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Brent Colburn

Vice President of Communications, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)



Brent Colburn, a veteran of both Democratic political campaigns and the Obama administration, recently joined the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) as their first Vice President of Communications.  CZI, established in December of 2015 by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and pediatrician and educator Dr. Priscilla Chan, is committed to unlocking human potential and promoting equality.  This multi-billion dollar philanthropic effort brings together tools like grant making, social impact investing, and public advocacy to promote issues including personalized learning in education and basic science research with an aim towards curing, preventing and managing diseases.

Prior to joining CZI, Mr. Colburn spent a semester as a Fellow in Residence at Harvard University’s Kennedy School for Government’s Institute of Politics.  Before accepting the position at Harvard, he most recently served as the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, where he acted as the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense for communication strategy, media relations, public information, and community relations in support of Department of Defense (DOD) activities and U.S. service members and civilian employees.  Mr. Colburn also oversaw the Department’s Public Affairs infrastructure, including the Defense Information School (DINFOS), Armed Forces Network, DOD News, and thousands of Public Affairs staffers serving in and out of uniform around the world.

Mr. Colburn served in a number of other positions within the Obama administration before joining DOD, including a stint as the Chief of Staff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Secretary Shaun Donovan, helping manage a cabinet agency of over 8,000 employees.

In 2011, Mr. Colburn was the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), working closely with Secretary Napolitano and her leadership team on issues ranging from counterterrorism to border security and disaster response.  He began his service with the Obama administration at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where he was the Director of External Affairs, overseeing Public Affairs, Legislative Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, International Affairs and Private Sector Outreach.

Mr. Colburn has worked on the last four presidential campaign cycles, most recently serving as National Communications Director for President Obama’s re-election campaign and the Communications Director for the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee.  In 2008 he served as Michigan Communications Director for then Senator Obama’s first presidential run, following stints in 2004 as Research Director for Howard Dean and as a member of the National Advance Staff for Gore-Lieberman in 2000. 

Additionally, his campaign experience includes stints at the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and as the Communications Director for Senator Debbie Stabenow’s 2006 re-election campaign.  Mr. Colburn also served as the Communications Director and Deputy Chief of Staff in Senator Stabenow’s Senate office.

Mr. Colburn attended the College of William & Mary in Virginia, where he earned both a BA in Government and a Master’s in Public Policy.  He is a recipient of William & Mary’s Baxter-Ward Fellowship for Distinguished Government Department Alumni, as well as the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.