Celebrating our start and planning our future

Celebrating our start and planning our future

By Kerry Thomson, Executive Director

Since the Center for Rural Engagement’s formation in March 2018, we have launched more than 235 initiatives, collaborated with 59 communities across 40 counties, and engaged more than 19,100 residents across the state. Though I never imagined this anniversary would coincide with the one-year mark of our state’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, I have learned from both efforts that when we all work together, Hoosiers can face any challenge.

Healthcare access and improved health outcomes for Indiana’s residents is more important than ever, and the center is connecting IU’s School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Public Health, and School of Social Work to deliver services  while expanding professional development and professional pathways in rural Indiana. We launched new telehealth screenings at the start of the spring 2021 semester in partnership with rural healthcare providers and faith-based organizations in Martin and Orange counties.

Adding to IU’s strong foundation in the health sciences, the center is currently working with our academic partners to develop a graduate certificate in rural health that empowers more professionals entering and leading rural health organizations.

Deepening our region’s resilience, the Indiana Uplands Food Network has taken root, providing guidance and resources for our local farmers, producers, grocers and farmers’ market leaders, and food agencies during this challenging year. This partnership with IU’s Sustainable Food Systems Science has led to very promising local initiatives and collaborations, like the Lost River Local nutrition box program, which brings local produce and cooking education together with residents seeking to improve their health.

Communities will require robust resources and strategies to rebuild and innovate into the future in the wake of the pandemic. The center is already working with communities to expand placemaking efforts and asset-based community development, building upon its past partnerships and adjusting for future needs and opportunities in arts, culture, placemaking, and housing.

This spring, the center will publish a new arts and culture guide that rural communities across Indiana and beyond can use to develop their own local capacity and enhance the unique character of their towns. This interactive tool will also inform the center of burgeoning initiatives that are aligned with IU’s resources and expertise.

We are commencing our Community Conversations series, bringing together residents, IU faculty and staff, and regional and statewide leaders to discuss issues and initiatives of great importance to communities. That series begins March 31 with Engaging in Arts Across the Generations as our inaugural topic. Watch for our next two sessions, held in conjunction with our virtual IU Rural Conference May 12 and 13.

Recently opened to the public, the new Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities at Maxwell Hall unites the Arts & Humanities Council with the Center for Rural Engagement in a collaborative space designed to expand arts and cultural engagement with Indiana’s residents.

These initiatives and many others align with the center’s strategic goals for the coming years. We are deeply grateful to our thousands of partners and supporters who walk together with us towards a brighter future for all.


Description of the video:

[upbeat instrumental music]
[image of roadway]
In just three years
[image of students and community residents standing by a downtown roadway]
We’ve connected with nearly 20,000 hoosiers
[image of Indiana counties map]
In 59 Indiana communities
[image of students learning in the field]
Recruited over 5,000 students
[images of faculty teaching]
And faculty from all 16 schools at IU Bloomington
Together, we’ve shared in the launch of hundreds of projects throughout rural Indiana
[fast scrolling image of project titles]
And we’re just getting started.
[Outro photo montage of students and community scenery]
IU Center for Rural Engagement