BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement will hold its fourth annual IU Rural Conference on May 12 and 13, convening rural residents and leaders from across the state and IU faculty, staff and students at French Lick Resort Conference Center.
The conference will open May 12 with remarks from IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav. A conversation with Gov. Eric Holcomb and IU Center for Rural Engagement Executive Director Kerry Thomson will follow, with a focus on Indiana’s rural opportunities and Holcomb’s 2022 Next Level Agenda, including the READI initiative and community connectivity.
“This is a pivotal time for our state as we forge a path beyond the pandemic and its devastating effects,” Thomson said. “When our communities, organizations, higher education institutions and our state join together to tackle our greatest issues – including access to care, substance use disorder, housing and community resilience – we can build a stronger future together. The IU Rural Conference creates a springboard for these efforts.”
Other events on May 12 include a panel discussion on substance use disorder in rural communities. The discussion will feature Dr. William Cooke, a Scott County physician and author of “Canary in the Coal Mine,” and Michael Husain and Lisa Hall, director and producer of “The Addict’s Wake,” an award-winning documentary set in Brown County. Breakout sessions will include topics on mental health, teen pregnancy and rural health care access. Select sessions on May 12 have been approved for continuing education units by the School of Social Work at Indiana University.
The conference will also feature two projects from the recently launched I-HOPE, the Indiana Healthy Opportunities for People Everywhere initiative. The partnership between IU, Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Health and several Indiana organizations, supported by a $34.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, addresses COVID-19 health disparities. Breakout sessions on May 12 will include food-as-medicine programs designed to increase health and well-being across the Indiana Uplands region and a program that supports pregnant mothers and partners as they reduce and quit smoking in the prenatal period.
On May 13, the morning keynote on collaboration by design will be led by Jack Hess, executive director of Columbus, Indiana-based CivicLab. Denny Spinner, executive director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and former mayor of Huntingburg, will convene a panel of mayors – including Treva Hodges of Charlestown, Scott Long of Wabash and Dean Vonderheide of Jasper – to discuss rural city innovations and challenges. Breakout sessions will include community conversations on housing, USDA rural development funding opportunities, creative placemaking and rural food markets.
The conference is open to the public. Tickets are $80 for both days and $50 for a single day, which includes meals and materials. A limited number of scholarships are available for those who could not otherwise participate. The full conference schedule and registration are available on the IU Rural Conference website.