meet our director
Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director
Kathleen Merrigan leads the GW Sustainability Collaborative, GW Food Institute, and is a Professor of Public Policy at George Washington University. Merrigan serves as a Co-Chair for AGree, Board Director for the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, FoodCorps, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors of the National Council for Science and the Environment, and the United Nations Environment Programme initiative TEEB EcoAgriFood. She was recently elected Trustee of the World Agroforestry Centre based in Kenya, one of 15 research centres that comprise the CGIAR System.
From 2009-2013, Merrigan was Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As Deputy Secretary, Merrigan created and led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to support local food systems; was a key architect of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign; and made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Before joining the USDA, Merrigan held a variety of agriculture policy positions, including faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and staff on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where she wrote the law establishing national standards for organic food. Merrigan holds a Ph.D. in environmental planning and policy from MIT, Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas, and a B.A. from Williams College. Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time Magazine named Merrigan among the “100 most influential people in the world” in 2010.