Alumna appointed by President Biden to serve in leadership role for USDA
Lakeisha Hood, ’09, was recently appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) State Director of Rural Development in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hood was appointed to the new position on Jan. 13, alongside several individuals who will serve in key regional leadership roles at the USDA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In Hood’s new role, she advances the priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration including economic recovery from the impacts COVID-19 recovery. Hood also promotes the mission, goals and program offerings of USDA Rural Development.
During the fiscal year in 2021, the rural development team in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands made 5,699 project awards – totaling approximately $1.2 billion dollars – through more than 50 financial assistance programs designed to support rural communities.
Hood’s appointment to serve rural communities is dear to her heart – having been raised in a small, agricultural and industrial town in southwest Georgia. Hood’s late grandfather was also a sharecropper in rural, west central Georgia, and her parents are both from rural areas.
“To be a woman and a person of color and to be a part of the historic Biden-Harris Administration, I get to live out a passion and make sure that communities that are often underserved and overlooked get access to resources,” Hood said. “It’s an amazing opportunity and I am so humbled and privileged to have been selected and I’m going to give the administration my best.”
Hood started her professional career as a high school English teacher in Alabama. She worked in “one of the poorest regions, also known as the black belt of Alabama.” The lack of resources and the environment that the students were working in shocked her, so Hood took a principled stance against the school district.
“I wanted the children to have a fighting chance at a good education,” Hood said.
The school district advised her about what would happen if she decided to continue down this path, and Hood took this warning as motivation.
“I thought, never will I get a letter like this and not know how to fight against it, not know how to advocate, for myself and for others. I’m going to law school. I don’t want to be backed into this corner ever again in life,” Hood said.
Hood is a graduate of Alabama State University and obtained her Master of Education degree from Auburn University at Montgomery. She was finishing up her JD at North Carolina Central University School of Law when she received a brochure in the mail about the LLM program at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
What drew her to McGeorge School of Law was the Downey Brand Education Law Fellowship and her interest in the Education Pipeline Initiative, which she was able to assist in developing. Hood described it as the perfect opportunity and the reason she was drawn to being a lawyer in the first place.
“The LLM program gave me the opportunity to understand how to analyze policy,” Hood explained. "I was determined to learn how to dissect policies and fully understand the impact and implications they may have.”
Throughout her legal education, Hood learned valuable lessons that carried with her into her career. The IRAC Method and the Socratic Method were two things that stood out to Hood the most during her time as a student.
“The ability to think 360 degrees around any issue and to respond to unexpected questions is something I think has definitely helped me tremendously throughout my career,” Hood said.
Before being selected to serve the Biden-Harris Administration, Hood was the Director of the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), where she managed the implementation of the state’s food and nutrition programs. In this role, she oversaw a $12 million operational budget and more than $1 billion of federal pass-through funds. Before that, she served as a legislative assistant in the Florida Senate. Through these roles, she got first-hand knowledge about how federal programs operate and the legislative process.
For more information about McGeorge School of Law’s LLM program, visit the LLM program page.
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