Rachel Palermo

Rachel Palermo

St. Olaf College alumni Rachel Palermo, who is finishing law school at the University of Notre Dame, will join the communications team in the Office of the Vice President. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/Polaris)

St. Olaf College alumna Rachel Palermo has been named the assistant press secretary to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Palermo, who graduated in 2015, will join the new administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and her team will serve as a crucial link between the Vice President and the public.

In the press release announcing the new appointments, Vice President Harris expressed her enthusiasm for the incoming communications team, noting that “their leadership will be critical as we work to meet the challenges facing the American people — from the coronavirus pandemic to this economic recession to our climate crisis and long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice. I am proud to announce these individuals will be joining my team and look forward to working alongside them each and every day.”

While this position promises to be a challenging one, Palermo brings a depth of experience in political communications, reaching all the way back to her time on the Hill. She credits her experiences as both the coordinator of St. Olaf’s Political Awareness Committee and the president of the Student Government Association with piquing her interest in politics. During her time on the Hill, she also made use of the St. Olaf network, creating an internship with the help of Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Holiday Companies Lynn Anderson ’75 where she gained exposure to the legal field. She also interned at the U.S. Department of Justice under the direction of Amy Gillespie ’88, a close mentor and friend who passed away last year.

After graduation, Palermo moved to Washington, D.C., becoming the assistant press secretary and director of women’s media at the Democratic National Committee. She was later a senior associate at SKDKnickerbocker before moving back to the Midwest to pursue her law degree at the University of Notre Dame. It was there in South Bend, Indiana, that she joined the legal team for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign during her second year of law school. Now she will complete her final semester while bringing her expertise to the incoming administration.

“I am incredibly excited and honored to be serving in this position,” she says. “Vice President-elect Harris is assembling a talented team that will be ready to face the urgent challenges facing our country, and I look forward to being a part of it.”

Palermo says students who want to make the most of a St. Olaf education should focus on making genuine connections, working hard, advocating for oneself, and keeping a positive outlook. She also points out that many of the requisite skills are part of a liberal arts education, whether they are gained in the classroom, from extracurriculars, or through the St. Olaf network.

“St. Olaf instills in us a strong foundation,” she says, “and the sky is the limit for what we can achieve.”

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