GW Research Spring 2014 Edition

Former USDA Official to Lead Institute

Kathleen Merrigan
(Photo: Jessica McConnell Burt.)
May 01, 2014

Kathleen A. Merrigan, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been named the first executive director of GW’s Sustainability Institute. 

As leader of GW’s sustainability initiatives, Dr. Merrigan will be responsible for launching and nurturing a Sustainability Institute that advances the university’s prominence in multidisciplinary education, research, and outreach.

“Kathleen Merrigan has exactly the combination of deep experience, professional stature, and energetic commitment we need to launch this important effort,” GW President Steven Knapp says. “Under her leadership, the Sustainability Institute will enable us to develop a full academic complement to the sustainability work we are actively pursuing across the university’s operations.”

Named one of Time magazine’s “Most Influential People in the World” in 2010, Dr. Merrigan was nominated in 2009 by President Barack Obama to serve as USDA deputy secretary. During her four-year tenure she oversaw the agency’s daily operations. She also created and led the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative to support local food systems; served as a key architect of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign; and represented the United States before the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

Before joining the USDA, Dr. Merrigan served for nearly a decade as a faculty member and director of Tufts University’s Agriculture, Food and Environment Program.

Sustainability is one of GW’s core strategic initiatives and an area of wide-ranging research and academic expertise. The university offers more than 250 courses on topics related to sustainability and 40 undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs in related fields, including an 18-credit minor in sustainability.