Undersecretary for Rural Development: Who Is Lisa Mensah?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

On May 8, 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Lisa Mensah to be the undersecretary of agriculture for Rural Development. If confirmed, it will be the first federal government post for Mensah.


Mensah is from Beaverton, Oregon, although she spent part of her childhood in her father’s native Ghana. Her mother, Gloria Mensah, was a software duplication technician at Tektronix Inc. Her father, Kwaku Mensah, was a metallurgist at Tektronix  


She graduated from Radcliffe College at Harvard University in 1983 with a B.A. Mensah continued her education at Johns Hopkins University, earning an M.A. in 1985 from the school’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.


Upon graduation from Johns Hopkins, Mensah became an economics teacher and assistant to the directors at the Governor’s School of New Jersey on Public Issues, a prestigious summer program. In 1986, Mensah went to work for Citibank in their commercial banking division, remaining there three years.


Mensah joined the Ford Foundation’s economic development unit in 1989. She began as a program officer and in 1991 was named deputy director of rural poverty and resources programs. In 1996, Mensah became deputy director of economic development, remaining in that job for six years. She directed the foundation’s efforts to expand microcredit and women’s economic development.


In 2002, Mensah moved to The Aspen Institute to become executive director of its Initiative on Financial Security (IFA). The IFA works to encourage savings and wealth-building for working-poor families in the United States. 


If confirmed for the Department of Agriculture post, Mensah will be in charge of initiatives for affordable and safe housing in rural areas, economic development and infrastructure investment.


Mensah’s husband, Barry D. Ford, whom she married in 1993, is the director of public affairs and advocacy for the United States Tennis Association. They have two children. Mensah’s sister Sarah was formerly one of the top female executives in professional sports as chief operating officer of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography (Aspen Institute)


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