IU announces winners of Regional Campus Grand Challenges Initiative

Initiative is designed to improve health, education and economic vitality of the communities surrounding IU's regional campuses

  • March 9, 2017

Editor’s note: The last paragraph was updated at 11:30 a.m. March 9 to correct the award amount.


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University has announced that two projects have been selected for its Regional Campus Grand Challenges Initiative, which focuses on supporting regional campus faculty who are uniquely suited to engage in promising multi-disciplinary efforts to address the complex challenges facing Indiana communities.

The selected projects were required to address one of the two applied research areas: Making Indiana Healthier, to leverage the connections between health care education on IU’s regional campuses and the communities they serve in order to promote a healthier Indiana and gain a deeper understanding of Indiana’s health care challenges; or Making Indiana Smarter, to emphasize the centrality of education in sustaining our democracy and creating economic opportunity for all.

“The regional campuses are committed to engaging with their communities and regions to address the very real challenges they face together as residents,” said John Applegate, IU executive vice president for university academic affairs. “Health and education are areas in which campus faculty have invaluable expertise that can make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers.”

PROJECT: Feeding Minds, Building Community and Eating Our Vegetables
Students will engage in food justice to fight food insecurity and access for IU’s regional campus communities.

College students across the nation are suffering from food insecurity -- the lack of money or other resources to ensure consistent access to adequate, nutritional food. With national averages among this population ranging from 14 to 59 percent, food insecurity can negatively impact academic success, wellness and behavior. Through this project, IU students will be empowered to solve this problem by engaging in applied research and community organizing through a collaboration with New Roots, a nonprofit that develops “pop-up” farm-fresh food markets in fresh food insecure neighborhoods, to create biweekly access to affordable, fresh, local and organic produce purchased wholesale from Indiana farmers.

Undergraduate students from four of IU’s regional campuses -- East, Kokomo, South Bend and Southeast -- and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne will engage in interdisciplinary applied research to improve their region’s local food system, influence food insecurity and learn how to exercise food justice as community engagement. Additionally, students will use mapping tools to identify potential farmers to be wholesale farmers, lead food justice workshops to educate the wider community about food access inequality and engage in service learning through community organizing to recruit shareholders from each regional community to pool financial resources to buy fresh produce cooperatively from Indiana farmers.

"The New Roots Fresh Stop Market Model focuses on building grassroots solutions that are designed to empower and support community leaders by creating cultural capital, networks and transferrable skillsets,” said Melanie Hughes, associate librarian at IU Southeast and principal investigator for Feeding Minds, Building Community and Eating Our Vegetables. “Our team looks forward to sharing what we learn with others in our regional campus communities to promote a greater understanding of food justice principles in tackling food security challenges in our state.”

PROJECT: Health Studies Consortium
Students will have the opportunity to explore new options within the vast profession of health care, including professional training and credentialing.

IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Kokomo are partnering to develop a Health Studies Consortium that will offer two new courses designed to both attract and retain students and improve employment potential for current and prospective students: a medical humanities minor and an allied health practitioners credentialing program. Together, the three campuses will provide new avenues of study and enhance health care delivery across Northwest Indiana through credentialing and/or further training of health care workers in cultural competency as it relates to health delivery.

“There is much evidence to show that the health care industry is projected to add more jobs in the Northwest Indiana area,” said Susan Zinner, professor at the IU Northwest School of Public and Environmental Affairs and co-principal investigator for the Health Studies Consortium. “Our grant proposal creates a structure where IU faculty on all regional campuses can create health-related courses and join our Health Studies Consortium to enhance educational and employment opportunities for students.”

The medical humanities minor is modeled after the Medical Humanities and Health Studies Department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a robust and expanding department that has been in existence for over 20 years. The minor will give students the opportunity to apply their classroom instruction in cultural backgrounds, history and barriers to public health in order to better engage the community and better serve Hoosiers as health professionals.

To better prepare IU students to respond to ever-changing demands of the labor market, the Health Studies Consortium will also offer curriculum designed to teach and provide an avenue for students to obtain an industry-recognized certification in various aspects of health care delivery. This will provide students with the opportunity to develop practical skills within the context of an academic educational program.

"The opportunity to connect the different disciplines of the humanities with the health professions will enhance the quality of health care in the region by providing health care providers with more information about the diverse populations they serve and how they have been impacted in the past” said Jonathyne Briggs, associate professor and chair in the Department of History, Philosophy, Political Science and Religious Studies at IU Northwest and co-principal investigator for the Health Studies Consortium. “The recognition of the vitality of this mission through the award of Regional Campus Grand Challenges Initiative speaks to the belief in the institution of the important connections that such a partnership symbolizes and the potential to change the lives of Hoosiers for the better."

About the Regional Campus Grand Challenges Initiative: The Regional Campus Grand Challenges Initiative is designed to improve the health, education and economic vitality of the communities and regions surrounding IU’s regional campuses; facilitate collaboration and leverage resources at IU’s regional campuses in pursuit of common goals; highlight the significant quantity of intellectual capital on IU’s regional campuses; and reinforce IU’s standing as a major research university and its role in addressing issues of fundamental importance to our communities, regions, state and beyond.

The initiative supports Blueprint 2.0, the strategic plan of IU’s regional campuses, and is directly aligned with the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which provides a roadmap for the university’s efforts to remain among the best public research institutions.

The two projects will be funded for up to $25,000 each, with the strong expectation that the funded project teams seek external funding to expand their research.

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Margie Smith-Simmons