The transition from AmeriCorps to the Stevenson Center’s Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows Program to a job proved seamless for Ramya Kumaran, M.S. ’15. With a master’s degree in political science, Kumaran now has a full-time position with her internship host organization.
“During my time with AmeriCorps, I realized my passion for serving high-need communities,” Kumaran said. “The Stevenson Center’s heavy emphasis on community and economic development supports my experiences with City Year and has added deeper context to my year of service.
“AmeriCorps alums are prepared to succeed at the Stevenson Center, because they have a foundation based on community development fieldwork. Because of the emphasis on both theoretical and professional practice, the Stevenson Center has prepared me to succeed professionally. In addition, the community of students and faculty that the Stevenson Center fosters has provided me the opportunity to learn and be challenged by perspectives from different disciplines and different backgrounds.”
The Stevenson Center’s ACED sequence is interdisciplinary, relevant, and challenging. Fellows jump-start their professional development through
• A truly integrated classroom. Students come together in core courses to share their full range of perspectives and backgrounds with faculty.
• Real-world experience. Community projects are woven into course work. ACED Fellows spend one intensive year on campus, followed by an 11-month field internship.
• Personalized support. The Stevenson Center is small by design, ensuring individual attention and interactive seminars with faculty.
Bunmi Akinnusotu’s experiences at Illinois State set her on a journey in nonprofit and government management, from the YWCA and United Way in Chicago to her current role as special assistant at the Environmental Protection Agency. Reflecting on her master’s in sociology, Akinnusotu, M.S. ’07, said the field experiences and the relationships stand out:
“I would absolutely recommend the Stevenson Center to others. I found the practical learning approach to be extremely helpful to my career. I gained an appreciation for how to unpack tough questions, and bring a more critical lens to research that can actually help change or influence conclusions. When I sit in meetings or when things come up, I listen differently because of what I know about how communities operate and what tools are at my disposal to address problems.
“Studying at ISU was demanding but it was a very supportive environment. I always enjoyed the small classroom sizes and accessibility of each professor. The Stevenson Center was a home away from home where I felt included and appreciated.”
The Stevenson Center offers comprehensive educational opportunities. The ACED Fellows Program includes five master’s degrees: anthropology, applied economics, kinesiology and recreation, political science, and sociology.
Within each degree program, the ACED sequence covers topics such as community project design and management, grant writing, and economic development tools. Fellows also tackle a group community project every year. In and out of the classroom, each student also pursues a personal research agenda in areas like sustainable development, food systems, public health, and housing. Regardless of the degree program, the second-year internship immerses the Fellow in community and economic development fieldwork.
Recent applied economics graduate Dan Sheets-Poling, M.S. ’15, is excited to join other Stevenson Center alumni:
“I have been able to gain new perspectives on education, criminal justice, the workforce, and community development. I have been lucky enough to serve in AmeriCorps before and during my time at the Stevenson Center.
“Before coming to the Stevenson Center I worked within a middle school and was able to develop teamwork, collaboration, and project management skills. While at the Stevenson Center I received training in data management and community development. The classes and my graduate assistantship through the Stevenson Center helped to prepare me for my placement as well as for my future work as a data analyst. Being at the Stevenson Center has allowed for me to grow as an individual and a professional.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Stevenson Center’s graduate study options and ways to serve communities in need, including through Peace Corps service, visit the Stevenson Center today!