Orrin Luc posted an articleThe complex work of HIV/AIDS prevention in St. Lucia see more
Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland (2003–05) | Peace Corps Response Volunteer in St. Lucia (2011–12) | Peace Corps Staff (2011 to present)
As told to Sarah Steindl
Photo: Yemi Oshodi in April 2021, speaking to communities in the Eastern Caribbean after the eruption of La Soufrière, on the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Go back a decade: I had about eight years of experience in public health — advocacy, international policy, HIV/AIDS work. I wanted to give back in a similar way that I had as a Volunteer in Swaziland 2003–05. I looked into Peace Corps Response and took a position in St. Lucia, as project development coordinator with St. Lucia Planned Parenthood Association. I co-led the men’s health initiative, focused on HIV prevention and mitigation. We worked with police officers, firemen, and correctional officers, training them so they could train other men on HIV prevention and other men’s health issues. The training also explored social constructs such as masculinity and machismo.
The workshop was highlighted in a local television news program. And the training opened the door to numerous other opportunities to work on HIV prevention. One project involved visiting the crowded bus ranks where we would spend hours engaging mini-bus drivers about HIV/AIDS prevention. I appreciated the authentic conversations and seeing people’s eyes light up when they grasped new concepts. Through other projects, we also addressed the unique HIV-prevention needs in St. Lucia for members of the LGBTQ community.
In St. Lucia, “one project involved visiting the crowded bus ranks, where we would spend hours engaging mini-bus drivers about HIV/AIDS prevention,” says Yemi Oshodi. Photo courtesy Yemi Oshodi
Response work is a collaboration between the Peace Corps and the host partner organization; it’s not about just bringing people in to do the job. It’s about a transfer of knowledge, skills, and collaboration. I saw the job description — tasks and expectations — and I understood quickly that I couldn’t do it on my own. It was something I had to do with my counterpart, Patricia Modeste, who was awesome. She was so knowledgeable about sexual and reproductive health. And she helped reaffirm that public health work can be engaging — you can make it hilarious. During our weeklong training, we designed a session that had a talk-show format, because in St. Lucia at that time, talk shows like Jerry Springer were quite popular. So in our talk show we educated people on sexual and reproductive health using the drama and even the bit of fun mayhem that comes with being in a television show.
It’s not about just bringing people in to do the job. It’s about a transfer of knowledge, skills, and collaboration. I saw the job description — tasks and expectations — and I understood quickly that I couldn’t do it on my own.
I’ve worked with the agency for the past eight years in Washington, D.C., in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), and currently in Guyana. I’m timing out in May 2022, so I’ve been thinking about a question a lot of Volunteers face at the end of their service: What is my unfinished business? For me, it’s often interpersonal. Have I practiced empathy enough? Have I practiced humility enough? Have I learned enough from those around me? And have I grown enough in this context here in Guyana, where I am working as director of programming and training? Have I challenged people enough to be supportive, empathetic leaders and managers? Because you can never do that enough. Have I worked to equip others to be able to finish the work we started together — specifically my local colleagues? Because at the end of the day, this is their country. It’s their legacy, too, right? A good legacy, for me, as a Peace Corps Volunteer and now Peace Corps staff, is leaving a place better, and even more equipped than I found it.
This is part of a series of stories from Crisis Corps and Peace Corps Response Volunteers and staff who have served in the past 25 years.
Steven Saum posted an articleAnd new appointments to other leadership posts at the agency by the Biden Administration see more
Updated March 4: The Biden Administration continues to fill out political appointments for staff at the agency.
By NPCA Staff
On January 20, Carol Spahn was named Acting Director of the Peace Corps by President Biden. Spahn had been serving as the Peace Corps chief of operations for Africa. She succeeds Jody Olsen, who stepped down as director on January 20.
Spahn has over 25 years of experience in international development, business, health, and women’s empowerment. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania (1994–96) and country director in Malawi (2014–19). Her work with the nonprofit sector includes experience with Women for Women International — which supports female survivors of war — and Accordia Global Health Foundation — which helps fight infectious disease in Africa.
“It is an honor to serve the Peace Corps and our country,” Spahn said in a release from the agency. “From my time as a volunteer in Romania to my years as a country director in Malawi, I have loved my work for the Peace Corps, the American people, and the people of the countries where I have served. I am grateful the Biden-Harris transition team has accorded me the privilege of serving in this new role.”
