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Housing Assistance Council hosts Stevenson Center Fellow

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Members of the Housing Assistance Council's Research and Information division, including ACED Fellow Bella Green (third from left) and Christina Davila '15 (far right).

Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development provides its Fellows with the unique opportunity to spend the second half of their two-year graduate program gaining professional experience while applying what they learned in the classroom the prior year. The Stevenson Center works with organizations across the U.S. that seek Fellows’ expertise and can provide meaningful learning experiences. Fellows are carefully matched with host organizations to ensure that both service and educational goals are met.

One of the Stevenson Center’s current host organizations is the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) in Washington, D.C. The mission of the Housing Assistance Council is to “improve housing conditions for the rural poor, with an emphasis on the poorest of the poor in the most rural places.” HAC assists public, nonprofit, and private organizations throughout the United States, with a special focus on high-need groups and regions. The organization assists in the development of single and multi-family homes and promotes homeownership for low-income families in the workforce.

The Housing Assistance Council's Research and Information team at work, along with ACED Fellow Bella Green.

The first Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design cohort at the Rural Design Summit in Thomas, West Virginia, along with ACED Fellow Bella Green.

Since 1972, HAC has provided over $261 million in low-interest loans to rural housing developers. Recently, HAC received $1.9 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its Rural Capacity Building program, almost a three-fold increase from the previous year’s award.

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Christina Davila, research associate with the Housing Assistance Council, and supervisor to Bella Green.

Part of the HAC team this year is Bella Green, an Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow in sociology. Her supervisor is Christina Davila, M.S.’15, who also was an ACED Fellow in sociology.

“After graduating from (Illinois State University), I moved to Washington, D.C.,” Davila said. “A friend of mine from the Stevenson Center found the job posted online and shared it with me. I was a good fit for the research associate position at a housing nonprofit because of my degree’s focus on community development. My professional practice prepared me as it was my first research job, and I gained experience working with data in SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). I had also developed strong writing and editing skills, in part, through completing my capstone (project).”

Green’s role at HAC allows her to contribute substantively in several areas.

“(Green) is helping with several research projects including ongoing HAC publications and commissioned reports on rural housing topics,” Davila said. “Her responsibilities on these projects include collecting and cleaning data and writing and editing content. She also supports policy efforts by keeping tabs on key legislation. Applying her background in placemaking from the Stevenson Center, she is also creating documents and planning events for HAC’s rural design program CIRD (Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design).”

Approximately 66.7 percent of host organizations express interest in hiring their Fellow after graduation. Stevenson Center Fellows bring a multitude of experiences to their professional practice, typically including previous AmeriCorps or Peace Corps service, in addition to the education gained during their first year of graduate courses. This background brings value to the host organizations.

“Bella has a very professional disposition and handles stress well,” Davila said. “She is flexible to work on different kinds of projects and perseveres through challenges.” After earning her bachelor’s degree and before joining the Stevenson Center, Bella served with AmeriCorps VISTA in community-engaged learning at North Central College.

Bella Green, an ACED Fellow currently completing a professional practice with HAC.

Bella Green, an ACED Fellow currently completing a professional practice with HAC.

Davila also described how easy it is for an organization to apply for a Fellow. “We are always impressed by the quality of the Fellows we receive. It’s valuable to have graduate students who are trained in the most up-to-date community development curriculum and who can offer a fresh perspective.”

Host organizations vary from year to year and reflect the variety of Fellows’ interests and abilities. Here are the other organizations hosting Fellows for their professional practice in 2019–2020:

  • Berwyn Development Corp.
  • Change Happens! (Texas)
  • City of Bloomington
  • Community Caring Center of Palm Beach County (Florida)
  • East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging
  • Financial Health Network
  • McLean County Regional Planning Commission
  • W.D. Boyce Council

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.

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