Carrie Hessler-Radelet, new director of the U.S. Peace Corps. Photo by: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy / CC BY-ND

Carrie Hessler-Radelet was sworn in on Wednesday as the 19th director of the U.S. Peace Corps at a ceremony at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Hessler-Radelet, appointed deputy director in 2010, has since spearheaded one of the most extensive reform efforts the Peace Corps has ever undertaken to improve the quality of support it provides to volunteers and more strategically target its resources and country presence to maximize impact.

And she’s far from done.

Hessler-Radelet is currently overseeing a sweeping effort to revamp the Peace Corps’ volunteer application and selection process, as well as revitalize recruitment and outreach.

“We’re looking forward to exciting new announcements this summer that will make the process of applying to the Peace Corps simpler, faster and more personalized than ever before,” a Peace Corps spokesperson told Devex.

Hessler-Radelet already announced her plans to expand recruitment staff in order to double the number of applications the agency receives — “not just to grow our reach, but to field a volunteer force that reflects the rich diversity of the American people, and represents the very best of the United States,” she said earlier this year at an event honoring Peace Corps Week.

The idea is to streamline the selection and assignment process from start to finish — taking the application from an 8-hour, 60-page process to a short online application that will take less than one hour to complete. In addition, applicants will be able to map their Peace Corps futures by applying to a specific job in a specific country, with a set start date.

As deputy director, Hessler-Radelet’s other notable initiatives include the implementation of new policies and processes aimed at better protecting volunteers by reducing the risk of sexual assault and violent crime, as well as improving medical, mental health, legal and post-service care for victims. She also supervised implementation of the Focus In/Train Up initiative, which provides targeted technical training to volunteers to increase their capacity-building abilities.

“Everywhere I go in the Peace Corps world, I hear testimonies of the impact volunteers have had on their communities,” Hessler-Radelet said on Wednesday. “Peace Corps volunteers are special people — they come with the tools of the 21st century but the heart and soul of a timeless Peace Corps. Serving as Peace Corps director is truly the great honor of my life.”

Hessler-Radelet comes from a four-generation Peace Corps family and served as a Peace Corps volunteer herself in Western Samoa with her husband from 1981 to 1983.

U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Hessler-Radelet to lead the agency in July 2013, but her appointment was not confirmed until almost a year later on June 5, 2014.

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About the author

  • Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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