We are excited (and so lucky!) to be able to announce Krishanti Vignarajah as our keynote speaker for Pandemic! Krishanti recently finished serving as Policy Director for First Lady Michelle Obama, where she led the White House’s Let Girls Learn initiative, which supports the education of girls via government support, international coalitions and private sector partnerships. Before the White House, she served as Senior Advisor at the State Department under Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry. She currently serves as Founder & CEO of Generation Impact, which partners with nonprofits, foundations and companies to achieve sustainable social impact.
Krishanti has a clear love of learning and is an expert in leading programs that foster quality education for young girls, empowerment, and expanding their potential opportunities. She’ll be discussing her personal background in context with her professional achievements and leadership, specifically with respect to empowering women and social impact.
Krishanti was 9-months old when she and her family escaped the growing violence in Sri Lanka to come to America. By the time her parents fled, thousands had been killed, children were conscripted into the army, as ethnic tensions worsened and the country descended into civil war.
The daughter of Baltimore City public school teachers, Krishanti’s parents emphasized education her entire life. Her mother started teaching at Poly High School in 1970, and after taking time to help raise her family and going back to get her PhD in her 50s, finished her career teaching at Morgan State University, one of Maryland’s distinguished HBCUs. Her father started teaching who is 80 and has been a teacher for 57 years, teaches Physics at Western High School in Baltimore City, the oldest all-girls public school in the country. Krishanti attended Baltimore publics schools starting from Woodbridge Elementary to Woodlawn High School in Baltimore (Woodlawn was the school featured in the Serial podcast). She attended Yale College, where she earned a Master’s degree in Political Science and a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, where she received an M.Phil. in International Relations, before returning to Yale Law School, where she served on the Yale Law Journal and received the Potter Stewart and the Harlan Stone Prizes.
While serving in the Obama Administration, Krishanti helped shape White House and State Department initiatives and programs related to entrepreneurship, women’s issues, engagement with youth and religious communities, private sector investment, public-private partnerships, public diplomacy, development strategies concerning health, food security and climate change, and regional issues relating to Africa and the Middle East.
Before joining the White House, Krishanti worked at McKinsey & Company, where she consulted for Fortune 100 companies, practiced law at Jenner & Block in Washington, DC, clerked for Chief Judge Michael Boudin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and taught U.S. foreign policy and international law at Georgetown University as an adjunct. She has published articles, including in the Journal of World Trade and Chicago Law Review, and received awards like the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize for her scholarship.