Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) graduate students at Illinois State University spend half of their time in the program completing a paid professional practice in the field with one of our host organizations. Haley Ehlers, a master’s student in her second year of the ACED program is currently serving with Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG), a nonprofit watchdog organization in Ventura, California, that focuses on combating climate change by working against the oil and natural gas industries. Ehlers is currently serving as CFROG’s program manager.
“I feel lucky to be placed at CFROG for my professional practice,” Ehlers said. “I knew that I wanted my professional practice to have some elements related to environmental justice and policy issues, but I did not expect all of my work to be motivated and focused around those topics. CFROG is a grassroots organization with a local scope of work, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to live and learn in Ventura and work with board members, advisors, and community members who have been dedicated to climate justice and ending fossil fuel production for over a decade.”
This is CFROG’s first time hosting a Stevenson Center Fellow. In the time she has been there, Ehlers has helped show the value of both the mentorship CFROG can provide fellows and the partnership it can have with the Stevenson Center.
“Haley has been invaluable,” said Merrill Berge, current board chair of CFROG. “She’s incredibly self-motivated, and her research and writing skills have been a huge help. We’re in between executive directors right now, and in this interim period Haley has filled that void by keeping on top of projects and promoting the visibility of the organization moving forward.
“I really think being a host organization is a win-win for everyone. Haley is learning so much, and the benefit of working with a smaller organization like CFROG is that you can be a really integral and important part of the work we do. We benefit from having input from all sorts of people, but we especially benefit from a younger take on issues. These unprecedented times require the energy and commitment young people like Haley provide us.”
Host applications are open now through February 7 for summer 2022-23 placements. The Stevenson Center has applications and more information about being a host organization. For any questions or comments, contact Paige Buschman, program coordinator, at 309-438-5945 or pebusc2@IllinoisState.edu.