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University of Chicago Committed to Supporting AmeriCorps Alums and Providing a Foundation for Career Success

October 8, 2013

2013.10.UChicago_MAROONIdentifying options for continuing education is a priority for many AmeriCorps alumni, but that equation is impacted by a variety of factors (Is the school and its program a fit for my professional aspirations? Will the school allow me to maximize my Segal AmeriCorps Education Award? Are there other AmeriCorps alumni who can speak to the value of the program?).  These are just a few factors you might weigh as you consider your continuing education options.  If you are seeking a career in social services or teaching, the University of Chicago Master’s programs in the School of Social Service Administration (SSA) and Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) are leading options to consider.

AmeriCorps Alums enrolled in the SSA or UTEP Master’s programs are eligible to receive generous financial support in the form of service awards and scholarships.  During the current school year, the University of Chicago has provided over $1 million in service awards and scholarships to enrolled AmeriCorps Alums.  The SSA and UTEP programs offer the following Master’s degrees for AmeriCorps alumni:

AmeriCorps alumni attending the SSA and UTEP programs are nothing new.  University of Chicago has been a long-term supporter of AmeriCorps, and it has created an environment where AmeriCorps Alums can and do excel.  Here is what AmeriCorps alumni are saying about their experience with the SSA and UTEP programs.

Skye Black
2nd year Master’s Candidate, UTEP
AmeriCorps ’10 – ’12

2013.10.Skye.Black.150x186Skye Black is a 2nd year student, with the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) at the University of Chicago.  She recently began her student teaching in a 5th grade classroom at Earle STEM Academy in the Englewood community.

Skye’s journey to UTEP began during her undergraduate studies at Michigan State University.  She became very involved with an urban gardening project that addressed issues surrounding food security and taught classes about healthy eating and gardening in local elementary and middle schools.  She attended two study abroad programs, one to Kenya and the other to South Africa where Skye worked at a center for educating displaced youth.

During Skye’s senior year, she began working as the Deputy Executive Director of The Peace Project, a non-profit in Detroit that engaged youth in positive activities in the city such as spoken word workshops and performances, a healthy lifestyles program, cleaning and maintaining parks within the city and a choir.

Skye’s passion for working with youth in Detroit led her to an organization of inspirational young people rocking red jackets and Timberlands; City Year Detroit.  City Year, an AmeriCorps program, works with students at risk of dropping out of school and gets them on track to graduate with intensive one on one and small group tutoring, after school programs and mentoring.

“My passion was helping people and building strong communities. Throughout college, I struggled to figure out what was the most effective avenue to make positive change. After just a few weeks of working as a City Year Corps Member in a 6th grade classroom on the west side of Detroit, I felt the urgency of our work with students and it was confirmed that the field of education was where I could make the biggest impact. Empowering student’s through education allows them to become agents of change in their own lives. City Year allowed me to drastically impact the lives of a handful of students, but I was desperate to make more wide scale change. I needed my own classroom.”

City Year was the perfect segue into UTEP.

“I knew UTEP was the right place for me when I saw the quote, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’ painted onto the wall during my interview. This is a quote that I have lived true to for many years and is an integral message of City Year’s work.”

The two year program provides a balance of theoretical groundwork for education in Chicago’s urban context, the necessary methods courses, hands on experience in classrooms, and courses that analyzes the identity, privilege and aspects of oppression of each graduate student.

“UTEP’s unique approach to urban education has taught me that my classroom and my pedagogy of teaching can function as a powerful form of social justice. I can create a curriculum that is both culturally relevant and meets the needs of my students. I am aware of and constantly reflecting about how my identity interacts with every aspect of my student’s identities.”

Bill Ayers once said, “The trick is to live with one foot in the world as it is while the other foot strides toward a world that could be but is not yet.” UTEP provides insight into both worlds; we face the harsh realities of the current state of urban education yet we confront those challenges head on with idealism and the belief that every child CAN learn, it is up to us as educators to figure out HOW.

Tawakalitu M. Jogunosimi,
AM ’01
AmeriCorps ’97 – ’99

2013.10.Tawakalitu.M.150x186“I am a change agent and want to continue to have an impact by helping move issues forward, particularly in education. That is what the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA) helped me understand, and what I hope to accomplish in the future.” Tawa Jogunosimi’s SSA experience has helped her succeed as an administrator in educational institutions and other public and social service agencies.

