Katie Raynor, well into her first year as the Stevenson Center program coordinator, knows first-hand what it means to give back. She is more dedicated than most, serving in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps before graduate school and a role that allows her to aid and inspire future community and economic development leaders.
“I had lived in Kentucky almost exclusively to that point, in close proximity to family, so it was exciting–and terrifying–to suddenly uproot and move to Los Angeles,” Raynor said.
Becoming involved with community development at the grassroots level solidified Raynor’s desire to join the Peace Corps. After graduation with a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Louisville, she served in South Africa.
Raynor commented on the daily first-world and third-world contrasts she encountered within South Africa, making it a particularly hard location to adjust to for most volunteers.
“Our host country staff likened the beginning of Peace Corps to being a newborn baby,” Raynor said. “We had to relearn even the most basic tasks such as how to speak in Zulu, eating with our hands, and bathing using a bucket and no running water.”
She served as an education volunteer for K-8 grade students, primarily teaching English and math. She also spent a lot of time within the community attending religious services, weddings, funerals, and other events hosted by coworkers.
“I liked visiting with the women in the community, just doing things like learning how to cook South African food, helping with laundry, and listening to their stories,” Raynor said. “I also loved taking walks with some of the kids in the village and helping them practice English.”
Having served in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, Raynor was more than qualified to continue her education with the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development. As a Fellow, she pursued a master’s degree in sociology with an interdisciplinary sequence in applied community and economic development.
After her 11-month professional practice at the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging that led to a full-time position there, she returned to the Stevenson Center in June 2016 as the program coordinator. With so much experience, she is a valuable resource to students in all of the Stevenson Center programs.
“I loved my time here as a student and am now excited that I get to share this opportunity with countless other prospective students,” Raynor said.
The Stevenson Center is unique in that Fellows enter with a history of dedication to serving communities, resulting in cohorts that have practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge to affect positive social and economic change. The programs ensure that students have opportunities to engage in dialogue and research in and out of the classroom with peers who have varied perspectives.
“I am so fortunate to have a job where I get to interact with amazing, motivated, compassionate students, faculty, staff, and partners every day,” Raynor said. “I truly believe that the Stevenson Center is one of the best values out there in terms of a holistic, service-driven graduate education.”
Kaitlin Pavsner is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.