John Lee Evans
Board Chair; Board-Elected (current term ends 2024)
John Lee Evans grew up in the Pacific Northwest and attended the University of Madrid in Spain as an undergraduate for one year. He served in the Peace Corps in Honduras 1975–78, where he worked with rural schoolteachers and agricultural cooperative leaders in a community development agency. Following the Peace Corps, he co-founded a language institute in San Diego that utilized accelerated learning techniques to teach Spanish to local professionals. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and has been in private practice for 30 years, which has included working with immigrant communities. He is a member of the Cultural Diversity Committee of the San Diego Psychological Association. He has presented at the American Psychological Association on cultural and political involvement. In 2008, he was elected to the San Diego Unified School Board, overseeing a diverse student body of over 100,000 students with an operational budget of $1.2 billion. He was elected to the board for a period of 12 years and served as President of the Board for three years. He led the Vision 2020 initiative that focused on increased academic achievement and equity and earned numerous national awards.
Board-Elected (current term ends 2023)
Bridget Davis, a graduate of Loyola University, was a magazine writer and editor for four years before she served in the Peace Corps as a TEFL Volunteer in Thailand. Upon returning to her hometown of Chicago, Bridget became part of the Urban Teacher Corps and taught writing in Chicago’s inner city public school system. With support from a Peace Corps fellowship, she earned a master’s degree in education with a focus on curriculum development from DePaul University. Afterwards, she worked as an associate director for Wharton Executive Education in Philadelphia. She also worked for a distance-learning company in Baltimore with Columbia‘s Teachers College and the University of Pennsylvania.
Bridget currently lives in Northern California, has two daughters and is married to Cully Davis (Peace Corps Thailand 1991–93 and current member of NPCA’s Advisory Council) who she met during her Peace Corps service. Bridget previously served on the NPCA Board from 2017–2020 as well as her daughters’ school foundation board for six years. She supports various conservation efforts in Northern California, including Peninsula Open Space Trust, YearUp, and several education causes focused on providing opportunities for underserved youth.
She loves hiking through the redwoods and along the coast in Northern California with friends and her dog, Bear, and traveling the world with her family.
Board-Elected (current term ends 2024)
James Baldwin is Chief Financial Officer for Metropolitan Family Services, joining the agency in March 2020. As CFO, Baldwin is responsible for managing Metropolitan’s financial assets and strategies.
Previously Baldwin was with the Haymarket Center in Chicago, where he served as CFO since August 2017, overseeing all financial operations, insurance billing and information technology for the $25 million behavioral healthcare provider. There his accomplishments included designing and implementing financial turnaround from five successive years of average deficits of $300,000 to a surplus of more than $1 million in the following two years, doing so through sustainable program budgeting and revenue optimization.
Before his role with Haymarket Center Baldwin was Chief Accounting Officer for Heartland Alliance in Chicago. There he was responsible for all accounting, finance, compliance and grant management for the consolidated entities and affiliates of a diverse international alliance of nonprofits with more than 1,500 staff, $200 million in assets, and combined operating budgets of more than $150 million.
Prior to that, Baldwin was Comptroller for Heartland Human Care Services, where he turned a $1.3 million operating loss to surpluses of more than $1 million in four years.
Baldwin is a Board Member of the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association, having served from 2010-12 with the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan as a Community Economic Development Advisor. During that time he administered microfinancing benefiting women entrepreneurs and groups of farmers. He also serves as a Board Member of Career Transitions Center.
Baldwin earned his MBA in Finance and Operations Management from Loyola University, and his B.A. in Accounting and Business Administration from Augustana College.
Board-Elected (current term ends 2024)
Comoro Islands 1992–1994
Carla Brown-Ndiaye is an explorer whose unceasing curiosity about people, cultures and countries is what led her joining the Peace Corps, where she taught English to high school students and to aviation professionals. She has also supported maternal and child health projects in her community. One of the highlights of Carla’s experience in the Comoros was that she had the rare opportunity to climb to the top of Karthala, a live volcano.
