Chief Executive Officer
Jocelyn Benson became CEO of RISE in September 2016. She also serves as a special advisor on philanthropic investments to RISE founder Stephen M. Ross.
An expert on civil rights law, education law and election law, Benson served for four years (2012 to 2016) as dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. When she was appointed dean at age 36, she become the youngest woman in U.S. history to lead a top-100, accredited law school. She continues to serve as director of the Levin Center at Wayne Law, which she founded with former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.
Previously, Benson was an associate professor and associate director of Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, where she created the Michigan Allies Project to track hate incidents throughout Michigan and provide legal support for victims. She has taught courses including Legislative Oversight, Race and the Law, and Sports and Inequality.
In 2010, her book, State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process, was published. It is the first major book on the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. That same year, she was the Democratic candidate for Michigan’s secretary of state.
Benson is founder of the nonpartisan Michigan Center for Election Law and former president of Military Spouses of Michigan. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she previously worked investigating hate groups and hate crimes, and on the board of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics national nonprofit organization to improve civics education. Benson also was appointed to the Michigan State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Crain’s Detroit Business named her one of Michigan’s 100 most influential women in 2016. In 2015, Benson became one of the youngest women in history to be inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, second only to Serena Williams, a 2012 inductee.
A long-distance runner, Benson has completed 22 full marathons since 2005, including races in Chicago, Florence, New York City, Rome, San Francisco, Venice and Washington, D.C. In 2016, she completed her second Boston Marathon and earned national headlines as one of only a handful of women in history to complete the Boston Marathon in her eighth month of pregnancy.
She earned a bachelor of arts from Wellesley College, master of philosophy from Oxford University and law degree from Harvard Law School.