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Environmental policy expert Ellen Szarleta to remain as head of IU Northwest’s Center for Urban and Regional Excellence

CURE aims to foster greater engagement between the campus and the region

IU Northwest file photo
Ellen Szarleta, Ph.D.

Indiana University Northwest has named Ellen Szarleta, Ph.D. as its Director for the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE). Szarleta, who also has a faculty appointment in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, has served as interim director for CURE for the past year.

With a doctorate in natural resource economics and a law degree, Szarleta brings to CURE her considerable expertise in the fields of law, economics and environmental policy.

As CURE’s director, Szarleta aims to leverage the collective strengths of the university’s faculty, staff, students and community collaborators to improve the quality of life in Northwest Indiana. 

Anxious to build upon the important work she begun in her interim role, Szarleta intends to cultivate new relationships to foster the campus, and the community.

“Our priorities in the next year will be to continue to develop existing partnerships and to identify new partners who share our vision of community-university collaboration,” Szarleta said. “Civic and community engagement are the pillars of CURE and we look forward to advancing both to improve the quality of life in Northwest Indiana.”

One of CURE’s most recent initiatives is representing IU Northwest as one of 25 universities nationwide involved in the Campus Civic Health Initiative, a partnership between the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ American Democracy Project and the National Conference on Citizenship.

The initiative will encourage universities to expand the role higher education institutions have in advancing the civic health of their campuses and communities.

Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs David Malik said that he views CURE as a driving force for engagement with the community to address its priorities and concerns in support of a better life for all in the region.

"I look forward to Dr. Szarleta's contributions to the Center,” Malik said. “She lives engagement, both as a commitment and as a role practiced in her discipline in SPEA. She understands the value of collaboration for our students and our community, and regularly ensures that it is part of the courses she teaches. These experiences will help advance the Center's mission and connect positively and substantively with organizations within Northwest Indiana."

Being named Director is important to Szarleta both personally, and professionally.

“This is an opportunity for me to get to know the community in a way that will enhance my growth as a person,” she said.  “I look forward to hearing the struggles and the strengths of government, business and nonprofit institutions, so I might better understand how we can share in transforming our community and ourselves, as individuals. 

“And, I know I will learn much from the community that can be of benefit to my teaching and research.  This opportunity will allow me to advance my skills, widen my network of partners, and share my knowledge with a wider group of people.”

CURE’s mission is “to facilitate authentic university and community engagement by advancing research, teaching, and service through collaborative, reciprocal, and mutually-beneficial partnerships which foster learning, scholarship, discovery, and creativity in education, economic development, environmental sustainability, health disparities, arts, and culture.”

CURE is an umbrella organization for several other initiatives, such as the Northwest Indiana Consortium for the Environment and the Non-Profit Institute, which provides education, research and technical assistance to local non-profit groups. CURE also supports faculty through funded research fellowships to advance studies of regional relevance.

For more information on the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, please visit


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