Stevenson Center alumna engaging with community in St. Louis
Born and raised in St. Louis, Alyssa Curran uses her skills to help serve others in need. Curran is an alumna of the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, which places emphasis on community development, philanthropy, and social impact.
Curran graduated summa cum laude from Webster University with bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and economics, plus a sociology minor. Curran felt interested in the multifaceted nature of economics and after a year of service continued to pursue the subject in her graduate studies.
“[I could] learn about the interrelated systems of our economic system, our labor force, our political economy and…how human behavior works and how that factors in to decisions in our economy,” Curran said, when deciding what to study in graduate school. “I felt like there was a broad applicability, a lot of flexibility in economics… being able to kind of stem off into various different career paths and fields of study and career.”
Upon graduating, Curran served through AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis, which involved organizing market and commercial real estate research. With her AmeriCorps service, Curran was eligible for the Applied Community and Economic Development Fellows program at Illinois State.
Curran graduated from Illinois State University with a master’s in applied economics in 2013. During her time at the Stevenson Center, she worked as a graduate assistant with the McLean County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. She used the E-Justice database to help the council reduce jail overcrowding.
Curran’s professional practice was with the Fremont Area Community Foundation in Michigan. She created a strategic 10-year poverty to prosperity framework after extensive research of Newaygo County, with the goal of improving the lives of area residents.
“I really see my fellowship as what launched me to my current career,” Curran said. Upon graduation, she was hired by the Fremont Area Community Foundation and stayed an additional two years. As a program officer there, she developed new collaborations, improved outcome evaluation, and reviewed grant applications with an average portfolio of $2 million.
Curran was motivated to move back to St. Louis by several factors, including the desire to improve her hometown. After deciding to return to St. Louis, Curran conducted informational interviews: She reached out to employees at organizations of interest and requested to meet with them to discuss career goals and gain advice from the field. With each interview, Curran was connected to more and different people, creating a rich networking experience.
“Something that I learned in my recent research around job searching is that some hiring managers are saying that enthusiasm is actually more important than what is on your resume,” noted Curran.
Curran is now a program manager at the Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis, where she oversees grant programs and allocates funds. She seeks the most advantageous ways to reduce poverty and improve the overall community well-being. Curran refers to the foundation as “stewards of resources” and concentrates on community needs.
“You need to make listening to the community and staying connected a priority,” said Curran.
Balance is an important theme in Curran’s life, despite a busy schedule. A fan of yoga, she prioritizes health and well-being as a foundation for success. Curran is musically inclined, playing both violin and cello. She has played for an Indie rock band called Sweaters and the Webster University Symphony.
Curran was the Alumni Day honoree for the Stevenson Center this year. She gave a presentation to faculty, staff, and students and shared advice on succeeding in the community and economic development field.
Curran is also a Stevenson Center alumni ambassador. Prospective students can contact alumni ambassadors directly with their questions. The Stevenson Center offers interdisciplinary graduate programs involving one year of rigorous coursework followed by a year of paid professional practice, enabling students to immediately use their skills in the field.
Sarah Aten is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.