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About the Action Research Center

Mission and Vision

Mission: To relentlessly pursue innovative ideas that transform communities

Vision: No one will say “Wesleyan Bubble” ever again.

ARC also aims to uphold the Illinois Wesleyan University mission.


Graphic showcasing ARC Model of Project Development surrounded by the elements: engage the community, find good data, review best practices, layer partnerships, launch a prototype, review & refine What is Action Research?

Action research differs from traditional scholarship because the research question comes from the community. A good action researcher starts by listening, and coming alongside the community it wishes to serve and impact. Action research does not put programming onto people and organizations; instead, it reaches people where they are and helps to develop ideas and solutions that are meaningful and sustainable.

The process of action research starts with observation, which helps to frame the opportunities and identify the assets and strengths of the community. Next, a project is developed with the engagement of the stakeholders who will be directly impacted by the project. Buy-in is very important and people support what they help to create. Projects evolve in very dynamic ways. There is refinement and adjustment along the way as projects respond to internal and external factors.  Action research is the on-going effort to create change in respectful ways.



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 students across various academic disciplines.

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 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 West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP) Tool Library (2013), and the WBRP Veggie Oasis project (2014). ARC supports people with big ideas with the tools and resources needed to succeed.

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.

Deborah Halperin - Director, Center for Engaged Learning

Department - Center For Engaged Learning