Impact of Indiana’s Opioid Epidemic Demonstrated Through Film by IUPUI Faculty

 

The documentary “The Long Run” focuses on former opioid user Wes Doty, who found recovery through running. The piece is funded by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute. Image courtesy of C. Thomas Lewis, Indiana University

C. Thomas Lewis understands the power that video and filmmaking can have in addressing social issues. In 2015, he traveled to Kenya on a New Frontiers grant to film a series of short narrative films on confronting the stigma associated with HIV that is still being used in schools today.

“There is a real power in storytelling to address social issues and help people get beyond things like stigma,” said Lewis, a senior lecturer of video production in the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI. “This power has really captured my imagination and has me wanting to see how I can use video production and concentrate my creative efforts to work with communities in dealing with health issues.”

It was in Durban, South Africa, at the International AIDS Conference in the summer of 2016 that Lewis had a truly profound moment. He attended a presentation about the current state of AIDS worldwide, and he never expected to see Austin, Indiana — a Scott County town of just over 4,200 people greatly affected by an HIV outbreak and the opioid epidemic — included.

“Of course, I knew what was happening in Austin, but to see it in that context blew my mind,” Lewis said. “I knew in that moment that my next project wouldn’t be around the world — it would be in my own backyard.”

With that goal in mind, Lewis and Kyle Minor, associate chair and associate professor of English at IUPUI, applied for and received a grant through the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute that enabled them to tell the stories of the people and communities affected by the HIV outbreak and opioid epidemic in Indiana.

Hannah West, assistant camera operator and IUPUI alumna, adjusts the shot during the 2018 filming of the Scott County Stories project. Photo courtesy of Kyle Minor, Indiana University

“This funding enabled us to work collaboratively with students and community partners, and we’ve been hard at work ever since,” said Minor, who serves as script writer and producer. “In working on this project, I’ve come to learn how much I didn’t know about opioid use disorder and have cultivated a great compassion for those whose lives are impacted by it.”

Their project, highlighted on the Opioid Stories website, grew beyond the initial plan of using only narrative, scripted stories as Lewis had done in Kenya. The site also includes recovery stories and long-form interviews with individuals offering different views on the issue and sharing various paths to recovery. Two documentaries are also being produced, including “The Long Run,” a documentary about Wes Doty, who found recovery through running.

Three scripted films are in the works, with the second currently in production. Each is set in Scott County, and Lewis and Minor have worked hard to build trust within the community by meeting with locals who support the project and want to tell their stories. In the second film, nearly every character was cast from the county’s recovery community.

“The real story to me is that we’re working so closely with a local community to tell their own stories,” Lewis said. “Without that local support, this project wouldn’t happen, and we would be working on a totally different project.”

IUPUI students are also instrumental in the development and creation of the Opioid Stories content, with a team of two to four students signing up for independent study with Lewis each semester to help work on the project.

“Students are our creative and technical partners from start to finish,” Minor said. “They serve as line producers, camera assistants, sound recordists, editors, grips and production assistants.”

Lewis believes it is important for students to realize the many opportunities that exist for young filmmakers to apply their talents to engage with community issues — something that he has been able to show by example.

“If we can put a human face to the issue, so people can relate emotionally to the stories we produce, that’s a huge step toward combating stigma,” Lewis said. “We have come face-to-face with people involved with the crisis, devastated by it and recovering from it, and that has been really powerful and inspires me to keep moving forward.”

With so much work done and underway, Lewis and Minor are also looking ahead to the future. They plan to continue adding recovery stories and interviews to the Opioid Stories site, but they also want to begin outreach efforts in other communities working to address the opioid crisis.

“My whole hope is to make these films and then find funding that will allow us to take them around the state, where we can have panel discussions that use the films as motivation for opening up conversations about various issues surrounding opioids in Indiana communities,” Lewis said.

Lewis appreciates that he was able to find this niche at IUPUI, using a creative approach to serving the community, for both himself and his students.

