater: Boston College
U.S. News rank: 35 (tie), National Universities
A nontraditional student, Marty Walsh earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College in 2009. He did so while serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 until 2014. Walsh was elected mayor of Boston in 2013 and reelected in 2017. He will bring prior experience as a union leader to his new Cabinet role.
Position: Secretary of Labor
Alma mater: Brown University (RI)
U.S. News rank: 14 (tie), National Universities
Another Cabinet member with dual degrees from the Ivy League, Janet Yellen graduated summa cum laude with an economics degree from Brown in 1967 and then earned her Ph.D. from Yale University in Connecticut in 1971. A renowned economist, her appointment marks the third Democratic administration in which she has served. Yellen served under Clinton as an economic adviser and was later tapped by Obama as the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Board. Yellen broke another glass ceiling upon her confirmation as the first female secretary of the treasury.
Position: Secretary of the Treasury
Biden administration undergraduate alma maters
— Joe Biden: University of Delaware
— Kamala Harris: Howard University
— Lloyd Austin: United States Military Academy
— Xavier Becerra: Stanford University
— Antony Blinken: Harvard University
— Pete Buttigieg: Harvard University
— Miguel Cardona: Central Connecticut State University
— Marcia Fudge: Ohio State University–Columbus
— Merrick Garland: Harvard University
— Jennifer Granholm: University of California–Berkeley
— Deb Haaland: University of New Mexico
— Ron Klain: Georgetown University
— Denis McDonough: St. Johns University
— Jen Psaki: William & Mary
— Michael Regan: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
— Tom Vilsack: Hamilton College
— Marty Walsh: Boston College
— Janet Yellen: Brown University
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