Jody Olsen (Tunisia) sworn in (again) as Director of the Peace Corps

 

Photo: Peace Corps HQ May 2014

WASHINGTON – Dr. Josephine (Jody) K. Olsen was sworn in as the 20th Director of the Peace Corps this week. Olsen has previously served the agency in various capacities. Jody, who has made her career at the Peace Corps, having defied the Peace Corps Five-Year-Rule of  going “In, Up and Out” was a PCV in Tunisia (1966-68), Chief of Staff at HQ, Regional Director  and then Deputy and Acting Director of the Peace Corps from 2001 – 2009.

In her ‘accepting’ of the position, she misspoke by saying, “It is an absolute honor to begin my service as Director of the Peace Corps.  I’m grateful to President Trump for his trust and confidence.” (Hello! Jody, you been to HQ. You know where the coffee machine is located.)

The Peace Corps Press announcement went onto say:

“Olsen is committed to leading a Peace Corps that remains the world’s preeminent volunteer agency, offering all Americans the opportunity to serve their country. She envisions recruiting skilled and resilient volunteers who stand poised to achieve the greatest impact. In the months ahead, she will focus on ensuring that Peace Corps sends volunteers to countries where they are needed most.

“Under her leadership, volunteers’ health, safety, and security will remain the agency’s top priorities.

“I look forward to working closely with our remarkable volunteers, dedicated staff serving across the world and throughout the United States, our global partners, and bipartisan supporters in Congress to ensure that together we are advancing the agency’s mission and goals,” said Olsen.

“President Trump nominated Olsen to lead the agency on January 3, 2018, and the U.S. Senate took bipartisan action to confirm her on March 22, 2018.”

Welcome back (again), Jody and the best of luck but don’t unpack, you’re moving out of the high-rent downtown DC at the end of year. Lower rents. Lower visibility. The Peace Corps is certainly not important to your buddy Trump.

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

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  • As an RPCV who would, like many, to be an executive in either the private sector, Federal or State Gov’t, I continue to think that the “Five Year Rule” really should be revised as an “Eight Year Rule”. We shouldn’t overlook the circumstances that Sargent Shriver faced in the early ’60s. There were no returned volunteers to hire yet. What there was was a sudden creation of an entire agencyful of foreign service positions on all levels, and a million ambitious people over at the Dept of State and Defense, and USAID, committed to exactly what Pres JFK and Shriver were opposed to, ready to submit their applications. It was the era of “PC Independence” — something that the ominous “foreign policy / Intelligence establishment” eventually would undermine, and take control of.

    Today certainly is not 1962. Independence from European colonial gov’t. the end of the Cold War, and a half century of events. The world is a very different place. I was reminded of this, learning now that Ghana, where the PC fielded it’s very first teachers, today there has been nearly THREE generations of Ghana students, and ironically, whilst the PC continues to send teachers to the Northern Districts, there are unemployed, educated, young Ghanaians, peddling trinkets along the streets of Accra, simply to make a living. Is there something wrong here ??

    One answer is, should all these unemployed Ghanaians be retrained to do what PC Volunteers are still doing ? Is this a PC success story, working itself out of a job ? Is this the foundation for the fledgling “CorpsAfrica”, seeking to field the first “African Peace Corps”. with African volunteers ?

    I’m anxious to see what a “refried” director, understanding what it used to be, and then recognizing today’s realities, can do to plot a course for the future. Wouldn’t it be something, if the Peace Corps joined with CorpAfrica, and sent the first group of combined American AND Ghanaian teachers to the impoverished central African nations ? Wouldn’t that be something ??

    John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment. 1963, -64, -65.

    • John,

      Dr. Robert Textor who is the father of the so-called “Five Year Rule”, always contented that his policy called for an eight year tenure, not five.

  • Very thoughtful piece. Not everyone though has bought into the idea of modern Westerners working ourselves ‘out of a job,’ moving on to the next challenge. Poor Jody never evolved, instead monopolizing the authority, leadership and chutzpah that should be shared just to prove the power of democracy. Thank you Mr. Turnbull for the great idea of PC joining forces in Africa with CorpAfrica.

    WM Evensen Peru
    1964-66

  • Thank you, Mr Evensen. At this moment, CorpsAfrica has recruited and trained its first subSaharan African group in Malawi. Many of these Malawian volunteers, I suspect were educated by American PCVs. I’m excited beyond words.

    The way the CorpsAfrica program works, the volunteers work for one year within their own native countries, and then the second year work in a different country and society. Probably not the way I would do it. Instead, I would emphasize these Malawian volunteers be assigned to work in tandem with existing, experienced volunteers, PC and other, and go to a different country initially. The challenge of living in a different culture is not to be overlooked, in volunteer motivation. We will see if there is an unexpected resignation rate after the first year.

    It was back in 1964, with Nyasaland Protectorate independence, Ghana and other African countries sent delegations. I met a bunch of the Ghana Police Band and the Ghana National Dance Troup, and was reminded that Africa is anything by homogeneous, and America doesn’t have a monopoly on cross-cultural misunderstandings and goofs. Lesson: There’s plenty of Second Goal learning for CorpsAfrica. I have some stories to tell about that. John Turnbull

  • Hi all. I’m considering volunteering, and I appreciate everyone’s insight. I’m especially interested in the “lower rents, lower visibility” concern. Is this a likely outcome?
    -Thanks,
    Cam

  • Addressing Camus’ interest and question, I believe that John Coyne’s final paragraph about “Lower Rents, lower visibility” applies to the PC HQ location in Washington, and not considerations for volunteers or applicants.

    I think, too, that most of the former volunteers reading this website tend to be early, 1960s PCVs. it’s pretty obvious by outfront use of their actual names, rather than aliases so popular today.

    Over the years I’ve counseled numerous prospective applicants, and am still at a loss as to how to categorize and accurately describe PC service, as it varies tremendously, from country to country, and assignment to assignment. You may have read some of the conversation here (an earlier posting) about some of my adventures, and what some women thought were not open (perhaps for better or worse) to then female volunteers. For a prospective volunteer, how to know all this, to make the right decision. And the right decision, I think is critical to success and a feeling of accomplishment. Still today, I would wonder how many female volunteers would be ready, as I had to be, with a machete, to lop the head off a ten-foot Mamba or Cobra, which came falling out of a tree. The PC always had a strict prohibition on possession of any firearms, but I sometimes wonder if Washington ever understood a situation with everybody wielding a two-foot long machete (A cutlass in W Africa, a panga in central Africa).

    Going back to applying, ironically, in my own case, being roughly fluent in Spanish, I had presumed I would do well (and benefit, too) with an assignment to Latin America. The PC at the time, however, was anxious to recruit geologists for Ghanaian and other African projects and urged me to consider that, instead. I had the feeling they really wanted me. I DID, and it was the best thing that could have happened. Coming from a multi-cultural setting in New Mexico, today I suspect that working in Latin America might have been a lot like being at home, as a VISTA volunteer, talking to my neighbors.

    I suspect that Joanne Roll, who is involved with this website, will have something to say. The other thing that pops into my head, is that the perspective of a recent volunteer may be somewhat different than the early volunteers. Certainly, the world is a different place, as are the populations and attitudes of many host countries.

    In any event, good luck with your decision. You can always e-mail me, at the address the website can provide. John Turnbull

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