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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student


IU Center for Rural Engagement wins national award


The IU Center for Rural Engagement won a national award for its efforts in improving the quality of place in local communities.

The center received the Award of Excellence from the University Economic Development Association at its annual summit which took place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 this year. 

The quality of place often refers to the arts and cultural assets of a community. This is the first year IU-Bloomington has won this award. The quality of place initiatives have primarily been focused on Salem, Huntington and Nashville, Indiana.

The Center for Rural Engagement was launched in March 2018. Executive Director Kerry Thomson said the center was especially honored to receive an award because of how long it has been open.

“Our work really has rapidly developed and especially our quality of place initiatives have been very warmly welcomed by communities,” Thomson said.

The center acts as a connection between rural communities and the University. The local communities are able to benefit from IU’s resources.

Kyla Cox Deckard, director of communications for the IU Center for Rural Engagement, said it’s important for people to have access to IU’s resources since it is a public state university.

The process for quality of place initiatives starts with listening to communities’ ideas and then the university sees what assets it has to match the community’s needs.

The collaboration between the university and the local communities is part of what sets the center apart from other organizations, Deckard said.

The arts and cultural programs run by the center have a lot of student involvement, Deckard said.

“When it comes to arts and culture, Indiana University has a tremendous amount to offer,” Thomson said.

Eric Smedley, associate professor of music at the Jacobs School of Music, works with the center to boost quality of place in local areas.

He has traveled to two different locations with his group the Jacobs School of Music Symphonic Band. 

Smedley said they most recently went to Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Indiana,on Oct. 8. IU students took music classes with high school students and gave them technical advice.

“It was really fun to watch the Jacobs students interact with the high school students in such positive ways,” Smedley said.

The IU students also rehearsed a piece called “The Cave You Fear” by Michael Markowski with the high school students. The two groups then performed the song together at the end of a concert put on by the Jacobs school students.

“The best thing is just seeing my students,” Smedley said. “Just the joy on their faces of sharing music and then to watch the younger students and how they perked up and how they were so excited about it."

An important part of the initiative is developing a model to apply to rural communities that IU and other universities can replicate, Deckard said.

This model also has to be flexible enough to be applied to individual communities.

“We work with communities one-by-one to curate their visions of what their community could be and should be,” Thomson said.

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