Samar Ali ’06 (BS’03), joins VU faculty as research professor in political science and law

Jan 11, 2021

Samar S. Ali has joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University as a research professor in political science and law. Her appointment was announced by John Geer, who is the Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt, and by Chris Guthrie, dean and John Wade-Kent Syverud Professor of Law.

“Samar brings innovative, diverse, international perspectives to her work that will enhance the university’s mission of discovery, learning and service,” Geer said. “We are thrilled to have her join our faculty and advance national conversations on pressing issues facing our community and the world.”

Ali will take a leave of absence from her legal practice at Bass Berry & Sims in Nashville to join the Vanderbilt faculty. As an international counsel with the firm, Ali has focused her practice on national security and cybersecurity law.

“We are so fortunate to have Samar join our faculty,” Guthrie said. “We will benefit from her prodigious talent and truly unique mix of leadership and service experiences.”

Ali began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge Gilbert S. Merritt Jr. ‘60 of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and then clerked for Justice Edwin Cameron during his tenure on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. In 2007, she joined Hogan Lovell US, helping to establish the firm’s Middle Eastern practice in the United Arab Emirates. She left the firm in 2010 when she was named a White House Fellow in President Barack Obama’s administration. During her fellowship, she worked closely with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on national security matters, gaining experience with bilateral negotiations on behalf of the U.S. government and later joined former President Jimmy Carter as part of an international delegation observing Egypt’s 2012 presidential election.

After returning to Tennessee to practice law, she joined the administration of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam as the state’s assistant commissioner of international affairs, supporting Tennessee’s global relations. The five-year international strategy plan she helped develop laid the framework for Tennessee’s international economic development footprint.

In addition to her legal practice at Bass Berry & Sims, Ali co-founded and has served as a director of the Lodestone Advisory Group, a boutique consulting firm that specializes in growth strategies through innovation, venture capital, global markets and transformation. She has also served as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School, where she teaches courses on international relations and negotiations.

Most recently, she co-founded and serves as president and CEO of Millions of Conversations, a nonprofit organization that aims to unite Americans around common values for a shared future by fostering dialogue among those who hold different opinions, views or beliefs. ”America is at a crossroads,” Ali said in a recent TEDx Talk. “Over the next three decades, no one race or ethnicity will dominate the majority population. In effect, we will all become a collection of minorities.”

Ali is a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum, a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations, a Winrock International board member, and a recipient of the White House Fellows IMPACT Award. She currently serves as an adviser to the Aspen Institute’s initiative, “Who Is Us: A Project on American Identity,” and was recently appointed as a New Pluralist Fellow.

Ali also serves on the law school’s Board of Advisors and has received the university’s Young Professional Achievement Award. In Nashville, she serves on the Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission and the Tennessee World Affairs Council, among other board and community service.

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Tennessean and other publications and venues. She is currently at work on a memoir about finding unity through belonging in America today. She was recently featured on a webinar panel, “Building Inclusive and Welcoming Societies in a Time of COVID Divisions,” through the Yale Good Society Forum, which addressed strategies for ensuring a commitment to building inclusive and welcoming societies during uncertain times.

A native of Waverly, Tennessee, Ali earned a B.S. in political science in 2003 from Vanderbilt University, where she was elected the school’s first Arab-American student body president, and a J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School in 2006.


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