Kristina Ko has been appointed executive director of federal relations for the University of Michigan’s Washington, D.C., office after nearly nine years advocating in the nation’s capital for the university’s research enterprise.

Under Ko’s leadership, the university’s D.C. office will represent the interests of both the offices of Government Relations and Research.

Photo of Kristina Ko
Kristina Ko

“I am grateful for this new opportunity to align our federal priorities across higher education, research and scholarship,” said Ko, who will maintain her role as assistant vice president for research — federal relations for research.

“I also look forward to unifying the mission of the D.C. office to leverage our expertise to the benefit of our faculty, staff and students across all three campuses, as well as our federal policymakers across the Congress, White House and federal agencies.”

In her newly expanded role, Ko will supervise a federal relations office that monitors legislation of interest to universities, while facilitating congressional and administration activity. The federal relations team also issues briefings for faculty and staff, and handles congressional inquiries concerning the university’s academic and research activities and its views on pending legislation.

Ko steps into the role at a busy time — in addition to the ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Congress and a new president are taking office.

“The change in the White House administration will present new priorities and opportunities for engagement on the many national policies that impact our faculty, staff and students,” she said.

Chris Kolb, who started Jan. 19 as the university’s vice president for government relations, said it was “so important to have someone like Kristina at the helm” at a time when the university is engaged with so many issues at the federal level.

“She has the skills and expertise to ensure that the university’s best interests are well represented,” Kolb said.

Outgoing Vice President for Government Relations Cynthia Wilbanks said earlier this week she was “thrilled” to name Ko to the new role. Ko succeeds Michael Waring, who retired at the end of December.

“Kristina and I have worked together closely since she started her work at U-M, and I value her skills and expertise,” Wilbanks said.

Ko joined the Office of the Vice President for Research as the director of federal relations for research in 2012 after working as a health care adviser to Sen. Carl Levin for five years.

“The federal government plays an incredibly important role in our ongoing efforts to catalyze research and scholarship across the University of Michigan’s three campuses,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

“With expertise and leadership from Kristina Ko and the federal relations team, the university community will continue to strengthen its partnerships with the federal government so that together we can address critical challenges facing our nation.”

Ko earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.

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