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Stevenson Center celebrates student success

Reggie Redbird, student in cap and gown, and President Dietz posing in Redbird Plaza

Stevenson Center Fellow Bryan Titzler, M.S. '17, with President Larry Dietz and Reggie Redbird.

Stevenson Center students have accomplished a lot over the past two years. Offering an interdisciplinary graduate experience for Peace Corps Fellows and Applied Community and Economic Development Fellows, the Stevenson Center focuses on preparing students for successful careers in community and economic development. These individuals use their academic expertise to help others.

Fellows who graduated in 2017 are working from California to Washington, D.C., in roles such as grant management program analyst, sustainability and energy efficiency specialist, insights and analysis manager, nutrition program consultant, and data and performance measurement coordinator.

In August, Molly Cook will graduate with a master’s in sociology and pursue a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Arizona. A Michigan native, Cook considered different options for her future, before deciding to continue in her education. She will work as a teaching assistant while earning her Ph.D.


Fellow Molly Cook will pursue a Ph.D. in sociology.

“I also hope to learn about the role that academia can play in working alongside community partners to create innovation and partnership within a community,” Cook said.

Cook’s research will focus on ending homelessness, a topic she researched heavily while at the Stevenson Center. She will look at different initiatives that have been implemented to end homelessness and their overall effectiveness.

“I have learned that each community and each person has its own set of strengths and needs, and as a community developer, it is our job to learn from communities, and move forward starting from where they are at,” said Cook.

The Stevenson Center left a strong impression on Cook.

“I have gained some amazing friends who inspire me every day, incredible mentors who have pushed me academically and mentored me, and a forever community of people looking to spread good in this world,” she said.

“The Stevenson Center has had a large impact on where I am now.”—Fellow Jon Monsma

Jon Monsma will graduate with a master’s in applied economics. Monsma is completing his professional practice at Invest Aurora, a nonprofit that draws businesses to Aurora and helps it expand. He will be hired on at Invest Aurora as an economic development specialist, where he will take on larger projects and use his skills to have a greater role in the organization.

“I would like to see the revitalization of Aurora, especially the downtown area,” Monsma said. “Aurora has so much potential, and there are a lot of great development projects in the works. I’d like to see these projects come to fruition and be able to see how they benefit the community.”

Monsma found that he gained a lot of transferable professional skills through his experience at Invest Aurora.

“The Stevenson Center has had a large impact on where I am now,” Monsma said. “Before my professional practice, I had never considered a career in economic development. Now I have almost a year of experience in the field and I view it as a potential career for me.”

Stevenson Center students have been recognized for their achievements and commitment to service:

  • University Future Alumni Leadership Award 2017: Cecilia Montesdeoca
  • Newman Civic Fellows:
    • Lindsey Earl, 2017–2018
    • Kate Brunk, 2018–2019
  • Politics and Government Graduate Student Civic Engagement Award:
    • Kirk Richardson, 2017
    • Dani Stevens, 2018
  • Politics and Government Alice Ebel Scholarship 2017: Courtney Johnson
  • Sociology Charter Department Graduate Student Excellence Award 2017: Molly Cook
  • University Club Scholarships:
    • Cecilia Montesdeoca, 2016–2017
    • Molly Cook, 2017–2018
    • Lindsey Earl, 2017–2018
  • Conference for Students of Political Science Pi Sigma Alpha Best Paper Awards 2018:
    • Kate Brunk
    • Katie Spoden
  • Students also presented at conferences and meetings:
    • Central States Anthropological Society
    • Global Status of Women and Girls
    • Illinois Sociology Association
    • Midwest Sociological Society

Stevenson Center students in the final class of the Peace Corps Master’s International program nationwide continue their service in Botswana, Colombia, Morocco, Peru, and Ukraine.

Sarah Aten is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.


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