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Janet Yellen, an emeritus professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is president-elect Joseph Biden’s pick for treasury secretary, university officials said Tuesday.

Yellen is the former chair of the Federal Reserve System, which steers the nation’s banking system. She was the first woman to sit in that role and will be the first woman to lead the U.S. Treasury Department if she is confirmed by the Senate.

Biden faces tough economic conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yellen would be the president’s top economic advisor in the effort to restore economic stability. Yellen has taught economics to undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley over her 26 years there.

“What you’re likely to see is a much sharper, more finely honed set of policies.”

Jim Wilcox, BerkeleyHaas economics professor

Yellen, as head of the Federal Reserve between 2014 and 2018, helped drive the unemployment rate to 50-year lows, university officials said. Unemployment fell from 6.7 percent to 4.1 percent during her tenure and inflation stayed low.

Yellen is currently a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution. Even though she would be in Washington, D.C., during a different difficult period in the nation’s history, a colleague said some important advantages will be on her side.

“First, the new administration could hardly find someone who’s had more experience in Washington policy-making over the past couple of decades. She’s been around, and she’s earned the respect of folks widely in policy circles, not to mention academic circles and financial markets, which will help a lot,” professor Jim Wilcox said.

“One of the advantages the new administration has is we now have a lot more data on what works and what doesn’t, and I have no doubt she’s been thinking long and hard about this ever since we learned to spell COVID. What you’re likely to see is a much sharper, more finely honed set of policies,” he added.

Yellen will be the first person to have served as Fed chair, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and as Treasury Secretary if she is confirmed.

Yellen was born in Brooklyn and earned a doctoral degree in economics from Yale University where she studied under Joseph Stiglitz, who would share the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics with Yellen’s husband UC Berkeley professor emeritus George Akerlof and Michael Spence of Stanford University.