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Former Deputy Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture Named George Washington University’s First Executive Director of Sustainability Institute

February 06, 2014

Dave Andrews
202-994-5631; [email protected]
Kurtis Hiatt
202-994-1849; [email protected]

WASHINGTON—The George Washington University has named Kathleen A. Merrigan, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the university’s first executive director of the Institute for Sustainability. Dr. Merrigan will be responsible for launching and nurturing a sustainability institute that advances GW’s prominence as an academic leader in multidisciplinary sustainability education, research and outreach. She will also join the university’s academic faculty.

“Kathleen Merrigan has exactly the combination of deep experience, professional stature and energetic commitment we need to launch this important effort,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp. “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 brings to the university a diverse range of experience spanning nearly 30 years. In 2009, she was nominated to serve as USDA deputy secretary by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During her four-year tenure at the USDA, she oversaw the daily operations of agency, leading the USDA’s budget process, establishing the agency’s priorities and monitoring progress and driving its rulemaking process. Her accomplishments include creating and leading the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to support local food systems; serving as a key architect of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign; and representing the United States before the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.      

“I’m thrilled to build upon the university’s innovative sustainability efforts. GW is ideally located, situated among federal and international agencies and in a city with its own ambitious sustainability plan,” Dr. Merrigan said. “Given the limitless opportunity in our capital city coupled with the extraordinary expertise across GW faculty and staff, the university is well positioned to advance the field of sustainability in profound ways through research, teaching and practice. This is a perfect place to invest my years of sustainability leadership and networks to solidify GW as a global leader in sustainability.”

Dr. Merrigan will oversee university-wide sustainability efforts with the goal of building premier programs focused on sustainable systems. She will work closely with GW’s Office of Sustainability to integrate academics with GW’s sustainability outreach and practice initiatives.

The George Washington University
In the heart of the nation’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.