Near West Partner Profile

Partnering with our neighbors

Our role as a member of our community

For more than 40 years, IUPUI has been engaged with our neighbors in the Near West, a vibrant and diverse community located just west of downtown and across the White River from campus.

IUPUI is one of many community organizations, schools, nonprofits, community centers and businesses that have long been involved in efforts to address challenges in the community and build on its many assets.

Over the years, partnerships with university students, faculty and staff have worked to address community-identified priorities, such as educational programs for K-12 students; building bridges to college; addressing health issues, such as infant mortality and diabetes; and improving the vitality of the community and the quality of life for all its residents.

This website provides an overview and shares highlights of IUPUI’s involvement with the Near West over the years.


Trends in higher education 2010-2018

36%increase in Near West residents with some college education

40%increase in Black residents with some college education

118%increase in Latino residents with some college education

The Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center (top), Hawthorne Community Center (lower left) and Christamore House (lower right) are three long-standing community centers that serve the Near West.

History of community engagement

After George Washington High School, was closed by Indianapolis Public Schools in 1995, IUPUI campus officials and community leaders began discussing a long-term partnership between the campus and the Westside Cooperative Organization, the neighborhood organization at the time. In 1997, the university formed the Office of Neighborhood Partnerships to dedicate staff to supporting partnerships with the community. This work is now continued by the IUPUI Office of Community Engagement.

In 1998, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Outreach Partnerships Centers grant led to the formation of the Westside Education Task Force. The group, which included university faculty and staff members, residents, community leaders, and staff members from neighborhood organizations, focused on reopening George Washington High School as a full-service community school that serves the students and their families.

Since the reopening of the school in 2000, the Westside Education Task Force has worked on initiatives related to education, including new schools, parks, and afterschool programs. PARCS, a fitness center program for the community, is located in George Washington High School and staffed by university students through the IUPUI School of Health and Human Sciences.

Through the partnership with IUPUI faculty and staff, IUPUI also offers teacher education opportunities, community service activities, service-learning classes, and scholars who work at the high school. 

George Washington High School has been recognized nationally as a model for community-university partnerships, and others have strived to replicate this model. Read more: Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and George Washington Community High School: Educating Their Communities Together.

In 2008, IUPUI staff served on the Near West Steering Committee that developed a quality of life plan for the community as part of the Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative focused on seven priority areas for the immediate and long-term vitality of the neighborhood: housing, public safety, beautification, economic development, education, health, and civic/youth engagement. Out of this effort grew an annual health fair, and the IUPUI Faculty Community Fellows program and Community Partner Scholars, which both served to expand capacity for community agencies. Fugate Scholars were also created to place IUPUI students in Near West schools to promote college readiness.

In 2015, IUPUI was selected to be the convener for the Near West as part of the Great Places 2020 initiative, which focused on transforming six Marion County neighborhoods into dynamic centers of culture, commerce and community. Through this initiative, philanthropic, civic and private partners engaged with the neighborhoods to make significant social and capital investments to enhance quality of life and spur private investment. One of the key outcomes was the creation of the SOURCE River West entrepreneurship center. Read more about SOURCE below. 

Herron School of Art and Design partnered on a project in 2017 to create design guidelines for the River West Urban Village. In four meetings, community members were asked to define their preferences for design in the neighborhood and also discussed the identity of the area and how to involve local businesses. The guidelines have helped shape development along Michigan Street, west of campus, to reflect the character of the community.

Supporting student success

17Programs offered

2,720Students impacted

14IUPUI staff/faculty involved

51Graduates of Indy Met High School and Goodwill Excel Centers enrolled at IUPUI

3Former work-study IUPUI students hired at Indy Met High School or an Excel Center

300+Students and staff set to undergo training on trauma-informed care and education

Assessing the needs of local schools

A recent project aimed to identify the challenges schools experience in addressing the complex needs of their students, including the gaps that exist between schools and community services and resources.

An assessment by the Marion County Commission on Youth, or MCCOY, in partnership with IUPUI, identified strategies to close gaps between schools and community services and resources so students and school staff have the supports they need to succeed.

Read more about the partnership

Improving community health

Supporting women with breast cancer

Black women have a 40 percent higher death rate from breast cancer, are diagnosed at a later age, and their cancer is typically found at a later stage, when compared to other women. For R.E.D. Alliance, reducing those disparities is their mission.

