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National Service Scholar: Ramya Kumara and The ACED Fellows Program at Illinois State University

Ramya Kumaran '12 •  The Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows Program at Illinois State University 


"I have come to realize the impact City Year has had on shaping my views regarding community development"

Why did you serve with CY?

Volunteering has always been a large part of my life. I joined City Year Chicago because I was interested in serving a year with an education-based organization within my home state of Illinois. This interest stemmed from having had the privilege to acquire an excellent education. Subsequently, I wanted to help other students to acquire the same opportunities, as well as grow intellectually. City Year Chicago was the best way for me to join the fight against the educational gap in the United States.

What led you to apply to Stevenson Center’s Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows Program at Illinois State University? Why would you recommend this program to future City Year Alumni?

I was interested in being a part of a graduate program where I could build upon my service experience and my interests in policy, as well as prepare me for the next step of my career. I really liked that the Stevenson Center’s curriculum is set-up for the first year to be intensive interdisciplinary coursework and for the second year to be a full-time professional practice with completion of a capstone project or thesis. Additionally, the Stevenson Center’s interdisciplinary approach provides the opportunity to learn from and to collaborate with other disciplines and other service experiences. This year, there are four City Year Alumni enrolled in the program, which has provided the further opportunity to learn from the service experiences from different City Year sites.


I believe that this program is a good fit for future City Year Alumni who are interested in the field of community and economic development, as well as an interdisciplinary approach of study. Since the Stevenson Center is a give a year Partner, City Year Alumni receive a 100% tuition scholarship, as well as a graduate assistantship. Further, the points already expressed offer a compelling reason to be a part of this program.


What skills did you take away from your City Year experience? How do you think your year of service will impact your role in this degree?


During my time with City Year Chicago, I realized my passion for serving high-need communities. The Stevenson Center’s heavy emphasis on community and economic development supports my experiences with City Year and has added more value to my year of full-time service. Former City Year corps members are prepared to succeed at the Stevenson Center, because they begin the program with a foundation based on fieldwork in community development. Already, I have been able to connect my service experience with theory; I have come to realize the impact City Year has had on shaping my views regarding community development. Because of the emphasis on both theoretical and professional practice, the Stevenson Center has already started to prepare me to succeed professionally. In addition to relevant coursework, the community of students and faculty that the Stevenson Center fosters has provided the opportunity to learn and to be challenged by perspectives from different disciplines, different master’s programs, and different backgrounds.


What do you plan to do after completing your Master’s degree in Political Science and Applied Community Development?


In particular, I am interested in policy targeting underserved communities and the intersect between politics and economics, both domestically and internationally. Ideally, I would enjoy a career accommodating those interests, but I am open to opportunities that may present themselves. Since the program is set-up as the first year being coursework and the second year being a professional practice, during my second year, I am likely to have a better idea of my choices, as well as future career path.


What words of wisdom do you have for alumni planning to apply to this program?

One of my biggest concerns in deciding to apply to the Stevenson Center was whether or not I would be successful in a department in which I had previously not taken any undergraduate courses. When arriving on campus, I found that several members of my cohort where in a similar situation. If you to feel that you don’t fit neatly into the offered majors, the best way to approach whether or not you want to apply to the program is to ask yourself whether the program will help you obtain your future career goals/path. Further, your unique past experiences will serve to enhance your Stevenson Center experience, as well as that of others in your cohort. In general, best of luck with your application!


Learn more about our Partnership with The Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellows Program at Illinois State University.

Email Ramya.

To view more Alumni Pathways, click here.