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Hunt Family Fund enables Fellows to attend conference

Group photo in front of conference banner

Stevenson Center Fellows Orsolya Ficsor, Bella Green, Joel McReynolds, Grayson Bourke, Ryan Arnold, Tobi Oladejo, Erik Carlson, and Billy Perkins with Illinois Deputy Governor Sol Flores (fifth from the left).

Thanks to the Hunt Family Fund, nine Stevenson Center Fellows were among the more than 250 participants who attended the Housing Action Illinois Housing Matters! conference in Bloomington. The conference’s welcome letter set the intention to create “an Illinois where ALL residents, regardless of income, have a good place to call home.”

Robert W. Hunt, professor emeritus and founder of the Stevenson Center, ringing the 25th anniversary Peace Corps commemorative bell. The Hunt Family Fund enabled Fellows to attend the <em>Housing Matters!</em> conference.

Robert W. Hunt, professor emeritus and founder of the Stevenson Center, ringing the 25th anniversary Peace Corps commemorative bell. The Hunt Family Fund enabled Fellows to attend the Housing Matters! conference.

The October conference provided the Stevenson Center Fellows with important new perspectives. The Fellows attended workshops addressing issues such as segregation, gentrification, and homelessness. Their participation was possible only through the generous support of the Hunt Family Fund, established by Robert W. Hunt, Ph.D., founder of the Stevenson Center and professor emeritus in the Department of Politics and Government.

The Fellows unanimously agreed that the conference was rewarding and useful for their careers in the public sector. First-year Fellow in political science Grayson Bourke described the sessions: “Program Implementation: Putting New Skills and Ideas to Work really let me learn how to translate great ideas into concrete action steps. The speakers were insightful, and I learned a great deal.” Bourke added, “Innovations to Lowering the Cost of Housing enlightened me to a whole new field in commercial property development for low-income communities.”

The annual conference is organized by Housing Action Illinois, which has hosted several Stevenson Center Fellows for their professional practice in the past.

Attending the conference for a second year, Fellows Bella Green and Joel McReynolds benefited from several of the workshops as well. McReynolds, who is pursuing a master’s in political science, said: “I enjoyed hearing from different housing practitioners from around the state and learning more about how various communities are addressing homelessness. My favorite session was Local Government & Nonprofit Partnerships: Peoria Rehousing Case Study because it was focused on an area nearby. By working together, nonprofit organizations and local government can help people find safe housing and provide a support structure for community members.”

Tobi Oladejo speaks with a presenter at the HAI conference.

Tobi Oladejo speaks with a presenter at the HAI conference.

Green, who is pursuing a master’s in sociology, knew that she was interested in housing research and policy when she attended the Housing Matters! conference last year, and this year she specifically attended workshops catered to her professional practice with the Housing Assistance Council in Washington, D.C.: “My favorite workshops were two whose topics tie to a report I’m currently working on for the Housing Assistance Council. The first was the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) breakfast. I had come across mentions of CRA a bit during my time at Housing Assistance Council as a motive for banks to invest money into improving communities, but this workshop gave me a first-hand perspective.”

The Fellows left the conference with new information to apply to their own areas of study within the interdisciplinary Applied Community and Economic Development Sequence (anthropology, applied economics, kinesiology and recreation, political science, and sociology). They are grateful to attend professional development events with the assistance of donors like Hunt.

Stevenson Center Fellows Bella Green, Orsolya Ficsor, Billy Perkins, Erik Carlson, Casey Peterson, Tessa Lance, Ryan Arnold, Tobi Oladejo, and Joel McReynolds at the Housing Matters! conference.

Through its graduate programs, the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development cultivates leaders in public service. The center welcomes those who have at least one year of full-time experience in community development or social services, whether through employment or programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. Fellows’ internships are in all types of communities, in Illinois and other states. Want to learn more about becoming OR hosting a Stevenson Center Fellow? Contact us at or (309) 439-7090. Want to create more of these opportunities for the next generation of development professionals?

Shaylin Quaid is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.