Indiana University Rural Conference

Monday, May 13, 2019, 8:00 AM – Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 5:00 PM

French Lick Springs Resort-Hoosier Room Wing
8670 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432

Join us

Join the IU Center for Rural Engagement for a two-day conference focused on the issues of greatest importance to Indiana’s rural communities. Connect with leaders from across Indiana, Indiana University researchers, and colleagues from a variety of fields as you learn and share your perspective on the opportunities and needs facing rural Indiana. The conference is designed for community leaders, residents, and professionals from a variety of fields who seek to create a stronger Indiana.

Join us for both days or a single day. Doors open at 8 a.m.; sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. The full conference rate is $85 per person. The rate to attend only one day is $50 per person. Registration includes all sessions, meals, and materials. Scholarships are available but limited; contact for more information.

Day One: Taking Action for a Healthier Indiana

May 13, 2019

Examine the pressing issues of mental health and addiction in rural Indiana and identify steps and methods to make a positive change in your community and state. Learn about opportunities, programs, and initiatives tailored to rural communities and discuss successful models launched in the Hoosier state. You will choose three breakout sessions, hear from state leaders at breakfast and lunch, and participate in hands-on training sessions.

Day Two: Collaborating for a Stronger Indiana

May 14, 2019

Engage in sessions that cover a broad spectrum of topics on quality of place, health and wellness, and resilience. Connect with partners who are making an impact in our state and learn about resources and approaches you can use in your hometown. Identify ways to harness the resources of Indiana University, the State of Indiana, and other key organizations to build and enhance a thriving community. You will choose three breakout sessions, enjoy keynote speakers at breakfast and lunch, and join roundtable discussions that lead to action.

Presentations: May 14

Sign in for conference materials, visit exhibit tables, and enjoy a continental breakfast.


Join Indiana's Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch for a conference welcome and morning remarks.

About Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch: Proud to have been born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, Lt. Governor Crouch previously served as Indiana’s State Auditor from January 2014 through December 2016.

Before becoming auditor, she served as the state representative for House District 78, which encompasses parts of Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties. She was elected to the seat in 2005, and served as the Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and on the Public Health Committee. Throughout her years of public service, Lt. Governor Crouch has been focused and committed to programs and services for people with disabilities. She was honored to receive the 2012 Public Policy Award from the Arc of Indiana for her work with people with disabilities and was named Legislator of the Year in 2011 by the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Prior to serving in the House of Representatives, Lt. Governor Crouch spent eight years as auditor of Vanderburgh County. During that time, her office received its first clean bill of health in decades from the State Board of Accounts. She then went on to serve as a Vanderburgh County Commissioner until joining the House. She presided as president of that body during her third year in office.

As Lt. Governor, she oversees a portfolio that includes the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Office of Defense Development, Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Office of Tourism Development. In addition, she also serves as chairman of the Indiana Counter Terrorism and Security Council, President of the Indiana Senate and chairman of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Task Force.

Breakout Session 1: Connecting groundwater with quality of life in the Indiana Uplands

Managing municipalities located over karst aquifers, including the town of Corydon adjacent to the 6th largest cave system in the USA, provides challenges for utilities, infrastructure and Economic Development. Common concerns are water quality, soil stability, old infrastructure and planned growth. Community operations and development must consider the karst environment when addressing these and other needs.

Presenters: Lee Florea, Assistant Director for Research
Indiana Geological and Water Survey, coordinates and supports the project management activities of IGWS staff and is the chief editor of the Indiana Journal of Earth Sciences. Dr. Florea is a licensed professional geologist with professional experience in academic, government, and industry, and studies carbonate aquifers, groundwater that influences the drinking water of one out of every four people on Earth. Current research questions focus on carbon transport in the critical zone.

Rand Heazlitt, Town Manager/Floodplain Administrator/Town Planner
Town of Corydon, oversees day to day operations of Indiana's First State Capital, Corydon, including the operation of two utilities and oversight for their Stellar Program awarded by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCHRA). He also coordinates the Binkleys Cave exploration project, a 44.5-mile cave system over which the Town is located.

