IU Rural Conference to connect Hoosier leaders and educators on vital rural issues

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The unique opportunities and needs of rural Indiana will be the focus of the 2024 IU Rural Conference at French Lick Springs Resort on May 13 and 14.

Speakers from around the state will spotlight a range of issues including rural food systems, education challenges, healthcare access and the impact of art in rural communities. The conference will include breakout sessions, discussion tables, demonstrations, poster sessions and networking opportunities.

On May 13, IU Center for Rural Engagement Interim Executive Director Denny Spinner will deliver opening remarks, followed by a keynote address from Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Lindsay Weaver, MD, FACEP. Weaver will speak on the importance of improving the health of Hoosiers through a focus on prevention, data-informed programming and access to care in all corners of the state.

On May 14, IU University Relations Vice President Michael Huber will deliver opening remarks. Keynote speaker Bradley Wilson, Ph.D., will share insights from his leadership at the West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, which advances community-engaged research and education programs that generate knowledge and empower individuals, with the goal of building more just, equitable and vibrant communities.

The conference presents a unique opportunity for rural residents from across the state and beyond to connect with regional and state leaders and the IU community and expand the networks that positively impact Indiana.

Denny Spinner, Interim Executive Director

“The IU Rural Conference is one of Indiana’s premier events focused specifically on rural vitality in health, resilience and quality of place,” said Spinner. “The conference presents a unique opportunity for rural residents from across the state and beyond to connect with regional and state leaders and the IU community and expand the networks that positively impact Indiana.” 

May 13 activities will include a breakout session on addressing rural Indiana’s mental health crisis and providing resources featuring Adam Tyler and Abby Heidenreich from Purdue Extension. Other sessions will include topics on place-based education, inclusivity for people and families living with disabilities and rural community approaches to addressing substance use disorder. 

A reception celebrating six years of Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC), a community-engaged teaching program that connects students and their faculty with community-identified projects, will conclude the programming on May 13 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Current and former SHC partners and anyone interested in learning more about the initiative are invited to attend the reception. 

A breakout session on May 14 will discuss current programs and funding available to assist rural communities, led by Craig McGowan and Terry Goodin from USDA Rural Development. There will also be breakout sessions with topics on food-as-medicine programs, removing barriers to education for rural students and artwork as a means to protect historical legacies. 

In reflection of the 2024 eclipse, a panel on May 14 will examine the celestial event through the lens of quality of place and reflect on the ways it served as a catalyst for meaningful community engagement throughout rural Indiana, moderated by Nicole Vasconi of the IU Center for Rural Engagement.  

Select sessions have been approved for continuing education units (CEUs) by the School of Social Work at Indiana University.

Doors open at 8 a.m. Sessions begin at 9 a.m. The conference is open to the public. Tickets are $80 for both days and $50 for a single day, which includes meals and materials. Registration includes all sessions and materials. Join us for both days or a single day.

A limited number of scholarships are available for those who could not otherwise attend. Contact iucre@indiana.edu for more information.

The full conference schedule and registration is available at https://rural.indiana.edu.  

Media contact:
Kyla Cox Deckard
IU Center for Rural Engagement 
(812) 855-4992 office
(812) 219-9993 cell 

The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.