The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Meet 3 Black Social Sciences Experts Nominated to the Biden Administration

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

President Joe Biden pledged during his campaign to create the most diverse administration the U.S. government has ever had. "This cabinet will be more representative of the American people than any other cabinet in history," Biden told reporters in December. Among his appointees are three Black authorities in the social sciences who will not only bring their perspectives and lived experiences to Washington D.C. but also their expertise in the fields of economics, public policy, racial and ethnic studies, sociology, and technology.

Meet three Black social sciences experts nominated to the Biden Administration:

Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary

Right: Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary nominee

Janet Yellen was sworn in as the first woman treasury secretary on Jan. 26 but her top lieutenant, deputy treasury secretary nominee Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo has yet to be confirmed. Adeyemo’s confirmation would solidify another first for the Treasury Department, becoming its first ever Black deputy.

Adeyemo is also the first president of the Obama Foundation and a veteran of the Obama Administration where he served in several roles: chief of staff for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, deputy chief of staff for the Treasury Department, assistant secretary for international markets and development at the Treasury, and deputy director of the National Economic Council. He was responsible for coordinating the policymaking process on international finance, trade and investment, energy, and environmental issues. 

He also served as the president’s representative to the G7 and G20, and as chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s provisions on macroeconomic policy.

“Public service is about offering hope through the dark times and making sure that our economy works not just for the wealthy, but for the hard-working people who make it run,” said Adeyemo. “As Deputy Treasury Secretary, I look forward to helping us build back our economy better.”

Alondra Nelson, Deputy Director for Science and Society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Alondra Nelson, Deputy Director for Science and Society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Sociologist Alondra Nelson has studied the societal impacts of emerging technology, as well as racism in science and medicine, prompting widespread support from the scientific community for her nomination to an inaugural post in the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) and signaling the administration’s commitment to fact-based evidence.

Nelson serves as president of the Social Science Research Council. She is also the Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In addition to publishing two award-winning books, her work melds several research disciplines: political sociology; racial and ethnic studies; the sociology of science, knowledge and technology; medical sociology; and social and cultural theory. 

“Never before in living memory have the connections between our scientific world and our social world been quite so stark as they are today,” said Nelson. “I believe we have a responsibility to work together to make sure that our science and technology reflects us.”

She added, “When we provide inputs to the algorithm; when we program the device; when we design, test, and research; we are making human choices, choices that bring our social world to bear in a new and powerful way. As a Black woman researcher, I am keenly aware of those who are missing from these rooms. I believe we have a responsibility to work together to make sure that our science and technology reflects us, and when it does it reflects all of us, that it reflects who we truly are together.”

Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers

Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers nominee

As the nominee for chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), housed within the Executive Office of the President, Rouse is poised to become the nation’s number go-to economist. In addition to teaching at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs since, she served previously in the Clinton Administration and as a member of the CEA in the Obama White House during which time she was integral in helping quell the Great Recession.

Known as a labor economist, Rouse worked in the White House at the National Economic Council from 1998 to 1999. With dual roles of educator and policy adviser, Rouse realized the necessity of conveying research in digestible ways for policymakers and general audiences alike.

“As important as it is for the CEA to interpret and translate data and academic research, it is also vital that we utilize the right data,” said Rouse during her confirmation hearing. “Too often economists focus on average outcomes, instead of examining a range of outcomes. As a result, our analyses tell us about average economic growth and the middle of the distribution—but as our economy grows more and more unequal, that analysis fails to capture the experience of the many people who are left behind, particularly people of color.”

She added, “Therefore, one of my priorities as Chair will be to try to understand how policies will impact all those in our country as we strive to ensure the economy works for everyone.”

Images:  Wally Adeyemo via U.S. Embassy in New Delhi; Alondra Nelson via Sage Ross; Cecilia Rouse via Center for American Progress

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) has a responsibility and desire to be part of diversity, equity, and inclusion movement at UMass Amherst and beyond. SBS has a long history of teaching, learning, and conducting research on critical issues of race, gender, class, and other social formations as well as a longstanding and visible commitment to social justice. However, we know that we have to do a better job as a college of fostering a more inclusive culture and climate committed to anti-racism, anti-sexism, diversity of all kinds, and equity and to combatting anti-Semitism.

Action starts with self-examination, both as individuals and the institutions we support. In reinforcing that commitment, we have shgared action items as part of a deep and ongoing agenda to make SBS a community where everyone feels recognized, respected, and valued. These action items represent some of our near-term plans, and we welcome your engagement and suggestions so that we can achieve our long-term goals. For a deeper dive, visit the SBS diversity, equity, and inclusion digital hub that offers resources for thinking and acting, improving curriculum, diversity and demographic data, and more.