Stories from Our Community

Leading policy initiatives that affect the global black community

Dr. Menna Demessie is the Senior Vice President of Policy Analysis and Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. She leads the foundation’s research and policy initiatives that affect African Americans and the global black community in areas including education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, voting and environmental sustainability, among many others. In her capacity, Dr. Demessie has spearheaded several partnerships with the White House, Congress, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and other nonprofit stakeholders to advance strategic efforts to influence and inform public policy. Prior to joining the CBCF, Dr. Demessie was one of five scholars in the United States to receive the prestigious American Political Science Congressional Fellowship. For the fellowship, she joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s team to work on federal unemployment legislation, antipoverty initiatives, and foreign affairs in the 112th Congress.

She is the founder and co-managing editor of the CBCF’s Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research, a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal on public policy issues related to black politics in the United States and abroad. Dr. Demessie is also the founder of the CBCF’s first editorial board, an initiative she facilitated in honor of Dr. Ronald Walters’ legacy of advancing and engaging scholarship in the overall mission of the CBCF.

In Benin, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Nigeria, she has also worked on democratic governance and gender equality, and in August 2017 traveled to Kenya as an election observer. In 2016, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser recognized Dr. Demessie with the Community Advocacy Award for her successful efforts to help secure funding from the DC City Council for the District’s African communities. In August of 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, appointed her as Secretary of the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund Advisory Council.

Dr. Demessie has interviewed with NPR and other media outlets, presented to several universities and members of Congress on various policy issues, plays piano, and performs spoken word. Additionally, she has published on the critical importance of mobilization and representation of African Americans, black immigrants, and the need for the U.S. government to recognize the value of working in partnership with diaspora communities in addressing domestic and international policy.

She received her joint Ph.D. in political science and public policy from the University of Michigan where she conducted the first and only empirical and qualitative study of African congressional caucuses in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the significance of the Congressional Black Caucus’ influence on U.S.-Africa foreign policy. She earned a Master of Arts in political science, and a certificate in African American, African, and Black Transnational Studies from the University of Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Law and Society with honors from Oberlin College.

Dr. Demessie received the highly competitive Congressional Research Award from the Dirksen Congressional Center and is an adjunct professor for the University of Michigan and the University of California Washington Center.

Currently serving her second elected term on the Alumni Board for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Dr. Demessie, a proud Ohio native, also serves on the Board of Visitors for her alma mater at Western Reserve Academy and on the Congressional Fellowship Program Advisory Committee for the American Political Science Association.