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Peace Corps Achievements — September 2020

Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–1970)




Tyler E. Lloyd (2012–2014) is an environmental protection specialist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and author of a memoir, Service Disrupted: My Peace Corps Story (August 2017). Tyler hosts My Peace Corps Story podcast, aiming to tell some of the many diverse and rich stories of Peace Corps Volunteers in their own words. The podcast is temporarily suspended, to be resumed later in 2020.


Yoruba Mitchell is a community health educator with Doctors without Borders, teaching people how to prevent malaria, cholera, Zika, and Ebola. Since early 2020, she has been addressing community readiness in the face of COVID-19.




Darlene Grant (2009–2011; Mongolia 2012–2015; Kosovo 2015–2019) was appointed in August 2020 as the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Peace Corps. She will work to increase and champion a diverse staff and Volunteer corps, aiming at increased inclusiveness, removing barriers for underrepresented groups, and creating a more just and equitable Peace Corps. During her career in higher education administration, she was named 2006 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.



Kristen Walker (2013–2015) is a biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), where she investigates the genomics of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and works to create a toolkit of immune reagents for swine.




John Tapogna (1995–1997) is President of ECONorthwest, a consulting firm based in the Pacific Northwest specializing in economics, finance, and planning. Since his arrival in 1997, he has built consulting practices in education, healthcare, human service, and tax policy.




James Ross (1975–1977) published Hunting Teddy Roosevelt (Regal House Press) in July 2020, a fictional account of Roosevelt’s 1909 African safari. Ross’s short fiction has appeared in various print and online publications including The South Dakota Review, Santa Clara Review, Whiskey Island Magazine, Phantasmagoria, The Distiller, Lost River Lit Mag, and Embark.



Ashley Garrison has received the 2020 Young Forester Leadership Award from the Colorado-Wyoming Society of American Foresters. The award recognizes outstanding leadership by a young forestry professional. She is pursuing a Master of Natural Resource Stewardship degree from Colorado State University.



Imani Lucas (2001–2003) has been appointed regional program manager for Region One at the California Complete Count – Census 2020. Lucas has been director of the Safe Neighborhoods Health Education Council since 2015.



Amy Pressman (1987–1989) was appointed to the OpenGov board in August, 2020. Amy is the co-founder of Medallia, which makes software for businesses to measure and improve the customer experience in real time.



Nancy Stearns Bercaw (1988–1989) is the new Senior Director of Communications and Marketing at Johnston Community College’s in North Carolina. She has written for publications around the world including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Korea Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CBS 48 HOURSMariaShriver.com, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a 17-time All-American swimmer, National Champion, and Olympic Trials qualifier.


Scott Frederick (2003–2005) has been elected as one of 15 new shareholders for the law firm of Baker Donelson. He recently worked in Washington, D.C. for USAID.



Paul Dragon has been appointed to the Vermont Adult Learning Board of Trustees. Over the past 15 years, he has worked at the Agency of Human Services, including as the Deputy Secretary for the Agency, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and most recently as the Director for Field Services.



Stacey Ann Ferguson (2005–2007) has been selected as the new administrative and business services officer at Cape Cod National Seashore. Since 2018, she served the National Park Service as business manager for the deputy director for management and administration in Washington, D.C. She was a staff member at the Peace Corps in Washington for more than eight years.



Chris Heppe has been appointed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) central California district manager. He most recently served as the assistant field manager for the BLM Arcata Field Office, overseeing a variety of natural and cultural resource programs.


Besem Obenson (1992–1993) has been recognized as one of three “Hometown Heroes” by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as part of its annual World Humanitarian Day (August 2020). She heads the UNHCR office in Medellin, Colombia, where she helps Venezuelan refugees.



Greg Emerson (Morocco 2003; Peru 2003–2006) has been appointed Senior Director of Product at The Atlantic following several editorial positions. He oversees the end-to-end story experience for the magazine. He was transferred to Peru within months of Peace Corps service in Morocco following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.



Jonathan Slaght (1999–2002) has published Owls of the Eastern Ice (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), a memoir of his work with Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia’s far east. He is the Russia and Northeast Asia Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, working for both the Asia and the Arctic Beringia Regional Programs. He earned a Ph.D. in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Minnesota in 2011, and this year received an Early Career Alumni Award from the University.




Kim Warren (1994–1995) was appointed as the new Associate Dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at The School of Social Welfare at The University of Kansas in July 2020. Kim is a specialist in U.S. women’s history, has held the positions of director of undergraduate studies and director of graduate studies in two departments, and has been a faculty fellow in the Center for Teaching Excellence.



Donald Wright became the 19th U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania in April 2020. Prior to being named Ambassador, he served as the acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He also directed the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Office of Research Integrity, and the Office of Occupational Medicine. In addition, he served as the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.




Alan Abramowitz (1990–1992) has been reappointed as executive director of the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office for another three-year term. The Guardian ad Litem Program represents abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Florida’s dependency system. Abramowitz has been the program’s executive director since 2010.


Jessica Jackson Shortall (2000–2001) is a founding board member of The 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom by and for women that launched in August 2020, reporting on gender, politics, and policy issues.


Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.

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