Emma Vadehra

Senior Fellow


Emma Vadehra

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Emma Vadehra is a senior fellow at American Progress and the executive director of Next100, a startup think tank for the next generation of policy leaders.

She has spent her career focused on building a fairer, more equitable education system and has a passion for developing and supporting diverse teams in pursuit of progressive policy change.

Vadehra was chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration, serving under both Secretary John B. King Jr. and Secretary Arne Duncan. As chief of staff, she worked closely with the White House and across the department to develop, execute, and oversee the administration’s pre-K through college education agenda. She also oversaw hiring, development, and retention of a diverse, high-performing political appointee team. From 2009 to 2011, she served as deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the Department of Education, overseeing K–12 education policy development.

Prior to serving at the department, she served as senior education counsel for former Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), focusing on K–12 education, student loans, and national service policy. She also served as chief of staff at Uncommon Schools, a charter school management organization that builds and manages high-performing urban charter schools serving low-income students.

Vadehra serves on the boards of Blue Engine and City Year New York. She has a J.D. from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University. She is a born-and-bred New Yorker and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two extremely energetic twin toddlers.