UH-Hilo Political Science celebrates a Nobel Laureate in its ranks

  • Colin Hourihan

A graduate of the University of Hawaii at Hilo Political Science Department is a member of the United Nations World Food Programme that was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

Colin Hourihan graduated from UH-Hilo in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, focusing on international relations.


Hourihan now lives in Rome and is director of the Humanitarian Military Interaction Unit for the Emergency Operations Division of the United Nations World Food Programme. He joined the agency in 2008 and has served as the emergency preparedness officer and civil military coordination focal point in Rome since 2012.

The World Food Programme was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in October for its efforts to combat hunger, its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict. Established in 1961, the World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. In 2019, it provided assistance to nearly 100 million people in 88 countries, all victims of acute food insecurity and hunger.

“Much of the rationale for the award was our efforts during the early days of the COVID pandemic and how we assisted in moving critical medical supplies around the world,” said Hourihan. “A team of about 100 of us worked tirelessly to make sure that those most vulnerable didn’t succumb to the virus or the knock on effects the pandemic caused. We are now scaling up our work to feed more people than ever before in what is likely the largest humanitarian crisis since (World War II).”


In thinking back to his days as a student at UH-Hilo, Hourihan remembers he “just always found inspiration in what others had done before me when I was in school, and hopefully this does something similar for someone else.”

“We are extremely honored to share in the applause of Colin’s Nobel prize-winning work with the United Nations World Food Programme, and mahalo nui loa for the inspiration he provides our students!” said Sarah Marusek, UH-Hilo professor of public law.

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