Carla is an international development professional who has spent more than 25 years living and working in sub-Saharan Africa. Her deep connection to the Continent began with a trip to Kenya and was solidified by a 6 year stay in Benin, where she witnessed first-hand the links between Africa and the continental slave trade. Carla has also lived and worked in Malawi, Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire.
Carla’s worked at Catholic Relief Services as a Country Representative and was the Head of Programs at the Catholic Medical Mission Board. Carla managed an annual budget of up to $20 million and oversaw education, public health, agriculture, micro-finance, water and sanitation, justice, and humanitarian aid programs. She was also the Director of the Family Resource Center in Brooklyn, NY where she implemented homeless prevention programs.
Carla is fluent in English and French and holds a master’s degree in both International Affairs and Public Health from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College.
Affiliate Group Network Coordinator (current term ends 2024)
Kristina Owens (Bolivia 2000–02) is a second generation Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Her dad, Robert Owens served in Peru 1970–73 where he met Kristina’s mother a host country national. Kristina’s sister Wendy (Paraguay 2000–02) also served. Kristina’s service focused on agriculture and environmental education. Her Peace Corps service has provided a framework for the trajectory of her career. She began her career as a biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. While in D.C., Kristina began volunteering for the NPCA advocacy program in 2008 and has not stop. From 2009 to 2012, she served on the Board of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C. (RPCV/W), where she led RPCV/W’s effort to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps on September 25, 2011, with a Wreath Laying, Program and Walk of Flags.
In 2012, she joined the NPCA Board Directors as the Mid-Atlantic/Nationwide Member elected Director. She was an active member of the Governance and the Chair of the Advocacy and Policy Committee. After finishing her term in 2015, she continued serving as Board Emeritus on various initiatives such as the Peace Corps Connect to the Future and Advocacy. After over 10 years living and working in D.C., she returned home to Rochester, New York. After finishing another graduate degree in Public Policy, she worked in higher education encouraging science, engineering, and deaf and hard of hearing students to consider the Peace Corps. Now she is pursuing an additional degree to teach English to new language learners at the elementary school level.
Bolivia (1999-2002), Timor Leste (2002-2003), Peace Corps HQ (2003-2006, 2010-2011, 2014-2017), Costa Rica Staff (2007-2010), Ethiopia Staff (2011-2014)
Dan Baker has more than 20 years of professional experience in both the private and public sectors. Prior to becoming President of NPCA, Dan was NPCA’s Director of Programs and Business Development for two years, joining NPCA as the pandemic began in order to launch to support programs for evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers. Prior to NPCA, Dan worked in fundraising for Outward Bound, and was project director and senior technical advisor for youth development at IREX. At IREX, Dan led a $30M USAID-funded project working with political leadership in Guatemala and consulted with various other projects and practices to improve the organization’s approach to working with youth around the world.
Dan’s Peace Corps journey began in 1999, just after undergraduate school at Davidson College, when he received his invitation to serve in Bolivia. There he worked as a water sanitation worker and volunteer coordinator. After three years in Bolivia, Dan answered a call for continued volunteer service in Timor Leste, where he was a member of the first group of volunteers to arrive in the new country.
After four years as a volunteer, Dan continued on to a 13-year career at Peace Corps in various staff and consultant roles, both in the field and in the Washington, D.C. headquarters office. His first field position was in Costa Rica where he was the Associate Director for a youth development and child protection project. He also notably worked in Ethiopia as the first Director of Programming and Training in that country, and where he oversaw a rapid expansion of the program, including significant work with USAID Feed the Future and PEPFAR programming. Following his tenure in Ethiopia, he served as the Chief of Programming and Training for the Africa Region in Washington, D.C., where he oversaw implementation of region-wide initiatives such as Let Girls Learn, Read for Life, and advances in the agency’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Dan served with distinction during his time as Peace Corps staff, twice receiving the Director’s Distinguished Service Award, and being selected to the agency’s leadership development academy.
Dan and his wife Chris (RPCV Jamaica) currently live in Silver Spring, Maryland with their daughters and enjoy frequently visiting their southern roots in North Carolina and Georgia.
