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Women’s History Month Alumni Profile: Jenny Kessler ’12

Home Law School News Women’s History Month Alumni Profile: Jenny Kessler ’12

“I use the research and analytical skills I learned at South Texas College of Law Houston almost every single day of my professional life,” said Jenny Kessler ’12, who serves as the director of Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Policy and Innovation (MOPI).

Licensed to practice law in Texas and Washington, D. C., Kessler does not litigate, prosecute, or defend. She does not practice corporate or transactional law. She is not a practitioner of alternate dispute resolution. She is a skilled critical thinker who can synthesize complex subject matters, and an effective communicator with an aptitude for mastering the legislative process.

Kessler joined Mayor Bowser’s administration in 2018 as an associate director in the Office of Federal and Regional Affairs, where she was the lead advocate for increased appropriations for key district-wide programs. She was also Bowser’s national service director, overseeing the team responsible for implementing and expanding national service throughout the District of Columbia.

Previously, she was the policy officer at the Low-Income Investment Fund, where she oversaw a national coalition of advocates fighting for access to quality early learning and K-12 education. Kessler also lobbied Congress on behalf of healthy food financing and funding for affordable housing.

In her current role, the native Texan manages a team of highly trained data scientists, researchers and other specialists charged with the responsibility of finding innovative solutions to address everyday challenges that affect D.C. residents. “This is a completely original way of thinking and operating for municipalities,” Kessler said. “The concept of the Bloomberg Innovation Team is completely different from anything ever done.”

With a $2.6 million grant and technical support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the “innovation team” focuses on designing new processes and methods to further improve public services and the digital experience for all the residents of the nation’s capital.

Kessler’s team is beginning with a project to improve the experience of small business owners during the building construction permitting process. Creating greater efficiencies, cutting bureaucracy, and deploying modern, online tools for end users could benefit a wide range of stakeholders, in addition to entrepreneurs. She feels she is in the right place, doing the work she was meant to do.

“I knew I wanted to focus on policy and advocacy work after completing an undergraduate internship in 2009 that gave me the opportunity to lobby the Texas Legislature,” Kessler said. “I realized all the lobbyists had law degrees, even though they didn’t use them in the traditional way. I knew I wanted to use my law degree to advocate.”

Kessler toured every law school in Texas before deciding on STCL Houston. “The professor – student ratio was great, and the services, programs, and supports in place for students were important to me. I felt supported right away, as an admitted student.”

Fresh out of college with a degree in political science, Kessler says she thought she was prepared for law school. Her first semester proved her wrong. “It was such a different world, and it was incredibly challenging for me. Prof. Amanda Peters was my life saver. She was not only a great professor, but also a good person and a great listener. She showed me a lot of compassion and understanding. I was so honored she agreed to hood me at graduation.”

Looking back, Kessler fully appreciates that her time at STCL Houston demanded she learn to perfect the skills she uses so frequently: reading carefully, researching, writing opinions and analyses, developing a persuasive position, and managing projects. She also brings with her the law school’s well-known penchant for fresh, bold ideas. “We are trying to be a leader among local governments here in Washington D.C.,” she said. “We want to be at the forefront with innovative, progressive thinking about how to connect citizens to services.”

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