IU-Bloomington has received a $10 million grant through the IU Foundation from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund the Center for Rural Engagement, according to a March 5 IU press release.
The center, which was created to study and address societal challenges in rural communities, will use the grant to support regionally based initiatives to address opportunities and needs in 11 neighboring counties.
In the release, Provost Lauren Robel said the center reflects IU-Bloomington’s commitment to working to address issues in neighboring communities.
“We look forward to the many opportunities ahead for our faculty, staff and students to strengthen these partnerships, forge new ones and promote IU as a force for good in the lives of our fellow Hoosiers,” Robel said in the release.
Lilly Endowment awarded the IU Foundation a planning grant in 2015 to explore the idea of a rural center. During the last few years, IU developed the center from discussions with local residents, community leaders and more than 200 IU faculty, administrators and staff members.
"The depth and breadth of the engagement of Indiana University’s faculty, administration and students in the center's efforts to improve the quality of life in communities throughout this region is most impressive," said Sara B. Cobb, Lilly Endowment's vice president for education, in the release.
The center will focus on the Southwest-Central Indiana region, according to the release. The goal is to improve the lives of Hoosier and help communities build upon opportunities and assets in their region to find solutions to problems.
The center will work with community leaders and residents to create solutions to issues facing rural Indiana, initially focusing on health and wellness, sustainable communities and environments and arts and culture.
Other focuses of the center will include educational attainment, entrepreneurship and economic and leadership development.
The Center for Rural Engagement will also use work from the Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative. The initiative developed community-identified projects in Lawrence County focusing on addiction issues to street and highway infrastructure.
Bill Brown, lead of the Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative, will serve as the executive director for the new center, according to the release.
Brown said in the release that the center will be able to offer additional long-term engagement in the community.
"The Sustaining Hoosier Communities program has demonstrated enthusiasm for collaboration from community partners and from faculty and students," Brown said.