Member-elected, 3 years
RPCV Guatemala 2007–09
With over 25 years of experience in public and non-profit administration, Lisa Convery-López remains committed to the fundamental principles of advocacy, transparency and equity. Her career has been dedicated to empowering individuals to achieve their full potential and developing sustainable communities. Through her successful completion of Peace Corps service in Guatemala from 2007-2009 as a Municipal Development Advisor, Lisa enhanced her knowledge of capacity building at the grassroots level. After her initial tenure with Peace Corps, she remained in-country for an additional two years to oversee the finances and volunteers for a local health clinic in the Northern Highlands of Guatemala. Throughout her career, she has been laser focused on outcome-based public policy initiatives in emergency management, public health, public education and children’s services. She has been part of senior management teams for notable municipalities such as the City of New York and Beverly Hills, California as well as dynamic nonprofits in both the health and education sectors. She currently serves as the Director of Finance and Operations for a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational attainment for the State of North Carolina. Lisa’s academic foundation includes attaining a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of California and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Urban Studies from the City University of New York. This provides her with a solid basis for utilizing best practices to effectively impact modern day issues. She thrives when collaborating with team members from diverse backgrounds and has a strong commitment to consensus building when developing solutions. Plan implementation and monitoring is one of her strongest assets. As a Director on the NPCA Board, Lisa will lend her expertise in finance, contract management, human resources, risk management and strategic planning to the Peace Corps community that she honors and appreciates daily. Her goal is to thoughtfully contribute to the Board as they move forward initiatives to connect Peace Corps volunteers in their work abroad and upon their return state-side as they search for new opportunities or new talent to join their teams. Lisa is also keenly aware of the various transitions Peace Corps volunteers undergo and hopes to be able to offer more levels of support to navigate shifting cultures and priorities. She extends sincere gratitude for your vote to ensure her place on the Board and toward our common goals!
James Jim Diegel
Board-Elected, 1 year
RPCV Philippines 1982–1985
Jim Diegel served as an upland community development volunteer in the Philippines (1982–85) with an indigenous mountain people – the Hanunoo Mangyan. His village of nine families was in the mountainous interior on the island of Mindoro, about a 3.5 hour walk from the nearest road and through sections of primary canopy rainforest. The Hanunoo practice a combination of swidden agriculture and hunting and gathering. Their culture is egalitarian. His host family was an elderly couple who had no children, so he was like their adopted son. The husband (Bapa Wayak) was the medicinal healer and spiritual elder known throughout the region; the wife (Bayi Inoy) was frequently sought out as an adjudicator of conflicts. He focused on four projects during his service: 1) assistance with ancestral land right claims, 2) introduction of intercropping agricultural techniques in the swidden fields, 3) training of a local village member in basic health techniques using the Barefoot Doctor’s Manual, and 4) construction of a school from mostly forest materials, the school serving three villages. The school was financed through the Ford Foundation and De La Salle University (Manila), and the teachers of which were indigenous people from other regions of the country. The education curriculum focused around the Hanunoo agricultural cycle and was the first of its kind in the Philippines. The school still operates today, and the original building is still in use.
Diegel’s Peace Corps experience forever changed his life. He learned how to integrate into a community; understand the importance of culture, language, and indigenous ways; share himself in an authentic way; and recognize the importance of respect, kindness, and being humble. It prepared him for a rewarding career in healthcare. He has had the pleasure of an administrative career in hospitals and health systems in the international, rural, metropolitan, and urban settings in all types of delivery settings: freestanding hospitals, health systems, government-owned facilities, and an academic medical center. He has lived and worked in the Marshall Islands, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington DC, and now in Hawaii. Throughout his career, he has served on various boards, commissions, and task forces at the local, state, and national levels – including holding elective office in Oregon. Peace Corps opened Diegel’s eyes to the world beyond. It shaped his life. He is at a point in his life where he desires to offer his experiences and expertise to the greater Peace Corps community through service on the NPCA board.
Lastly, He met and married his wife, Vicky, while he was in the Peace Corps. Vicky was an employee of USAID in Manila. He has two adult married boys, both residing in Portland, Oregon. He finds himself transfixed with the birth of three grandchildren all within the course of the last 28 months. Vicky and Jim Diegel currently reside in Maui.
