One Love Foundation’s CEO Katie Hood announced as 2021 commencement speaker

By Cecilia Cress

Elm Staff Writer

The President’s Office announced the selection of Katie Hood, chief executive officer of the One Love Foundation, as the 2021 commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree in public policy in an April 1 email. 

She will deliver the Commencement address and receive the Doctor of Public Service honorary degree from Washington College on May 22.

Hood received her bachelor’s degree in public policy from Duke University, and her master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School.

Before joining One Love, Hood was chief executive officer for nine years at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research, where she worked to progress research to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Hood has held the title of chief executive officer of the One Love Foundation for seven years, where “under her leadership, the organization has become the nation’s leading educator of young people on the topic of healthy and unhealthy relationships, as both a primary prevention strategy and as in investment in the relationship health of the next generation,” according to the One Love website.

Since becoming part of One Love, Hood has given a TED talk — titled “The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Love” — where she outlines the differences between healthy and unhealthy love; has appeared at Aspen Ideas: Health, Milken Global Conference; attended Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Conference; and spoke at The Nantucket Project.

The One Love Foundation was created in 2010 after the death of Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia senior who was killed by her ex-boyfriend. Love’s family created the foundation in hope of better educating young people on the warning signs of abusive or unhealthy relationships.

“We don’t necessarily have a class in how to manage your relationships, but we really care that students are making healthy choices. I think that the One Love message, that a lot of this is about education, and that you can shape a healthier life and healthier relationships…I think that’s a kind of education affecting the lives of young people that to us feels like it’s a good part of the WC commitment,” Interim Dean and Provost Dr. Michael Harvey said.

Chief of Staff Victor Sensenig said Hood was chosen as this year’s commencement speaker for a variety of reasons, but mainly because her work with the One Love Foundation is something that “has become increasingly important, especially for college students and college campuses.”

“It is something that we have been talking about as a community for a long time. I love this idea of bringing in commencement speakers who can talk with us about the issues that matter the most to us,” Sensenig said.

According to Dr. Harvey, Hood is a slightly different kind of commencement speaker as compared to past years.

“It’s nice that we’re not just bringing in an academic expert who did research and wrote a book, but we’re bringing in someone who thinks through, ‘How do you bring together research and impact on people’s lives?’” Dr. Harvey said.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Sarah Feyerherm said she believes the One Love Foundation has done “incredible work and sparked some really important conversations,” and she hopes these conversations will reignite at WC with the announcement of Hood as commencement speaker.

“I think about some of our commencement speakers in the past and they’ve been great, they’ve been leading important global organizations, but this is the first one in a long time where I think this person is leading an organization that’s really driving social change around issues that are really relevant to this generation,” Dr. Feyerherm said.

Sensenig also emphasized the hope that Hood can engage the community in conversation, facing the challenge of disconnection which the COVID-19 pandemic has posed.

“Especially since we feel so disconnected in some ways with the pandemic…This [Commencement’s] going to be a little different. It’s in person, but limited guests and a little bit of social distancing. So, it felt like, ‘Let’s bring somebody in who can really talk with us as a community about something that we’re really interested in and concerned about,’ and she’s that person,” Sensenig said.

With Hood’s One Love message set to reach WC students in the coming months, Dr. Harvey said it’s important to carry this awareness into our daily lives.

“We’re a community that looks after each other, one of the best things you can do is file a CARE report…If you see anything that worries you, it’s an act of charity and kindness to reach out and share your concern. It’s better to be quick to share a concern than afterwards to realize, ‘I wish I had said something,’” Dr. Harvey said. 

Featured Photo caption: Chief Executive Officer of One Love Katie Hood was announced as the keynote speaker for Washington College’s 2021 Commencement. Her work educating young adults on unhealthy relationships was cited as an important and relevant topic for the campus community. Photo courtesy of TED Conference.

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