From NYU to Government Offices


Anna Letson

Many NYU alums have gone into government positions in and out of the country.

Miranda Levingston, Staff Writer

NYU creates leaders. After graduation, students’ achievements have spanned Pulitzer Prizes, Grammy awards and government positions across the world. The following six NYU leaders entered the government and created change in our nation.

1. Martha Roby

Roby is currently serving her third term representing Alabama’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

During her time in office, Roby has led multiple Congressional delegations to Afghanistan to visit service members and survey their conditions. Roby successfully pushed back on the Air Force’s motion to remove the 908th airlift wing from Montgomery’s Maxwell air force base. She also advocated for the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker to fight potential budget cuts that would make its training program smaller and less efficient.

Speaker John Boehner then appointed her to the Benghazi Select Committee in May 2014, where she helped investigate the military’s preparation and response after the Benghazi attacks.

2. James Tallmadge, Jr.

James Tallmadge, Jr. served in New York’s Fourth Congressional District as a United States Representative from June 1817 to March 1819 and then helped found NYU in 1831. He is most well-known for his work in trying to restrict slavery in Missouri with the Tallmadge Amendment, however the Senate rejected the amendment.

He made speeches against slavery during his time as a public leader, with his oration even being translated into German.

3. Vanita Gupta

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta is the head of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, and Barack Obama appointed her to lead the division in 2014. She graduated from NYU School of Law in 2001 and since then has advanced criminal justice reform, enforced constitutional policing and investigated — as well as worked to reform — police departments in Ferguson, Montana, Cleveland, Ohio, Baltimore, Maryland, Chicago, Illinois and other large cities.

She also works to prosecute hate crimes, promote disability rights, defend against human trafficking, protect LGBT rights and combat discrimination in education, employment and voting. Gupta exposed the violations of the Baltimore City Police Department this past August, uncovering unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests. Her work also helped expose the excessive force that has disproportionately affected African American residents.

4. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah

Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Ghana’s Minister for Trade and Industry, is a diplomat as well as politician, and he previously served in Ghana as a minister of communication, a minister of education and a minister responsible for mines and energy.

He received a graduate certificate for international banking and finance from NYU in 1984, and since leaving the city, he has initiated, developed and implemented policies that support media outlets, encouraging more successful telecommunications, broadcasting, internet access, news media and postal services.

Spio-Garbrah also formed the Ghana Education Trust Fund that mobilizes over $50 million each year to assist student
education domestically.

5. Diana DeGette

Diana DeGette earned her doctor of laws degree from NYU in 1982, and she is best known for her work with female reproductive rights and her pro-choice stance on abortion laws in Colorado.

She started her government career as the U.S. House Representative for Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District from 1992 to 1996. In 1997, she transitioned to become the U.S. House Representative for Colorado’s First Congressional District — a position she still holds today.

DeGette also serves as the co-chair of the pro-choice caucus and co-sponsors the Prevention First Act, which aims to lessen the prevalence of unintended pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted infections in America. She authored a bill called Bubble Bill, which provides complete access to abortion clinics and other medical care services and facilities in Colorado.

6. Chi Mui

Chi Mui is the first Asian American mayor of San Gabriel, California. He graduated cum laude from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Mui was elected to San Gabriel’s City Council in 2003, and he used his mayoral term to successfully integrate the city’s non-Asian residents with recent Chinese immigrants.

This progress reflected his prior work as the president of the Los Angeles Chinese American Citizens Alliance, a civil rights group that advocates for the protected rights of Chinese Americans.

In addition to helping race relations, Mui campaigned to secure $35 million from the state of California to build parks and other community facilities in the bordering cornfields of Chinatown.  He also founded and coaches the Los Angeles Chinatown Athletic Association Volleyball Club.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 14 print edition. Email Miranda Levingston at [email protected].