A welcome: Acting Director of the Peace Corps Carol Spahn, right. Photo courtesy Peace Corps
Spahn holds a master’s in international development from George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs, and she earned her bachelor’s in accounting and philosophy from the Catholic University of America.
With the scale of tasks before the new administration, it will likely be some months before a new director is appointed and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Someone committed to transformational change
Peace Corps’ first general counsel, Bill Josephson, is co-author with Warren Wiggins of the 1961 report that laid out the scope of what founding the Peace Corps entailed. They called the report A Towering Task.
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, all 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from the countries where they were serving. Currently Volunteers are not projected to return to the field until the second half of 2021. Assessing the challenges of the months ahead, Josephson surmises that relaunching Peace Corps will be an even greater towering task, with the agency requiring extraordinary leadership to return it successfully to the field.
In late 2020, a special advisory council to National Peace Corps Association issued a community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” on how to reimagine, reshape, and retool Peace Corps for a changed world. One of the key points made at the conclusion of the report is this: “The next Peace Corps director should be appointed quickly. They should be an individual of national stature, preferably a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, who is committed to transformational change at the agency by advancing the recommendations included in this report. They must have the gravitas to advance the Peace Corps’ interests with both Congress and the White House while also making the case to the American people about the value of a renewed Peace Corps for the United States.”
Additional appointments to date: Updated February 17
As of January 28, there were several public announcements, via the press and social media, of new staff at the Peace Corps agency.
Dave Noble has been named chief of staff for Peace Corps. He had been serving as executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. Under the Obama administration, he served as a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Presidential Personnel Office, and prior to that as deputy chief of staff and White House liaison for NASA.
Scott Beale has been appointed Associate Director of Global Operations for Peace Corps. In 2006 Beale founded Atlas Corps, a volunteer program to connect and empower global leaders through service in the United States. Over the past 15 years, Atlas Corps has brought more than 1,000 individuals from 103 countries to the United States on 12- to 18-month fellowships, earning the organization recognition by some as a “reverse Peace Corps.” Beale has been twice named one of the top nonprofit CEOs in the United States by the Nonprofit Times. President Obama recognized him at the Clinton Global Initiative as part of his administration’s Stand With Civil Society Initiative. And Beale wrote this piece about Atlas Corps for the Summer 2013 edition of WorldView magazine, published by National Peace Corps Association.
Sarah Dietch has been appointed to serve as director of Peace Corps Response, a program that sends U.S. Volunteers with more experience on short-term, high-impact assignments around the world. All Peace Corps Response Volunteers were also evacuated in March 2020 and have yet to return to the field. This year the programs marks its 25th anniversary. Dietch served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia 2017–19, and her professional experience includes work with several government agencies: as a senior advisor for USDA, an assistant administrator for legislative affairs at Transportation Security Administration, and chief of staff for the office of legislative affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.
New announcements as of February 17:
Mary Bruce has been named Associate Director for Volunteer Recruitment and Selection. As she notes in her LinkedIn profile, that work includes “rebuilding the pipeline of 7,000 Volunteers in 60+ countries annually, as Peace Corps relaunches its work after evacuating all Volunteers in 2020 due to COVID.” For more than seven years she directed AmeriCorps Alums, a national organization focused on social impact to leverage the experience of those who had served in AmeriCorps. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco 2004–06 and, prior to that, served as a teacher’s aide and tutor with AmeriCorps in Washington, D.C.
Jacklyn Dao Dinneen has been named deputy chief of staff for Peace Corps. Under the Obama administration, she directed gifts and grants management for the Peace Corps and served as White House liaison; she also served within the White House as assistant policy director, and with the Department of Homeland Security. Previous roles include work with Sen. Lincoln Chaffee and Teach for America. For the past four years she served in senior roles with The Partnership, Inc., an organization that was established to focus on the advancement of African Americans in corporate Boston and over the past three decades has grown into an organization that supports multicultural professionals at all levels in an increasingly diverse and global workforce.
News from March 1:
Faith Oltman has been named Director of Communications for Peace Corps. She comes to the agency with experience helming communications for the Columbus City Attorney and with the Ohio State Senate and House of Representatives.
News from May 21:
Victor Sloan has been named Associate Director, Health Services, as reported in Politico. He had been serving as CEO of Sheng Consulting, and he holds a faculty appointment at the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University. He served as a Volunteer in Cameroon 1981–83 and notes, “After more than 20+ years in the pharmaceutical industry, I am humbled and honored to have been appointed to serve as Associate Director, Health Services at the Peace Corps. Forty years after I served as a Volunteer in Cameroon, I am thrilled to be returning to the agency to work to ensure the health of Trainees and Volunteers.”
