Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation, nominated by IUPUI – 2017 Outstanding Community Partner

In 2015, Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation Executive Director Leigh Riley Evans opened her door to an atypical request from a university campus. IUPUI Anthropology Professor Susan Hyatt wasn’t looking for a spot for her students to do volunteer work. She had in mind a co-educational structure in which she and Ms. Evans would work together to develop the students’ research project with student and resident driven ideas. After a report on life expectancy in different Indiana zip codes was released and listed the Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood as next to lowest in central Indiana, the project was born.

The unique partnership between IUPUI, Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation, and the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood is based on mutual need and mutual resources. Ms. Evans and Dr. Hyatt have involved students and residents in a research project that has the potential to save lives. That project also changed lives – those of the students involved. A graduate student who took the course in 2015 is doing her doctoral research in the neighborhood and another student who took the course in 2016 has been hired by the Public Allies to work with Mapleton Fall Creek. Several students enjoyed the course so much, they are repeating it in order to continue their work in the neighborhood.

The goal of the research is to look at issues that affect the health and well-being of community residents, with the specific goal of helping to reduce chronic obesity in Mapleton Fall Creek. They are exploring the factors that contribute to obesity and its attendant conditions which have become epidemic in lower income and minority communities and which compromise residents’ life expectancy.
Ms. Evans describes the work that the students in the 2016 class did, “The students interviewed residents to find out their perceptions of what [the neighborhood] has and what is needed. We use the information to tell our story and to help in raising funds for projects that benefit the neighborhood.” The 2016 class used a range of programs and technologies to produce digital maps and research posters that are on display at the Mapleton Fall Creek office for residents to see and use.
This partnership is built on mutual respect, mutual trust, and a shared goal. Students and community members are building relationships that will last well beyond the course. Amber Rollings, (RAW-LINGS) a PhD candidate in Applied Earth Sciences, gives great credit to Ms. Evans and her staff for working with each student to assure that he or she is connected to the right meetings with the right neighbors and the right community agencies that work with Mapleton Fall Creek. She says, “This initial step in developing contacts within a community is crucial to an ethnographer and can make or break a research project.” She goes on to say, “[Mapleton Fall Creek] keeps local residents updated about neighborhood developments and coordinates the various neighborhood initiatives to make sure that the goals are aligned and that people are not working at cross-purposes. They are passionate and committed to their endeavors and provide leadership to the whole community.”