Alumna Judith Rowland returns for induction into Public Affairs Hall of Fame

Alumna Judith Rowland completed her political science degree in 2011 and immediately began improving lives on a global scale. She works as a U.S. policy and advocacy manager for Global Citizen. This is an organization intent on fixing issues such as poverty, water sanitation and gender inequality. Rowland helped obtain more than 100 co-sponsors on the 2014 Water for the World Act. It was approved by Congress and signed by former President Barack Obama. She is being honored for her work with Global Citizen at the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame on April 7.

Judith Rowland with Michelle Obama

Starting early

What did you see as a young person that inspired you to work as a humanitarian?

My parents and my church community in Springfield taught me the value ‘loving our neighbors as ourselves.” In high school, my father helped organize a group of people from our church to travel to Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. With chainsaws in hand, we worked long days through humid weather. It was moving to see people use their vacation days to help others recover and rebuild. In college, my campus ministry United Ministries in Higher Education funded my travel to Haiti to witness extreme poverty, and to learn about the work that nonprofits and businesses were doing to help communities lift themselves out of poverty.

It was on that trip that I realized that I could build my career around the goal of ending poverty.

The notion that where you are born shouldn’t impact the opportunities available to you has been with me my entire life. We rise and fall together. The world is becoming even more connected. If we want to love our neighbors we need to look beyond just our neighborhoods. My faith, my love for the world, my patriotism and the example set for me growing up in Missouri make me a global citizen.

Missouri State’s influence

Judith Rowland headshot

What professors or students inspired you while you attended MSU?

I had a very close relationship with Dr. Ken Rutherford in the political science department and Ann Fuhrman who ran Missouri State’s U.N. Depository Library. Dr. Rutherford inspired me with his stories of serving in the Peace Corps and working on landmine issues at a global level. Ann taught me the value of the United Nations system. Both helped me see that I wasn’t just an American or a Missourian but a citizen of the world.

What organizations were you involved in that helped you develop your skills?

I was really involved at Missouri State and was proud to be part of the student body cabinet, serving as director of academic affairs. I was also a member of the debate team, the Model United Nations team, United Ministries in Higher Education, and Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

Alumna Judith Rowland with Global Citizen memebers

How did you get started with Global Citizen?

After I completed my masters in Development Studies at the London School of Economics, I met people working with Global Citizen and felt that I’d found a job where I could make a meaningful difference. I started working with Global Citizen in London, and then continued working with them in New York when I moved back to the U.S. in 2012.

Staying focused

Judith Rowland helping child and mom overseas

How do you keep from getting overwhelmed by all of the crises in the world?

I stay motivated by the progress that we have already made on so many issues. Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been halved. Polio cases have decreased from 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 37 last year.

We have the tools to end poverty, hunger and inequality forever. The challenge for our generation is to put these tools to use.

I’m comforted knowing that 8 million Global Citizens worldwide join me and my colleagues in the fight to end extreme poverty. Together, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

How do you stay motivated?

I’ve always been inspired by Roosevelt’s quote about the ‘man in the arena’. Roosevelt argues that the credit belongs to the man who is in the arena with a face marred by dust and sweat and blood. (He says) there is no effort without error and shortcoming. He emphasizes the value of ‘daring greatly’ and ‘spending’ oneself in a worthy cause.

There are hard days and I often felt ‘spent.’ Prayer keeps me focused on the vision of a world free of poverty. Exercise and clean eating give me the energy to continue the fight.

How to help

What are some simple ways students and alumni can improve the lives of people around them?

Becoming a Global Citizen at is a simple way to learn more about the issues affecting people around the world and to use your voice to call for global change. In addition, there are so many local organizations in Missouri that are transforming the lives of people across our community.

Judith is based in New York City. She has traveled to more than 80 countries. Find out more about her work at Global Citizen, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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