Indiana & Great Lakes

Our Indiana & Great Lakes Hub is anchored by the Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis.

Dr. Jeremy Eltz serves as the Director of Rural Education at the University of Indianapolis' CELL (Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning). An established source of educational innovation and professional development in Indiana, CELL also commits itself to addressing the unique needs of rural areas through their Rural Early College Network and the Indiana Collaborative for Rural Education.

Originally founded through a generous donation from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. in 2001, CELL quickly grew and has sustained efforts to improve STEM curricula, create school-to-community career pathways, and host professional development seminars for schools and educators across Indiana.

Dr. Jeremy Eltz, Director of Rural Education at CELL

Dr. Jeremy Eltz attributes the Center’s continued longevity to its ability to “forecast down the road” and to “convene people while also being good thought partners.” A determination to support the state’s numerous rural districts has also been central to the program’s efforts. Eltz explains how CELL’s previous director “realized rural schools have needs we aren’t addressing and started looking at different rural organizations to see what more we could do.” CELL’s foresight has awarded it a new federal grant “to implement rural early college programs around the state and to build a collaborative network for rural educators around Indiana.”

Through this project, named the Rural Early College Network (RECN), CELL is expanding early college programs at schools to help students reach post-secondary institutions and complete degrees. More than sponsoring dual credit classes, Eltz explains that RECN encompasses “a whole ecosystem” of partners and actions focused on a diverse array of rural students:

Carey Dahncke, Executive Director of CELL, Celebrating the Early College efforts at CELL

“Concurrent enrollment is just one piece. To be a part of the early college program, you have to have leadership teams in place made up of school administrators, counselors, and teachers; student advising; and college field trips as well as parent advisory groups, the involvement of local partners, and a clear connection between college and the workforce.”

That connection to the community, for Eltz, is critical. The success of these efforts arises “through the partnerships that would be formed, the community networking and buy-in from parents and local employers. That’s the approach we take; we try to get as large a stakeholder group as we can into the model to sustain the effort. That’s been the approach CELL has always taken.”

Honoring Good Work

CELLebrating Collaboration and Progress

For all the needs that rural-focused organizations, and especially those working in rural education, fulfill in countless communities daily, sustaining these efforts is an ever present challenge. Collaboration among many partners at the grassroots level to tackle big issues felt locally is a key to program longevity, but it requires a unity of purpose and many good hands and minds to make it work.

The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis, Rural Schools Collaborative’s Indiana and Great Lakes Hub anchor, is one such success story. They recently celebrated 20 years of hard work bringing education leaders across Indiana together in support of public schools, and we are pleased to share their story with you.

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Looking Back on 20 Years of Educational Transformation

Current and past staff at CELL reflect on the history and impact of the organization for its 20th anniversary.