Sonali Nijhawan named AmeriCorps State and National director; Sri Preston Kulkarni chief of external affairs.
Biden administration has appointed two leading Indian American experts to key posts in AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service to deal with urgent challenges ranging from climate change to Covid-19 recovery.
While Sonali Nijhawan has been named director of AmeriCorps State and National, Sri Preston Kulkarni, will serve as chief of external affairs, the agency announced in a media release.
“These appointees reflect the Biden administration’s commitment to diverse leadership,” it said naming the two Indian American officials along with Dan Kohl as Director of Government Relations.
“In their roles, these leaders will use service to support the administration’s agenda, focusing on four of the most urgent challenges of our time: Covid-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change.”
Nijhawan, according to her official profile “has committed her career to developing leaders and growing national service.”
Most recently, she developed and served as the executive director of Stockton Service Corps, a six-year, $12 million initiative to address local needs through AmeriCorps.
Her professional background also includes extensive experience in education, beginning as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Chicago, the agency said.
Inspired by the students, families, and AmeriCorps community she met, she then went on to help found City Year Sacramento and launch the organization’s 22nd site with 50 new AmeriCorps members, it said.
“Nijhawan also served as the California director of Education Pioneers where she recruited, placed, and supported managers in urban school systems and education nonprofits, empowering people to challenge the status quo of our public education system.”
She earned a bachelor’s in education and psychology from Marquette University and a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
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Kulkarni brings a variety of experience in service and public affairs to AmeriCorps, including 14 years as a foreign service officer with the State Department, the agency said.
At the State Department, he specialized in public diplomacy and worked in public affairs and international information programs, completing tours in Taiwan, Russia, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, and Washington, DC.
He also spent time as a Pearson fellow with the US Senate, advising on foreign policy, defense, and veterans affairs matters.
Kulkarni furthered this experience as a candidate for Congress in 2018 and 2020, running the first US campaign in 27 languages and the largest relational organizing program for a US Congressional race.
He earned a bachelor’s in linguistics from the University of Texas and a master’s in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School. He speaks English, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, Hebrew, and Mandarin Chinese.
“The appointments come as the agency is poised for extraordinary progress, with calls for investment in national service programming at every level, amid growing recognition that service is an effective strategy to help address challenges ranging from climate change to Covid-19 recovery.” said AmeriCorps Chief of Staff Jenny Mauk.
“In the face of Covid-19, our mission has never felt more important,” he said. “In thousands of communities, AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers are tackling the tough challenges presented by the pandemic.”
“With their unique experiences, the new additions to our team will enable the agency to grow and sustain this service response over the long haul, while applying service solutions to some of the nation’s most critical issues,” Mauk added.
AmeriCorps, the release said, brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to the improvement of communities.