Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary and presidential adviser, announced as Rice’s 2023 commencement speaker

Karine Jean-Pierre

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary and assistant to the president, will deliver the 2023 commencement address at Rice University during the undergraduate commencement ceremony the evening of May 6. All 2023 Rice graduates along with their families and guests and all members of the university community are welcome to attend the ceremony at Rice Stadium.

A pioneering voice in American politics who got her start as a grassroots activist, Jean-Pierre was born to Haitian parents in Martinique before moving with her family to Queens, New York, at the age of 5. Jean-Pierre is the first Black woman, the first gay woman and the first immigrant woman to hold the position of White House press secretary.

Karine Jean-Pierre
Karine Jean-Pierre

“Like many of you, Karine has broken barriers to get where she is today,” said Rice University President Reginald DesRoches in a message to the Rice community. “This part of her story was especially attractive to me and to the members of the student committee who nominated her to be this year’s commencement speaker.

“I am excited about hosting Karine in Houston and at Rice,” he continued. “Her message to our graduates will undoubtedly be inspiring, relevant and authentic.”

A longtime adviser to President Joe Biden, Jean-Pierre has served in a variety of senior communication and political roles in his administration and that of former President Barack Obama, on Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and on Biden’s staff when he was vice president.

Before joining Biden’s 2020 campaign, she served as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn and as a political analyst with NBC and MSNBC. Jean-Pierre worked as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama administration and served as deputy battleground states director for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Jean-Pierre served as Southeast regional political director for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, deputy campaign manager for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign, campaign manager for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Initiative, and as deputy chief of staff and director of legislative and budget affairs for two members of the New York City Council.

A graduate of Columbia University, Jean-Pierre has also worked at the Center for Community and Corporate Ethics, where she pushed major companies to reform their business practices. In 2019, she published the political memoir “Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America.”

Rice University’s 110th commencement ceremonies will be held May 5-6. The exact time of the May 6 undergraduate ceremony where Jean-Pierre will make her remarks will be announced at a later date. For more information and updates on Rice’s 2023 commencement events, please visit commencement.rice.edu.


Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 4,552 undergraduates and 3,998 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.