“It’s important for our IUPUI community to take our talents, apply them to something bigger than ourselves and create a social impact,” he said. “Through a model of participatory filmmaking, I show students how their video skills can engage the community around an issue and incite positive change.”

This project reflects Indiana University’s extensive expertise and research regarding addictions. To build on this area of strength, IU President Michael McRobbie, along with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, and IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy, announced the Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge initiative in October 2017.

This Grand Challenge initiative engages a broad array of IU’s world-class faculty as well as IU’s business, nonprofit and government partners. The initiative aims to implement a collaborative, applied and comprehensive plan to reduce deaths from addiction, ease the burden of drug addiction on Hoosier communities, and improve health and economic outcomes. This statewide initiative is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive state-based responses to the opioid addiction crisis — and the largest led by a university.

Kelsey Cook is associate director of research communications in the Office of the Vice President for Research at IUPUI.

Young African leaders Gather at IUPUI for Collaboration, Inspiration

The exchange of ideas and perspectives has become a summer tradition between Indiana University and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

For the past four years, the program ushered in by the Office of International Development and the Office of International Affairs at IUPUI has brought 25 young professionals from Africa to spend weeks at IUPUI before visiting Indiana University Bloomington. This year’s fellows were based at IUPUI from June 19 to July 5 and will be in Bloomington July 5-27. Their U.S. tour finishes with a visit to Washington, D.C., where they will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

For many of the fellows, it’s their first trip to the United States. While here, they collaborate and network with their IUPUI counterparts, engage in academic coursework, and soak up Hoosier hospitality. The fellows take executive-leadership style seminars from the Kelley School of BusinessO’Neill School of Public Affairs and Lilly School of Philanthropy as well.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by IREX, a global development and education organization. Find more information onlineabout the Mandela Washington Fellowship and join the conversation at #YALI2019.

Meet some of the 2019 Mandela Washington fellows:

Annah Ruwanika, Zimbabwe

Expertise: Marketing, financial services.

Career highlights: Social media coordinator for Special Olympics Zimbabwe, master’s degree from Edinburgh Business School.

On becoming a Mandela Washington fellow: “It’s a really big honor because the program is training young leaders from Africa so that we can grow, develop and bring back what we learn to our homes. It makes sure we make an impact.”

Elton Djon Goncalves, Cape Verde

Expertise: Community development, management and administration.

Career highlights: Secretary general for the Cape Verdian Paralympic Committee, national director of Special Olympics of Cape Verde.

On meeting his Indiana counterparts: “I think this will be great for me because Indiana is one of the sports states in America. I’m looking forward to meeting more people, learning as much as possible and trying to adapt the knowledge for back home — implement it into my community, try to engage people.”

Andrianiaina Sitraka Ratsimba, Madagascar

Expertise: Business development, digital marketing, enterprise management, online business.

Career highlights: Learned six languages, master’s degree from University of Science and Technology Beijing.

On what he hopes to gain from his Mandela Washington Fellowship experience: “I’m currently working as a digital marketer, but I’d like to focus more on business and entrepreneurship. We just created The First Toastmasters Club of Madagascar. It’s important to develop people’s confidence, and we do it in the club by overcoming fear. We are helping people speak in front of other people, especially in English.”

Adesola Ajayi, Nigeria

Expertise: Education, rehabilitation, and capacity-building among disabled communities.

Career highlights: Educator and mentor of rural school children, law degree from the University of LagosNigerian Bar Association member.

Justice for the visually impaired: A visually impaired lawyer is not just for comic books and Netflix series. Ajayi has almost a decade of experience in education, rehabilitation and capacity-building for disabled communities in Nigeria. By mastering Braille at a young age, he became the only person in his family to learn to read.

