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Kellee James ’04 Appointed a White House Fellow

By Mike Unger

head shot of White House Fellow Kellee James

(Courtesy: Kellee James)

Kellee James ’04 has been appointed a 2009–2010 White House Fellow.

Selection as a fellow is extremely prestigious—and competitive—and James, an economist with the Chicago Climate Exchange, credits her time at American University for helping her achieve such a high level of success.

She graduated in 2004 with a MBA from Kogod and MA in international relations from SIS.

“Getting this fellowship, you have to show that you’re a citizen of the world,” she said. “American gave me a really good foundation for thinking about a whole range of topics.”
The White House Fellows Program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.”

James is one of 15 fellows who were selected from roughly 1,000 applicants. 

“We are thrilled that these exceptional men and women will be joining us here in Washington for the next year," first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. “The program not only allows for a variety of perspectives to come together, offering expertise and experience to benefit the administration’s efforts, but these Fellows in turn carry what they’ve learned to their own communities to benefit Americans far beyond the walls of the White House."

Fellows work for a year for a high-ranking White House or cabinet official, and they also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, military operations, and current affairs.

“I spend my days thinking about climate change,” James said. “I was already aware of how much a role the government was going to play in shaping policy in that area, and I had known about the program since I was a student in SIS. I hope I can contribute, and I hope my experiences enrich the other participants in the program.”

The fellows program has many famous alums, including:

  • Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence
  • Elaine Chao, former secretary of Labor
  • Wesley Clark, retired U.S. Army general
  • Colin Powell, former secretary of State
  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent
  • Sam Brownback, U. S. senator
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer
  • Tom Johnson, former CNN chairman and CEO

James is a busy woman. In addition to her responsibilities at the Chicago Climate Exchange, which include research, state-level public policy outreach, and business development at the United States’ first greenhouse gas emissions exchange and cap-and-trade system, she is a board member of Levantamos, a nonprofit she cofounded that works to develop partnerships between Americans and Brazilians of African descent. She also serves on the board of Net Impact, a membership organization of over 12,000 MBA professionals committed to sustainability through corporate responsibility, and is a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, a leadership training institute.

James, who’s taking a leave of absence from the Chicago Climate Exchange, won’t learn where she will be placed until later in July, when she arrives in Washington.

“I’ll be happy to go anywhere I’m useful.”