Member-Elected, 1 year
RPCV Bangladesh & Mongolia, 2001–2005; PC Staff 2008–2017
The child of Greek immigrants, George grew up bicultural and bilingual in Memphis, Tennessee. He is an RPCV Bangladesh (2001) and Mongolia (2002-2005) and worked as a Peace Corps employee 2008-2017. He was also an AmeriCorps Volunteer in St. Louis between his stints in Bangladesh and Mongolia. George has a total of 17 years of federal service and 7 years of teaching experience. Currently, he is Partner at a single-family private equity firm with assets in healthcare, real estate, FinTech, and blockchain.
George was fortunate to work in several positions at the Peace Corps, including leadership roles. George started as a TEFL Volunteer in Bangladesh and Mongolia. He was selected as the only Mongolia PCVL in 2004. He worked on four Mongolia PSTs and really enjoyed mentoring Volunteers. At Peace Corps/Washington, George first joined the Placement Office, worked up to Country Desk Officer, and then became DMO in Mongolia. After 3.5 years as DMO, George went back to Washington to work in the Budget Office. He eventually became one of the Budget Office managers and then was asked to work as an Expert Consultant training the new DMOs and administrative staff for Overseas Staff Training. George managed progressively larger budgets at the Peace Corps and also had the opportunity to travel to several posts. He was called upon to coordinate evacuation conferences for Jordan and Ukraine and served on several task forces. He received the Director’s Distinguished Service Award in 2015 for his contributions to the Jordan Evacuation Team.
In 2017, George took a position as the Deputy Region Director for Operations at the Atlantic Region for AmeriCorps NCCC. He spent his last 4 years of federal service at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, directly overseeing $784 million as the Chief of the Judicial Security & Administrative Services Branch of the Resources Management Division in the Facilities and Security Office.
In 2006-2007, George was Co-Director of Friends of Mongolia and helped set up the scholarship program for Mongolian students that is still going strong today. He has recently joined the Board of Friends of Mongolia. George is also on the Board of Soyol, a non-profit promoting Mongolian culture in the U.S.
George has an MBA from American Public University and a B.S. in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a major in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He speaks fluent Greek and Mongolian. George and his spouse Tsevelmaa (Emma) live in Fairfax, VA and have 3 kids. Emma grew up in Mongolia and worked as an elementary school teacher. She currently works in the Language Services Office of Fairfax County Public Schools. In his free time, George shuttles his kids around to their various activities. He also likes running, exercising, playing tennis, traveling, reading, listening to podcasts, and watching TV in his spare time.
Member-elected: Europe, North and East Africa (current term ends 2024)
Kevin Elliott graduated from the University of California Davis in 2000 — where he had the opportunity to interview the campus Peace Corps recruiter and several Davis alumni RPCVs for an article in the student newspaper. His research for the article cemented his desire to join the Peace Corps, and he was off to Uzbekistan a year later to put his English major to use as a secondary TEFL Volunteer. After 9/11 led to the evacuation of the Central Asia Volunteers, Kevin resumed his service as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in Bulgaria in 2002.
Kevin’s commitment to Peace Corps and NPCA has continued in the 21 years since he first applied to serve as a Volunteer. He was a recruiter in Southern California and Arizona for five years where he cultivated relationships with various NPCA-affiliate groups to assist with recruitment efforts. After his tour of service ended, Kevin moved to Ireland to attend the Trinity College Dublin MBA program and used his noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) to get a job with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Boston Office of Multifamily Housing. While in Boston, Kevin served as the first President of HUD’s RPCV group where his focus was on recruiting new RPCVs and educating management about the benefits of NCE.
In his spare time, Kevin enjoys playing the tuba in several amateur community bands and attending as many “TubaChristmases” as he can each November and December. During the pandemic, he took up golf and became obsessed (that obsession is not necessarily evident in his current game, but he is working on it). Kevin is honored to serve his fellow RPCVs as a member of the NPCA board and looks forward to helping the organization move forward.
