Indiana University’s Rural Renaissance

Several small icons (including bicycles, flowers, windmills, park benches, birds, and more) surround the text "Sustaining Hoosier Communities."

Coming soon: a bike path, a social services advocacy center, and a youth artisan apprenticeship program.

These are just a few of the projects on deck this year for Orange County, Indiana, thanks to IU’s new Center for Rural Engagement. The center is dedicated to leveraging IU ingenuity and expertise to preserve and strengthen southern Indiana’s rural communities.

What started as a pilot in 2015 became a full-fledged program in March 2018, thanks to a $10 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Through the center, partners in 11 neighboring counties will be connected to IU Bloomington faculty, staff, students, and resources. Last year’s partnership with Lawrence County included work on a community theater and a shared workspace for entrepreneurs. They also started projects to address light pollution, issues of addiction, and more.

It’s a partnership that benefits Indiana’s rural communities and residents—while also creating valuable learning experiences for IU students, like Bedford native Sarah Murphy, now a senior in the School of Public Health.

In one of her classes, Murphy conducted research on the Avoca, Indiana, fish hatchery, which has the capacity to produce up to one million fish each year. Murphy’s proposals will be critical to Bedford officials as they decide what to do with the property.

“Being in a class that is closely involved in my community is awesome,” she says. “It makes my major feel more tangible, that I’m actually doing work that I could see in the future.”

Support IU’s work to enrich Hoosier communities and improve lives in Indiana by making a gift to the Center for Rural Engagement today.

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This article was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.