Alumni Changemaker: Farouk Ophaso

Alumni Changemaker: Farouk Ophaso

Federal budget expert ensures resources are aligned with public policy

To honor our 40 years, we're celebrating our most valuable resource - our alumni - through 40 profiles highlighting their leadership. Alumnus Farouk Ophaso completed the Junior Summer Institute at the University of Michigan in 2006.


Farouk Ophaso embodies the values of confidence, patience, and attention to detail.

He is the first in his family to choose a career in public service. Farouk was not sure it would be an attainable goal until his participation in the University of Michigan’s Junior Summer Institute. There, he gained the confidence to tackle the quantitative classes that he avoided as an undergraduate at the University of California - Berkeley.

After graduating with his MPP from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy as a Presidential Management and PPIA Fellow, he began his important work of ensuring that the federal budget aligns with our national security and other public policy goals.

Farouk’s career in public service began at the US Department of Defense, and he later went on to work in senior roles at the White House, U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations.

“When the nights are long and you need a little motivation, remember the small victories. These victories are examples of how you’re making a difference no matter what career you’ve chosen.”

He was recently sworn in under the new Biden-Harris Administration as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and is helping to advise the Secretary of Defense on all budgetary and financial matters.

As part of the LGBTQ community and the son of refugees from Laos, Farouk never thought that working at the White House was a possibility. However, because of his extended experience there, he now knows firsthand that the opportunity to work at the White House is open to every American.

Many members of the LGBTQ community still face job insecurity and discrimination in the workplace. Farouk is a testament to others within this community that whatever career they desire is possible. He advocates for efforts to overcome the many challenges that still face members of minority groups seeking to play a greater role in public service, particularly through careers in national security.


We celebrate you, Farouk, for providing responsible advice and counsel that supports the citizens of the United States.

Your work is both honorable and valuable and the time and experience that you generously share on behalf of the greater good does not go unnoticed. By setting your sights high and seeking to challenge your belief systems, you are a role model for many. Thank you for your attention to the small details that make the big picture work!

Read more Changemaker profiles here!