Valparaiso University Welcome Project will develop website examining changing Region • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
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Valparaiso University Welcome Project will develop website examining changing Region

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Valparaiso UniversityAn online multimedia experience, which will be developed by Valparaiso University, will examine how Northwest Indiana changed after the decline of the steel industry.

The university's Welcome Project received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Projects for the Public program. The university project, “Flight Paths: Mapping Our Changing Neighborhoods,” will help users engage and analyze factors contributing to de-urbanization and the fracturing of neighborhoods, communities and regions in post-industrial America.

“This grant is a testament to the importance of the Welcome Project’s work and the impact its storytelling has on campus, in our local community and even nationwide,” said Mark Biermann, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “At Valparaiso University, we intentionally foster opportunities for dialogue across difference, and the Welcome Project does a wonderful job of catalyzing these valuable conversations and building community around them.”

“Flight Paths” will center on an interactive website that documents the changing racial and economic demographics of Gary and Northwest Indiana, including the rise of black political power and opportunities in the 1960s and 1970s, the flight of white residents and businesses to the suburbs and the automation and consequent underemployment of the steel mills.

The grant allows Welcome Project co-directors Allison Schuette, associate professor of English, and Elizabeth Wuerffel, associate professor of art, to create an interactive website along with a team of historians, geographers, documentarians, designers, IT specialists and programmers.

“A project of this scale requires a great deal of collaboration and coordination,” Schuette said. “The NEH grant gives us the opportunity and resources to dig in with our very talented team and to begin executing our design.”

“Flight Paths” is part of the Welcome Project at Valparaiso University, which began in spring 2009 by collecting stories with the hopes of illuminating the complexity of living together amidst increasing diversity and difference. Since then, and through working with more than 180 Valpo students, they have accumulated more than 300 interviews and published more than 250 stories to the Welcome Project website.

The NEH grant is designed to create a prototype of the documentary website using the Tolleston neighborhood in Gary. In the fall of 2019, Schuette and Wuerffel will seek volunteers from Valparaiso University and the Northwest Indiana community to participate in a focus group to help test the prototype.


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