Stevenson Center Fellow Alyssa Cooper is using her skills to support local government. Since August, she has worked as a graduate assistant with the City of Bloomington.
Cooper is finishing the first year of the Applied Community and Economic Development Fellows program in pursuit of a master’s degree in applied economics. Each Fellow has an assistantship during the first fall and spring semesters on campus. The graduate assistantship provides a learning experience and a chance to contribute, along with a stipend and 100 percent tuition waiver.
“I work with the assistant to the city manager on providing research and analysis for the city’s priority-based budgeting initiative,” Cooper said, “and for the city’s performance management initiative.” She also works on a project with economic development and city planning that uses GIS software to map various aspects of the city.
Alyssa’s supervisor Melissa Hon noted, “Alyssa has been a delight to work with, and an essential team player. We would not have been able to meet a critical deadline without her.”
Before coming to the Stevenson Center, Cooper served for a year with AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). VISTA members work in a variety of communities to alleviate poverty by mobilizing volunteers and resources.
During her VISTA service, Cooper worked for the City of Avondale’s libraries department in Phoenix, Arizona. She worked on many projects that year including creating two teen volunteer programs, writing grants, and helping launch a nonprofit friends of the library group. Cooper also “opened up a used bookstore where developmentally disabled people work and gain practical job skills.”
Cooper was drawn to the Stevenson Center ACED Fellows program for its unique attributes and networking opportunities, along with her own interest in economics. The Stevenson Center welcomes alumni from a variety of AmeriCorps programs, such as VISTA, NCCC, City Year, Teach For America, and Public Allies. While each Fellow pursues a degree in anthropology, applied economics, political science, kinesiology and recreation, or sociology, exposure to all five perspectives is a significant part of the experience that the Stevenson Center offers.
“Through course projects, our assistantships, and our field placements we experience a very hands-on approach which directly applies to the post-academia world,” Cooper said. She is working on her capstone research project and looking forward to her 11-month professional practice experience next year.
Kaitlin Pavsner is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.