There was a time when Christine Deutscher, BA'16 thought she wasn’t “college material.”
Though she did well academically in high school, the first-generation college student had a shaky start at IU Bloomington. She came home and enrolled at IU South Bend for a few semesters, but for a variety of reasons life led her in a different direction. She left school. Over the course of a decade Deutscher worked in a veterinary clinic and for the postal service. Then in 2014, walking a route in Walkerton in -14° temperatures, she thought, “If I can do this, then I can go back to school.”
Christine reached out to Professor Gail McGuire, whose courses in sociology and quantitative research she had enjoyed, for guidance on returning to college. After re-enrolling Christine thrived, meeting her goal to earn straight A’s and taking advantage of the high-impact practices IU South Bend offers, like conducting and presenting research, editing the Undergraduate Research Journal, and working at internships.
“I told myself, ‘If Dr. McGuire believes in me, maybe I can do it,’” she recalls. “I can’t say enough about her advisorship. I got involved because she brought me opportunities. It was really empowering.”
One of those internships was with Neighborhood Development Associates (NDA), an affordable housing consultancy that partners primarily with nonprofit community development organizations or municipalities to create new or maintain existing affordable housing throughout Indiana.
After Christine graduated, she and the owner of NDA, Anne Mannix, began discussing succession planning with an eye to transition ownership to Christine. In 2018 Deutscher signed a purchase agreement and assumed full ownership in January 2021."
“It’s wonderful, but terrifying,” she said. “I love being my own boss and putting my values into my work. It’s a cool niche, a lot of people don’t know how to do what we do.”
One of the first projects Deutscher started working on in 2017 recently came to fruition. Plymouth Permanent Supportive Housing— her first new construction project as NDA’s owner—opened in March. The 18-unit apartment building aims to support those struggling with homelessness.
Construction photos of Plymouth Permanent Supportive Housing (provided)
“They meet folks where they are,” said Christine. “Families or individuals can stay as long as they need to, but the goal is to get them employed and self-supportive.”
The building is owned by Garden Court, a non-profit organization that owns several housing communities. Residents receive" "mental health, parenting, and addiction support and case management from the nearby Bowen Center.
Christine says she views herself as the advocate for the owner and to get to the finish line, she helps them navigate the often-complicated world of applying for federal funding, extremely competitive low- income tax credits, and other grant funding. NDA recommends funding sources which will improve projects’ likelihood of success, helps with grant application preparation, administration, and compliance, and the many details that a complex construction project entails.
Neighborhood Development Associates works across Indiana, into Michigan, and could take on projects nationally. At this point Christine has one part-time employee" "and is considering hiring a full-time worker this summer. The prospect is daunting; she wants to compensate fairly like she was when starting out and knows that meeting payroll means someone’s livelihood is her responsibility. It’s all part of what makes owning a business simultaneously exhilarating and stressful.
Nevertheless, the risk she took is already paying off. The slow transition gave her some security and her income is growing. Recently she and Mannix began discussing collaborating on a real estate development and Duetscher just obtained a contract that will double what she made last year.
“I continue to be amazed at the doors that open because I went back to school,” she said. “It was a lot of pressure, but it showed me I can do this and that there are people who are willing to invest in me. Sometimes you need someone to remind you what you’re capable of.
“I’m like, ‘Whoa, is this my life?’”