Since winning the 2020 presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have signaled that their cabinet and senior White House team will be among the most diverse in American history. As the incoming team has begun to take shape over recent weeks, Biden and Harris have been living up to this expectation. They continued to do so on Sunday as Biden announced several appointments. Among them, Biden tapped Princeton University Professor and Dean Cecilia Rouse to become the new chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).
Here are five things to know about Rouse.
1. She has had an exemplary career in academia and education
Rouse wasn't clear which career path she was most drawn to until taking a freshman economics class at Harvard University, where she would go on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a doctorate in economics.
After graduating from Harvard, she became a professor at Princeton University. President of the university, Christopher L. Eisgruber, congratulated her on the nomination.
"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 wrote in a statement.
"I am proud that she has once again been called to serve our country, this time in one of its most important leadership roles."
— Princeton University (@Princeton) November 30, 2020
As an academic, Rouse has focused on the economics of education. According to a press release issued by Princeton upon her appointment as dean, Rouse is the “author of prominent papers on topics including the economic benefit of community college attendance; the existence of sex discrimination in symphony orchestras; the consequences of Milwaukee’s private school voucher program on student achievement; the effect of student loan debt on career choices of college graduates; and the impact of computer-assisted instruction on students’ performance in reading and mathematics.”
2. She helped address the racist legacy of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton
In 2012, Rouse was named dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, then known as the Woodrow Wilson School after the man who served as president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910 and then as president of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Wilson’s name and legacy have been a source of controversy for years. As president of the United States, Wilson re-segregated federal agencies that had been integrated during Reconstruction and hosted a White House screening of the pro-Ku Klux Klan movie The Birth of a Nation. The movie even begins with a quote from a book on American history written by Wilson, who was sympathetic to the KKK.
Rouse was dean of the Woodrow Wilson School as protests broke out against the school’s name in 2015. During the uprisings against racial injustice this summer, Princeton decided to change the school’s name.
Upon the announcement, Dean Rouse issued a statement that read, "I unequivocally support this decision… Retiring the name does not take the place of systemic change, but it does signal that we are prepared to do the hard work of confronting racism and other injustices.”
3. This will be her third position in the White House
Rouse has already left Princeton twice to serve at the White House.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton named her as a member of the National Economic Council (NEC), a body of economic experts he created at the beginning of his term that has advised presidents ever since. Rouse served on the NEC from 1998 to 1999. In 2009, she left Princeton for a second time to serve on the CEA, a small group of economists who serve as close advisers to the president, under President Barack Obama. Coming in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the CEA played a large role in guiding President Obama’s strategy for economic recovery.
4. Her mentor famously argued “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”
Rouse’s mentor at Princeton, professor and dean Anne Marie Slaughter, also worked in Washington, serving in the United States Department of State during Rouse’s tenure in the Obama administration. Slaughter famously wrote an article for The Atlantic in 2012 titled, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” discussing the extreme challenges of being a high-profile professional and a mother. She left the Department after two years of commuting from Princeton to Washington and seeing her sons only on weekends. Rouse has noted her own difficulties with bringing two young daughters with her to Washington while her husband remained at Princeton.
“I was essentially a single parent working in the White House,” she later reflected.
5. Her family is steeped in education and greatness
Rouse grew up in a household that placed a high value on education; her mother was a school psychologist and her father was one of the first Black men in America to earn a doctoral degree in physics. The examples set by her parents paid off; in addition to Rouse’s stellar career, her brother is a physicist and her sister is an anthropology professor at Princeton. Rouse is married to Ford Morrison, who is an architect employed by Princeton, and the couple has two daughters. And if the name Morrison sounds familiar, it’s because Ford’s mother, Rouse’s mother-in-law, was Toni Morrison, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author and longtime Princeton faculty member who died last year at age 88.