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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Staff Appointments and Promotions

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the names of individuals who hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.

Alysia K. Peters has been appointed Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Office of External and Intergovernmental Affairs

Before joining USDA, Peters worked as the director of the Office of Gifts and Grants Management for the Peace Corps, where she oversaw the agency’s fundraising authority and Small Grants Program. Before the Peace Corps, Peters worked as the Legislative and Policy Director for the Office of Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall in Nevada. She also worked as an Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Nevada State Senate before establishing a small business in Northern Nevada. Subsequently, Peters served as the Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs for the Rowe Law Group and worked on various political campaigns, both at the state and national level. Peters holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's in public administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Dr. Alexandra Lawrence has been appointed Chief of Staff for the Natural Resources Conversation Service

Dr. Lawrence previously served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Global Operations at the Peace Corps, where she led the crafting of the agency’s Strategy to Secure a Resilient Global Future. Prior to that, she served as Vice President, Conservation at Ocean Conservancy, where she oversaw the integration of community engagement and equity into the conservation work of the organization; as Southeast Regional Program Director for The Wilderness Society, where she provided strategic leadership and oversight for the Southeast team in meeting organizational goals to increase federal land protections, build strong relationships with ethnic and cultural communities, and increase climate resilience across the southeastern United States; and as the Science Policy Program Director in the Science & Society Initiative at Duke University. She has also held roles at the Maryland House of Representatives and Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Dr. Lawrence has a bachelor's degree in biology from Howard University, a master’s in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University, and a doctoral degree in environment with a doctoral certificate in global health from Duke University.

Ethan Holmes has been appointed Senior Policy Advisor for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Previously, Holmes served as a Senior Agricultural Policy Advisor and Deputy Assistant for the United States Trade Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. There, he advised Ambassador Katherine Tai on the agency’s agricultural policy and handled the private sector engagement. Before that, Holmes was an Economic Policy Advisor in the Office of U.S. Representative Ron Kind (WI-03). Holmes holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, sociology, and international politics from DePaul University and a Master of Science in international political theory from the University of Edinburgh.

Sakeenah Shabazz has been appointed Senior Policy Advisor for the Food and Nutrition Service

In her role as Senior Policy Advisor, Shabazz’s work includes leveraging the momentum of the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and implementing USDA actions put forth in the corresponding National Strategy with a specific focus on better integrating nutrition and health. Most recently, Sakeenah worked at the Berkeley Food Institute, where she managed their local, state, and federal policy engagement as their Policy Director. Previously, she worked at the Congressional Hunger Center, first as a 23rd-class Emerson National Hunger Fellow and later as a Senior Policy Associate for their domestic program. She also worked at D.C. Hunger Solutions, a project of the Food Research and Action Center, as a Program Associate focused on SNAP outreach and enrollment in the District of Columbia. Sakeenah is an AmeriCorps Alum of City Year – Seattle/King County. She earned a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Georgetown University. She is originally from San Diego, CA, and resides in Washington, D.C.

Maya Cohn has been appointed Policy Advisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Previously, Cohn was the Director of Policy and Programs for the Rachel Carson Council, a national environmental organization focused on preserving the legacy of Carson through environmental justice. Before that, she served in the Office of Senator Patrick Leahy, most recently as a Legislative Assistant, where she served as the Washington, D.C. lead for energy, agriculture, and environmental issues for Senator Leahy. Before that, she was a Junior Legislative Assistant and a Legislative Correspondent. Cohn also served as a Staff Assistant in the Office of then-Congressman, now-Senator Peter Welch. Prior, she served as a Food Benefits Program Manager at Community Foodworks (now FRESHFARM), where she managed outreach to community members using assistance programs to shop at the weekly farmers market, increasing EBT and SNAP holders by 25 percent. Cohn has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Skidmore College and will soon graduate with a master’s in environmental metrology and policy from Georgetown University.

Maya Johnson has been appointed Policy Advisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Before joining USDA, Ms. Johnson was a middle school science teacher in the Prince George County Public School System. Before that, she was a U.S. Policy and Advocacy Associate for Breakthrough Energy. Johnson also served as a Staff Assistant for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, where she organized and prepared for hearings and tracked new reports from interagency stakeholders. Johnson began her career as a Political Affairs and Communication Intern for the Environmental Defense Fund and a Climate Action Field Program Intern for the League of Conservation Voters. She has a Bachelor of Science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.


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