Biden's cabinet
US President-elect Joe Biden has announced his first picks for cabinet, and there are many firsts. Source: Andrew Cabalerro-Reynolds/AFP

President-elect Joe Biden has announced key nominations for the US Democratic cabinet. It is his first order of business as the incoming US president, and the world is watching closely. “It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” Biden said.

It’s an exciting time for law and policy students too, as they get to witness potential career trajectories. Here’s a look at four important nominees in Biden’s cabinet, along with the education and career background that led them to this moment.

Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury

“Janet Yellen is nominated to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement. Source: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

After graduating as valedictorian of Fort Hamilton High School, Yellen went on to enrol in Brown University‘s philosophy programme. However, she later switched her major to economics and entered the field at a time when few women even considered it. She then got her PhD in economics from Yale University; prominent economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers her as one of his “brightest and most memorable” students.

Yellen would bring 40 years of economics and governance experience to Biden’s cabinet. She was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010, vice-chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from 2010 to 2014, and a top advisor to former President Clinton in the late ’90s.

Antony Blinken as Secretary of State

Biden's cabinet

Antony Blinken was US Deputy Secretary of State and the former Deputy National Security Advisor for former President Barack Obama. Source: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Concordia Summit/AFP

Blinken spent his formative years in the US and Paris; years later, he would practice law in these two countries, too. He attended Dalton High School in New York before moving to Paris with his mother in 1971, where he studied at École Jeannine Manuel. His collegiate years were filled with literature and art, as he worked on The Harvard Crimson and edited an art magazine at Harvard University. Blinken then earned his J.D. at Columbia Law School.

Besides co-founding a consulting firm, this lawyer-turned-politician has racked up a long list of commendable accomplishments. They include writing speeches and strategising for President Clinton, as well as advising President Obama and then-Veep Biden on matters of national security.

Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security

Biden's cabinet

Alejandro Mayorkas was responsible for implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme. Source: Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

Making waves in Biden’s cabinet as well as his community and country, Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to be nominated for this position. He was born in Cuba and entered the US with his family as a child; they were political refugees of the Cuban Revolution. They lived in Miami and Los Angeles, where Mayorkas attended Beverly Hills High. Next, he earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley and a J.D. from Loyola High School.

Mayorkas’ political journey came full circle to his personal background when he started the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme for immigrant children under the Obama administration in 2009. He was serving as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency during this time.

Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence

Biden's cabinet

Biden on Avril Haines: “Brilliant, humble. Can talk literature and theoretical physics, fixing cars, flying planes, running a bookstore-cafe, all in a single conversation, because she’s done all that.”  Source: Chandan Khanna/AFP

Kamala Harris is not the only woman to break barriers in Biden’s cabinet. Not only is Avril Haines slated to become the first woman to lead the US intelligence community, but she also comes from a colourful past. The child of an academic and an artist, she was always keen on exploring new frontiers. It’s no wonder she met her husband when learning how to fly a plane.

Haines graduated from Hunter College High School, then spent a year at an elite judo institute in Tokyo, Japan. She returned to study theoretical physics at the University of Chicago, during which time she also worked on cars at a mechanic shop. After learning how to fly, she went back to school for her Bachelor of Arts in physics. She enrolled in medical school at Johns Hopkins University, but dropped out to run an independent bookstore and cafe with her husband. When she returned to graduate school, Haines switched to a J.D. at Georgetown University Law Centre, proving that you can pursue several different passions throughout your lifetime.