Deborah Halperin

ARC Director

Deborah is the Director of the Action Research Center at Illinois Wesleyan University.  In her role, she facilitates community-university partnerships, assists faculty with co-curricular service learning projects and teaches courses in community-based research and grant writing.

Deborah serves on the Board of Directors for Milestones Early Learning Center and Preschool and the West Bloomington Revitalization Project. Deborah has also been a part of the United Way Income Vision Council, Conexiones, the MultiCultural Leadership Program, and the McLean County Wellness Coalition.

Deborah has been honored as a YWCA Woman of Distinction in the category of Social Services and was one of the community’s Top 20 under 40.  Deborah has been a featured speaker at local as well as national conferences concerning community partnerships and higher education. Deborah has also been participated in a local TEDx Youth program where she co-presented with her children.

With 25 years of experience in not-for-profits, Deborah’s professional career includes the American Red Cross, MADD, the National Runaway Switchboard, Planned Parenthood, and the YWCA.  She has also worked as a grant writer and a strategic planning consultant. 

Deborah has a Bachelor's degree in sociology from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. She also has a Master of Science degree in Human Service Administration.

Originally from Hawaii, Deborah has lived in Bloomington since 2003.  Her husband, Greg, is an ophthalmologist at the Gailey Eye Clinic and she has three children: Griffin, Tess, and Leo. 

Contact Deborah at dhalperi@iwu.


Jim Sikora

Dr. Jim Sikora

Born in Chicago, Dr. Sikora served in the Marine Corps and managed Kroger stores before completing his B.A. in Sociology at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 1968, followed by an A.M. and Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1970 and 1972 respectively.

In 1973, he began teaching and later became an administrator at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. While there he was a researcher and volunteer consultant with the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Georgia Department of Corrections, Chattanooga Human Relations Council, Hamilton County Juvenile Courts, Chattanooga Police Department, and Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

From 1979-1995, he chaired the Department of Sociology at IWU. During that time he has worked and continues to work with numerous area not-for profits organizations. He was president of the Illinois Sociological Association in 1986. He served on the American Sociological Association’s Committee on Teaching from 1989-92 and chaired the group in 1991-92. In 2007 he received The Pantagraph Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is campus coordinator for the Chicago Urban Semester. Dr. Sikora’s current courses include Introductory Sociology, Social Problems, Criminology, Juvenile Delinquency, Communities and Urban Society, and internship supervision.

Contact Jim Sikora at

Jim Simeone

Dr. Jim Simeone

Professor Simeone supervises ARC interns for the department of political science and for the City Intern program. His interest in environmental studies led to ARC's sponsorship of the IWU Peace Garden and its river monitoring projects on the Mackinaw River and Kickapoo Creek. His environmental ethics class participated in What We Eat/Why It Matters, a liberal arts cluster of courses organized on the theme of food and social justice.

Professor Simeone's academic research looks at how political ideologies and institutions combined in the nineteenth century to produce illiberal outcomes and the uneven development of American democracy. He argues that the mechanisms which move democracies to produce illiberal policies can be anticipated and checked by citizen action. This research led him to found ARC in 2003 with Jim Sikora. He believes that student civic engagement can counteract the mistrust, misinformation, and lack of organization which have in the past fed the illiberal impulses in American political development.

His research on frontier agrarianism in early Illinois has resulted in ARC's connections with contemporary efforts to promote Central Illinois farm communities including the Spence Farm Foundation, Stewards of the Land, and the IWU Peace Garden.

He enjoys life as a citizen in Bloomington, serving as a board member and treasurer of the Old House Society from 1999-2004. From 2004 to 2006 he served as secretary of Founders' Grove Neighborhood Association and as president from 2006 to 2008. He currently serves as treasurer on the Lamu Center of Preventive Health board and as program chair on the Steering Committee of the Central Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Contact Dr. Simeone at