Indiana University Northwest Hosts 2018 Chancellor’s Commission for Community Engagement

Indiana University Northwest Hosts 2018 Chancellor’s Commission for Community Engagement

Indiana University Northwest hosted their spring 2018 Chancellor’s Commission for Community Engagement installment on Wednesday morning, at their John W. Anderson Library Conference Center.

Chancellor William J. Lowe alongside Dr. Ellen Szarleta, leader of the IU Northwest Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, spearheaded this year’s discussion, “A Community View: What Big Regional Issue Can IU Northwest and the Community work on together?”

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“Part of my work here at the University is to direct the community engagement summit and I was thinking that we had really great discussions in the Chancellor’s commissions meetings about different topics and that it would be interesting to hear from all of the different sectors. It's really about getting the different perspectives from the different sectors and brainstorming on what priorities that we can work on together,” stated Szarleta. “None of this was planned, they all did their own thinking and when they all came together you can see the synergy – which is important because it’s the community speaking and the university listening to what is important and figuring out what is it that we can do to help.”

This year’s panelists were: Urban League of NWI President and C.E.O.,Vanessa Allen-McCloud, Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center regional director, Lorri Feldt, NWI Regional Development Authority President and C.E.O., Bill Hanna, IU Northwest undergraduate student and President of the Student Government Association, Gabriela Jaimes, Lake Ridge Schools Superintendent, Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley, District 3 Indiana State Senator, Eddie Melton, IU Northwest School of Public and Environmental Affairs grad student, Iris Sanchez and Legacy Foundation president, Carolyn Saxton.

“As you know, the Chancellor's Commission promotes subjects of exchange between IU Northwest and the Northwest Indiana community by connecting the campus and regional community leaders and citizens like you through engagement on issues that are important to both Northwest Indiana and IU Northwest,” expressed Chancellor Lowe. “Today we have an opportunity to put that standing commitment to the test. We have eight panelists who from their perspectives of their professional experience and the sectors that they represent, will identify significant issues that the IU Northwest regional community can work on together – then you will get to rank the issues that are raised.”

Dr. Johnson-Shirley kicked off the discussion with her topic on the teacher shortage within the Northwest Indiana community.

“My topic is a collaboration between IU Northwest and local school districts to work out a strategic plan to intensify pre-serviced and experienced teachers in the face of a state-wide teacher shortage,” expressed Johnson-Shirley. “Some of my colleagues can agree that it starts with funding, it isn’t available so that we can be as competitive as other professions. We’re not treated as professionals, behaviors of the students have an impact and lack of opportunity for pre and K grades.”

Subsequently was Senator Melton’s dream of establishing “programs that help empower residents to become engaged in the policies that impact our lives at all levels; an initiative that could impower residents (youths and adults) on effective advocacy, policy making, and grassroots organizing.”

Lorri Feldt harped on the importance of small businesses and “how can the University help attract private and investment capital to Gary and surrounding community?”

Bill Hanna touched on how “regional connectivity is the key to growing the economy of Northwest Indiana – creating jobs and building wealth – and securing the future” and how the double-tracking of the South Shore line can aid this.

Carolyn Saxton divulged on a survey her company administered to 1,900 residents to pinpoint what is a reoccurring concern. Her findings concluded that “education and youth development as a county-wide issue” was the biggest concern.

Mrs. Vanessa Allen-McCloud touched on the regions youth, ages 45 and under, being “critical to our regions future.” She believes that a Young Adult Leadership platform ought to be provided, that way they can understand the political process and how to impact policy.

Gabriela Jaimes, who will be receiving her degree in May, expressed the struggles of her peers – obtaining a job offer right after college. She suggested that the creation of a small business hub would not only be an answer to millennial and Generation X problems, but it would also benefit local businesses by expanding their growth within the market.

Lastly was Iris Sanchez, who will be receiving her masters in May. She mentioned that the “rising challenge our community faces is that Latinx students lag behind other minorities when it comes to high school completion and post-secondary attainment.” Sanchez touched on factors such as the effect of DACA ending and unfortunate financial struggles.

There was a buzz as the audience members huddled to discuss the severity of the aforementioned topics and decide on the ranking of importance. As the beginning of the afternoon drew near, the results came in.

Lorri Feldt’s topic ranked first, Gabriel’s came second and Senator Melton’s came third. Members of the audience were given the privilege to voice their concerns and challenged the University to stick to their promise of taking initiative to make the community of Northwest Indiana a prosperous one for the next twenty-five years.