The recently confirmed director of the Peace Corps on why she’s making major changes.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet, newly confirmed as Peace Corps director, is already making major changes to the international service agency. (Chet Susslin)Just over a month after being confirmed as Peace Corps director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet this week unveiled what she describes as “the largest reform ever undertaken” in the 53-year-old agency. The changes include a shorter application process and faster processing of requests to serve. In addition, for the first time, “Peace Corps applicants can now choose the programs and countries they want to apply to — selecting the path that best fits their personal and professional goals,” the agency says.
Hessler-Radelet has been part of the Peace Corps leadership for four years. She became the agency’s deputy director in June 2010 and was a key player in a comprehensive agency assessment that resulted in an overhaul of the safety and security program, and in improved training for the more than 215,000 volunteers. “There was a sense of Congress that the Peace Corps needed to be modernized,” Hessler-Radelet says. “I was just then going through confirmation as deputy, so I got engaged from the very start of the process.”
Those earlier reforms provided the backdrop for the changes announced this week. “Once we had a firm foundation, it made sense to improve the quality of our recruitment efforts, and also how we communicate with the world,” Hessler-Radelet says. The goal of the most recent reforms is to raise the Peace Corps’ profile in what its new and improved website calls “an increasingly interdependent world” with “challenges that know no borders — such as climate change, pandemic disease, food security, and gender equality and empowerment.” “It is important to me that Americans think of the Peace Corps as the primary international service agency,” Hessler-Radelet says. “More Americans want to serve. We want those who are interested in long-term international service to really think of the Peace Corps first.”
Hessler-Radelet, now 57, has roots in the Peace Corps going back generations. Her grandparents worked with the organization in Malaysia, and her aunt did the same in Turkey. And Hessler-Radelet joined the Peace Corps when she was in her 20s, spending two years teaching at a Catholic girls school in Western Samoa.
Upon returning to the United States, she became a public-affairs manager at the Peace Corps office in Boston. From 1986 to 1988, while her husband was doing doctoral research in Gambia, she worked on family planning in the West African nation and founded the country’s Special Olympics.
Then Hessler-Radelet earned a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and became acting director of the Boston International Group at John Snow Inc., a public health consultancy; that led to Indonesia, where she spent four years as a technical adviser for JSI and later as an HIV/AIDS adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She returned to JSI in 1995, first in the Boston office and then as director of the Washington office from 2000 to 2010.
Not long after President Obama took office, Hessler-Radelet received a call “out of the blue” from former Sen. Harris Wofford, a longtime friend of the Peace Corps who was helping the new administration search for agency managers. “We had a 45-minute conversation, and then the White House called,” Hessler-Radelet says. It was Aaron Williams, the Peace Corps director, who asked her to be his deputy.
Hessler-Radelet moved up to acting director when Williams left in August 2012, and Obama nominated her to the post a year later. The Senate made it official on June 5.
AT THE BAR
Mary Klumpp is one of first hires in the Cooley law firm’s OnRamp program, aimed at helping experienced women lawyers get back on track in the legal profession. (Chet Susslin)After earning theater degrees in her home state of Missouri and at the University of Utah, Mary Klumpp lived her dream of becoming an actress: She moved to New York City and landed roles in a number of touring shows. Then, at 33, after marrying an Air Force officer, she made a dramatic career change by going to Fordham Law School. When her husband was reassigned to Washington, Klumpp finished her degree at Georgetown and joined a D.C. firm. Then another life turn occurred: “9/11 happened,” Klumpp says. “It shifted everyone’s priorities; it increased my desire to raise a family and have children.” Now 49 and with her husband retired from the Air Force, Klumpp is getting back on the legal track through the OnRamp Fellowship program. Cooley is one of four law firms participating in the new initiative, which is aimed at “facilitating the reentry of experienced women back into law firms.” As one of the first OnRamp fellows, Klumpp will be full time in Cooley’s trademark, copyright, and advertising practice in Washington for a year.
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Steven L. Miller
Hogan Lovells has added former Constellation Energy Nuclear Group General Counsel Steven L. Miller to its Washington office. (Chet Susslin)Nuclear power has had its ups and downs, and Steven L. Miller, 50, is familiar with all of them. The native of Reading, Pennsylvania, with degrees from Penn State and American University’s law school, spent 10 years in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps before moving into energy law in 1999. After a few years with a couple of firms, Miller became senior vice president and general counsel at the Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, “the first international joint venture for nuclear units approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment,” he says. The most challenging part of the job, according to Miller, “was the different cultures and business perspectives of the owners” — U.S.-based Exelon and the French-owned Électricité de France. Miller spent nearly 12 years with Constellation and now brings his expertise to Hogan Lovells as of counsel in the firm’s energy group. He is optimistic about nuclear energy’s future. “Given the safety record and the zero emissions, it has good public support,” he says.
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Former Rep. Jon Christensen has joined the public policy group at Husch Blackwell. He has a background in both business and politics and is married to a former Miss America. (Chet Susslin)He left the Housein 1999 after two terms as a Republican from Nebraska, but Jon Christensen is still living the life of a congressman. He commutes almost weekly between his home in Nashville and Washington, where he has just joined Husch Blackwell as of counsel in the firm’s technology, manufacturing, and transportation group. He will also continue to serve as managing partner at Appo-G, a lobbying firm he founded in 2010. This combination “really gives me the best of both worlds,” Christensen says, by allowing him to be involved in business and public policy. Before he was elected to Congress in 1994, Christensen, now 51, earned a law degree, worked as an insurance executive, and helped form the Aquila Group, a national consulting firm. He left public office after an unsuccessful bid for governor of Nebraska in 1998. That same year, he married; he has two daughters, ages 5 and 9.
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