On why Ajayi chose law: “It was all about making a change. I saw that out of all the laws and acts we have in our country, there weren’t any provisions for persons with disabilities. There wasn’t anybody to litigate on their behalf. Advocacy for this area was poor. I said, ‘Maybe with this condition in this field, I’ll be able to defend — make a change for the benefit of — persons with disabilities.'”

Jackie Bomboma, United Republic of Tanzania

Expertise: Community development.

Career highlight: Started Young Strong Mothers Foundation in Morogoro, Tanzania.

May 20: Bomboma gave birth to her daughter on May 20, 2002, alone in a forest. The mental and physical anguish from the experience made May 20 a date full of mixed emotions and stressful memories. Then, on May 20, 2019, she received her travel visa to allow her entry into the United States. Coupled with her daughter’s 17th birthday, the date is becoming a more positive day for her.

On her first trip to the United States: “It’s very beautiful. I used to see a lot of things in movies about America, and a lot of things I learned — like English — I learned from the movies. I was so excited to see the things I saw in movies in real life. It’s been so amazing. Each and every second of being here is so amazing.”

On her work with young mothers in Tanzania: “Since 2016, we’ve helped about 760 young mothers with education, training, job training and job placement. The mothers also learn about issues in gender, human rights, nutrition for their babies, hygiene, sexual and reproductive health — life-skills education.”

Photos by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

Read the original story from IUPUI NewsTim Brouk 

Imagining America 20th Anniversary National Gathering

Imagining America 20th Anniversary
National Gathering

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Friday, October 18 – Sunday, October 20, 2019

Register today for early bird rates which are in effect until September 6, 2019! 

The Imagining America Gathering is an annual convening of public scholars, artists, students, designers, and cultural organizers who are addressing the nation’s most pressing issues.
Mighty Dreams:
Designing and Fostering Belonging in ‘America’  
This year Imagining America (IA) celebrates twenty years of supporting publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars, and organizers who imagine, study, and enact a more just and liberatory America and world. Inspired by the cultural landscape of New Mexico and the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential elections, IA’s 20th Anniversary National Gathering will consider how we define, design, and foster belonging in our home communities and as a nation state.

Good Dill: University Library Offers Free Herbal Seeds To Patrons

Members of the University Library “green team,” from left, access librarian Paul Moffett, administrative assistant Alicia Añino and liaison librarian Justin Kani, show off the new seed library, which offers seven different herb seeds for free. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

The latest University Library initiative will bring flavor to gardens, office window planters and tables citywide.

The library debuted its new seed library June 17 to an enthusiastic reception, with dozens of patrons taking advantage of free seed packets in the first few days. Through a Greening Grant from the IUPUI Office of Sustainability, the library’s “green team” acquired seven herb varieties from Baker Creek and made them available to students, staff, faculty and the community. Patrons simply fill out a survey before taking the small envelopes of seeds home or back to the office.

Each envelope contains three to five non-GMO seeds of Bouquet dill, broadleaf sage, common chives, Emily basil, Giant of Italy parsley, Rosy rosemary or vulgare oregano. Patrons can take one of each herb from the main desk.

“We want students to not only check out these seeds as an exploratory venture,” explained Paul Moffett, access services librarian. “We want them to also learn about the process of growing plants, explore cooking with these things or just expose themselves to different tastes.”

The first year of the grant will concentrate on the easy-to-grow herbs, but vegetables, flowers and other native noninvasive plant species are expected to be added in 2020. The eastern prickly pear — a cactus species native to Indiana and much of the eastern United States — is a choice the green team may offer later due to its ease of growth indoors.

As expected, the fragrant basil variety is the most popular so far among the available herbs.

“It’s one of those plants that thrives by being picked,” said Justin Kani, a member of the green team and liaison librarian for the Kelley School of Business and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “The more you take off of it and let it grow, the thicker it gets.”

The grant will fuel the seed library through at least 2024. By then, the green team hopes to accept seeds from users and the IUPUI urban gardens, organically expanding its selection in the process. An information exchange of recipes, gardening tips and showcasing of patrons’ harvests on social media are on the way as well.

