President-elect Joe Biden intends to nominate Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), to chair the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). If confirmed by the Senate, Rouse would be the first woman of color to chair the Council.
As CEA chair, Rouse, a Professor of Economics and SPIA professor, would play a central role in revitalizing the American economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, she spearheaded a letter urging Congressional leaders to pass an economic relief bill in the wake of the pandemic’s “parallel health and economic crises.”
The Biden-Harris administration’s transition website refers to Rouse as a “renowned labor economist with expertise centered in the economics of education and equality” and “an accomplished leader who has held prominent roles across academia and government service.”
Biden’s intention to nominate Rouse was initially reported by the The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
“It is a tremendous honor to return to public service if confirmed and particularly to CEA, of which I’ve been a member in the past,” Rouse wrote in an email to SPIA students on Monday.
“I realize you will have a lot of questions, most notably who will lead SPIA going forward,” she added. “While I do not have any answers to share at this point, I promise that I will keep you apprised in real time as decisions are made.”
Following a University-wide call for anti-racist action and petitions from undergraduate concentrators and SPIA graduate students, the School promised comprehensive reviews of its curriculum. Rouse assured concentrators that these efforts will continue.
“Most notably, reviews of both the undergraduate concentration and the core of the MPA program are on schedule and will continue as planned,” she wrote.
In a blog post on Monday, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 wrote that he will miss having Rouse on campus.
“We appointed her as dean, however, partly because of her experience in Washington and her devotion to public service,” Eisgruber wrote. “We always knew that she might return there.”
“I am proud that she has once again been called to serve our country, this time in one of its most important leadership roles,” he added.
Rouse’s reported nomination comes amid a historically-diverse class of Cabinet nominations, especially within the economic sector.
The Journal indicated that Neera Tanden, an Indian-American woman, stands as Biden’s choice to direct the Office of Management and Budget; Janet Yellen, a woman, is the President-elect’s pick to serve as Secretary of the Treasury; and Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, a Nigerian-American man, is Biden’s nominee to act as Yellen’s top deputy at the Treasury Department. All four selections, Rouse included, would represent demographic firsts in their respective placements.
Some of Biden’s top economic picks — including Tanden and Adeyemo — are expected to face stiff opposition from Republicans, should they seize a Senate majority by winning at least one of two Georgia runoff elections in early January.
Operating within the Executive Office of the President, the CEA “is charged with offering the President objective economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy,” according to The White House.
During the Obama administration’s first two years — the height of the Great Recession — Rouse served as a CEA member. From 1998 to 1999, she took a public-service leave from the University to work in the Clinton White House’s National Economic Council.
After earning a doctorate from Harvard University, Rouse joined the University faculty in 1992. She currently serves as a senior editor for The Future of Children, a policy journal jointly published by SPIA and the Brookings Institution. The journal publishes “research and analysis to promote effective policies and programs for children.”
Rouse also chaired the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Minorities in the Economics Profession from 2006 to 2009 and from 2012 to 2018.
Rouse is one of several high-profile figures affiliated with the University to figure in the Biden administration’s transition.
Dr. Céline Gounder ’97 and Dr. Eric Goosby ’74 are serving on the Biden-Harris transition team’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, while Meg Whitman ’77 and Mellody Hobson ’91 are potential nominees for Secretary of Commerce.
This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.