Derek R. B. Douglas

Derek R.B. Douglas joined the University of Chicago in January 2012 as the Vice President for Civic Engagement. From 2009 through 2011, Douglas served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as Special Assistant to President Barack Obama on urban and metropolitan policy issues. Prior to working in the White House, Derek served as Washington Counsel to New York Governor David A. Paterson and Director of Governor Paterson’s Washington, D.C. office., Derek has also served as Associate Director of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, where he founded and served as Director of the Economic Mobility Program. Before joining the Center, Derek was a Counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and an Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Derek graduated from the University of Michigan with Highest Honors in Economics and from the Yale Law School.

“I first learned about Openlands at a dinner party where I was sitting next to President and CEO Jerry Adelmann,” says Derek. “Jerry’s passion was contagious, and we discussed collaborating on projects. I’m delighted to join Openlands’ board.

“I’m originally from Michigan: Berrien Springs. Growing up ten minutes from Lake Michigan, growing up near the dunes, you appreciate them more when you leave. You realize you have something special. And that something special helps to shape the environment you grew up in. I’m interested in connecting cities to those natural places. They provide vibrancy and high quality of life, but aren’t the usual things people preach when they talk about urban issues.

 “When I was in the federal government, agencies said that if they were going to fund urban parks and water issues there would have to be a trade off. Money would have to come from somewhere else. The case I tried to make was that kids growing up in cities, with low incomes, should have the same rights to enjoy green space as the families that can afford to travel to Yellowstone. Resources shouldn’t only be for people who can afford these trips. Urban parks provide access for millions of people. They are such an important part of life and the vibrancy of neighborhoods. It is an equal opportunity issue.

“I love the parks in Chicago and Lake Michigan. In Chicago, we enjoy Millennium Park, Jackson Park, Midway Plaisance. We especially enjoy Nichols Park near our home. One of the wonderful things about Chicago is the smaller parks tucked into neighborhoods. My kids like to spend time in these places.”



  • B.S. (Highest Honor in Economics), University of Michigan
  • Yale Law School

Civic and Non-Profit affiliations

  • University of Chicago Charter Schools, Corporate Board
  • Metropolitan Planning Council, Board
  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)
  • Chicago Central Area Committee (CCAC)
  • Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF)
  • Urban Land Institute (ULI)