ARC was founded in 2003 by Dr. James Sikora (Sociology) and Dr. James Simeone (Political Science). These visionary professors saw an opportunity to engage IWU students who were eager for challenging internships and a deeper connection to community work. A curriculum development grant led to the first Action Research Seminar in 2003 co-taught by Simeone and Sikora. The team of “Jim & Jim” got a new staff person in 2007 when Deborah Halperin was hired after ARC received a grant from State Farm Insurance to increase the scope of ARC’s efforts.
The first ARC internship was offered in 2005. Since that time, ARC has created internships for hundreds of students across various academic disciplines. One of the most unique internships in the country, the Community Partnership Program, is offered by State Farm and coordinated by ARC. The CPP internship started in the summer of 2007 with ten students every summer until the summer of 2013 when ARC was able to engage 15 students as CPP interns.
As a champion for community engagement and social justice, ARC continues to expand its offerings to expose the campus and community to new and innovative ideas. ARC has brought action research experts to campus over the years including Diane Austin, Phil Nyden, and Jody Kretzmann. ARC sponsored the first Martin Luther King Jr Teach-In in 2004. At the event, the campus and community hear from speakers about local, national, and global perspectives on social justice issues. ARC also gives grants to faculty for including action research in course design. These ARC Associates grants started in 2010 and up to three are granted every year.
ARC has served as an incubator for numerous projects that require development and support before going to scale. These projects include Radio Latina (2009), LINK at the Farmers’ Market (2010), the IWU Peace Garden (2012), the Tool Library (2013), and the First Gen initiative (2013). ARC supports people with big ideas with the tools and resources needed to succeed. The expansion of social entrepreneurship programs (2014) will certainly expand ARC’s role as an incubator for even more projects.
ARC has evolved over its first ten years to be a local leader in community engagement. As alumni continue to use their ARC skills to pursue professional, academic, and personal goals, the impact of the program achieves depth and breadth. The future of ARC is built on a solid foundation and it continues to be a place that innovates, challenges, and grows.