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Jamal Habibi ’07 Seeks to Make an Impact on the World

Growing up with a Muslim father and a Christian mother, Jamal Habibi ’07 was fascinated by both religion and politics. From the time he was in middle school, Habibi knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up – a U.S. Ambassador.

“I’ve always wanted to bridge the divide people have had on political and religious grounds while representing my country.”

Today, Habibi is actively working towards his career goal. He is currently the outreach director for the myRA program – a starter retirement savings account developed by the United States Department of the Treasury for people without access to a retirement savings plan at work. President Obama authorized the U.S. Treasury to create myRA during the 2014 State of the Union speech.

“Millions of Americans aren’t saving-or aren’t saving enough-for their retirement. myRA offers a simple, safe, and affordable way for people, especially those who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work, to get started,” he said.

Habibi earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and languages/cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned an athletic scholarship for soccer. He was a four year recipient of the Academic All-Big Ten Award.

Habibi joined the David Chiu for Mayor of San Francisco campaign as a campaign fellow during the summer of 2011.

That political experience led Habibi to a position as a field organizer in Miami for President Obama’s re-election campaign. “Since I was organizing in a predominantly Democratic voter area, my job was to lead teams of volunteers to register voters, knock doors, and increase voter turnout at the polls. We won the state of Florida by less than 1% of the vote, so our work in the field made a big impact on the results,” he said.

After the election, Habibi moved to Washington, DC, and landed a position as confidential assistant to the Undersecretary (Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services) at the Department of Agriculture. After a year, he was promoted to special assistant to the Undersecretary and worked in that capacity until February 2016 when he was named outreach director for the myRA program.

Habibi says it was challenging to get up to speed on the intricacies of agriculture and finance initially. “While there was a learning curve for new issues, I had great access to wonderful people with years of experience who I could learn from and enhance my own skills and expertise,” he said.

Still, 10-12 hour work days are the norm for Habibi. “I spend one to two hours each day reading and digesting briefing materials and information,” he said.

Having the opportunity to meet and talk with people who have benefitted from the programs he’s worked on is rewarding, Habibi said. “For example, when I was with the Department of Agriculture, farmers would tell me that our department’s work to increase market access for exports helped their business grow and allowed them to provide more jobs,” he said.

Looking ahead, Habibi plans to go to business school in the next year or two, and study international business/trade, and would also like to expand his resume to include private sector work.

“Having government experience, getting an MBA, and having private sector experience will help me achieve my long-term goal of creating new opportunities for Americans and representing my country abroad as a US Ambassador,” he said.


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