Melody C. Barnes

  • Distinguished Fellow
  • Senior Fellow and Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics, Miller Center

Melody Barnes is a co-founder and principal of MB2 Solutions LLC, a domestic strategy firm, and a senior fellow and Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics in the Miller Center at the University of Virginia; she is also a distinguished fellow in the School of Law. She teaches The U.S. President and Policymaking:  History, Theory and Simulation, a policy simulation course, at the Law School.

Barnes serves as an independent director on the Boards of Ventas Inc., Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Year Up. Barnes also chairs the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund and serves as vice chair of the advisory board of the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. From January 2009 until January 2012, she was assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. 

As director of the domestic policy council, Barnes provided strategic advice to President Barack Obama and worked closely with members of the cabinet, coordinating the domestic policy agenda across the administration. Under her leadership, innovative new policies, practices and partnerships were initiated to address significant national challenges, including education, health care and the federal government’s relationship with local governments and communities.

From July 2008 until January 2009, Barnes served as the senior domestic policy adviser to the Obama for America campaign and the Obama-Biden Transition Project.  Until July 2008, Barnes was the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research institute and think tank.  From December 1995 until March 2003, Barnes worked for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee; she served as his chief counsel from 1998 until she left the Committee in 2003. Barnes’ experience also includes an appointment as director of legislative affairs for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City. 

Barnes received her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1989.  In 1986, she received her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated with honors in history. She is a sought-after commentator on U.S. domestic public policy, and her numerous media appearances include "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "Fareed Zakaria GPS," "Charlie Rose," "Morning Joe," and "PBS NewsHour."


  • J.D.
    University of Michigan
  • B.A.
    University of North Carolina

“Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever) (with Paul Schmitz) 14(2) Stanford Social Innovation Rev. 32 (2016).

Barnes, M., & (2015).  "Making Moneyball Work" (with J. Bridgeland), in J. Nussle & P. Orszag, eds., Moneyball for Government (Disruption Books, 2015).

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