Sarah E. Mendelson

Sarah E. Mendelson

Ambassador Sarah E. Mendelson is a nonresident senior fellow with the Center for Sustainable Development in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. She is also distinguished service professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as well as head of CMU’s Heinz College in Washington, D.C. At CMU, she co-chairs the university’s Sustainability Initiative and is a member of Heinz’s senior management team.

She previously served as the U.S. representative to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). There she led on international development, human rights, human trafficking, and humanitarian affairs. Prior to her appointment, she served as a deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance from 2010-2014 where she was the agency lead on democracy, human rights, and governance.

A long-time policy entrepreneur, she has spent 25 years working on development and human rights as a scholar and a practitioner. She spent over a decade at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as a senior adviser and the inaugural director of the Human Rights Initiative. She also worked as a senior fellow in CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia Program overseeing focus groups, public opinion surveys, and social marketing campaigns in Russia.

Her current work centers on the Sustainable Development Goals with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Packard Foundation. She is leading teams exploring the impact of COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts on social justice gaps in a number of North American cities in collaboration with university partners. That work emerged from her participation in the Brookings and Rockefeller flagship 17 Rooms exercise.  She also recently served as a lead on the Freedom House-CSIS-McCain Institute task force on U.S. strategy to promote democracy and combat authoritarianism, and as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Study Group on Human Trafficking.

The author of over 70 scholarly and public policy publications, Mendelson received her bachelor’s in history from Yale University and her doctorate in political science from Columbia University. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • Current Positions

    • Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy and Head of Heinz College in Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Mellon University
  • Past Positions

    • U.S. Representative to the United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
    • Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Education

    • Ph.D. in Political Science, Columbia University
    • B.A. in History, Yale University
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