Ertharin Cousin is the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and a distinguished fellow in FSI’s Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE) and the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). Cousin was chosen as the Payne Distinguished Lecturer for her international reputation as a leader, with an emphasis on visionary thinking, practical problem solving, and the capacity to articulate clearly an important perspective on the global political and social situation.
Cousin also serves the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as a distinguished global fellow. She possesses more than thirty years of national and international non-profit, government, and corporate leadership experience.
From 2009 until 2017, Cousin led the United Nations World Food Programme as the twelfth executive director, where she guided the world’s largest humanitarian organization with 14,000 staff serving 80 million beneficiaries in 75 countries. Cousin maintains relationships with global government, business and community leaders. She has published numerous articles regarding agriculture development, food security and nutrition.
In 2009, Cousin was nominated by then President Obama and confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. In this role, Cousin served as the U.S. representative for all food, agriculture and nutrition related issues. She regularly represented U.S. interests in global leader discussions regarding humanitarian and development activities. Cousin helped identify and catalyze U.S. government investment in food security and nutrition activities supported by the USAID Feed the Future program. She convened foreign media tours resulting in millions of conventional as well social media impressions, highlighting U.S. program investments delivering results for otherwise vulnerable, hungry people.
Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the U.S. domestic fight to end hunger while serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer of America’s Second Harvest (now Feeding America). In this role, she led the operations, budgeting and expenditures as well as the human resources, IT and training activities of this national confederation of 200 food banks across America serving over 50,000,000 meals per year. While there, she mobilized an unprecedented fundraising, volunteer mobilization and media campaign in support of the organization’s successful Hurricane Katrina operational response.
Previously, Cousin served as senior vice president for Albertsons Foods. As a corporate reporting officer, Cousin was Albertsons lead for community relations, customer relations, legislative and regulatory affairs, industry and external relations including serving as the company’s chief spokesperson. While at Albertsons she was appointed by the U.S. president to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development where she helped oversee U.S. government agriculture research investments worldwide. Before Albertsons, Cousin served in government as the White House liaison to the State Department. She received the Department’s Meritorious Service award for her work expeditiously and successfully addressing foreign policy issues during the U.S. hosting of the Olympics in Atlanta.
A Chicago native, Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Georgia Law School and the University of Chicago Executive Management Finance for Non-Financial Executives program. Cousin has received honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the globe. She has been listed numerous times on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women List, the Fortune Most Powerful Woman in Food and Drink, Time’s 100 Most Influential People list, and the 500 Most Powerful People on the Planet by Foreign Policy magazine.