University News

Peace Corps Fellows Program Wins Innovation Award

August 1, 2002

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John Gruidl (right), Coordinator of the Peace Corps Fellows Program, receives a plaque for the Innovative Program Award from John Rohr (left), President of the Community Development Society.
Photo of John Gruidl and John Rohr.

MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University's Peace Corps Fellows program was the only program in the United States to recently be awarded the 2002 Innovative Program Award from the international Community Development Society.

The award is given in recognition of a superior innovative program implemented by a group using the best practices of the society. The award was presented to WIU during the annual conference in Cleveland, MS. In presenting the award, the Community Development Society cited "the outstanding track record of the program in serving more than 50 Illinois communities" and its role in "training the next generation of community development professionals."

The Peace Corps Fellows Program in Community Development is a unit of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at WIU. According to John Gruidl, coordinator of Western's Fellows Program, the program is an opportunity for returned Peace Corps volunteers to earn masters' degrees in geography; political science; recreation, park and tourism administration; business administration; community health and health services management; or economics. Fellows are also eligible to earn a post baccalaureate certificate in community development from Western. Fellows serve an 11 month paid internship in a rural community, group of communities or development organization, assisting local leaders with development projects.

"In an era of globalization and rapid technological change, the collaboration among citizens and the private and public sectors is crucial for ensuring sustainable development," said Gruidl. "The Fellows’ ability to serve as catalysts for community change and, at the same time, empower these communities to maintain the long-term momentum of a grassroots vision makes this a program that has a profound impact on participating communities."

The Community Development Society (CDS), founded in 1969, is an international, professional association for community development practitioners and citizen leaders around the world. CDS members represent a variety of fields: education, health care, social services, government, utilities, economic development practitioners, citizen groups and more.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Relations