Stars and Scholars: Rashida Jones

In the past five years, Rashida Jones has gone from having a virtually stagnant acting career to being a major presence on the entertainment scene. Propelled by a stint on NBC's 'The Office,' the Harvard graduate is capitalizing on her increased visibility to pursue not only TV gigs but also other projects.

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By Douglas Fehlen

Rashida Jones The Office Monogamy Parks and Recreation Harvard University graduate smart brainy celebs celebrities actors movie stars college grads degree

Unanticipated Stardom

Not many people knew who Rashida Jones was before 2006, when she was cast as Karen Filippelli on The Office. While she had performed in a handful of roles on popular television shows, she hadn't yet played a character that would maker her a household name. Playing Jim Halpert's love interest for a season on the NBC comedy, however, changed all that.

Since leaving The Office, Jones has completed work on a variety of television and film projects. TV viewers can still catch the actor on NBC Thursday nights, playing Ann Perkins on the popular comedy Parks and Recreation. Jones can also be found on the big screen, including in the recently released movie Monogamy, which is currently getting a lot of buzz. Additional films on the way for 2011 include appearances with Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits), Steve Martin (The Big Year) and Amy Adams (The Muppets).

Perhaps most remarkable about Jones' career is that it's a path she never anticipated following. Growing up, Jones recalls believing acting wasn't for her: 'In elementary and high school, I never considered acting as a profession,' she has said. 'I wanted to be president, or a judge or a lawyer. In my weird, tightly wound mind, it didn't feel legitimate enough to aspire to be an actor.'

Rashida Jones The Office Monogamy Parks and Recreation Harvard University graduate smart brainy celebs celebrities actors movie stars college grads degree

A Multi-Talented Performer

Rashida Jones attended Harvard University after high school planning to earn a degree in law, but that changed after she arrived. While studying at the Ivy League school, Jones joined a wide range of activities - including a drama club and the college's a cappella group. It was during this time that she began to think for the first time that her future might be in acting. While she ultimately earned a degree in philosophy and religion in 1997, Jones chose to pursue acting professionally.

Her acting career did not begin auspiciously. After going to audition after audition with limited success, Jones thought of returning to academia. The actor was considering going back to school to earn a graduate degree in public policy when she landed the Karen role on The Office, which quickly changed the trajectory of her entire career.

Choosing to work in television and film, however, has not precluded Jones from engaging in a wide variety of activities. She is a talented singer who has performed with Maroon 5. She's also a skilled classical musician and has composed scores for theatrical productions. That's not to mention that Jones has published (with two co-authors) a graphic novel and co-written a screenplay for a film called Celeste & Jesse Forever, in which she'll also star.

Even after experiencing so much success in the entertainment industry, Jones hasn't totally lost her interest in one day returning to school. 'I still may change careers in my life at some point,' she says. 'I may go back to school and get a degree in law, or business. Or public policy.' Jones has pursued some of these interests indirectly through her involvement with a cancer awareness program, an anti-poverty campaign and an AIDS prevention initiative.

Learn about the academic achievements of John Krasinski, Jones' co-star on 'The Office,' who graduated with honors from Brown University.

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