Before enrolling at SSA, Tawa learned a great deal about neighborhoods, community organizations, and programs like CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) through her two and a half years with AmeriCorps. She was first a VISTA member where she served as a community organizer establishing and mobilizing block clubs throughout Chicago neighborhoods, focusing on public safety and issues of crime and disorder. Later, Tawa joined the staff of AmeriCorps VISTA as a recruiter of new candidates.

My year as an AmeriCorps member, and particularly working with a set of diverse community organizations, gave me insight into the management process of nonprofits. I knew that I wanted to learn more about the role of philanthropy in these organizations, and how public policy impacts them. That is when I looked to find a graduate school and found SSA. I was nervous about being accepted, but joyful when I received my letter of acceptance.

Tawa enjoyed her experience at SSA from day one. “The first year was challenging, but the professors were very helpful, and I also had support from fellow students. My feelings for the administration side of nonprofits solidified; as I was drawn to helping nonprofits better manage their resources.” She cites the ability to study and discuss diverse opinions, and the opportunity to take cross-disciplinary courses with students from other schools on campus, including the business and law schools, as other significant benefits of her education at SSA.

Ms. Jogunosimi is currently the Director of Education Policy and Partnerships in the Office of [Chicago] Mayor Rahm Emanuel and her role is focused on supporting educational opportunities across the K-16 spectrum, with particular emphasis on high school and college. Tawa also serves as the liaison for external partners seeking to support the Mayor’s education and youth priorities and for non-profit strategy. This work also includes implementation of the One Good Deed Chicago strategic plan, which aligns volunteer service with educational outcomes.

Tawa’s dedication to service goes beyond education, however. Prior to SSA and AmeriCorps, she interned at the American Red Cross, Chicago Health Circle, and Advocates for Youth in Washington, DC.

Since her graduation from SSA in 2001, she has remained involved with the School and SSA community professionally and personally — and as volunteer. Currently, she serves as the Engagement Subcommittee Chair for the African American Alumni Committee of the SSA Alumni Board. “SSA and AmeriCorps alumni are a lot alike in their commitment to community,” says Tawa. “I’m proud to be an alumna of both.”

S. Craig Denuyl
AM ’13, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences
AmeriCorps ’10 – ’12

AmeriCorps gave me the hands on, practical knowledge of public service that I would need to work fluently in my chosen field while the University of Chicago educated me in the high-level critical thinking and writing abilities I needed in order to stand out as a leader, advisor, and agent of change.

2013.10.S.Craig.150x186S. Craig Denuyl’s experience in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) along with his AmeriCorps experience has helped him succeed as an administrator in education institutions and as a mentor to students wanting to pursue careers in public and social service.

Craig’s AmeriCorps experience was essential in determining his career path. He began his term in the program as Volunteer Coordinator and Community Educator at a non-profit organization called La Puente that managed the majority of non-governmental social services for a 6-county region in rural Colorado. His position coordinated activities and resources between the many divisions of the program, ranging from homeless shelters and children’s programs to soup kitchens and community gardens. He interacted directly with individuals experiencing poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity, and it was these interactions which led him to the decision to pursue graduate work. “Often, members of the public who were working with my organization for the first time would ask questions like “why is this region so poor?” or “what causes homelessness?”  I realized that these seemingly simple questions were surprisingly difficult for me to answer to my own satisfaction.  I found that I wanted to know not only what had caused John Doe to lose his house, but also to understand the complexities of the many influencing factors such as status, privilege, and stratification.” Craig immediately gravitated towards the University of Chicago because of its strong reputation as one of the finest institutions in the world for Social Science Research. “This highly interdisciplinary program offered me the opportunity I needed to rigorously examine the social questions I first encountered as an AmeriCorps member.”

Craig’s experience in the one-year MAPSS program opened up further opportunities to him. Following his graduation from MAPSS, he took a position as the Assistant Director of the Careers in Public & Social Service program at the University of Chicago. In his role he regularly advises UChicago undergraduate students considering careers in advocacy, government, public policy, direct service, or other fields that serve the greater good. He also manages the University of Chicago Public Interest Program, which matches outstanding graduates with one-year fellowship positions at top level institutions serving the public interest. He credits both AmeriCorps and the University of Chicago for his current successes. “I was able to take on this amazing position because of the combination of my graduate work and AmeriCorps experiences.”

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