Ertharin Cousin to Kick Off Women in Public Leadership Program

Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, will be the guest speaker at the kick-off of the University of Chicago’s inaugural Women in Public Leadership (WIPL) program on Nov. 16. 

Jessica Yellin, an award-winning political journalist, also has joined the star-studded faculty roster of the program, offered by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. 

The innovative five-day program brings together prominent female leaders and distinguished University of Chicago faculty to help equip executive women for greater leadership in government, politics, philanthropy and advocacy. 

“Today, women are seeking – and achieving – unprecedented power and influence in public life,” said Rebecca Sive, WIPL academic director and a noted author, advocate and speaker. “Ertharin Cousin and Jessica Yellin know what it takes to break through the glass ceiling, and they will provide tremendous inspiration for the women in this program. We are so proud to welcome these two amazingly accomplished and influential women and are so grateful for their commitment to building a new generation of women leaders.”

As Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, Cousin leads the world’s largest humanitarian organization, with approximately 13,500 staff serving over 90 million beneficiaries in 80 countries across the world. Previously, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture and head of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Agencies in Rome. She has more than 25 years of experience in non-profit, government, and corporate leadership focusing on hunger, food, and resilience strategies. 

Yellin, who is joining the WIPL faculty in partnership with the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, is a political journalist whose award-winning career includes reporting for CNN, ABC, and MSNBC. As CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent, she interviewed President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. In 2010, she won a Gracie Award for her "Political Women" series, which closely examined the differences in media coverage of male and female candidates at the national level.

WIPL’s faculty is led by Daniel Diermeier, Chicago Harris dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor of Public Administration, and includes acclaimed UChicago scholars with expertise in public policy, business, management and behavioral psychology. 

The program’s faculty includes a long list of female trailblazers who have succeeded at every level of public leadership, from the White House, to City Hall, to the executive suites of leading corporations and foundations. They include: 

  • Janet Foutty, principal and national managing director of the Federal Government Services Practice for Deloitte Consulting LLP. 
  • Lori Healey, CEO of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, which owns and manages McCormick Place, the nation's largest convention center, and Navy Pier, Illinois' top-visited tourist destination. 
  • Celinda Lake, founder/principal of Lake Partners and one of the nation's foremost experts on electing women candidates and on framing issues to women voters. 
  • Connie Lindsey, executive vice president and head of corporate social responsibility and global diversity & inclusion for Northern Trust. She is the immediate past national board president of Girl Scouts of the USA.
  • Toni Preckwinkle, the first elected woman president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and chief executive of the nation’s 19th-largest government.
  • Susan Sher, senior advisor to University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and leader of the University's Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum initiative. She formerly served as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. 
  • Julia Stasch, president of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and former deputy administrator of the federal General Services Administration.

Women who wish to join this inaugural cohort of exceptional leaders may register online at The registration deadline has been extended to Oct. 23, 2015.

The WIPL program will be held from noon Monday, Nov. 16 through 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 on and near the University of Chicago Hyde Park campus. The launch event will be attended by the program’s inaugural cohort of participants, as well as program faculty, members of the University community, and other guests. 

The $6,200 course fee includes tuition, books, curricular materials, meals and all special events. The program offers a 15% Team Discount for three or more participants from the same firm and a 30% discount to all University of Chicago alumni and staff. Only one discount may be applied per participant. 

Every day, women leaders face a complex array of challenges, barriers, and opportunities. Harris WIPL will provide tested strategies and research-based guidance to enable women to overcome gender bias, build on success, recover from failure, expand their influence, advance their careers and take their place in the public square.

For more information, or to arrange media interviews, please contact Elizabeth Austin at 708-912-2247 or