Story last updated June 1 at 10:00 a.m.
Communications Intern posted an articleJody Olsen stepped down as Director of the Peace Corps on January 20. see more
She led the Peace Corps Agency since 2018 — and through the unprecedented global evacuation of all Volunteers from countries where they were serving.
By NPCA Staff
On January 20, Jody Olsen stepped down from her post as Director of the Peace Corps to make way for a new team to be appointed by the Biden administration. Taking on the leadership role for the time being is Carol Spahn, who had been serving as chief of operations for Africa.
Olsen was sworn in as director in March 2018. The challenges she and the agency faced in the past year were unprecedented: In March 2020, as COVID-19 swept around the world, Olsen made what she described as “the most difficult decision of my life” — to evacuate all Peace Corps Volunteers from their posts. The pandemic and protests against racial injustice, and a focus on how systemic racism has affected U.S. institutions, including Peace Corps, created what many have seen as a moment of reckoning for the Peace Corps community. Then came a campaign to deny the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“The transition from one Executive branch administration to the next is a hallmark of our constitutional democracy,” Olsen wrote in announcing her departure. Her decades-long connection to Peace Corps began with her serving as a Volunteer in Tunisia (1966–68). She served as country director in Togo (1977–81), then as a regional director, as chief of staff, and as deputy director (2002–09).
In a tumultuous time, Olsen guided the agency and thousands of Volunteers through rough political, societal, and global challenges. National Peace Corps Association has invited members of the Peace Corps community to send her a message of thanks, gratitude, or remembrance by January 31. Messages from across the Peace Corps community will be compiled and shared with her in thanks for her service.
Acting Director Carol Spahn
Carol Spahn carries the title of acting director. She has over 25 years of experience in international development, business, health, and women’s empowerment. Spahn served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania (1994–96) and country director in Malawi (2014–19). With the scale of tasks before the new administration, it will likely be some months before a new director is appointed and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Read more about her and additional appointments to the agency here.
Steven Saum posted an articleThird director of the Peace Corps, he led the agency through tumultuous times see more
Third director of the agency, he led during turbulent times
By Steven Boyd Saum
The Peace Corps community mourns the loss of Joseph H. Blatchford, third director of the Peace Corps. He took on that role at a time that heralded, he said, a “new world and a different America from 1961” when the Peace Corps was launched.
Joseph Blatchford was appointed to lead the Peace Corps by President Richard Nixon in May 1969 — and he headed the agency during turbulent times of Nixon’s first administration. Tapped for the post at 34 years old, he came with nearly a decade’s experience of organizing international volunteers: In 1961, he had launched the organization Accion to send U.S. volunteers to work in Latin America.
Some of the initial luster was already off Peace Corps when Blatchford took on the director’s role. That was true in the U.S. — deeply divided over the war in Vietnam — as well as internationally, where countries were increasingly seeking Volunteers with greater skills and expertise.
Blatchford called for a “wider spectrum” of volunteers, seeking, as the New York Times noted, to enlist “trade union members and blue collar workers, mature persons in mid-career, not just fresh college graduates.” He also floated the idea of a “reverse Peace Corps” to bring volunteers to the U.S. to help in domestic antipoverty programs.
New Directions: Third Director of the Peace Corps Joseph Blatchford in his office, January 1971. Photo by Warren K. Loeffler / Library of Congress
Blatchford introduced changes to the agency under the banner of “New Directions.” That included the creation of an office for minority affairs. “I think that the people who characterized the Peace Corps as an organization made up primarily of lily-white, middle-class people may have had a very valid point,” he told an audience at Harvard University in 1970. “But I think that has changed. We have a tremendous need for Blacks and other minorities, particularly in places like Africa and Latin America."
It was also during his tenure as director, in May 1970, that a group of returned Peace Corps Volunteers occupied Peace Corps headquarters for several days in protest of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. That was the same U.S. military campaign that led to the tragic shootings at Kent State University.
In the fall of 1970, writing for the journal Foreign Affairs, Blatchford asked, “Are we seeing the beginning of the end for the Peace Corps, or is it perhaps the end of the beginning?” He noted, “The American people, in a public opinion poll, declared the Peace Corps to be the best investment among our foreign assistance programs.” But, he said, “To attract Volunteers from a wider spectrum of American society, the Peace Corps has to broaden its appeal.” He put in place policies to allow Volunteers to serve with families. And he recognized that when it came to building true partnerships with countries, “if the Peace Corps has done better than some agencies, it is still behind the times.”
