May 6, 2022
SIPA alumna Karine Jean-Pierre MPA ’03 will become President Biden’s press secretary on May 13, the White House announced yesterday. Jean-Pierre will be the first Black person and the first LGBTQ person to hold what the New York Times called “one of the most high-profile jobs in American politics.”
 

Jean-Pierre currently serves as principal deputy press secretary. During the 2020 campaign she was a senior advisor to Biden and chief of staff to now Vice President Kamala Harris. She will replace Jen Psaki, who has been press secretary since Biden took office in January 2021.

The president said that Jean-Pierre “not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris administration on behalf of the American people.”

Before she joined the Biden campaign in 2020, Jean-Pierre was the senior adviser and national spokesperson for MoveOn. She had previously been a political analyst for MSNBC and had also worked in the Obama White House.

Jean-Pierre grew up in Queens as the child of Haitian immigrants. During her time at SIPA she served as co-president of SIPASA, the SIPA student government; she later rejoined the School as an adjunct professor, teaching the course Campaign Management each spring from 2014 through 2020.

Jean-Pierre visited SIPA in December 2019 to discuss her then recent memoir, Moving Forward. Among other things, she said that she entered politics in part because of the mentorship provided by SIPA professors Ester Fuchs and the late David Dinkins.

“It matters to have mentors, it matters to have people who care about you, and they were not just invested in me while I was at SIPA, they were invested in me after SIPA,” she told the audience.

“Don't Lose the Idealism That You Have”

Karine Jean-Pierre MPA ’03—"Don't Lose the Idealism That You Have"

recorded December 2019 — read transcript

 

Karine Jean-Pierre at SIPA: Faculty Remember

Lisa Anderson, the James T. Shotwell Professor Emerita of International Relations, was dean of SIPA during Jean-Pierre's time at the school.

“I am sure we all remember Karine as a wonderfully dynamic and public-spirited member of the SIPA student community. SIPA deans shake hundreds of hands at graduation, but decades later, they typically remember the standout students: Karine was certainly one of those.

“Her appointment as press secretary is a source of pride—but not surprise!—to all of us.”

Ester Fuchs, a professor of international and public affairs, was a professor and mentor to Jean-Pierre.

“Karine was in my Presidential Parties and Elections class in the fall of 2001. This was a very difficult time in American politics. The 2000 presidential election had been contentious, to say the least. George Bush defeated Al Gore only after the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped a Florida recount. We began the semester in the shadow of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade towers.

“Having Karine in that class was simply a gift. She was an idealist and an optimist, but with a deep understanding of the issues that were dividing Americans. Karine was always interested in the difficult question of how to build majority coalitions to make America better fulfill its promise to the those who were struggling economically and underrepresented in the political process. And if I ever needed someone to answer a question, I knew I could call on Karine (or her good friend Christina Greer, a poli sci professor at Fordham who also teaches at SIPA) and they would know just what to say.

“So the White House press corps has no idea who they will be dealing with when Karine takes over that podium. She is more than ready for the difficult and important job of presidential press secretary.”