“A lot of this will be driven by the community of users,” Moffett said. “We would be seeking input about what new kinds of seeds and plants they might want to try to grow.”

University Library’s own planted herb seeds are starting to sprout. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

Alicia Añino, green team gardening guru and administrative assistant to library dean Kristi L. Palmer, said a major win for the seed library would be to have users donate their harvests back to them for distribution to Paw’s Pantry and the Ronald McDonald House.

The seed library is another program that enforces the fact that University Library has more than books.

“We’re sort of disconnected from our food,” Kani said. “I think there is a lot of interest, and this allows us to be a library of things, to facilitate something unique, educational and important.”

Read the original story from IUPUI NewsTim Brouk

Share Your Exhibitions, Publications, Career, and More!

We’re gathering up for the next quarterly Herron Highlights roundup, where we share news from our students, alumni, and faculty. If you’re showing work, starting a new job, or have another kind of update you’d like to share, submit your story online by June 26 for editorial consideration.

For updates about fellow alumni, stay connected with Herron on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter.

Submit your stories now!

IUPUI Student Recovers From Addiction, Appointed To National Board

Ryan McGlinchey, center, often meets with other members of the Collegiate Recovery Community and their staff advisor. Photo by Mary Olk, Indiana University
Ryan McGlinchey, center, often meets with other members of the Collegiate Recovery Community and their staff advisor. Photo by Mary Olk, Indiana University

It can take one moment to change your life. For Ryan McGlinchey, one of those life-changing moments occurred at the end of 2016, when he missed the opportunity to say goodbye to his grandfather, whose health was failing. McGlinchey was using drugs and unable to make it to the hospital.

Months later, after he had withdrawn from his second university and realized his entire life was centered around using drugs or alcohol, he decided it was time for a change.

McGlinchey called his family in November 2017 and asked them for help in getting sober. It was time to go to rehab.

“I knew something bad was going to happen to me, and it hit me that I needed help. This was the turning point for me,” he said. “I was willing to go wherever and do whatever to get sober. It didn’t matter how many friendships or relationships I had previously destroyed. I was emotionally done living that way, and that’s what made me seek help.”

An Indianapolis native, McGlinchey was exposed to drugs and alcohol as early as elementary school. As a kid, he watched alcoholism affect close family members but didn’t have boundaries on what he would or wouldn’t try. By the time he was 16, he was into hard drugs, and he drank every day until the day he became sober. After high school, he completed an intensive outpatient treatment program, but it wasn’t enough to make lasting changes.

“The scary thing was that there were no red flags for me. I was determined there was a way to live that kind of life and be successful,” McGlinchey said. “In a way, I felt like drinking alcohol was tied to success. I had a vision of being successful in the business world, drinking with colleagues and enjoying life.”

After months of inpatient treatment, McGlinchey moved home, found a sponsor through a family friend, got connected to local support groups that could help him and planned to attend IUPUI for the fall 2018 semester. Earning his degree had always been a priority, even through his struggles with addiction.

McGlinchey connected with Eric Teske, director of the IUPUI Office of Health and Wellness Promotion, to get involved in the Collegiate Recovery Community, which he learned about through rehab.

“The CRC was a major reason I chose to come to IUPUI,” McGlinchey said. “I didn’t know a lot of young sober people in Indianapolis, and since joining the group, I’ve made tons of friends and connections who understand and support me.”

McGlinchey volunteers with the CRC, running the Instagram account and helping to plan sober outings and events. He attends weekly support meetings on campus and attributes being in that community to his continued academic success.

In January, McGlinchey was selected to serve on a national student board through the Association of Recovery in Higher Education. Since then, he’s been working with students from all over the country to plan a panel session for this year’s national conference, taking place at the end of June. He says the goal is to showcase how and why CRCs are so important to students succeeding academically and personally, with the hope of expanding networks and reaching more students who could benefit from them. As a member of the student board, McGlinchey will attend the conference for free.