At a time of national turmoil, he also raised a question that resonates many decades later: “It is common for Americans to ask today, ‘Why go overseas when there is so much to be done at home?’”
At a time of national turmoil, he also raised a question that resonates many decades later: “It is common for Americans to ask today, ‘Why go overseas when there is so much to be done at home?’ The answer to the question is also best exemplified in the nearly 40,000 Volunteers who have now served in the Peace Corps and returned home. After living among the poor abroad and struggling in the agonizing process of change, they are not satisfied with ‘band-aid’ cures.”
He acknowledged the “bitter disillusionment over the Vietnam war among the Peace Corps’ traditional college constituency. For many of these students the Peace Corps is tainted by the war, an arm of the Establishment, merely the most tolerable part of an intolerable government.”
And he recognized the perception that the days of the Peace Corps might be numbered. “Some think the President will allow the Peace Corps to die of inattention. In the Congress the Peace Corps could fall victim to partisan politics.”
That didn’t happen. But under Nixon Peace Corps was folded into a new umbrella agency, ACTION, along with other domestic agencies including VISTA and Teacher Corps. And Blatchford was named head of ACTION.
Blatchford’s life story includes a remarkable television moment as well: As Director of the Peace Corps, in 1972 he appeared on “The Mike Douglas Show,” which was being guest-hosted by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. One fellow guest that day: rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
That same year saw President Nixon reelected in a landslide. All agency heads were asked to submit their resignations. The story is that Blatchford told a colleague, “But I thought we won.” Along with a pro forma resignation, he submitted a real resignation letter, and he stepped down at the end of the year.
50th ANNIVERSARY REUNION, 2011: Joseph Blatchford, second from left, joined other leaders of the agency for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps. | Front row from left: Gaddi H. Vasquez, Ronald A. Tschetter, Jack Vaughn, Mark L. Schneider, Carol Bellamy, Mark D. Gearan, Elaine Chao. | Back row: Joseph Blatchford, Kevin O’Donnell, Richard F. Celeste, Aaron S. Williams, Nick Craw, Donald Hess
“Joe Blatchford led the agency through some of the most challenging and turbulent periods of Peace Corps’ 60-year history,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “In recent years, Director Blatchford has been a regular, enthusiastic participant in bipartisan efforts of past Peace Corps directors to support the agency and defend its independence.”
Indeed, in January 2020 he joined nine other former Peace Corps Directors to write an open letter opposing U.S. Senate legislation that would fold Peace Corps administration into the State Department. As that letter noted, in quoting Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s comment in 1961: “The Peace Corps is not an instrument of foreign policy because to make it so would rob it of its contribution to foreign policy.”
Joseph Hoffer Blatchford was born in Milwaukee in 1934. His family moved to California when he was 10 years old, and he was raised a Christian Scientist. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles for his undergraduate studies and excelled at tennis. He played at Wimbledon. In 1967 he wed Winifred March, an Accion veteran. Accion International, the organization that he founded in 1961, continues its work today. He died on October 7 at age 86.
“Every time we mourn the loss of a former Peace Corps director, we lose a part of our history,” said Glenn Blumhorst. “Our condolences to his family and to others who knew him, worked with him, and loved him.”
Steven Boyd Saum is editor of WorldView magazine and Director of Strategic Communications for National Peace Corps Association.
Meisha Robinson posted an articleRecent Political Appointees to Peace Corps headquarters staff. see more
Patrick Young, Associate Director for Global Operations
Patrick Young joins the Peace Corps as Associate Director for Global Operations. He most recently served as the Acting Chief of Staff for the Office of Personnel Management during a period of significant transition. Prior to public service, Patrick gained extensive experience in operations as well as project and organizational management as an entrepreneur and business owner. Patrick has managed projects and teams for government, private sector, and non-profit clients both international and domestic. Patrick has a master's degree from George Washington University.
Joel Frushone, Associate Director for External Affairs
Joel Frushone joins the Peace Corps as Associate Director for External Affairs after serving for four months as our Director of Communications. Joel brings over 20 years of experience in Africa, where he lived for nearly 10 years.
Most recently, as the Global Communications Director for Malaria No More, Joel drove the organization's communications in the U.S. and Africa, and worked closely with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.
Previously, as the founder and CEO of Crescent Consultants, an international strategic relations firm that specialized in communications strategies and government relations in Africa, Joel worked closely with foreign governments, public and private enterprises, foundations, development agencies, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and others on policy and message development across the African continent.