Member-Elected: The Southern Tier (current term ends 2023)
Dr. Sue Forster-Cox is a Professor Emerita with the Department of Public Health Sciences at New Mexico State University. She taught a range of courses including U.S. & Mexico Border Health Issues, Rural Health, Foundations of Public Health Education. She also oversaw the Field Experience requirement for all student’s within the department. Her research and community interests include public health workforce development and addressing food insecurity in New Mexico.
Her career spans 40 years, beginning as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, working as a malarial parasitologist and later with an American nurse, helping to manage her small community clinic. She started the shelter and program for people experiencing interpersonal violence in Gallup. She has worked with various tribal communities and their health programs in Nevada and New Mexico. From 2002 to 2020, she was a professor of public health at New Mexico State University (NMSU), on the U.S. & Mexico border. While at NMSU, she established and administered the Paul C. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows/USA Program and the Master’s International program for the College of Health and Social Services. Dr. Forster-Cox is a 2014 Obama appointee to the U.S. & Mexico Border Health Commission, serving as a private member from New Mexico. She is on the Board of the Roadrunner Food Bank and the National Peace Corps Association.
Member-elected, 3 years
RPCV Thailand 1991–1993
Tracy Haugen lives in Washington DC with her husband and 2 sons. Her oldest son is a rising senior studying Finance and Chinese culture at NYU Shanghai in China. Her youngest is in middle school with an interest in international travel (and baseball). She is a Managing Director at Deloitte Consulting delivering management consulting services such as strategic planning, human capital and organizational change management for over 25 years. She has an MBA from University of Chicago with a concentration in economics and organizational behavior. She has helped federal agencies overcome internal barriers and refocus on delivering their mission. As a partner in the firm, Haugen has sponsored pro bono projects such as adopting a rural community to understand its challenges in broadband deployment and potential economic impact; as well as developing a strategic plan to address food sovereignty on Native American reservations.
Haugen served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand from 1991–93 as a TEFL teacher and in community development. Her community development projects included tree planting to provide shade to asphalt roads as well as the leaves used for pesticide. This experience taught her how important community support means for lasting change. She hopes to apply this same philosophy to NPCA. She will strive to engage the broad Peace Corps communities to learn her hopes and aspirations, top priorities, and new ways for her to contribute to the shared vision of the Peace Corps. Coming out of Covid, she believes there is a renewed appreciation and motivation to connect globally and drive meaningful impact. She hopes to help NPCA capitalize on this renewed energy to activate the Peace Corps community on this shared vision that is reflected in community-supported strategic planning. She is excited to explore new and different ways of operating, different ways to engage different generations of Return Peace Corps Volunteers and different options to deliver the three goals of the Peace Corps. Now more than ever, it’s important for Peace Corps to drive global connections for lasting impact. Haugen is excited to contribute time, energy and skills to accomplish this vision.
Board-elected (current term ends 2025)
Jeffrey Janis is committed to public service taking on both volunteer and professional leadership roles in local, national and international organizations. He dedicated his career to financial resource development, empowering donors to achieve their philanthropic goals and organizations to accomplish their missions. Focusing primary on major gifts fundraising, Jeffrey has worked for organizations such as the United Jewish Appeal, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House.
When he was 44, Jeffrey fulfilled his lifelong dream and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine where he helped non-profits with fundraising, grant writing, and strategic planning. His secondary projects included Chair of the HIV/AIDS group, and he taught American Sign Language to deaf Ukrainians. He currently works for UCLA as the Peace Corps Campus Recruiter.
Jeffrey has a B.A. in Psychology from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a M.B.A. with a focus in non-profit management from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, CA. He is an avid traveler and has been to more than 50 countries.
Board-Elected, 2 years
RPCV Micronesia 1974–77
Dan McAllister has served San Diego County residents as the County’s elected Treasurer-Tax Collector since 2002. He was re-elected to his sixth term in June 2022 by an overwhelming 74% of the vote. Dan oversees the collection of more than $8 billion in property taxes each year, the management of $17.1 billion in the County’s Investment Pool, and the administration of the County’s $1.5 billion defined contribution program. Since assuming office, he has worked extensively to improve customer service, enhance communications and outreach initiatives, and ensure the fiscal stability of the treasury. Under his direction, his office collected a record high 73% of property tax payments electronically, while maintaining a 99% collection rate for the past four years. He is also a strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion values reflected in his staff that come from all walks of life and backgrounds. His office now delivers service in 17 different languages.
