Former Policy Director to First Lady Michelle Obama
Krishanti Vignarajah is a leading authority on public policy, philanthropy, and engaging millennials. The former policy director at the White House to First Lady Michelle Obama, Vignarajah provides unique insight on what it takes to drive innovation, leverage diverse talent, and lead successful teams with passion and purpose. A brilliant storyteller, her experience and expertise in purpose-driven leadership is exceptional, but it’s her inspiring passion and ability to connect with all audiences that truly distinguishes her.
Born in Sri Lanka, Vignarajah escaped humble beginnings and a civil war to immigrate to America, where she succeeded at the most elite institutions and forged a career that has spanned business, law, and government, and which has included acting as a State Department Senior Advisor under both Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry.
At the White House, in addition to serving as policy director to Michelle Obama, Vignarajah led the Let Girls Learn initiative President Obama and the First Lady launched while in office. In this capacity, Vignarajah helped shape White House and State Department initiatives related to the UN and other multilateral institutions, private sector investment, and public-private partnerships.
Prior to joining the White House, Vignarajah clerked for former Chief Judge Michael Boudin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and practiced law at Jenner & Block in Washington. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University, teaching international law and US foreign policy.
Vignarajah attended Yale College, where she earned a Master’s degree in Political Science and a BS in Molecular Biology, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She subsequently obtained an M.Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, and returned to Yale where she earned a Law degree.
At Yale, Vignarajah was awarded the Potter Stewart Prize and the Harlan Fiske Stone Prize for best brief and best oralist during its Supreme Court competition. She has also received the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Prize, the Benjamin Scharps Prize, and the Joseph Parker Prize.
Vignarajah has published many award-winning articles on free trade, judicial scrutiny of political questions, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS in, among others, the Journal of World Trade and the Chicago Law Review.