IU Rural Conference to highlight innovative initiatives, resources, and regional partnerships

BLOOMINGTON – The Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement will host its third annual IU Rural Conference on May 12 -13, bringing together residents and leaders across the state with IU faculty, staff and students virtually.

The two-day conference will host breakout sessions, roundtable discussions and a poster series focused on rural mental health and trauma-informed care, food insecurity among seniors and teens, rural drinking water problems and responses, ecological resources and climate issues, arts engagement for children and arts-based wellness for veterans.

“As our communities emerge from the pandemic and embark on the recovery that lies ahead, the IU Rural Conference offers an opportunity to discuss our challenges, learn from our successes, and gain inspiration for our region and state’s stronger future,” said Kerry Thomson, executive director of the IU Center for Rural Engagement.

On May 12, the conference will open with remarks from IU Executive Vice President and Provost Lauren Robel and Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Chief Health Equity and ADA Officer Breanca Merritt. Thomson and Alison Davis, University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky executive director, will speak about rural innovation and best practices during the day’s opening session on May 13.

Two community conversations sessions at the conference will offer attendees an opportunity to explore resources communities can harness to meet their needs and shape with their feedback. On May 12, a panel of researchers, representatives from IU’s Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge, health experts and nonprofit leaders will discuss substance use disorder resources and the role that stigma plays in community-based interventions. On May 13, attendees can join a conversation about a new arts and culture guide and its tools for creative placemaking and community development.

In addition to sessions on health, community resilience and quality of place, the center will host a discussion about the American Rescue Plan, which provides a unique opportunity for governments, regional organizations, and nonprofits to infuse new resources into priority projects and advance regional initiatives.

Registration, a full list of presentations and additional details about the virtual conference are available at https://rural.indiana.edu.

Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement:

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.

Responding to the Addictions Crisis:

The Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge initiative engages a broad array of IU’s world-class faculty, as well as IU’s business, nonprofit and government partners. Working together, the groups are contributing to an initiative to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce deaths from addiction, ease the burden of drug addiction on Hoosier communities and improve health and economic outcomes. This initiative is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive state-based responses to the opioid addiction crisis — and the largest led by a university.