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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Columbia: Ambassador Ertharin Cousin Put Good Health and Food Justice on the Menu in Keynote Address to Class of 2017 Graduates

Ms. Ertharin Cousin, the outgoing Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), delivered the keynote address and received the Mailman School of Public Health Visionary Leadership Award at the School’s 2017 Commencement. More than 600 students were awarded masters and doctoral degrees at the May 16 ceremony.

“Access to healthy food is an essential ingredient to good health, and a key area of teaching, research, and great interest within our community,” says Dr. Linda P. Fried, Dean and DeLamar Professor of Public Health. “Ambassador Cousin, with her unwavering devotion to ending hunger, is an inspiration and an exemplary model of public health leadership and service.”

In her five-year tenure at the WFP, Ms. Cousin led a staff of more than 14,000 in meeting urgent food needs in 80 countries while championing longer-term solutions to food insecurity and hunger. Most recently, she worked to raise more than $5 billion needed to head off famine in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East where the emergency threatens millions.

“I’m excited to be speaking at the School’s commencement,” Ms. Cousin says. “I commend the Mailman School and graduating class for providing the evidence and energy to make a difference on issues that affect our shared future on this planet.”

Each year, the WFP feeds 80 million people. Ms. Cousin pushed the WFP to put a new emphasis on everyday nutrition, as part of the UN’s goal to end hunger by 2030. “Feeding people to fill their stomachs is not enough,” says Ms. Cousin. “What we feed them is just as important.”

Starting in September, Ms. Cousin will take a position as lecturer and visiting fellow at Stanford University, where she will continue to be active in issues related to food security.

Graduating student Ms. Shivani Bhatia delivered remarks on behalf of the Mailman School graduating class. Ms. Bhatia earned a Master of Public Health degree in Population and Family Health and Certificate in Sexuality, Sexual & Reproductive Health. She plans to have a career in contraceptive and abortion access.