STARKVILLE, Miss.--The leader of the world's largest humanitarian organization will be Mississippi State University's commencement speaker during May 16 and 17 graduation ceremonies at Humphrey Coliseum.
Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), will deliver the commencement address to nearly 2,800 degree candidates.
Ambassador Cousin leads an organization which focuses on urgent food needs and long-term solutions related to food insecurity and continuing hunger. The WFP responds to natural disasters, military conflicts and other emergencies as it serves more than 97 million people in 80 countries. For more, visit www.wfp.org.
When President Mark E. Keenum and other MSU officials visited Rome in January to sign a memorandum of understanding with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), they also met with Ambassador Cousin to discuss additional partnership opportunities with her organization.
"Based on previous MSU collaboration with the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin has expressed support for Mississippi State's intentions to assume a larger global role in research and outreach related to fighting world hunger," Keenum said.
Before being named MSU president in 2009, Keenum served as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Under Secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. In that role, he provided leadership and oversight for USDA's Farm Service and Risk Management agencies, along with the Foreign Agricultural Service.
Keenum said Mississippi State has developed strong ties in recent years with WFP and its sister organization FAO. Ambassador Cousin served for three years prior to joining WFP in 2012 as the United States Ambassador to FAO and head of the U.S. Mission to the three U.N. food and agriculture agencies based in Rome, WFP, FAO and the International Fund for Agriculture.
Altogether, she has more than 25 years of leadership experience working with national and international agencies focused on food, hunger and resilience strategies.
As executive vice president and chief operating officer for Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest, Ambassador Cousin led the domestic hunger organization's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
She received her bachelor's degree from University of Illinois at Chicago and her law degree from the University of Georgia.
In addition to speaking at both MSU graduation ceremonies, Ambassador Cousin will receive an honorary doctoral degree during the May 17 program.
On May 16, MSU alumnus Sebastião Barbosa also will receive an honorary doctoral degree. Like Ambassador Cousin, Barbosa's career has focused on improving food security for millions around the world.
After receiving an undergraduate degree in his native Brazil, Barbosa completed both master's and doctoral degrees in entomology at MSU and now heads the cotton unit of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp.
The May 16 graduation program begins at 7 p.m. and includes the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its School of Human Sciences; Bagley College of Engineering and its Swalm School of Chemical Engineering; Education; Forest Resources; and Veterinary Medicine.
The May 17 program will begin at 10 a.m. and feature graduates from the colleges of Architecture, Art and Design; Arts and Sciences; and Business and its Adkerson School of Accountancy.
More information about commencement is available through the Office of the Registrar at 662-325-2022.
Learn more about MSU at www.msstate.edu.