Hager, a 27-year-old teacher in Baltimore, said she has always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, and has already authored two books. But she was intrigued by the idea of getting into television when Bell contacted her.
"It wasn't something I'd always dreamed to do," she said. "But I think one of the most important things in life is to be open-minded and to be open-minded for change."
She'll essentially work two part-time jobs as a correspondent and in her school, where she will be a reading coordinator this year.
Bell said he got the idea after seeing Hager in two "Today" appearances. She was on the program two years ago to promote her book about an HIV-infected single mother, "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope," and it went so well that a short interview was stretched to nearly a half hour. She and her mother, Laura Bush, also co-hosted an hour of "Today" around the time their picture book came out.
She "just sort of popped to us as a natural presence, comfortable" on the air, Bell said. Hager will work out of NBC's Washington bureau.
"I think she can handle it," he said. "I think she knows something about pressure and being under some scrutiny. When she came here for a handful of appearances, she knocked it out of the park."
He expects her first story, most likely concerning education, to be on sometime next month.
A first television job on "Today" is, in her father's world, sort of like a run for president as a first attempt at elective office. Hager said that people on the show "have always made me, whenever I've been there, feel very comfortable."
Bell said Hager won't be covering politics. He said he didn't consider the job as a down payment for a future interview with her father, who has been living quietly in Texas since leaving office earlier this year. Attacks on NBC News by conservatives for the liberal bent of MSNBC also had nothing to do with it, he said.
"I hope to focus on what I'm passionate about because I think I'd do the best job on them - education, urban education, women and children's issues and literacy," said Hager.
Married to Henry Hager in May 2008 at her family's ranch in Texas, she doesn't plan to do is talk about her experiences as the daughter of a president.
"I don't think it's that interesting," she said. "I'm pretty normal."