Breakout Session 2: Coordinating for Regional Innovation

This panel discussion will focus on efforts to build a regional innovation ecosystem in the Indiana Uplands. Key findings from external advisers and experts will be shared, and representatives of four regional organizations will highlight collaborative initiatives aimed at increasing our region's innovative capabilities, as well as insights into the distinctive elements of the Uplands that could be further leveraged for economic prosperity.

Panelists: Julie Griffith, executive vice president for strategy, partnerships and outreach for the Indiana Innovation Institute; Todd Hurst, Ph.D., director of education and workforce for Regional Opportunity Initiatives; Dan Peterson, MBA, vice president of industry and government affairs for Cook Group Incorporated; Kyle Werner, Ph.D., director of engagement for NWSC Crane

Breakout Session 3: Rural Development and Funding 

Learn about opportunities for rural communities in Indiana, including rural development programs, funding resources, and other programs tailored to Indiana's small cities and towns.

Panelists: Bryan Brackmyre, vice president of member services, Indiana Municipal Power Agency; Colette Childress, program director, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs; Michael Dora, state director for USDA Rural Development

Enjoy lunch, remarks from IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel, and a panel discussion on arts and cultural initiatives in rural communities.

About Provost Robel: Lauren Robel was named provost of Indiana University Bloomington and executive vice president of Indiana University in 2012. She is the Val Nolan Professor of Law in the Maurer School of Law, where she served as dean from 2002 to 2011 and as associate dean from 1991 to 2002.

In fall 2013, Robel initiated a strategic planning process aimed at reimagining and invigorating academic programs across the Bloomington campus in anticipation of Indiana University’s Bicentennial in 2020.

Robel’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan for Indiana University Bloomington includes ambitious initiatives for the Bloomington campus such as the now-named Eskenazi School of Art and Design, a new program in engineering, and the integration of health sciences programs into a new on-campus Academic Health Center. The plan also calls for initiatives to promote student and faculty success in a variety of areas, from financial literacy and career development to work-life balance and diversity recruitment.

Provost Robel's vision has inspired arts and humanities engagement in Indiana's rural communities, along with initiatives focused on health and resilience.


Breakout Session 1: Preparing Your Community for More Frequent Floods and High Heat Events

Cities and towns across Indiana are experiencing more frequent flood events, heat waves, and freezing and thawing throughout the winter resulting in damage to roadways and other infrastructure. Attend this presentation to see a sneak peak of the Hoosier Resilience Index (HRI), a tool designed to help guide communities towards being prepared for these changes. During the session, the Environmental Resilience Institute, an IU Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative, will walk attendees through the draft tool and collect feedback on the usefulness of the HRI, which will be launched in fall 2019.

Presenter: Andrea Webster is the implementation manager at Indiana University's Environmental Resilience Institute. She travels around the state of Indiana to meet with mayors, county officials, and their staff to learn about their successes and barriers to preparing for floods, heat waves, and related risks. Webster works with the Institute's faculty and staff to launch preparedness resources for local governments. 

Breakout Session 2: Bias 101: The Awakening 

In this training session, facilitator Brian Richardson Jr. will explore the common misconceptions and concerns related to acknowledging and addressing our own biases. Through the combination of small and large group discussions and case studies, you will be challenged internally to comfort you own biases while gaining a better understanding of the implications they could have in the workplace and in our communities.

Presenter: Brian Richardson Jr. the inaugural director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Mr. Richardson is currently pursuing his doctorate in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. Mr. Richardson serves the Bloomington-area community as the vice-chairperson on the Commission for the Status of Black Males through the Bloomington Mayor's office and created a mentoring academy for 4th-6th-grade boys called the Krimson Leadership Academy.