As part of his duties, Dan serves as a member of the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association (SDCERA), which manages more than $16.7 billion of investments. He also served as president of the State Association of County Retirement Systems (SACRS). Dan is a former board of directors’ chair of the internationally recognized San Diego Convention Center Corporation. Prior to his election as San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector, Dan was a successful financial consultant and investment broker.
Dan contributes considerable time and resources to community service. He serves as Chair of the San Diego Unified School District’s Special Audit and Finance Committee, and he is a participating member of the Boards of Directors of the Jackie Robinson YMCA; Habitat for Humanity, San Diego; and New Americans Museum, San Diego. McAllister’s strong commitment and involvement in the community date back to his service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Western Pacific country of Micronesia.
A second-generation San Diegan, Dan has completed executive education programs in portfolio concepts and management at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree (BA) from California State University, Fresno, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from United States International University.
Member-Elected, 3 years
RPCV Ukraine 1998–2000
Petrozzola’s Peace Corps Volunteer experience immeasurably impacted her life’s path. Initially opening the door to positions at the United Nations, it also led her back to the Peace Corps. Returning to the Peace Corps, albeit this time as staff, she completed two terms as Director of Programming and Training in Ukraine and the Eastern Caribbean in addition to short term staff assignments in Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname, Romania and Georgia. She then served at Peace Corps HQ as the Director of Programming and Training in the Office of AIDS Relief, providing support to Peace Corps health programs around the world. In this role, she spent extensive time at Peace Corps posts managing PEPFAR funds, including Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon and Rwanda. She was also tapped to support the opening of the Peace Corps in the Philippines, spending 2 months traveling around to villages to meet with potential hosting communities and identify sites for the first group of Volunteers. Wrapping up her staff tenure, she served as a consultant to develop online pre-departure training to help ready candidates for their service. It was an honor for her to serve the Peace Corps in these various capacities which afforded her a window on the incredible organization of the Peace Corps.
Since leaving the Peace Corps, she has worked at TRG as an organizational development professional in the international development space. She was drawn to TRG because it was founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers and staff members and embodies many of the same values and principles of the Peace Corps, promoting locally-driven development that recognizes the value diversity of all kinds brings to addressing community and global challenges. In her role, she works with teams and organizations supporting human-centered design, connecting stakeholders for a shared agenda and learning; designing, facilitating, and creating spaces for voices to be heard and for solutions to complex global challenges to be locally led and sustainable. In addition to being a proud staff member, she also serves in various roles to support the governance of her company, including having served a three-year term as a Board Member elected by her colleagues. This experience gave her hands-on experience in serving on a Board, responsible for the governance of the company and ensuring the company is in alignment with her mission and vision.
As an NPCA Board Member, she would bring a lifelong commitment to the Peace Corps combined with experience in a mission-driven company and as a Board member to help the Peace Corps be the best it can be, to empower NPCA members and affiliate groups to thrive and to amplify the community’s collective social impact.
Board-Elected, 3 years
RPCV Guinea 2013–2015
Historically, the University of Wisconsin has produced the second-most Peace Corps alumni. It may seem unusual, then, that Ryan Plesh did not discover the Peace Corps until the fall of his junior year in college. He knew immediately he wanted to be part of it. The goals, the history, the hardship, the asceticism, the challenge, but especially the people, are what made the Peace Corps appeal to him.
Of the many memories he was fortunate to make during the 25-month span of his life that included his Peace Corps service, a few are especially indelible. Peace Corps Guinea staff say that Guinea is the kind of place that makes folks cry when they arrive and cry when they depart. They’re right. His memories of departing Guinea stayed with him for reasons he doesn’t fully understand. He will, nonetheless, never forget standing at JFK upon arriving in New York, everything he owned in a single bag with him, watching and listening to CNN anchors talk about Ebola, with jarring news headlines splashed across the screen in red and white. What stood out to him about that scene was the way in which apparently every other person in the airport simply continued about their business.