“I think there is a big misconception about addiction and young people,” McGlinchey said. “I’ve heard people talk about being young and trying drugs and alcohol, but they don’t realize that young people can have a problem. What I was doing was not OK. I wasn’t just a kid trying things. I was an addict.”

McGlinchey wants to change the stigma around addiction and encourage people to talk about it. He hopes that the more he shares his story and struggles, the more others will feel empowered to do the same and get help.

Teske is proud of McGlinchey and the work he and his peers are doing for the recovery community in advocating for changing public perception and breaking the stigma. Addiction is a public and mental health issue that needs to be discussed, he said.

“Ryan is the first student from IUPUI to serve on this national board and take on a national leadership role in the CRC program,” Teske said. “Our program provides a safe space for students in recovery to socialize without the pressures of drugs or alcohol.”

In the spring 2019 semester, McGlinchey fulfilled his dream of being accepted into the Kelley School of Business. On May 15, he celebrated 18 months of sobriety — happy, healthy and ready to keep moving forward.

In addition to his work at IUPUI, he volunteers at detox centers in Indianapolis to try to help others establish a plan for staying sober, and he sponsors young adults who are in recovery.

The CRC at IUPUI was formed in 2014, the first such community established in Indiana. It is a free program offered through the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion, and all activities, events and outings are free for participants. In the past year and a half, it has doubled in active participants.

For those interested in learning more, email  to set up an initial meeting. You do not have to be a current student to have that meeting.

This Graduate Is Finishing IUPUI With Pride

 

IUPUI supporters participate in the 2018 Indy Pride parade in downtown Indianapolis. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University
IUPUI supporters participate in the 2018 Indy Pride parade in downtown Indianapolis. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Esther Calderon‘s pride for her field, her community and her city led her to become an important piece of one of Indianapolis’ largest, most popular events.

The 2019 tourism, conventions and event management graduate has interned for Indy Pride since January. She applied for the behind-the-scenes position knowing full well that the work would extend beyond IUPUI’s May 10 commencement, in which she walked.

Esther Calderon's internship with Indy Pride extended beyond commencement. Her dedication and passion were vital in the organization of the upcoming event. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University
Esther Calderon’s internship with Indy Pride extended beyond commencement. Her dedication and passion were vital in the organization of the upcoming event. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

“For a lot of people, Pride is just this big party in the middle of the summer for everyone,” said Calderon, a native of Centerville, Indiana. “For me, since I’m involved in LGBTQ+ activities both on campus and off, I really wanted to give back.”

Indy Pride starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 8, in downtown Indianapolis. A parade along Massachusetts Avenue will lead to festivities at Military Park from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Advance tickets are $5 through June 7.

Calderon attended her first Indy Pride as an IUPUI sophomore, and she has seen the event grow dramatically since that time. Indy Pride drew more than 100,000 in 2018, and the 2019 event has taken months of planning. Calderon has been a big part of the planning and will be on hand Saturday managing the Geico Family Fun Zone in Military Park.

Fresh from a job interview, Calderon met with Inside IUPUI to talk about her Pride-ful internship experience and how it has influenced her career trajectory.

Q: After attending Indy Pride events the last few years, why did you want to intern for it?

Esther Calderon: When I first got into my program, I wanted to work big events, especially outdoor events. It worked out perfectly. I got exactly the kind of experience I wanted.

Q: How does Indy Pride compare now to the first one you attended the summer after your freshman year?

EC: In my first year going, it was from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It was really nice, and it was really chill. Now, it’s a whole-day event until 11 at night — and even then, it’s still going. It’s a huge event.

It’s just a really great day of community and togetherness.

Q: What kind of work are you doing now, as Indy Pride is only days away?

