AmeriCorps alum and Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow Jordan Backstrom is helping individuals in Missoula, Montana, to strengthen community prosperity.
As part of his professional practice at the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, Backstrom is helping the Montana Community Development Corp. (CDC) to bring financial stability to those less fortunate.
“Montana CDC has been working for quite some time to provide financing, consulting, and entrepreneurial training to individuals who might not otherwise have access to resources through traditional banks,” Backstrom said. “My main role is to research programs and other resources that could help fix the affordable housing shortage in our service area of Montana and Idaho.”
As a two-time AmeriCorps member, Backstrom has significant experience in community development. His first placement was with the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). The NCCC is a team-based, fully immersive program that builds communities and cultivates leaders through service. Backstrom served in multiple Midwest states, including working with survivors of the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri.
“This was a great opportunity that allowed me to travel and perform a variety of services, from flood relief in the Dakotas, to working with youth in Michigan,” Backstrom said.
Backstrom’s second AmeriCorps placement with VISTA brought him to the National Affordable Housing Network in Butte, Montana. This opportunity also proved important for his professional development.
“My experience with VISTA turned out to be an invaluable experience, and it really prepared me for my current placement with the Montana CDC,” Backstrom said. “I love working with such an innovative organization whose main goal is community development.”
Also doing her professional practice with the Montana CDC, second-year ACED Fellow Julia Neaves is working on several projects to better assess the organization’s impact.
Backstrom credits the Stevenson Center and the experienced faculty and staff for his career development.
“One of the difficult aspects of this fellowship was the transition from working directly in communities and getting real things done to a life in academia,” said Backstrom. “It was definitely helpful to have the Stevenson Center staff who have served in either Peace Corps or AmeriCorps and have done that transition themselves.”
Through course work and fieldwork, the ACED Fellows Program at Illinois State University enhances the skills of experienced students working to become the new generation of development specialists. To learn more about program options and how you can help local communities, visit StevensonCenter.org.