By Bill Brown, Executive Director
Fall has been a season of making connections at the IU Center for Rural Engagement. Center-funded research and creative activities are underway across rural Indiana, engaging communities, faculty, students, and staff in meaningful work for a brighter future.
In October the center brought together 56 faculty and researchers representing 27 departments, centers, and institutes across Indiana University for a workshop to discuss data resources that are most relevant to rural Indiana. Through the discussion, the group identified gaps in information, opportunities to share data through community resources, and the importance of developing a relationship of trust between researchers and the community to create impactful, meaningful, and sustainable outcomes.
Later in October, I traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas to attend the Heartland Summit hosted by the Walton Foundation. A gathering of innovators and leaders across business, government, education, and nonprofit sectors, the summit spotlighted the growing momentum and opportunity in rural America, with the small town of Bentonville used as an example of renewal. Sessions focused on exciting examples of improving education, entrepreneurship, quality of place, the opioid crisis, and poverty alleviation in the nation’s Heartland. I returned with a renewed sense of optimism and a growing network of rural experts and funding sources.
Richard Florida, sociologist, economist, and author of The Rise of the Creative Class, said that the Heartland is the new frontier and a resurgence is happening everywhere. “The real frontier is local action,” he declared. Knowing our rural Indiana communities and the passion that fuels our collaborations, I agree.