New Directors for VISTA, AmeriCorps Seniors; COVID-19, Veterans Advisors Named

WASHINGTON, D.C. – AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service, today announced the appointments of seven top service and civic engagement experts to key positions. In these roles, they will support the Biden administration’s agenda, focusing on four of the most urgent challenges of our time: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change.
The team announced today reflect the Biden administration’s commitment to diversity, and additional appointments will be announced in the coming weeks. Among those named today:

  • Jenny Mauk, Chief of Staff
  • Fernando Laguarda, General Counsel
  • Atalaya Sergi, Director, AmeriCorps Seniors
  • Meg Ansara, Director, AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Karen Dahl, Senior Advisor for COVID-19
  • Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell, Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships
  • Mary Tobin, Senior Advisor for Wounded Warriors, Veterans, and Military Families


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 for everything from climate change to COVID-19 recovery. 

“The Biden administration supports and values service as a way to heal divisions, expand opportunity, and address the converging crises of COVID-19, an economic downturn, climate change, and racial inequity,” said Jenny Mauk, chief of staff at AmeriCorps. “This administration has ensured that we have a strong team in place on day one to work in partnership with AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors programs across the country to make service a part of the solution to these challenges.” 
Below is background on the seven appointees: 

Jenny Mauk, Chief of Staff

Mauk most recently served as chief of staff at Women for Women International. During her tenure, she was responsible for the global strategic planning process. Working in partnership with global leadership, Jenny led the organization through periods of transition to deliver consistent programing in support of the mission. Previously, Mauk served as White House Liaison and Special Assistant to the CEO at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency now known as AmeriCorps. A graduate of Lesley University (Cambridge, Mass.), Mauk began her career as a kindergarten teacher.

Fernando Laguarda, General Counsel

Laguarda joins AmeriCorps with a wealth of experience in antitrust and competition policy, federal oversight and accountability, and public law. Most recently, he served as the faculty director of the Program on Law and Government at American University Washington College of Law. He previously served as the vice president, external affairs and a policy counselor at Time Warner Cable; general counsel and board chair of the National Network to End Domestic Violence; and as a member of numerous nonprofit boards including the League of United Latin American Citizens. He has received numerous national and local awards for his work advocating against domestic violence. Fernando received his J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center, and his A.B. cum laude in government from Harvard College.

Atalaya Sergi, Director, AmeriCorps Seniors

Sergi brings 20 years of experience in service, community engagement, and education to this role. She has worked in public school districts and the nonprofit sector, bringing private and public organizations together to ensure citizens of all ages and those in underserved communities thrive. Sergi most recently served as the vice president of strategic partnerships & programming at Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc. There she managed AmeriCorps State and National and AmeriCorps Seniors programs from the grantee level, launching her former organization’s only Foster Grandparent program. Sergi has been a member of several advisory committees, councils, and coalitions, including as a founder of Los Angeles Generation to Generation, which focused on engaging older adults to support young children across Los Angeles County. She was also selected as an Encore Fellow, using her time to write about the positive impact seniors can have in educational settings. Sergi earned a master’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Virginia.

Meg Ansara, Director, AmeriCorps VISTA

Ansara brings with her to AmeriCorps VISTA a passion to ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed in life. She grew up in a family of organizers and teachers and has served as an advisor to several foundations, advocacy and direct service organizations committed to improving education. She previously served in a variety of roles at Stand for Children and was the CEO and a founding partner of 270 Strategies. At 270, she founded and led the company’s education practice, advising public school districts, charter management organizations, foundations, direct service and advocacy organizations. Ansara also brings extensive experience in leading public engagement and advocacy strategies. She has worked on senate and gubernatorial campaigns, served as the co-founder and senior advisor for Organizing Corps 2020, a national regional director for the 2012 Obama for America campaign, and more. She was even a forest firefighter, named to one of Oregon’s elite “hotshot” teams. Meg earned a B.A. in history and African studies from Oberlin College (Ohio).

Karen Dahl, Senior Advisor for COVID-19

Dahl is a proven leader with extensive experience in communications, policy, operations, and partnerships. She joins AmeriCorps from Guild Education, a hyper growth start-up where she led the development and implementation of internal communications, including operations, messaging, and change management. Previously, Dahl spent several years in leadership positions in operations, internal and external communication, and government relations for Cities of Service and Jumpstart. She was part of the communications teams for President Clinton and Vice President Gore and was a researcher and associate producer for NBC News. A proud AmeriCorps alumna, Karen volunteers in New York City public schools, including coordinating a school-wide community service program. She holds a master's degree in education from Harvard University and a bachelor's degree in English and French from the University of Connecticut.

Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell, Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships

Shaheen-McConnell’s professional experience centers on making national service part of growing up in America. Most recently, she served as managing director of strategic partnerships at Service Year Alliance, where she led initiatives including the Serve America Together campaign, stakeholder engagement, and convenings for leaders inside and outside the national service network. Shaheen-McConnell helped start the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, where she designed and ran a fellowship program for rising leaders across the country. She was a business development consultant with News Deeply, a new media and technology startup, and managed programs and the Arab American Census Information Center at the Arab American Institute and Foundation. Shaheen-McConnell is a proud AmeriCorps alumna, and served in 2008 with the Arab American Resource Corps in a community support and cultural resource position before becoming a supervisor for future members. She earned a bachelor's degree from George Washington University and a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School.

Mary Tobin, Senior Advisor for Wounded Warrior, Veteran & Military Family Initiatives

A proud military veteran, Tobin brings more than 17 years of leader development, project management, community engagement, public speaking experience, and a passion for addressing social justice issues that affect underserved communities. Most recently, she served as executive director, East Region of The Mission Continues. She has been featured in major publications for her thought leadership on diversity and inclusion and has lectured widely on topics including poverty, diversity, and leadership. She is a combat veteran, having served 10 years in the United States Army as a communications officer, including two combat tours in Iraq. Her previous roles include senior project manager for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, President’s management council fellow in the Department of Treasury, and chief operations officer of the Kids Hope Alliance. Tobin is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the New York Institute of Technology.