Melody Barnes

Board Chair


Melody Barnes is Co-Director for policy and public affairs of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia. She is the Dorothy Danforth Compton Professor of Practice at the Miller Center of Public Affairs and a distinguished fellow at the School of Law. Barnes was Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Administration of President Barack Obama. She was also Executive Vice President for policy at the Center for American Progress and Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her experience includes an appointment as Director of Legislative Affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and serving as Assistant Counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. She began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City.

Barnes is narrator and host of the National Endowment for the Humanities-supported podcast, LBJ and the Great Society and co-author of “Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever),” one of the ten most popular articles published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2016. She is a commentator on U.S. domestic public policy, and her media appearances include This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Morning Joe, the NewsHour, Fareed Zakaria GPS and The Daily Show. Barnes earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history and her J.D. from the University of Michigan. Currently, she serves on several corporate, non-profit and philanthropic boards of directors, and lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Marland Buckner Jr.