Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins '88 to Deliver Commencement Keynote

By Tom Torello
View Archives


Ambassador Bonnie Denise Jenkins, class of 1988

Albany Law School is excited to announce that Ambassador Bonnie Denise Jenkins, class of 1988, will deliver the keynote address at the Law School’s 171st Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 10 a.m.

Jenkins is the current Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, a position she assumed in July 2021.  She is the first African American to ever serve as an Under Secretary of State at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, she served in the Obama Administration from 2009-2017 as Special Envoy and Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.  In that role, she coordinated American efforts on threat reduction globally and U.S. government programs in chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological (CBRN) security and was the State Department lead for the 2010 and 2016 Nuclear Security Summits. She was the U.S. Representative to the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.  

“Ambassador Jenkins is one of our most accomplished alumni. We’re incredibly fortunate to have her as our Commencement speaker,” said Albany Law School President and Dean Alicia Ouellette ’94. “She has had a remarkable career, is a world-renowned expert in her field, and her work has had and continues to have a truly global impact.”

While at Albany Law, Jenkins enlisted in the Air Force Reserves. She served as a paralegal at bases in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. until 1992 when she received a direct officer commission into the U.S. Naval Reserve. She rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and received numerous commendations before retiring in 2008. 

After serving as a Legal Adviser to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency – where she provided advice to U.S. ambassadors and delegations negotiating arms control and nonproliferation treaties – in 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Jenkins as coordinator of Threat Reduction Programs with the rank of ambassador. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and assumed her duties immediately in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.  
From 2014–2017, in addition to leading U.S. interagency engagements on threat reduction programs, Jenkins led diplomatic efforts to promote the Global Health Security Agenda, a group of 70 countries, international organizations, non-government organizations, and private sector companies that builds countries’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats like Ebola, Zika and today, COVID-19. In partnership with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency and U.S. Africa Command she developed the “Threat Reduction in Africa” (TRIA) to ensure U.S. programs and activities in WMD security are coordinated accurately to meet the needs of countries where the programs are engaged. Her efforts earned her the 2016 ISN nomination for the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs. 

In addition to her time in the military and government, Jenkins worked at the Ford Foundation as the Program Officer for U.S. Foreign and Security Policy, and Conflicts. She served as Counsel on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) and served as General Counsel to the U.S. Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

From 2017–2020, she was a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution. In 2017, she was a Senior Fellow at the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania. She was also a pre-doctoral fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  While at Harvard, she also served as an Advisor at the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School.

Jenkins is the Founder and from 2017-2021, was the Executive Director, and Board Chair of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS), a leading advocacy organization supporting women of color in the security and peace-building sector. In June 2020, she founded Organizations in Solidarity, which supports a common vision of a world where all people are treated equally, fairly, and with respect.

She has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School, in the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and the George Washington Elliott School of International Affairs. She was also a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

In addition to her J.D. from Albany Law School, she has a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Virginia; an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from the Georgetown University Law Center; an M.P.A. from the State University of New York at Albany; and a B.A. from Amherst College. She also attended The Hague Academy for International Law. 

She is a member of the New York State Bar.