Educated at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joel began his professional career as a legislative assistant for Congressman Tom Ridge, and worked as his personal assistant when Mr. Ridge was Governor of Pennsylvania. Joel went on to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, where he taught small-scale agriculture production to women and children from 1995 to 1997.
After his Peace Corps service, Joel worked as the communications and advocacy director for World Vision International in Rwanda and Burundi, where he promoted World Vision's work with genocide survivors. Subsequently, he worked as an Africa policy analyst for the U.S. Committee for Refugees, where he documented the plight of uprooted populations in Africa's most volatile countries.
In addition, as a consultant for the Stevens & Schriefer Group, Joel helped elect Republican U.S. members of Congress, senators, governors, and foreign leaders.
Jeffrey Harrington, Associate Director for Office of Management
Jeffrey Harrington joins the Peace Corps as Associate Director in the Office of Management. Prior to the Peace Corps, he served in the U.S. Secret Service from 2009 to 2017 in a variety of roles including Program Manager, Protective Operations, Presidential Protective Division; and Branch Chief, Performance Studies and Statistical Systems, Management and Organization Division. He was the Department of Homeland Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation from 2011 to 2012. In addition, he has served as a vice president with responsibilities for training and education in the private sector, and as a dean and academician in higher education. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 25 years of service, including two tours with the U.S. Department of State as a Marine Security Guard.
Jeffrey holds a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; a master's in public administration from the University of Oklahoma; master degrees in psychology and history from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland; and a bachelor's degree from Regents College in Albany, New York.
Nancy Bruce Herbolsheimer, Director of Congressional Relations
Nancy Bruce Herbolsheimer joins the Peace Corps as Director for Congressional Relations after more than 35 years of senior level legislative and administrative service in the public and private sectors. She was most recently Senior Appropriations Advisor for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA). Prior to that, she was affiliated with Herbolsheimer Law Offices, which she joined in 2003. She is admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois.
Ms. Herbolsheimer served previously as Senior Counsel to the Governor of Illinois, Director of Government Affairs for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and in the first Bush Administration under Secretary Samuel Skinner at the U.S. Department of Transportation as Director of Congressional Affairs. She later served as Chief of Staff for the Federal Railroad Administration, where nearly 800 employees reported through her to the Administrator.
Ms. Herbolsheimer worked as Appropriations Committee staff for Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), who served on the Subcommittee on Transportation Appropriations. Prior to that she served as press secretary to Congressman Jack Edwards (R-AL).
Ms. Herbolsheimer is a graduate of the George Washington University School of Law. She clerked for Judge Kenneth B. Kramer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and family social science from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. In addition, she holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota.
Ms. Herbolsheimer has a daughter, Courtney, who is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania.
Robert Shanks, General Counsel
Robert Shanks joins the Peace Corps as General Counsel. Robert most recently worked at Raytheon Company as vice president of the legal arm for international and Washington operations. He was responsible for all legal issues involving Raytheon's international business, including international transactions, compliance, cross-border disputes, and corporate governance for Raytheon's foreign subsidiaries, joint ventures and foreign offices, as well as the company's Washington office. Prior to joining Raytheon, Robert served as vice president and assistant general counsel for Nextel Communications and deputy general counsel for Nextel International (now Sprint).
Robert's career has included government service, private practice and industry experience as senior in-house counsel responsible for international business. He has extensive experience with international transactions, disputes and corporate governance issues in Asia, Europe, the Americas, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and North Africa. Following his clerkships, he joined the Washington office of Latham & Watkins as an associate. He left private practice to serve as Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and subsequently served as Vice President and General Counsel of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Following his service at OPIC, he returned to private legal practice as a partner specializing in international project finance, privatizations and cross-border investments, including a two-year tour in Hong Kong.
Robert serves on the boards of the Children's National Hospital Foundation, the Council on Accreditation, and the St. Albans School for Public Service. He has previously served as a director of the International Law Institute, the Washington Foreign Law Society, as a member of the International Steering Committee of the D.C. Bar, and as chair of an ABA International Law Section subcommittee on Central and Eastern Europe. As an adjunct law professor at the Georgetown University Law School, he has taught courses on negotiating international transactions and the First Amendment. He is a fellow in the London-based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University and from the University of Virginia School of Law, Order of the Coif, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review.
