The newly elected Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration in the United States has over the last couple of months appointed a series of members of the Indian diaspora to key positions. The latest two to be appointed are public service experts Sonali Nijhawan and Sri Preston Kulkarni, taking charge of key positions at AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service.
Nijhawan has been named Director of AmeriCorps State and National while Kulkarni has been appointed the new Chief of External Affairs.
Nijhawan has committed her career to developing leaders and growing national service, said a news release by AmeriCorps. Most recently, she developed and served as the executive director of Stockton Service Corps, a six-year, USD 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. She then went on to help found City Year Sacramento and launch the organization's 22nd site with 50 new AmeriCorps members.
Nijhawan also served as the California director of Education Pioneers where she recruited, placed, and supported managers in urban school systems and education nonprofits. 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.
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 where 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.