EC: At this point, it’s just calling up vendors — making sure everyone has the materials they need and making sure everything goes off without a hitch. It’s nerve-wracking, but I’m really excited.

Earlier in the internship, it was data entry, mailing. I was in charge of getting some of our vendors and some of our entertainment for the Family Fun Zone.

Q: What was it like to still be working on your internship during commencement week?

EC: It was very stressful around commencement time. I was graduating and officially done with my internship for my school, but I wasn’t done with the internship for myself and my integrity. I wanted to make sure my job was complete.

Q: What did you learn during this experience that will help you in your career?

EC: I learned that I could make a difference in my community and take part in a plethora of different jobs. I want to do things in hospitality and customer service. I’ve learned that for me, what’s most important is helping others. I still want to do event planning in Indy for my volunteering or maybe as a side project.

Read the original story from IUPUI NewsTim Brouk

Portraits Of Our Campus: 50 Faces of IUPUI

This exhibition celebrates some of the students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members whose hard work, dedication, and resourcefulness have helped distinguish IUPUI as an innovative, inclusive, and service-minded campus leading up to our 50th Anniversary.

This exhibit will be open  on June 4th and will run through the 30th.

Visiting hours will be Monday through Saturday 10am-7pm and Sunday 11am-7pm!

So come check it out at the Cultural Arts Gallery in the Campus Center Room 148! It’s all free!

We’ll see you there!

IUPUI Study Inspires Play About Discrimination Toward African American Women In Central Indiana

Tiffany Gilliam performs during a dress rehearsal for the play "Same Blood: Stories of Inequity from 10 Black Women Living in Central Indiana" at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre. A free performance of the play will take place at 7 p.m. May 14 at the Phoenix. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University
Tiffany Gilliam performs during a dress rehearsal for the play “Same Blood: Stories of Inequity from 10 Black Women Living in Central Indiana” at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre. A free performance of the play will take place at 7 p.m. May 14 at the Phoenix. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issues of discrimination experienced by African American women in Central Indiana are taking center stage — literally — as part of a collaborative project between an IUPUI researcher and an Indianapolis-based playwright.

Sally Wasmuth, an assistant professor in the School of Health and Human Sciences, said she had been reading news and research studies that reported troubling statistics related to race and health care, suggesting biases held by health care workers could be contributing to negative health outcomes for African American women. She wanted to bring greater attention to health inequities faced by African American women in Indianapolis, so she partnered with Lauren Briggeman, the artistic director of a local theater company, to bring their stories to life.

Wasmuth interviewed 10 African American women living in the Indianapolis area about discrimination they had experienced in different health care settings. Briggeman then took those interviews and wove them into a play that she wrote, directed and produced through Summit Performance Indianapolis, a local theater company focused on exploring the lives and experiences of women.

The play, “Same Blood: Stories of Inequity from 10 Black Women Living in Central Indiana,” premiered May 7 at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre in downtown Indianapolis. A second showing at the Phoenix Theatre will be free and open to the public at 7 p.m. May 14. After the performance, a short panel discussion will take place to talk about the play and answer questions from the audience.

Indianapolis resident Sherry Harris, one of the 10 women interviewed by Wasmuth, said watching a play inspired by her experiences with discrimination was difficult, but she thinks talking about these problems more openly is a necessary step toward positive change.

“I believe our community needs to hear this,” Harris said. “People want to turn around and say racism doesn’t exist. They don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want it to be a conversation. But it exists. I don’t know if it will ever change, but it exists.”

Actors and director Lauren Briggeman, bottom right, practice during a dress rehearsal for "Same Blood: Stories of Inequity from Black Women Living in Central Indiana" on May 7 at the Phoenix Theatre. The play was inspired by an IUPUI researcher's interviews with local African American women about the discrimination they experience in their everyday lives. Photos by Tim Brouk, Indiana University
Actors practice during a dress rehearsal for “Same Blood: Stories of Inequity from Black Women Living in Central Indiana” on May 7 at the Phoenix Theatre. The play was inspired by an IUPUI researcher’s interviews with local African American women about the discrimination they experience in their everyday lives. Photos by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wasmuth said that although she had planned to focus the interviews on health care inequity, discrimination was so prevalent in the lives of the women she talked to that her focus expanded to inequities found in multiple aspects of their lives, such as shopping at the grocery store, checking in at a doctor’s office or attending classes at a university.

