The Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development embodies the mission of public service and global understanding of its namesake, Adlai E. Stevenson II. Graduate students in the Stevenson Center use their education and training to help communities and organizations in Illinois, across the nation and around the globe improve the lives of citizens and enhance economic vitality.
Through the Stevenson Center, students earn master’s degrees in applied economics, political science and sociology. The degree programs feature classroom study that gives students a solid background in the principles and practice of community and economic development. After completing the classroom phase, students are placed in internships with community development organizations, government agencies, or non-profit groups across Illinois and the nation. One program even prepares students for overseas placement with the Peace Corps after they complete their classroom studies.
Graduate students who come to the Stevenson Center fall into one of three categories: students who already have some experience with economic and community development, students who have completed overseas service in the Peace Corps and students who are interested in Peace Corps service as part of their degree program.
“Stevenson Center graduate students are highly motivated and dedicated people who come here for a genuine purpose,” said Stevenson Center Director Frank Beck. “They are dedicated to public service and are looking to become community and economic development professionals.”
The Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows Program accepts students who have at least one year of full-time experience, as either a paid professional or a volunteer, in development work. Graduate students in the program complete one calendar year of full-time coursework and 11 months of full-time professional practice working for communities and organizations that need their skills. Students enrolled in the Peace Corps Fellows/USA Program arrive on campus having already completed overseas Peace Corps service. Through a year of classroom work and a professional practice internship, students apply the knowledge and skills they gained during their Peace Corps service for the benefit of U.S. communities and organizations.
Peace Corps and ACED Fellows are currently working with a wide variety of organizations and agencies including the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Housing Authority of the City of Bloomington, Mikva Challenge, City of Champaign Neighborhood Services, the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, Inc., Habitat for Humanity of Indiana and Quality Quest for Health of Illinois.
Students are prepared to be effective Peace Corps Volunteers through the center’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program. As in the other graduate programs, students complete one year of classroom work on campus. After meeting Peace Corps admissions requirements and completing an in-country training session, students are placed in a two-year overseas assignment. Stevenson Center students in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program are currently serving in Togo, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Panama, Costa Rica, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Micronesia, Kyrgyz Republic and Thailand.
The Stevenson Center’s three master’s degree programs currently have 34 graduate students who are either completing coursework on campus or serving with communities here and abroad. The academic programs are very rigorous and the students accepted into them bring a broad array of experiences to the table.
“When these students get together the classroom dynamic is fantastic,” Beck said. “The viewpoints of sociologists, economists and political scientists are all focused on real world community and economic issues. The exchange of ideas is incredible and the students learn so much from each other.”
The Stevenson Center has the distinction of being the first institution in the country with Peace Corps Master’s International Programs in sociology and in economics. Its Peace Corps Fellows/USA Program was the first in community and economic development when it started in 1994. “The Stevenson Center is very unique in that it offers students programs in community and economic development that are not found at other institutions,” said Beck. “The applied nature of the graduate programs, with the heavy emphasis on professional internships, is a major draw for students. They seek out our programs because they want to get hands-on experience working with communities and organizations.”