Matt Sheehey, Director of Press Relations
Matt Sheehey joins the Peace Corps as Director of Press Relations. He worked on Capitol Hill for six years, serving most recently as press secretary for former Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). Matt and his wife, Lisa Chesnel, were Peace Corps Volunteers from 2007 to 2009 in Panama, where they lived in a small village of sugar cane growers in the province of Veraguas.
Matt worked on numerous environmental health projects and edited the Peace Corps/Panama magazine La Vaina. Prior to serving in Panama, he was a reporter and editor for seven years at The Independent, which published community newspapers in upstate New York. He grew up in Kinderhook, NY and graduated from Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. Matt and Lisa live in Arlington, Virginia with their sons Peter, 8 and Patrick, 5.
Shannon Kendrick, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Governmental Affairs
Shannon Kendrick joins the Peace Corps as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Governmental Affairs. Before owning her own company, Kendrick Consulting Group, Shannon served as the senior vice president of marketing, communications and operations for the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance in Norfolk, Virginia.
Shannon served as district director for Congressman Scott Rigell in Virginia's 2nd congressional district, and held active roles in the Leadership Institute, the National College Republican Committee, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Shannon earned her MBA from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is a magna cum laude graduate of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she majored in government and law. She is a recipient of the Virginia Leadership Institute's Trailblazer Award for her political leadership in Virginia. She was recognized as 2013's Top 40 Under 40 in Hampton Roads, and the YWCA of South Hampton Roads 2016 Woman of Distinction. Shannon is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, The Links, Incorporated and the 20/20 Leaders of America Association.
Derek Anderson, Volunteer Placement and Assessment Specialist
Derek Anderson joins the Peace Corps as a Volunteer Placement and Assessment Specialist. Most recently he worked as a management consultant for Capco. While at Capco, Derek worked as an IT project manager and was responsible for coordinating milestone delivery, project reporting, and tracking program action items. Simultaneously, Derek led an internal Capco change management team to align stakeholders and successfully open a new office in DC. Derek joins the Peace Corps team excited for the opportunity to work where his true passion lies.
Derek graduated cum laude with a bachelor's of business administration in finance and international business from Loyola University Maryland in 2016.
Karen Jones Roberts, Director of Gifts and Grants Management
Karen Jones Roberts joins the Peace Corps as the Director of Gifts and Grants Management. Karen has over 20 years of senior management experience as an administrator in government and business where she has advised organizations on strategy, development, marketing, government relations, and public affairs. Karen most recently served as senior advisor to the president and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In this role, Karen served as OPIC's liaison to top White House officials on policy, management and personnel issues. She also served at OPIC from 2003-2009 as managing director of market initiatives where she identified opportunities in education, healthcare, and financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Prior to her role at OPIC, Karen served as director of outreach for the Caregiver Action Network, a national organization that works to support family caregivers. She also served as a founding partner for Team on the Ground, LLC, a government and public affairs consulting firm. Earlier in her career, Karen served as deputy chief of staff for the Small Business Administration, where she was the catalyst for establishing a vision and a strategic plan for the agency. In addition, she directed the Potomac Conference at the Greater Washington Board of Trade, a regional chamber of commerce. In that role, Karen significantly expanded and managed a policy program for regional CEOs and other senior level leaders focused on economic development, quality of life, and new economy issues.
Karen has served in senior level roles at the Department of Labor and at Citicorp/Citibank. She served at the White House as the deputy to the special assistant to the President for intergovernmental affairs and as director of trip coordination in the Office of Presidential Advance. While working toward her degree in business administration and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, Karen worked for the Texas House Minority Leader. Karen has a certificate in international business management from Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. She is a native of California.
Joske Bautista, Deputy Director of Congressional Relations
Joske Bautista joins the Peace Corps as Deputy Director of Congressional Relations. Most recently, he served as a senior professional staff member for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). During his tenure Joske managed the foreign affairs, immigration, border security, and international programming portfolios. Prior to joining HSGAC, he served as the policy advisor for the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Joske earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Hendrix College and a master's in international law from the University of Kent. He is a native of Tennessee.
Leah Kieff, Program Specialist in the Office of Gifts and Grants Management
Leah Kieff joins the Peace Corps as a Program Specialist in the Office of Gifts and Grants Management. Most recently, she served as foundation director at Generation Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on helping young Americans gain knowledge and tools to take control of their financial futures and better their lives and communities.
Before joining Generation Opportunity Institute, Leah served in the Peace Corps as a community and organizational development Volunteer in Moldova.
In her spare time, Leah enjoys travel, listening to management books, and using her Yelp Elite status to discover the hottest spots in D.C.