Alan Jenkins ’89, president and co-founder of The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communications organization, will join the Harvard Law School faculty as a professor of practice in July. Having previously taught Communications, Law and Social Change at HLS as a lecturer on law, Jenkins is expected to teach courses on race and the law, communications and social change, and social justice.
“Alan is one of the country’s leading thinkers on the relationship between media, public opinion, law, policy and ensuring opportunity for all Americans,” said Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning ’85. “I am thrilled that he will be bringing to Harvard Law students his expertise on what today’s lawyers and leaders need to be effective communicators for their cause.”
“I am excited to join the Harvard Law School faculty at this pivotal moment for our constitutional democracy,” said Jenkins. “Preparing emerging leaders to uphold fairness and equal justice is as important now as at any time in our nation’s history.”
Jenkins co-founded The Opportunity Agenda 13 years ago as an enterprise devoted to raising awareness of social justice issues in the United States. The nonprofit serves as a social justice communication lab to shape compelling narratives and foster civic engagement. In a 2016 profile in the Harvard Law Bulletin, Jenkins said he became convinced that change agents needed the tools to get out their messages to win hearts and minds. “What I saw, over and over again, was that something was missing, something related to communications, culture, and connection,” he said. “Part of the role of the modern lawyer and advocate is to be an effective communicator.”
Before co-founding The Opportunity Agenda, Jenkins was director of Human Rights at the Ford Foundation, managing grantmaking in the United States and 11 overseas regions. His prior positions include Assistant to the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he represented the United States government in constitutional and other litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Associate Counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he defended the rights of low-income communities facing exploitation and discrimination.
A frequent commentator in broadcast and print media, including MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Huffington Post, Jenkins serves on the Ad Council’s Advisory Committee on Public Issues and as an advisor on Poverty to the JBP Foundation.
He has served on the boards of New York Public Radio, the Center for Community Change, the Legal Action Center, and the Futuro Media Group, as well as on the Selection Committee for the Sundance Documentary Fund.
In addition to a B.A. in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, Jenkins holds an M.A. in Media Studies from the New School for Public Engagement. After graduating from HLS, he served as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun ’32 and to U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Carter.