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Home >Case Studies >Community Engagement: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

 

Community Engagement: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

 

For almost 20 years, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has sustained partnerships with Indianapolis’s Near Westside neighborhoods aimed at strengthening primary and secondary education, improving community health and public safety, and supporting economic development. This work, buttressed by civic engagement and service learning at the more than 30,000-student urban research institution, has created a broad platform for IUPUI to deploy its student body, faculty, and other resources to improve the quality of life in Indianapolis’ neighborhoods. HUD’s Office of University Partnerships has played a key role in supporting several of these efforts through two grants from the Community Outreach and Partnership Centers (COPC) program. Although the grants were awarded more than 10 years ago, their legacy persists today.

Community-Based Education

In the mid-1990s, the Near Westside neighborhoods faced an enormous challenge when, amid declining student enrollment, the city closed George Washington High School. The school had served the community as a civic institution connecting the neighborhoods of Hawthorne, Haughville, Stringtown, and We Care.

Following the closure, residents and several community groups organized to reopen the school. Among those involved in the effort were leaders from IUPUI’s recently formed Office of Neighborhood Resources (now the Office of Neighborhood Partnerships), who recognized that reopening the neighborhood school could restore an important link connecting the university, the community, and Near Westside residents. Although the university’s relationship with the Near Westside neighborhoods had historically been strained, community residents and IUPUI leaders were optimistic that efforts focused on education could improve relations.

Beginning in 1997 with a 3-year, $395,000 COPC grant, IUPUI established a formal relationship with the Westside Cooperative Organization, a coalition of Near Westside community groups that united to address the neighborhoods’ most pressing concerns. The grant-funded work focused on organizational development and capacity building among Near Westside community organizations and on primary and secondary education reform.

In particular, the COPC grant supported the Westside Educational Task Force, a group of neighborhood leaders and IUPUI staff and officials who were the driving force behind reopening George Washington High’s doors in 2000 and expanding its educational mission. With its reopening, the school took on a broader mission as a “community school,” combining services and resources with traditional academics to improve educational outcomes. The school, renamed George Washington Community High School, has allowed IUPUI to build its relationship with the Near Westside community and established a platform from which to leverage the university’s resources. The Office of Neighborhood Resources, which helped coordinate the transition to the community school model, remains actively engaged today. For nearly 15 years, university students and faculty from nearly 30 departments have been involved in tutoring, teaching, and other service-learning opportunities at the school — work that has continued despite changes in leadership at both IUPUI and George Washington, notes Starla Officer, director of IUPUI’s Neighborhood Partnerships program.

Community Planning

Building on the first grant, IUPUI received a COPC New Directions grant in 2003 with a focus on program development and planning initiatives to improve community health. One of the most tangible results of the New Directions grant is the Physically Active Residential Communities and Schools’ (PARCS) Fit for Life program. PARCS is part of a larger health and wellness strategy housed in the wellness center at George Washington.

Fit for Life provides wellness and fitness programs, as well as affordable access to exercise equipment for students and other residents of Near Westside neighborhoods. Staffed by IUPUI students, Fit for Life is part of a collaboration among IUPUI’s Department of Physical Education, Indiana University’s School of Nursing and School of Medicine, and Indianapolis Public Schools. After launching at George Washington, the program has expanded to other schools in the community.

To complement this program, the New Directions grant also supported broader planning efforts focused on community health in the Near Westside neighborhoods. IUPUI students conducted community health assessments of residents in several neighborhoods. These health assessments were rolled into a larger quality-of-life plan funded by the city’s Great Indianapolis Neighborhoods Initiative that focused on housing, public safety, economic development, health, education, civic and youth engagement, and the quality of the built environment. These community-based efforts continue today, with the recently completed Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) Sustainable Communities Initiative, which included a detailed evaluation of the initiative to inform subsequent neighborhood investments.

Building on Successful Strategies

In partnering with the Near Westside neighborhoods for nearly 20 years, IUPUI has facilitated numerous desired community outcomes. According to Officer, the university aims to maintain its role as a facilitator while working with community residents and various stakeholders to meet their goals.

IUPUI’s programs in the Near Westside are also being used as models for partnerships with other neighborhoods across the city and for other community-university partnerships throughout the Midwest. Through the Midwest Center for University-Assisted Community Schools, IUPUI has provided training, technical assistance, and other support for creating community schools that partner with universities to expand the resources available to students.

IUPUI is preparing a strategic plan that will deepen its commitment to community engagement in Near Westside neighborhoods and other communities throughout Indianapolis. According to Officer, the plan will align IUPUI’s successful programs and initiatives from different neighborhoods to strengthen IUPUI’s impact as an anchor institution.


Source:

Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 75; Rita Axelroth and Steve Dubb. 2010. “The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads,” Democracy Collaborative, 47; Interview with Starla Officer, program director, Neighborhood Partnerships program, Center for Service and Learning, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 22 August 2014.

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Source:

Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 75; Near West. 2013. “Neighborhoods.” Accessed 19 November 2014.

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Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 76; Rita Axelroth and Steve Dubb. 2010. “The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads,” Democracy Collaborative, 46.

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Source:

Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 76–7; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of University Partnerships. n.d. “Grantee Database.” Accessed 19 November 2014.

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Source:

Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 76–7; Interview with Starla Officer, 22 August 2014.

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Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 78–9; Interview with Starla Officer, 22 August 2014; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of University Partnerships. n.d. “Grantee Database.” Accessed 19 November 2014; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 2011. “IUPUI Again Receives National Recognition for Community Service with Distinction,” IUPUI News Center, 25 May. Accessed 19 November 2014.

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Source:

Starla D.H. Officer, Robert G. Bringle, and Jim Grim. 2011. “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 15:3, 78–9; Interview with Starla Officer, 22 August 2014.

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Interview with Diane Arnold, executive director, Hawthorne Community Center, 29 August 2014.

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Rita Axelroth and Steve Dubb. 2010. “The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads,” Democracy Collaborative, 48; Interview with Starla Officer, 22 August 2014.

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Interview with Starla Officer, 22 August 2014.

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Interview with Starla Officer, 22 August 2014.

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