Katie Dunn Tenpas_headshot

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas is a visiting fellow in Governance Studies and director of the Katzmann Initiative. Named in honor of Judge Robert A. Katzmann, a Brookings scholar in Governance Studies from 1981-99, the Katzmann Initiative seeks to build on his decades-long scholarship to improve interbranch relations. Dr. Tenpas is also a practitioner senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and serves on the Advisory Board of the White House Transition Project.

Dr. Tenpas’ research addresses the intersection between the presidency and politics, focusing on presidential personnel, Senate-confirmed appointments, transitions, reelection campaigns and trends in presidential travel and polling. Her studies of White House staffing include an original database that tracks turnover rates among senior staffers. During the Trump administration, it reached over 750,000 page views in its three-year run, making it one of the highest performing pages at Brookings. In addition, she has written or coauthored pieces on key units within the White House (Office of Political Affairs, Staff Secretary, Counsel’s Office, Faith-based and Community Initiatives and the Office of the First Lady).

Dr. Tenpas has authored the book, “Presidents as Candidates: Inside the White House for the Presidential Campaign”, and published over sixty articles, book chapters, blog posts, op-eds and papers on a variety of presidency-related topics. Her peer-reviewed articles have been published in the “Journal of Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Public Opinion Quarterly and Presidential Studies Quarterly.” Recent publications include a 2022 Presidential Studies Quarterly article, “Waiting for Advice and Consent: Record-Level Diversity Amidst an Exceedingly Slow Confirmation Pace During the First 300 Days of the Biden Administration” and the creation of a Biden staff turnover tracker that continues to identify trends in turnover rates across presidencies from Reagan through Biden.

Her insights on the presidency have been quoted in major newspapers like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.  She has appeared on numerous television and radio outlets (e.g., NPR, Marketplace, CNN, CNBC) in the United States and abroad.

She also served two terms on the Board of the American Political Science Association’s Presidency Research Group, a national organization for presidency scholars, was a fellow and secretary for the Governance Institute and has been an active participant in the University of Virginia’s Miller Center Presidential Oral History Program.

Dr. Tenpas’ academic positions include her role as the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Washington Semester Program, as a senior fellow at the Weidenbaum Center at Washington University in St. Louis, and an associate professorship in the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida. While there, she won an undergraduate teaching award, directed the Political Science Honors Program and the Washington, D.C. internship program. From 1992-1993, she was a guest scholar at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Dr. Tenpas earned her B.A. from Georgetown University in 1985, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia (in 1989 and 1993 respectively).

  • Areas of Expertise

    • Faith-based initiatives
    • The presidency
    • Government staffing
    • White House operations
  • Current Positions

    • The Miller Center at the University of Virginia, Senior Fellow
    • The White House Transition Project, Senior Research Director
    • The Center for Presidential Transition, Fellow
  • Past Positions

    • The Brookings Institution, Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies
    • The Governance Institute, Fellow and Secretary of the Institute
    • University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Washington Semester Program and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, 2006 – 2013.
    • Washington University in St. Louis, Senior Fellow, The Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government and Public Policy, and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, August 2004-November 2005 (joined the Center as a Visiting Fellow in August 2004 and was promoted to Senior Fellow and Senior Lecturer in April 2005).
    • University of Pennsylvania, Associate Director of the Washington Semester Program, Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science, taught advanced American Government seminar, Independent Study seminar and administered the program from Washington, D.C., July 1999 – June 2004 (on leave 2004-2005).
    • University of South Florida, Associate Professor, Department of Government and International Affairs, won award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, taught the following courses: American National Government, the American Presidency, Presidential Campaigns and Elections, and the Honors seminar. Responsibilities also included Director of Political Science Honors Program and the USF Washington, D.C. Internship program, appointed December, 1993-August 1999.
  • Education

    • Ph.D. (1993), M.A. (1989), University of Virginia
    • B.A. Georgetown University (1985)
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