At the time, he resented that. Now, he viewed that as the peace he sought, and the peace he wanted for his students and neighbors in Guinea and Namibia and his family at home. That peace can be found in many places across the United States and around the world, and while living in Philadelphia, he felt it powerfully at Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens on South Street.
His time in Peace Corps led him to a Fulbright scholarship in eastern Turkey and then to work in the nonprofit industry in The Bronx. Everyone he met when he worked in eviction prevention had a story to tell. BronxWorks formally required clients to have an eviction notice in order for the agency to take their cases, but every client’s story came with much more history than a rental ledger could reflect.
The law is the way it is because it is built on the stories of real people. Plesh wanted to continually improve as a lawyer, and working for the judiciary has helped him to broaden his perspectives on the law. Finally, public service is especially important and valuable to him, and he hopes that he will be able to leverage his experiences, such as working at a law firm and clerking at a district court, to contribute on the board.
He believes that he can be an asset to the NPCA board because, firstly, he loves the Peace Corps. Second, Plesh has a technical bit of knowledge and experience as a lawyer that could be useful broadly and narrowly to the board. Finally, the goals of the NPCA, to encourage the Peace Corps toward self-improvement, to enhance the experiences of all members and affiliate groups, and to amplify the Peace Corps’ impact, sit well with the Millennial ethos.
Upper Midwest (current term ends 2025)
In 2000, after informing his Peace Corps recruiter of personal seasickness, seafood allergies, and disdain for heat, Mike was assigned to the Equatorial Pacific Island Nation of Kiribati. Eventually, the country grew on him, and he fell in love with everything there. Located in the mid-most part of the Pacific Ocean, Kiribati is the only nation whose territory encompasses all four quadrants of the Earth. As a result, it is the first nation to greet each new day. Due to its geological structure, it is one of the first nations predicted to vanish because of global climate change. Over decades, Mike has recorded Kiribati’s environmental changes and transnational migration patterns while collaborating with governments, international media, non-profit organizations, and citizens worldwide to raise global consciousness of the climate crisis from the front lines.
A former AmeriCorps VISTA and Fulbright Scholar, service to others through teaching and experience are central to his life. He works at the University of Cincinnati.
Board-Elected, 3 years
Uzbekistan 2005; Suriname 2005-2008
Joe Shaffner is a strategist with over 15 years of experience in communications, marketing, client relations, partnership development, business development, project & process management, and team leadership. Either working in-house or as a consultant, he has worked for U.S.-based organizations that work internationally and domestically. Joe has broad experience working with agencies, corporations, nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals aiming to grow capacity and develop capabilities.
As a consultant, Joe has worked with organizations like WomenStrong International, Mina’s List, the U.S. Peace Corps, IREX, and ThoughtWorks. Joe’s most recent in-house role was serving as the Director of Global Communications for the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), where Joe oversaw all brand content and team development for the organization. While at ICRW, Joe was also part of a number of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and was a member of the organization’s internal task force on DEI. Prior to Joe’s role at ICRW, he served as Marketing Manager for Sheladia Associates, Inc., an architectural and engineering firm located in Rockville, MD and implementing projects worldwide, and Account Director at Ogilvy PR.”
As a second generation Volunteer and third member of his family (father in Thailand and brother in Senegal), Joe served for nearly four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan (2005) and Suriname (2005-2008). In Uzbekistan, Joe was a health education generalist at a community-based health center. For the first two years in Suriname, Joe focused on community economic development, working closely with his counterpart who ran an eco-tourism camp. For his final year in Suriname, Joe served as the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader and worked closely with UNICEF on a pilot project to bridge the educational divide between the coastal regions of the country and the inland schools.
Since volunteering, Joe also supported the documentary on the Peace Corps, A Towering Task, which was most recently broadcast on PBS in Colorado. For several years, Joe has helped the documentary team with communications and fundraising. At the beginning of Joe’s work with the team, he joined LinkedIn and NPCA is raising funds for the documentary – over $100,000 in four weeks.
