Janet Napolitano

Research Expertise and Interest

education, leadership and management, politics

Research Description

Janet Napolitano is a professor of Public Policy and Director of the new Center for Security in Politics.

A distinguished public servant, Napolitano served as the president of the University of California from 2013 to 2020, as the US Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, as Governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009, as Attorney General of Arizona from 1998 to 2003, and as US Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1993 to 1997. She earned her BS degree (summa cum laude in Political Science) in 1979 from Santa Clara University, where she was a Truman Scholar, and the university’s first female valedictorian. She received her law degree in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Law.

As Secretary of Homeland Security, she led the nation’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, secure its borders, respond to natural disasters, and build domestic resiliency. She oversaw critical enhancements to aviation security, including initiatives like the creation of TSA Pre✓® that bolster security while improving the travel experience. Through the expansion of programs like Global Entry and pre-clearance, the Department expanded our borders, helping to identify threats before they depart for the U.S. The Department also significantly enhanced its readiness to meet and combat evolving cyber threats. During her time as Secretary, she also spearheaded the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, creating hope and relief for thousands of undocumented young people across the nation. She was the first woman and is to date the longest-serving Secretary of Homeland Security. Under her leadership, the Department transformed its security capabilities, becoming a more efficient, cohesive and effective organization.

As UC President, she was a steadfast advocate for California students, working to stabilize in-state tuition and to enroll historic numbers of California undergraduates. In 2017, under Napolitano’s leadership, the University of California was the first university in the country to file a lawsuit to stop the federal government’s rescission of the DACA program. The injunctions the University received prohibiting the rescission of DACA were upheld by the US Supreme Court. Napolitano also upheld the university’s legacy of leadership on global climate action, putting UC on a path to 100 percent reliance on clean electricity across all campuses and medical centers by 2025, the same year the university aims to achieve systemwide carbon neutrality. In 2017, she also spearheaded the formation of the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3. This group of 18 leading North American research universities and systems are working to help local communities achieve their climate goals and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. 

Napolitano is the recipient of nine honorary degrees as well as the Jefferson Medal from the University of Virginia, that University’s highest honor. In 2015, Napolitano was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She serves on the Council of the American Law Institute and is a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In March of 2019, Napolitano published How Safe Are We: Homeland Security Since 9/11

In the News

As Online Harms Surge, Our Better Web Initiative Advances at UC Berkeley

With the U.S. midterm elections approaching and political disinformation posing a continued threat to democracy, UC Berkeley’s ambitious new Our Better Web initiative, launched on a small scale in April, is advancing efforts to study and combat online harms including deception, discrimination and child exploitation.