University of Southern Indiana

Crossroads: Change in Rural America Speaker Series

Join us for a virtual speaker series like no other. Encompassing more than five disciplines, each speaker will present on a topic related to Crossroads: Change in Rural America. Sponsored by Hafer.

Thursday, August 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Robin Sanabria, Ph.D.
"Reflections of a Farmer’s Daughter: A Farm Family Legacy"

The 1980’s farm crisis caused a lot of struggle in Posey County, Indiana as well as across rural America. For our line of the Wilson family, it resulted in bankruptcy and the end of a seven-generation family farm. This presentation will provide a personal account of farm life prior to 1980’s, the experience of a farm bankruptcy and how our family has moved pass the loss in order to redefine our family legacy. A slide presentation will be included with relevant pictures of the Wilson/Manning family

Robin (Manning) Sanabria is from Posey County and was raised on a farm in Lynn Township. She graduated from Mt. Vernon Senior High School. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana State University. She retired with 27 years of federal service (Veterans Affairs, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Department of Defense) in April of 2019. She is currently employed as a staff psychologist at the University of Southern Indiana in the Counseling Center. Her husband, Tony, is retired from the U.S. Army, and they have 2 children, Virginia and Andrew.

See the presentation here.

Tuesday, September 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Cassidy Schaefer
"Virgil “Gus” Grissom: Small-town boy to American Hero"

This presentation will take a look at American Astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom, who was one of America’s first astronauts. Before he was an American hero, he was a small-town boy from Mitchell, Indiana. This presentation will take a closer look at his time in small town Indiana and how this helped him become the man we all know. How his life in a rural community was different than generations before, and how did he embody rural identity in the 19th century America and Indiana.

Cassidy graduated in May of this year with her Bachelor's of Science in History from USI. Hoping to pursue a career in Public History, she is once again a USI student, working towards her M.A. in Liberal Studies with a concentration in History. 

See the presentation here.

Thursday, September 24 at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Matthew J. Hanka
"The Urban-Rural Divide in our American Political System"

The political polarization in American politics can be closely aligned with the division of urban and rural America. From the beginning of our nation’s history with the Framers of the Constitution, to the industrialization of America in the 19th century, the urban political machines of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and the suburbanization of America after World War II, this divide has shaped our political culture in many profound and distinct ways. This presentation will examine the historical, political, demographic, and economic reasons for this rural and urban divide, the overall implications and consequences for the future of our democratic republic and examine solutions that we can apply to bridge this longstanding and ever-growing divide.

Dr. Matt Hanka is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Indiana and has been at USI since 2010. Hanka earned a B.A. in History and Politics from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and an M.A. in Political Science and a Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs, both from the University of Louisville. His research interests include housing policy, community development, urban policy and governance, strategic planning, and social capital and his academic work has been published in 11 different peer reviewed journals. He lives in Evansville with his wife Ann and their two sons, MJ and David.

See the presentation here.

Thursday, October 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Terri Jett
"Food Connects Us All"

Everyone needs to eat, and where and how food is grown complicates the idea that there is sharp line between urban and rural. Many urban and suburban dwellers enjoy farm-to-table restaurants, shop at farmers markets or subscribe to community supported agriculture programs that deliver fresh, healthy food, including fruits and vegetables picked at their peak. Such programs give a face to farmers and literally connect urban eaters to rural growers. Then again, in recent years, urban communities themselves have planted gardens inside city lines, confounding the image we might have that farms are rural and cities are concrete jungles. All of this work is set against the backdrop of a food justice movement that works to eradicate food deserts and food insecurity and increase access to healthy food in rural, suburban and urban areas. As Terri’s talk will show, these changes in food production and distribution can redefine and expand people’s ideas about “community” across urban-suburban-rural lines. 

