- Sonali Nijhawan named director of AmeriCorps State and National program, Daleep Singh named Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy National Economic Council Director and Varun Sivaram named Senior Adviser to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
President Biden has named Sri Preston Kulkarni as Chief of External Affairs at AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service. Also named is Sonali Nijhawan, as director of AmeriCorps State and National. “The appointments come as the agency is poised for extraordinary progress, with calls for investment in national service programming at every level, amid growing recognition that service is an effective strategy to help address challenges ranging from climate change to COVID-19 recovery,” the agency said in a press release.
Biden also named New York Federal Reserve markets chief Daleep Singh as Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy National Economic Council Director, and energy expert Varun Sivaram as senior adviser to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and former Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
Announcing his appointment on Feb. 8, Kulkarni tweeted: “Proud to announce that I have officially joined the Biden Administration as Chief of External Affairs at AmeriCorps.”
In a Facebook post, Kulkarni provided information about the federal agency. “AmeriCorps is an independent government agency, similar to the Peace Corps but focused on national service domestically to solve our most pressing problems and strengthen our communities here at home,” he wrote. We have a network of over 270,000 members serving across the country and dealing with issues such as disaster relief, poverty alleviation, education, health, environmental stewardship, and supporting our Veterans,” he wrote. “Our work will support the Biden Administration’s top 4 priorities: racial equity, stimulating the economy, mitigating climate change, and of course, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.” He continued: “I believe that now, more than ever, we need institutions that cut across party lines and help pull us together as Americans, that stitch the fabric of our society back together after it has been stretched and torn in recent years. National service is something we can all be proud of, across our divisions, and I am extremely honored to have this opportunity to serve our country again.”
AmeriCorps says “Kulkarni brings a variety of experience in service and public affairs” to the agency. That includes 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, D.C.” As a Pearson fellow with the U.S. Senate, Kulkarni advised on foreign policy, defense, and veterans affairs matters.
Last November, Kulkarni lost his second bid to the U.S. Congress from District 22 in Texas, to Republican Tory Nehls. It was Kulkarni’s second attempt. He earlier lost in the 2018 midterm elections. In his second bid, Kulkarni could not prevail in highly competitive race, even though he far outspent Nehls with ads that “focused on the sheriff’s 1998 firing from the Richmond Police Department for 19 violations in one year.” He also encountered criticism from Muslim Americans and progressive Indian Americans for his alleged links to Hindu nationalist organizations, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary arm of the Indian ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Kulkarni 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.
Joining Kulkarni at the agency is Sonali Nijhawan, who has committed her career to developing leaders and growing national service. Most recently, she developed and served as the executive director of Stockton Service Corps, a six-year, $12 million initiative to address local needs through AmeriCorps.
She has extensive experience in education, beginning as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Chicago. She 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, empowering people to challenge the status quo of our public education system. 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.
Daleep Singh, the great grand-nephew of Daleep Singh Saund, the first Asian-American elected to the U.S. Congress, will join the Biden administration in mid-February. He will report to both National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and NEC Director Brian Deese.
In the past year, Singh has played a critical leadership role in the emergency facilities the Fed launched in response to COVID-19, John C. Williams, president and chief executive officer of the New York Fed said in the press release. “Daleep brought his dedication to public service and leadership skills to the New York Fed and had a meaningful impact during his tenure.”
Previously, Singh served in the Obama administration from 2011 to 2017. He worked at the U.S. Department of the Treasury as Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets and Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs. In that role he helped shape the Treasury Department’s crisis response to Ukraine, Russia, Greece, and Puerto Rico. He also directed the Treasury Department’s Markets Room, which provided real-time and thematic analysis for senior officials.Singh joined the New York Fed in February 2020.
Prior to his tenure at the Treasury Department, Singh worked for Goldman Sachs, with a focus on U.S. interest rates and currency markets, from 2003 to 2007, and again from 2008 to 2011. He was also a partner at Element Capital Management from 2007 to 2008. He is a former adjunct senior fellow at the Center for New American Security and the Atlantic Council. He was also an adjunct professor of geoeconomics at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Born in Olney, Maryland and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina Singh holds a bachelor’s degree with Duke University in economics and public policy and a master of business administration/master of public administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University, with a focus on international economics.
Varun Sivaram, who has joined the administration in the newly created position as a Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and reports directly to President Biden, has a seat at the National Security Council and at the State Department, and leads diplomatic efforts to reassert U.S. climate leadership and raise global climate ambition. Sivaram has been ranked by kWh Analytics as one of the top five global thought leaders on solar energy.
Announcing his appointment in a Feb. 4 tweet, Sivaram wrote: “Excited to share that I joined the Biden-Harris administration on Jan 20 as senior adviser to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.”
Until recently, Sivaram was the senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP). In that role, he led the Global Energy Innovation Initiative, and “research focused on clean energy innovation policy, energy transitions in emerging economies such as India, and digital technologies for decarbonization, a CGEP press release said.
He was the lead author of “Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch a National Energy Innovation Mission,” which “offers policymakers a strategic framework to triple U.S. federal energy research, development, and demonstration funding to $25 billion by 2025.
Before joining CGEP, Sivaram was Chief Technology Officer of ReNew Power, a multibillion-dollar renewable-energy firm that is India’s largest. His previous roles include director of the energy and climate program at the Council on Foreign Relations, senior energy advisor to the Los Angeles Mayor and New York Governor, professor at Georgetown University, and consultant at McKinsey & Co. He has served as a board member for Stanford University’s energy and environment institutes, on the board of directors of Peridot Acquisition Corporation (NYSE: PDAC), as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council for the Energy Transition, and as one of the 25 advisors to the UN COP26 climate conference in 2021.
His books include “Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet” and “Digital Decarbonization: Promoting Digital Innovations to Advance Clean Energy Systems.” A Rhodes and Truman Scholar, he holds a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Oxford University and undergraduate degrees from Stanford University.