“I think it’s important to highlight how vast the problem is,” Wasmuth said. “The thing that I was struck by was how often and how constant and how pervasive experiences of discrimination were.”

For some women, discrimination affected where they were looking to receive health care or from whom they were seeking health care services, she said. Other women actually worked in the health care system, so they were able to talk about experiences of discrimination not only as a patient, but also as a colleague.

Briggeman said she hopes hearing these women’s stories as part of a theatrical performance will help community members connect with their struggles on a more personal level.

“I think theater is the greatest creator of empathy,” Briggeman said. “What’s exciting to me is the honesty of each individual’s story, just being able to step back and hear that.”

Wasmuth said a goal of the project is to spark community conversation and action that leads to improved health outcomes for African American women in Indiana.

“One of the best ways that we can start to reduce some of these problems in our society is by unveiling what’s happening,” Wasmuth said. “By coming to this play, people will really get firsthand perspectives about things happening in our community right now, in 2019.”

This project was made possible by a nearly $25,000 Trailblazer Award from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute’s Community Health Partnerships program. It is part of Wasmuth’s ongoing research on population health and the use of arts-based initiatives to promote occupational justice.

Read the original story from IUPUI NewsAndrea Zeek 

Virtual Reality Game Built By IUPUI Students Challenges Players To Escape Breakout High

Video by Samantha Thompson, Indiana University

Gamers in Indianapolis have a new virtual world to play in, one built by a team of IUPUI media arts and science students where players must use their puzzle-solving wits to escape the clutches of a villain who has locked them inside a school.

The game, “Breakout High,” is available for play at BlueWall VR, a virtual reality arcade at 5967 E. 82nd St. in Castleton.

After donning a VR headset, players find they have been locked inside a classroom in Breakout High by the villainous Mr. Jack. Players escape from a series of locked rooms, and eventually the school, by solving puzzles.

The students developed the game as part of a team-driven project-based learning course, N420 Multimedia Project Development. The student team was paired with BlueWall VR as a client, said Joshua Kottka, who led the student team as product manager.

“They wanted a VR game, so we met with them for a couple of weeks to brainstorm ideas about what type of game we should develop,” Kottka said. “We eventually narrowed it down to a puzzle-solving game, like an escape room.”

“I think we were all pretty excited to work on a virtual reality game,” Kottka said. “Virtual reality and augmented reality games are still not quite as popular as other types of video game genres, but they are new and emerging. The really interesting thing about virtual reality is that it is still super-new.”

Jonathan Renninger, who served as lead programmer, said learning the ins and outs of virtual reality programming was the most interesting part of the project. “I had to do a lot of research and learn how to program that kind of stuff,” he said.

That included designing puzzles that lead a player from one step to the next, such as a bookcase on which books have to be placed in a certain order, Renninger said.

“Breakout High” may be the first game Kottka and Renninger developed for a client, but it won’t be their last.

After he graduates from IUPUI May 11, Kottka said, he will be applying for internships at gaming studios around the country: “That’s really my goal after graduation, making more games and stuff.”

He believes his work on “Breakout High” will give him a leg up on that quest. “This will definitely help. For a year, I was project manager for ‘Breakout High.’ So I have that to put on my resume.”

Renninger, who is also graduating, hopes his experience developing “Breakout High” will burnish his portfolio. “It also helped me learn a bit more about how to work with a client. So I hope further on down the line this will help me deal with clients and with programming for other games in the future.”

Read the original story from IUPUI News’ Rich Schneider