By Kerry Thomson, executive director, Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement
Through the fall and winter, the IU Center for Rural Engagement has continued to strengthen its connections with communities, faculty, and organizations. The essence of this engagement has informed the center’s three-year strategic plan, which addresses three key focus areas important to rural communities across the state: health and wellness, quality of place, and resilience.
Indiana University is uniquely poised to catalyze opportunities. It is the very nature of what a university does—to research best practices, see possibilities which are not readily apparent, invent new ways to address obstacles, and design a new reality. Due to the nature and orientation of Indiana University, it is positioned to channel a diverse set of expertise to the opportunities in rural Indiana. Business, medicine, social work, public health, media, nursing, public affairs, and arts administration experts all reside within the university. Harnessing and directing the resources and expertise can create a stronger Indiana and open possibilities for communities which otherwise may never be created.
The Center for Rural Engagement is intent on bridging the divides of resource and infrastructure development to elevate existing community assets and develop additional pride points. The center’s work is grounded in community-initiated change and facilitated by engaged teaching and translational and longitudinal research. IU seeks to be a true partner in revitalization, ensuring rural communities can reach their own visions of success. In a unique model of engagement, the center works at both the grassroots and organizational levels to develop best practices which are generalizable, and programs which are individualized to the unique communities where they exist. Leveraging the resources of a research-one and community-engaged university, the center brings a truly unique set of tools to bear on the challenges of rural America.
The center’s three-year strategic plan includes goals in each focus area that match the greatest opportunities and needs of Indiana’s rural communities. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with residents, leaders, and organizational partners across the state and the nation as we address these goals.