Exclusive: Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett Joins Board of Tech Company
Valerie Jarrett may be out of the White House, but she has no plans to slow down.
The former senior adviser to President Barack Obama is the newest director of 2U, a technology partner helping top universities—including Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown—bring their master’s degree programs online. Jarrett’s appointment makes her the third woman and fourth person of color to join the company’s board.
This is the third corporate board Jarrett has joined this year. In July, she became a director ride-hailing company Lyft. In March, she joined the board of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based asset manager.
While the three companies have seemingly little in common, Jarrett says what attracted her to each has been their mission and culture. “The decision [to join 2U] was very easy,” she tells Fortune. “I’m a beneficiary of an extraordinary education and I believe that no matter where you live, the access to education is key to social mobility.” The ed-tech company’s master’s degree program offerings—which are all online—include MBAs, social work, nursing, communications, public health, data science, and education.
While at the White House, Jarrett worked on increasing economic growth and opportunity for working families as the Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
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Joining Lyft also made sense for the policymaker, who is passionate about providing access to transportation. Prior to joining the Obama administration, she served as Commissioner of Planning and Development for the City of Chicago and Chair of the Chicago Transit board. Lyft’s mission of increasing upward mobility through transportation access, coupled with “a corporate culture that is consistent with my values and prioritizes inclusion and diversity seemed like a good fit,” she says.
Last, but certainly not least, her role at Ariel Investments was a direct outcome of her close friendship with CEO John Rogers. “Ariel has been a part of my family for longer than I care to admit,” she says.
Jarrett also serves as a senior advisor to the Obama Foundation and to media company ATTN. She says she is also currently working on a book about her professional experiences in the public and private sectors, due out sometime next year.