Erin Skinner Cochran
In July 2014, Erin Cochran ’00 became vice president of communications for World Food Program USA, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit supporting the work of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP)—a job that allows her to make an impact on global hunger. Every day, both professionally and personally, she puts into practice lessons she learned as a student at Woodward Academy.
Mrs. Cochran leads a thriving communications team which focuses on raising support for global hunger through education, advocacy, and fundraising. She runs her department like a quasi-newsroom to make an impact that can be attributed to a single concept: storytelling.
Her job is to create public support for food assistance programs, which requires mastery of the art of narration. Each day, Mrs. Cochran asks, “How do we tell this story—the story of hunger—to an audience that may never have the opportunity to visit Malawi or Nepal to see our programs at work? How do we convince someone to see hunger as something more than a headline?”
“What Woodward taught me is that it is important to put your best foot forward, not someone else’s best foot. You can be tremendously successful by recognizing your unique strengths and not trying to imitate somebody else.”
That mission motivates her work, inspiring her to convince people to care more about global hunger. “That’s my job. We have a long way to go, but it’s definitely worth doing,” she says.
Mrs. Cochran previously worked as vice president and director of communications at the Albright-Stonebridge Group, an international diplomacy firm in Washington, D.C. She traveled with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to 13 countries, managing media relations, book tours, and events. She also worked as deputy director of new media for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Prior to that, she volunteered as a teacher in Namibia, Africa, through WorldTeach.
Mrs. Cochran has used lessons from Woodward Academy to craft her own stories, in her personal life as well as in her career. As a mother, she expects honesty, a quality she remembers Woodward taking very seriously. Mrs. Cochran says, “True honesty of character meant more than words; it was an absolute way of life at Woodward, and I’ve come to expect that from my daughter.”
As a sibling, she views her sister’s accomplishments as both humbling and inspiring. Sara Skinner ’03 is a therapist for a mental health agency in North Carolina. “Woodward gave my sister a true and incredible spirit of empathy, something that I recall seeing in so many of our classmates.”
As a boss, she expects excellence but understands that coworkers can define excellence differently. “What Woodward taught me is that it is important to put your best foot forward, not someone else’s best foot,” she said. “You can be tremendously successful by recognizing your unique strengths and not trying to imitate somebody else.”
Woodward gave her the character traits necessary to find success. “It was a bumpy path,” she laughs, “but Woodward really helped me pave it for myself instead of molding my life to fit someone else’s expectations. Looking back on my career and life, I know I couldn’t have seized every opportunity without Woodward.”