Terri is originally from Richmond, California and has a BA in Ethnic Studies, an MPA from CSU Hayward and a PhD in Public Policy and Public Administration from Auburn University (War Eagle!). Currently she is an associate professor of political science; an affiliate faculty member of the Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies Program and the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; and special assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity at Butler University. Her research interests and writings focus primarily around post-Civil Rights era community and economic development as well as empowering pedagogical practices that create inclusive curricular and co-curricular spaces. Currently she is writing a book titled, Farming for Justice: Diversity, Food Access and the USDA, and another book, Talking About Race: James Baldwin and Margaret Mead Then and Now.

See the presentation here.

Thursday, November 5 at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Zack Ward
"The Healthcare Crisis of Rural America: A Reason for Hope"

Hospital closures in Rural America have become all too common. Since January of 2005, 163 rural hospitals have closed their doors with last year (2019) being the worst year; 19 rural hospitals shuttered. This, understandably, has caused many to question what can be done to save America’s rural healthcare infrastructure. There are glimmers of hope, however. New technologies such as telemedicine are increasing rural citizen’s access to healthcare. Savvy rural hospital administrators are beginning to see the value in full spectrum family medicine, and there is a renaissance of the “home visit.”

Zack Ward is an assistant professor of Health Administration at the University of Southern Indiana. Zack’s research focus includes clinician burnout and rural healthcare issues. Zack most recently completed a stint at the American Board of Family Medicine as visiting scholar where he conducted a comparative study of rural and urban Family Physician burnout.

See the presentation here.

Thursday, November 19th at 6:30 p.m.
Kevin McKelvey
"Arts, Community & Place: A Collaborative Workshop"

Two hundred years of art and literature in Indiana, from T.C. Steele to George Ade, Gene Stratton-Porter to Robert Indiana, Mari Evans to John Green and Adrian Matejka, serve as a jumping-off point for Kevin’s discussion of Indiana’s rural townships, towns, suburbs, and cities. Place is central to our identity and culture in Indiana, and Kevin’s discussion will evolve into a collaborative workshop to identify historical or cultural assets in your area and brainstorm ways to use contemporary arts, literature, and humanities to directly engage and strengthen local communities. Attendees will leave with ideas and plans for socially engaged art, cultural programs, community engagement, and placemaking and placekeeping.

Kevin is place-based writer, poet, designer, and social practice artist. His poetry book, Dream Wilderness, was published last year, and another book, Indiana Nocturnes, written with Curtis Crisler, will be published this year. He is at work on a novel and regularly completes workshops, art installations, and placemaking projects around Indiana. At University of Indianapolis, he serves as associate professor in the English Department and as director of the university's Masters in Social Practice of Art program. Kevin grew up on the edge of a corn field near Lebanon, Indiana, and attended DePauw University and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Kevin's presentation is sponsored by the Mason-Nordgauer Fine Arts Gallery

See the presentation here.

Thursday, January 28 at 6:30 p.m.
Leisa Belleau
"We Never Leave Home"

Leisa grew up in the 1950s on a southern Indiana farm. As an avid young reader, her formative imagination transformed exotic story locations into relatable revisions. Oceans became the Ohio River. Deserts became grazing pasture. Weather was tornado-green, dry-leaf brown, overcast grey, or blinding-sunshine yellow. Birds were noisy starlings, the bright flash of cardinals, the rapid swoop of hawks. Forty acres held the wide world's equivalence--in translation. Midwestern life informed everything she read and observed, ultimately shaping her internal map of self. Regardless of external influences and changes, that influence remains an immutable 'place' inside

For almost a quarter-century, Leisa has taught in the English Department of the University of Southern Indiana and the topic of geographical influence on both readers and writers has been a staple of her instruction. She holds degrees in literature and creative wiring and currently serves as Associate Editor of the Southern Indiana Review and has published and presented professionally her own work in genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Southern Indiana has been her home her entire life and its impact remains unchanged. She is a product of here, now and always. 

See the presentation here.


Contact Historic New Harmony


Send Email to