Session 3: Regional Housing 

Housing has been identified as a need in every county in the Uplands region. This panel will offer an overview of the findings in the recent study completed by Regional Opportunity Initiatives, highlight workforce and community needs, and discuss next steps for increasing housing inventory in the region.

Panelists: Lynn Coyne, president and CEO, Bloomington Economic Development Corp.; Amy A. Haase, Principal, RDG Planning & Design; Kerry Thomson, executive director, IU Center for Rural Engagement

Breakout Session 1: Public lands, recreation, and tourism opportunities in the Indiana Uplands

Rural Americans identified health and economic concerns as major challenges facing their communities. Research has shown that park and recreation resources contribute to health behaviors (Kaczynski, Potwarka, & Saelens, 2008) and tourism can contribute to economic revitalization (Alonso & Liu, 2012). To better understand how public land, recreation, and tourism resources can improve health, economic sustainability, and quality of life, the Eppley Institute inventoried resources and engaged in focus groups with stakeholders in the Indiana Uplands. The focus groups discussed the use and future opportunities for the resources. In this session, you'll have the opportunity to discuss the findings of the study and recommendations.

Presenter: Gina Depper, Ph.D., is a senior project manager with the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University. She specializes in the human dimensions of natural resource management. Drawing from the fields of psychology, anthropology, sociology, parks and recreation, forestry, and natural resources, Dr. Depper uses social theories and social psychological constructs to better understand behavior and decision making as it pertains to the environment.

Breakout Session 2: The State of Broadband in Rural Indiana

This presentation will discuss broadband definition and technologies as well as certain metrics, at the census tract and county-level, that paint a picture of what broadband in rural Indiana looks like highlighting areas to focus efforts on.

Presenter: Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., is assistant director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development and a Purdue Extension Community & Regional economics specialist. Dr. Gallardo has worked with rural communities over the past decade conducting local and regional community economic development, including use of technology for development.

Breakout Session 3: Food Systems and Community Resilience: Capacity Building for the Future

This session will focus the conversation on resiliency and food systems as they pertain to rural Indiana communities. Jodee Ellett, MS, and James Farmer, Ph.D., will lead a discussion on what food system resiliency means and how it pertains to food security in rural areas. You will have ample opportunities for participation and engagement centered on what is happening in local communities, prompting mechanisms, and outcomes of localized action. We will also discuss the role of food councils as a mechanism to support community resilience around food. Ms. Ellett and Dr. Farmer will highlight work occurring in Orange County concerning local food promotion.

Presenters: Jodee Ellett leads the Community Engagement element of our project in Indiana working to enhance partnerships with communities as they address food system issues. Her asset-based community development approach involves communities in the exploration of ideas and opportunities in the food system and provides ongoing support in sustainable food systems science. Ms. Ellett steers the Indiana Food Council Network, supporting our grassroots community food system councils and is working with farmers and buyers to build an Indiana Value Chain Network. 

James Farmer convenes the Sustainable Food Systems Science initiative and is an associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. His research focuses on sustainable food systems and land conservation. Recent projects include a study of the utility of high tunnels for Indiana specialty crop producers; farmer diversification in the tri-state area of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; and urban ecology and the role of municipal parks preparing for climate change. Dr. Farmer also convenes the Human Dimensions Lab and co-directs the IU Campus Farm.  

Join fellow attendees to discuss topics including local food systems, community capacity and data, recreation and tourism, regional collaboration, community asset mapping, and IU student service in communities. Roundtables will conclude at 4:15, closing the conference.



Stay onsite with our group rate at the French Lick Springs Resort. To receive the group rate, make your reservation by April 15.

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Things to do

French Lick has a wealth of activities and dining experiences. Check out the Visit French Lick website to see what's happening during your visit.

Find things to do


Orange County is the 2018-2019 partner through the center's Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative. Learn about current collaborations.

Learn about collaborations

Thanks to our partners

Healthcare Partners Planning Committee
State of Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs

For information about sponsorships, download the sponsorship details sheet.