Fellows arrive at the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development with incredible service experiences. Through the Stevenson Center, they pursue a master’s degree in anthropology, applied economics, kinesiology and recreation, political science, or sociology, each with an interdisciplinary sequence in Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED). To be an ACED Fellow, they must have at least one year (1,700 hours) of related full-time experience, for example working at a nonprofit or government agency or completing an AmeriCorps program.
ACED Fellow Rose Commins is pursuing a master’s in kinesiology and recreation. Commins served with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) from 2013 to 2014, right after finishing high school. NCCC members live and work in tight-knit teams as they address a variety of needs in different locations. For 10 months, Commins and her teammates worked and lived in underserved communities across the Pacific region. Her work included rebuilding and maintaining a camp outside Yosemite National Park, supporting a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, repairing and creating trails in Auburn, California, and teaching outdoor science in San Diego.
Commins credits her AmeriCorps service with connecting her to the Stevenson Center. “I always loved community and recreation growing up, and I’ve always been very passionate about parks, public spaces, and land, ” she reflected. “And then, working in AmeriCorps in parks and community settings really solidified that for me.” At Earlham College, she worked in health promotion and wellness and taught fitness classes. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2018, Commins wanted to use her writing skills to help communities, but she did not know where to start. A Stevenson Center student she knew through working as a camp counselor for the Girl Scouts recommended the ACED Fellows program in kinesiology and recreation.
Commins said: “A lot of people wonder how kinesiology and recreation can possibly fit into community and economic development, but in my humble opinion, I think it fits the best [of the five degree programs]. It’s so community-based and hands-on. Public parks and grantmaking have such a big impact on economic development, and I don’t think people realize that. Park service also prepares you for such a wide range of careers. It’s very practical.”
The ACED Fellows program requires an intense year on campus followed by 11 months of paid professional practice arranged by the Stevenson Center. Commins is now serving with the City of Bloomington’s Community Development Department. She said, “Right now, I’m helping them write a consolidated plan that focuses on CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding. I’ve done some grant writing for them, and some code enforcement projects. I’ve gotten to do a huge range of things.”
ACED Fellows get involved in their communities and gain additional hands-on experience in their field before they ever cross the commencement stage. Commins shared, “I am very thankful for the professional development I’m getting. And the support of the staff is really nice. (The program) definitely prepares you for a career, in the way that it gives you work experience and a degree. But also, I think it has this really unique interdisciplinary aspect of community and economic development combined and tied into whatever your degree is in. That’s a unique benefit that can prep you for your future.”
Through its graduate programs, the Stevenson Center 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. Apply by February 1 or March 1 to start the Fellows program this year!
Fellows’ internships are in all types of communities, in Illinois and other states. Readers, do you know of an organization that could benefit from working with a Stevenson Center Fellow? Share this story, learn more, and submit a 2020 application to host a Fellow by February 10.
Shaylin Quaid is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.