The Indiana University Council for Regional Engagement and Economic Development, or CREED, addresses regional economic concerns and identifies ways that IU can use its resources to advance economic development efforts in the state. Each IU campus has a CREED representative, appointed by the campus’s chancellor or provost.
Kirk White has represented IU Bloomington on CREED since its inception. He is assistant vice president for strategic partnerships in the Office of the Vice President for Engagement. He was kind enough to answer questions for Crimson Catalyst.
Crimson Catalyst: Why is community engagement important to IU Bloomington?
Kirk White: The students, faculty and staff of Indiana University are vital to the community development of the Bloomington region. Partnerships are vital to the success of our newly established Center for Rural Engagement. Those partnerships include the communities we serve, their elected officials, local organizations, schools, libraries, community foundations, religious organizations and business leaders. The center also needs relationships with state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, other universities, and our partner organizations to enhance existing networks and build new ones.
CC: Why is regional economic development important to IU Bloomington?
KW: As a comprehensive research and teaching university and our region’s largest employer, Indiana University Bloomington is a powerful force for economic, educational, social and public health in Indiana. Under the Indiana University Bicentennial Strategic Plan and its IU Bloomington counterpart, IUB has focused and increased its efforts to ensure that our research, curriculum and engagement are of the highest value to Indiana citizens and communities:
- We have reorganized our campus academically to develop new programs and schools, including intelligent-systems engineering, comprehensive design and architecture, environmental sustainability, and public health, which will ensure the excellence and impact of our research and curricula for the state and its citizens.
- We will soon break ground for the Regional Academic Health Center in partnership with IU Health on the IU Bloomington campus, which is expanding our capacity for training the medical and social work professionals needed in our region through a cutting-edge, inter-professional education model, most recently through the launch of a Master of Social Work program in addiction and mental health, an expansion of our Bloomington nursing school capacity, and a proposed residency in family practice for our M.D. students.
- We have implemented the Grand Challenges program to address large-scale societal and research challenges. Researchers in the program pursue multidisciplinary and tangible solutions to complex issues that impact our state, such as environmental change and substance abuse disorder.
CC: What vision or priorities does your provost have regarding regional engagement and economic development?
KW: The vision for the Center for Rural Engagement, founded by IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel, is to serve as a vital national model for connecting the distinctive resources of a comprehensive flagship research and teaching university to the needs and future of the state’s rural citizens and communities.
The mission of the Center for Rural Engagement is to improve Hoosier lives and rural communities. It does so by providing Hoosier rural communities and their regional small cities with an easily identified and trusted IU partner that knows and appreciates their challenges, hopes and dreams; builds, coordinates and deepens pervasive and sustained relationships between those communities and the university; and develops systematically effective ways for Hoosier communities to access the significant intellectual and human resources of our university to support trustworthy partnerships and long-term engagement to address rural challenges and opportunities.
CC: How has the region benefited from IU Bloomington’s involvement and leadership?
KW: IUB contributes a wealth of resources that improve quality of life for Hoosiers and attract talented people to contribute to the innovation ecosystem. We’re committed to being great stewards of place in the communities in which IU resides. The university’s celebrated programs in music, visual arts, theater, dance and creative writing make southwest central Indiana a more attractive place to live and work. And our world-class medical facilities ensure residents have access to some of the best doctors, health care facilities and hospitals in the nation.
The Center for Rural Engagement helps connect partners in the state to IU resources that can help them take on the challenges and opportunities facing their communities. From faculty-led, class-based projects to large-scale multidisciplinary research teams, from student entrepreneurs to student volunteers, and from cross-sector leadership development to comprehensive strategic planning, the center mobilizes the resources, expertise and energy on the IU campus to create new options and solutions for our neighboring counties.
We are actively engaging:
- The talent and commitment of community partners in all areas of society, such as government, health care, education, and nonprofit and private organizations, among others.
- IU Bloomington faculty whose applied research and service intersect with the center’s mission and can directly benefit the region.
- The energy and creativity of IU Bloomington students interested in applying classroom lessons to the real issues and problems facing our rural neighbors. These students contribute thousands of hours of community service each semester.
The Office of the Vice President for Engagement collaborates closely with external partners to build stronger regional economic clusters and to better align our educational programming to support employer needs.
Other examples are online.
CC: What potential opportunities exist for IU Bloomington and the region?
KW: We envision the Center for Rural Engagement as a vital and pivotal national model for connecting the distinctive resources of a state comprehensive flagship research and teaching university to the needs and future of the state’s rural citizens and communities. We want to develop regionally based, collaborative approaches to comprehensive problem-solving by strengthening existing networks and building new connections.
Bedford Mayor Shawna Girgis, the early community adopter of Sustaining Hoosier Communities, told us that the enthusiasm and new ideas that students brought to the projects lit a spark in her community and created a renewed sense of excitement and optimism for the future. As I approach my 34th anniversary on staff at Indiana University, I share her sentiment and see the spark the local residents bring to our work. Together, IU and the state’s rural communities are creating a stronger Indiana.