Leadership Team





Sustainable Development Goals Wheel

-Kathleen Merrigan

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the 193 member states of the United Nations. They represent a global consensus on how to transform our world sustainably by 2030. At GW, we strive to do all we can to achieve these ambitious goals.  Our planet depends on it.

Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability 

Kathleen Merrigan Headshot


Kathleen Merrigan leads the GW Sustainability Collaborative, GW Food Institute, and is a Professor of Public Policy at George Washington University. Merrigan serves as a Co-Chair for AGree, Board Director for the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, FoodCorps, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors of the National Council for Science and the Environment, and the United Nations Environment Programme initiative TEEB EcoAgriFood. She was recently elected Trustee of the World Agroforestry Centre based in Kenya, one of 15 research centres that comprise the CGIAR System.

From 2009-2013, Merrigan was U.S. Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As Deputy Secretary, Merrigan created and led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to support local food systems; was a key architect of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign; and made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Before joining the USDA, Merrigan held a variety of agriculture policy positions, including faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and staff on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where she wrote the law establishing national standards for organic food. Merrigan holds a Ph.D. in environmental planning and policy from MIT, Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas, and a B.A. from Williams College. Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time Magazine named Merrigan among the “100 most influential people in the world” in 2010.

Featured Publication:

Merrigan, Kathleen, Timothy Griffin, Parke Wilde, Kimberly Robien, Jeanne Goldberg, and William Dietz. "Designing a Sustainable Diet." Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 01 Oct. 2015. 


Lisa Benton-Short, Sustainability Senior Faculty Fellow

Lisa Benton Short


Dr. Benton-Short is an urban geographer with an interest in the dynamics of the urban environment from many angles, including: planning and public space, urban sustainability, globalization, and immigration. She is currently Chair of the Department of Geography.

Dr. Benton-Short has written extensively on the urban environment. She has authored eight books, including: The Presidio: from Army Post to National Park (1998), Environmental Discourse and Practice (1999) and Environmental Discourse and Practice: a Reader (2000), Cities and Nature (2007 and 2013) Migrants to the Metropolis (edited with colleague Marie Price, 2008), and Cities of North America (2014). She is currently working on several collaborative research papers on sustainability, including work with GW colleague Melissa Keeley. Together, they are examining ways that U.S. cities are planning for sustainability. She is also working on articles about sustainability education and the interdisciplinary challenges of sustainability as a pan-university effort. A native of California, she received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1986 and her Ph.D. in geography from Syracuse University in 1997.

Featured Publication:

The National Mall: No Ordinary Space by Lisa Benton-Short. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2016.

Sustainable development goals wheel

-Lisa Benton-Short

"Our intro to sustainability course has been reorganized around the SDGs, the new lexicon of sustainability."


LeRoy “Lee” Paddock, Sustainability Faculty Coordinator

Lee Paddock


Dean Paddock is Associate Dean for Environmental Law Studies. He is a member of the ABA Section on Environment, Energy and Resources Council. Prior to coming to GW Law, he was Director of Environmental Legal Studies at Pace University Law School from 2002-2007. Dean Paddock has served as a Senior Consultant for the National Academy of Public Administration on several projects since 1999. He also was a visiting scholar at the Environmental Law Institute between 1999 and 2002, focusing on the Clean Air Act, state-federal relationship, and enforcement issues.

From 1978 until 1999, Dean Paddock was an Assistant Attorney General with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office where he served as director of environmental policy for 13 years, as manager of the Office’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Division and a member of its executive committee. He has served on numerous national panels including the Aspen Institute’s Series on Environment in the 21st Century, and the American National Standard Institute’s ISO 14000 Environmental Management Systems Council.

Featured Publication: 

Paddock and Masterton, Private Environmental Regulation and Enforcement:  Using Supply Chain Requirements to Achieve Better Environmental Outcomes, in P. Martin and A. Kennedy, Implementing Environmental Law (Edward Elgar 2015)

Sustainable development goals wheel

- Lee Paddock

"Will the SDGs be an example of successful global governance? Implementation will tell."


Frank Sesno, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs

Frank Sesno


Frank Sesno is director of the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) at The George Washington University. He is an Emmy-award winning journalist and creator of PlanetForward.org, a user-driven web and television project that highlights innovations in sustainability. He hosts and facilitates the Planet Forward Salon Series focusing on topics such as energy policy, green jobs, and food production. He has moderated events for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Bayer CropScience, Land O’Lakes Foundation, and National Geographic, among others.

As SMPA director, Sesno leads a faculty of nearly two dozen world-class professors who research and teach journalism, political communication and the impact of digital media in international affairs. Sesno teaches classes on environmental multimedia reporting, ethics in journalism, documentary and ‘the art of the interview.’

Sesno's diverse career spans more than three decades, including 21 years at CNN where he served as White House correspondent, anchor, and Washington Bureau Chief. He has covered a diverse range of subjects, from politics and conventions to international summits and climate change. He has interviewed five U.S. presidents and literally thousands of political, business and civic leaders — ranging from Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and broadcast legend Walter Cronkite.

Before joining CNN in 1984, Sesno worked as a radio correspondent at the White House and in London for the Associated Press. He has won several prestigious journalistic awards, including an Emmy, several cable ACE awards, and an Overseas Press Club Award. Sesno is a member of the Board of Trustees at Middlebury College, AmeriCares, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves as chair of the Posse Foundation Washington Advisory Board as well. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Middlebury College.

Featured Publication: 

Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change by Frank Sesno. AMACOM: A division ofAmerican Management Association, 2017.

Sustainable Development Goals Wheel

-Frank Sesno

"We need compelling stories to bring the SDGs to life and motivate global action."


Michael Svoboda, Sustainability Fellow

Michael Svoboda


Michael Svoboda is an Assistant Professor of Writing in the University Writing Program (2005 - ) and former Director of the Sustainability Minor (2015 - 2017) at George Washington University. In his writing classes, he alternates between the related themes of communicating climate change and political psychology, critical behavioral perspectives he now brings to his work with sustainability. Since 2010, he has also been a regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections (formerly The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media), for which he has examined how climate change is treated—or neglected—in advertising, movies, news media, political cartoons, political speeches, and tv dramas. Michael Svoboda holds a BS in Communication Arts from Cornell University and an MA in Speech Communication and PhD in Hermeneutics from Penn State. In between his MA and PhD, which both focused on rhetorical theory in ancient Greece, he owned and operated a bookstore and, from 1992–1998, produced and hosted a weekly radio book revue on WPSU, the NPR affiliate operated by Penn State.

Featured Publication: 

“Red, Race and Blue: The Economic, Political and Social Obstacles to a WWII-Scale Effort on Climate Change” (2016)

Sustainable Development Goals Wheel

-Michael Svoboda

"The SDGs are interdependent. 'Climate Action' (SDG 13), for example, requires 'Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions' (SDG16)."