“Our approach makes us different from other cancer organizations. We are very collaborative, we try to work with other groups to identify reasons for disparities, and try to partner with other groups to implement interventions and solutions,” Executive Director Lisa Hayes said.

Read more about the partnership

The R.E.D. Alliance in action

School of Nursing research

The IU School of Nursing has partnered with R.E.D. Alliance on recruiting participants for recent studies.

Recently, studies have investigated cognitive impairments in patients due to chemotherapy for treatment of all cancers, and explored the needs of partners and spouses of patients undergoing treatment to further examine the impacts of a breast cancer diagnosis on the entire family.

Results of those studies can help R.E.D. Alliance and other cancer organizations learn how to better support both patients and their families.

Precision Health Initiative

R.E.D. Alliance has a three-year partnership with the Precision Health Initiative, involving the IU School of Medicine and IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

In that partnership, R.E.D. Alliance helps develop promotional materials that are culturally sensitive, guides in the planning and implementation of trials and helps promote participation in those trials to the women they serve.

By recruiting participants for those studies, Black women can have better representation in research where they are often underrepresented.


Forming a support group

A study with IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health Professor Silvia Bigatti found that Black women and their family members were looking for support from people who looked like them and shared similar cultural experiences.

R.E.D. Alliance partnered with Pink-4-Ever, Inc. to create S.I.S. Support Group, specifically targeted toward supporting Black women and their caregivers. The group ranges from newly diagnosed women to long-term survivors and hosts monthly power parties for fellowship, sharing, education, speakers, activities, and a time to share and exchange information.


Connecting families with resources

IUPUI has an ongoing partnership with Goodwill Industries’ Nurse-Family Partnership program, supporting new mothers caring for their infants and themselves with a goal of lowering infant mortality. Through this partnership, nursing students get clinical experience with patients, and pediatric residents get job shadowing experience.

“We felt it was important for future pediatricians to go into homes with nurses, see inside homes, things they would never see in the office, and allow them to better understand the situation their patients face,” Senior Director of the Nurse Family Partnership at Goodwill Industries Lisa Crane said.

Read more about the partnership


Improving health through partnerships

Goodwill Industries has been the co-recipient in three Community Health Partnerships through the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, including projects focused on:

  • IU School of Medicine researchers examined the feelings of fathers, including journaling how they feel as a new parent and what their role is, offering interesting insight into how to support dads with programs.
  • The IU School of Nursing conducted focus groups with African American moms and grandmothers, in discussions about safe sleep and what messaging would best speak to African American moms.

Addressing a key health issue

The Fairbanks School of Public Health and Eli Lilly and Company launched the Diabetes Impact Project, a neighborhood-based pilot in three Indianapolis neighborhoods to address the high incidence of diabetes. The $7 million, five-year program is focusing on three Indianapolis neighborhoods with significant health disparities and high rates of diabetes – the Northeast, Northwest and Near West neighborhoods.

Work has included hiring community health workers in all neighborhoods who work directly with local residents and organizations, learning about key issues residents are facing and also distributing health-related information and resources.

Community development

Economic trends 2010-2018

12.5%decrease in poverty rate among children

31%decrease in poverty rate among Black residents

Projects around the Near West

Designing a new clinic

In spring of 2011, IUPUI awarded a grant to the Indianapolis Humane Society, and faculty and students helped design the Humane Alliance Animal Care Center, a vaccine clinic and animal welfare center in the Haughville neighborhood.

Restoring the environment

On the western edge of campus, along the White River, lies the Lilly ARBOR, which stands for Answers for Restoring the Banks of Our River, an 8.5-acre experimental forest designed to answer questions on how to reforest highly degraded wetland landscapes. 

Climate change impacts

An interactive website created by an environmental epidemiologist at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health that shows how climate change will impact Indianapolis won a national environmental climate change competition in 2016.

58One-on-one coaching sessions in 2020

282Total entrepreneurs served in 2020

78Enrollment in courses in 2020

An international educational opportunity

Through a partnership with sponsors and the IU Kelley School of Business, SOURCE Entrepreneurship Center brought the UK-based PopUp Business School to Indianapolis.

More than 100 local entrepreneurs participated in the course focused on how to build and grow a business without investing money. Some had their first ever sales through the PopUp Marketplace and in the months following as they learned how to build their business.