The nomination of RPCV Josephine Olsen (Tunisia 1966-68) continues to get rave approval from the NPCA and other RPCVs, some of whom even know this woman. I assume, based on her Peace Corps history, that Jody got the position as a ‘final thank you’ from her good friend Senator Orrin Hatch. I suspect also, like Hatch and most Republicans, she voted for and supports the president and considers it an “honor” to represent the president in our Peace Corps countries, which Trump has now famously called “shitholes.” I assume Jody Olsen is not ‘womanly enough’ to denounce that statement since no other Republican Senator or Congressman has either.
What is most concerning to me–at my advanced age–is whether, as a senior citizen, Jody, in her mid-’70s, is up for the job and able to fulfill her duties as she has recently (March 2017) spoken openly and eloquently about her Stage II Colon cancer. You can hear her account of treatment at: https://www.youtube.
While Sarge Shriver created “In, Up and Out” philosophy for the Peace Corps, wanting to keep it new and fresh and not making the agency a “career government job” Jody Olsen has not honored our founder wishes and has made the Peace Corps her personal employment center. She has already worked for 17 years at Peace Corps HQ and overseas, everything from being a PCV to Acting Deputy and Director for 8 years. She left the Peace Corps only when Democrats were in the White House. In fact, she has worked longer in PC/HQ than most of the cleaning staff!
Jody is well liked by people who have worked with her at the Peace Corps and as a “single mom’ she has raised two children. I remember her mentioning at her Congressional Hearing how her husband was a great help, even though at the time he had left her. I’m told they’re still “friendly.”
Now in her twilight years, Jody returns “once again” to the agency but this time carries the handicap of our president on her back. She will have to go into the “developing world” and attempt–at least I hope–to explain Donald Trump to African, Latin American, and Asian leaders and officials–many of whom are much better educated than The Donald– that Peace Corps Volunteers aren’t like our President. PCVs are good Americans seeking to do good work for others. Well, lots of luck, Jody. Note: JCoyne
Peace Corps Chief Nomination Met With
Widespread Approval, Relief
By Kelli Rogers from Devex
11 January 2018
Josephine Olsen has been nominated to be the director of the Peace Corps. The announcement of nominee Josephine Olsen to lead the Peace Corps has been met with sighs of relief and applause throughout the global development and social work communities.
The White House announced last Wednesday that Olsen, currently a visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, will be the administration’s nominee for Peace Corps director. Olsen is no stranger to the Peace Corps, having served as a volunteer herself in Tunisia from 1966 to 1968, followed by decades in a variety of roles — including holding most every level of leadership position for the agency: Country director, regional director, deputy director, and acting director.
President Donald Trump nominated Josephine Olsen to be director of the Peace Corps on Wednesday. Olsen has held numerous positions with the agency since she first served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia 50 years ago.
Immediately following the announcement of her nomination last week, members of the global development community took to Twitter to laud the pick, saying Olsen’s skills and background would be crucial to leading the Peace Corps forward.
Last week also saw Sean Cairncross, deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to the White House chief of staff, become the administration’s nominee to the top job at the Millenium Challenge Corporation. Cairncross’ lack of development or foreign policy experience has thus far resulted in a mixed response, while Olsen’s nomination appears to enjoy unanimous support due to her extensive background in the industry. [Emphasis added.]
“The social work community is very pleased and rather surprised that the Trump administration is making such a great appointment of someone who will be very able to carry out the leadership of an independent organization that will do the whole country proud,” said Richard Barth, dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, who has worked with Olsen during the past eight years of her visiting professorship.
Olsen is an energetic, positive leader, Barth noted. During her time teaching in Baltimore, Olsen created an online training program for professionals embarking on work overseas. He expects she will carry her passions for intercultural competencies and risk management, two of the issues she became an important resource for at the university, back with her to the Peace Corps.
The future Peace Corp chief is also passionate about ensuring that those who develop skills through service for the agency have additional opportunities to contribute internationally following their years of volunteering.
Between her stints with the Peace Corps, Olsen took on several other positions within global development institutions. From 1997 to 2002 Olsen was a senior vice president at the Academy for Educational Development, a major United States Agency for International Development implementing partner, where she worked with ICT adviser colleague Glenn Strachan.
“Jody was an amazing leader, very patient, very interested in your opinion, very supportive of the people I saw who worked for her,” said Strachan, now chief information and technology officer for health care nonprofit Jhpiego. “She was incredibly intelligent and really cared about the work she did, and I know she loved the Peace Corps.”
The 19th Peace Corps director handed over her duties to a new administration and transition team on Jan. 20. Here’s what Carrie Hessler-Radelet has to say about authentic leadership, the business of development and the future of the agency she reformed.
This, according to former Peace Corps director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, is perhaps the most important quality in a leader of the organization. In an exit interview with Devex in January 2017, Hessler-Radelet, who spent seven years leading the most ambitious reform agenda the agency has ever seen, told Devex that success as the agency’s leader is mainly about passion for the work.
“I think that the most important thing is that the director loves the mission and loves the volunteers,” Hessler-Radelet said, adding that being a returned Peace Corps volunteer — though not a requirement of success — is helpful in order to better understand the overall experience.
Olsen will step into the role at yet another pivotal time for the agency. Trump proposed a $12 million cut to the Peace Corps’ roughly $400 million budget in his 2018 budget request. In August last year, the agency announced that it was gradually eliminating 200 of its roughly 900 U.S.-based positions, [emphasis added] a move that Peace Corps Acting Director Sheila Crowley said was made in response to the president’s budget proposal.
Those who have worked with her are confident Olsen will tackle the challenges of supporting the agency’s mission under budget constraints as “a warm and understanding leader who will listen to her leaders but also to the volunteers in the field,” Strachan said. “She knows what needs to be done going forward, having already held an executive position at Peace Corps,” he added.
Olsen’s nomination must still await confirmation by the U.S. Senate, but University of Maryland’s Barth isn’t worried: “I know her Senate confirmation was unanimous last time in her role and I expect that it will be again,” he told Devex.