Strengthening Democracy Challenge
Executive Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago
Zeenat Rahman is the Executive Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. She is an expert on global youth issues, interfaith and diversity engagement, and is a former diplomat. Her experience spans national security, foreign policy, and leadership development through work in government, private sector, and NGO’s – effectively bridging the gap between policy and community solutions.
Zeenat was recently a Presidential Political Appointee, serving as Special Adviser to Secretaries Clinton and Kerry on Global Youth Issues at the U.S. Department of State. In this position, she encouraged foreign governments to respond to youth issues through policy change, and created opportunities for young people to pursue their economic and civic aspirations. She created private sector partnerships focused on youth employment and skills development, worked with U.S. embassies to create an extensive network of more than 75 Youth Councils worldwide, and built global entrepreneurship programs to support nascent entrepreneurs in emerging economies.
Prior to this appointment, she served as Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the United States Agency for International Development. In this role, she led external engagement efforts with various faith based and community organizations to build support for USAID priorities.
Zeenat is a frequent speaker and commentator who has spoken at venues such as the United Nations, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and the White House and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and many international news outlets. She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the British Council’s Transatlantic Network 2020, a Truman National Security Fellow, and a Next Generation Project Fellow. She received a master’s degree in Middle East studies from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Illinois.