University of Southern Indiana

Historic New Harmony hosts virtual speaker series featuring USI faculty, staff and students

Historic New Harmony hosts virtual speaker series featuring USI faculty, staff and students

8/7/2020 | University Communications
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Historic New Harmony invites the public to participate in a virtual speaker series, Crossroads: Change in Rural America showcasing personal stories and research from USI faculty, staff and students beginning on August 27.

The program was originally affiliated with the hosting of the Smithsonian exhibit, Crossroads: Change in Rural America that was canceled due to COVID- 19, in May.

“Although we are no longer hosting the Smithsonian exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America, the topics covered in the speaker series, by our very own USI faculty and staff, are just as relevant as we continue to find our place in this new socially distant world,” said Claire Eagle, Community Engagement Manager of Historic New Harmony. Moving it to a virtual format just made sense. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy your dinner or a drink at home while engaging with members of your community.”

The five-person speaker series will run August through November, each presentation will be held virtually through Zoom and is sponsored by Hafer.

"We're very excited to be partnering with faculty, staff and students to present on their research and passions. The only theme of this series is rural, which means we have a chance to engage several disciplines across campus," said Eagle.

Speakers include:

Robin Sanabria, PhD, Staff Psychologist at USI in the counseling center, will present "Reflections of a Farmer’s Daughter: A Farm Family Legacy” on Thursday, August 27 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. The 1980’s farm crisis caused a lot of struggle in Posey County, Indiana as well as across rural America. For the Wilson family, it resulted in bankruptcy and the end of a seven-generation family farm. Sanabria will provide a personal account of farm life prior to 1980’s, and how her family moved passed the loss of their farm to redefine their family legacy.

Dr. Zach Ward, Assistant Professor of Health Administration at USI, will present "The Healthcare Crisis of Rural America: A Reason for Hope" on Thursday, November 5 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Hospital closures in Rural America have become all too common. Since January of 2005, 163 rural hospitals have closed their doors with 2019 being the worst year; 19 rural hospitals shuttered. Ward discusses what can be done to save America’s rural healthcare infrastructure, and why rural communities still have hope thanks to new technologies.

Cassidy Schaefer ’20, graduate student at USI, will present “Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom: Small-town Boy to American Hero" on Tuesday, September 8 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Before Virgil “Gus” Grissom was one of America’s first astronauts he was a small-town boy from Mitchell, Indiana. Schafer 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 he embodied rural identity in the 19th century America and Indiana.

Leisa Belleau, Instructor of English at USI and Associate Editor of the Southern Indiana Review, will present "We Never Leave Home" on Thursday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Belleau grew up on a farm in southern Indiana. As an avid young reader, Belleau’s 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 Belleau read and observed, ultimately shaping her internal map of self. Southern Indiana has been her home her entire life and its impact remains unchanged. She is a product of here, now and always. 

Dr. Matt Hanka, Associate Professor of Political Science at USI, will present “The Urban-rural Divide in our American Political System” on Thursday, September 24 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. 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. Hanka 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.

About Historic New Harmony
Historic New Harmony is a unified program of the University of Southern Indiana and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. By preserving its utopian legacy, Historic New Harmony inspires innovation and progressive thought through its programs and collections. Learn more at

About Indiana Humanities
Indiana Humanities connects people, opens minds and enriches lives by creating and facilitating programs that encourage Hoosiers to think, read and talk. Learn more at

About Museum on Main Street
Museum on Main Street is a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation and local host institutions. To learn more about Crossroads and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit

For more information visit

For more information about Historic New Harmony, contact Erin McCracken Merris, Marketing Specialist for USI Outreach and Engagement, at

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