Joe holds a master’s degree in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Joe also brings Board experience, having served as Vice President of his local civic association in Silver Spring, Maryland for two years. For over five years, Joe volunteered with the Montgomery County Maryland Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and served as Chapter Co-Chair for a year. As a youth, Joe worked with his local community on a service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.
Joe’s history in leadership, relationship-building, and community service lends itself to supporting NPCA to further engage and empower its membership, grow its network, raise the visibility of NPCA and the broader Peace Corps community, and ensure sustained efforts to make an impact.
Member-Elected, 3 years
JJ Singh is the President of Retreat Hotels & Resorts. He oversees all aspects of the company’s long-term strategy and day-to-day operations and serves on the company’s Board. In particular, he oversees all development, asset management, hotel operations, finance, and HR functions of the company.
Prior to Retreat, he worked in real estate development with an emphasis on affordable housing and hospitality. He also held several roles in public service and in finance. For several years, he was the Economic Policy Advisor to U.S. Senator Chris Coons, and also worked as a credit analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget. A proud former Peace Corps volunteer, Singh ran a micro credit loan fund in Oruro, Bolivia. Additionally, he was a loan underwriter for small businesses in all five boroughs.
Singh holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a BA from the University of Virginia. He holds a certificate in Hotel Real Estate Investments and Asset Management from Cornell University. He is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
He is a Commissioner on the Loudoun, VA Economic Development Advisory Commission, serves on the board of Ascendus, a non-profit that empowers low- to moderate-income business owners with access to capital and financial education, and sits on the board of the Jekyll Island Foundation, a non-profit that raises funds for conservation, preservation, and educational initiatives for Jekyll Island.
Treasurer; Board-Elected (current term ends 2025)
Gretchen Upholt served as a Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Korop, Ukraine, where she designed project frameworks and wrote grants in partnership with a number of local government and non-government organizations based in her 4,000 person county seat. In addition to her site work, Gretchen sat on the committee tasked with making funding decisions for the USAID-funded SPA grant program. Gretchen joined the Finance Committee of the NPCA in 2018 and was elected to the board in 2019.
Currently Gretchen is a lead consultant for the Midwest office of BDO FMA, a consulting firm focused on building the financial and operational capacity of nonprofits. In that role Gretchen is responsible for the business development and growth strategy of the Midwest region. In addition to her focus on business development, Gretchen splits her time between playing an active role as trainer, coach, and curriculum developer for BDO FMA’s cohort training initiatives and as consultant to nonprofit clients across the country, helping nonprofit leaders improve their financial management skills and processes.
Before joining the BDO FMA team, Gretchen served as the head of the Volunteer Department at the Thabyay Education Network in Thailand. Gretchen’s widely diverse nonprofit experience includes working on the corporate citizenship team at the TCC Group, designing and implementing a pilot research study on nonprofit talent costs for the Talent Philanthropy Project, as a project manager with the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, and as Chorus Manager for The Choral Arts Society of Washington.
Gretchen holds a Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Arts and Cultural Management from American University in Washington, D.C. She currently lives in Chicago and is active in a number of local organizations in the Chicagoland area.
Faith Van Gilder
Member-Elected: West, Central, and Southern Africa (current term ends 2025)
Faith Van Gilder — a native of Defiance, Ohio — earned a journalism degree from Bowling Green State University, where she met her husband, David. The two served in the Peace Corps as middle school teachers in Kanye, Botswana, from 1986 to 1988. Her career has included stints as editor at the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, senior account supervisor at Asher Agency (a Fort Wayne marketing firm), and currently, Chief Officer of Marketing & Development at Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana.
Faith serves on the boards of Wellspring Interfaith Social Services, Friends of Cedar Creek, and Advancing Voices of Women (AVOW) — which she co-founded in 2017 and earned her recognition by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette as “Citizen of the Year” in 2018. She is a graduate of Leadership Fort Wayne, an Athena Award nominee, and a recipient of the YWCA of Northeast Indiana Peggy Hobbs Award for Volunteerism.
Faith and David live in Huntertown, Indiana, and have two adult daughters. They are also Indiana Advocacy Coordinators for the Peace Corps, as well as conveners of the Northeast Indiana RPCV group.