Indiana Communities Institute

Indiana Communities Institue Logo

ICI brings together many of Ball State's top research and outreach activities to assist Indiana neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, and regions as they strive to improve life experiences for residents, businesses, and visitors. ICI harnesses expertise and resources to help communities, large and small, address modern economic development challenges. Efforts are rooted in the belief that the single most important element in strengthening local economies is attracting and/or retaining talented individuals. Our community-first approach is grounded in research, engaged in practice, and focused on policy.

Creative Insight Community Development

Creative Insight Community Development Logo

CICD is a consulting group with offices in Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas that specializes in co-creating with communities and local/ regional organizations to take advantage of economic and community development opportunities, and to overcome local challenges in highly creative ways. CICD helps communities develop real solutions for real people using state-of-the-art ideas, research, and expertise grounded in community engagement. Although they are often overlooked, CICD believes that rural communities and distressed small-town economies deserve just as much support and attention as large metropolitan areas.

Meet Our Team

Ted Alter

Professor of agricultural, environmental, and regional economics in the Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education Department at Penn State University

Dr. Ted Alter is professor of agricultural, environmental and regional economics and co-director of the Center for Economic and Community Development in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. He also serves as an adjunct research fellow in the School of Law at the University of New England in Australia. His research and teaching focus on community and rural development economics, public sector economics and policy, and civic engagement and democracy. His recent work focuses on innovation, entrepreneurship, and rural communities. He is driven by concern with how and for whom democracy works or does not work.

Brian Blackford

Project Manager for the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University

Brian Blackford is Project Manager for the Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) at Ball State University. Brian works with partners across Indiana to enhance quality of community and build human capacity through special initiatives and educational experiences.

Brian previously worked for the Indiana State Fair Commission, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, and Indiana Landmarks. He is a 2001 Ball State graduate and earned his Master in Public Administration from there in 2019. Any spare time is spent biking, running, kayaking, traveling and, most importantly, enjoying the adventures of parenthood with his wife, Cindy, and son, Eli.

Michael Fortunato

Partner, Creative Insight Community Development

Michael is a partner with the consulting group, Creative Insight Community Development, and serves as adjunct faculty at Penn State University. He received his PhD in Rural Sociology and his master’s degree in Community Economic Development from Pennsylvania State University. Michael’s research and practice have focused on developing better strategies to revitalize communities through more effective collaborative action, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement. He has conducted research, planning, implementation, and outreach in communities around the world. Michael has co-authored two books on entrepreneurial community development (with Routledge) and he is the founder of Authentic Redevelopment, a development philosophy for creatively restoring neighborhoods through cooperatives.

Beth Neu

Director of Public Policy and Engagement Indiana Communities

Prior to joining Ball State University in 2013, Neu served as Director of Pastoral Planning/Services for the Diocese of Richmond (VA), while she and her husband owned a small business in Central Virginia. Prior to that Neu spent over 20 years in the Economic Development profession, serving as director of the City of Roanoke (VA) Department of Economic Development and director of the City of Fort Wayne Department of Economic Development. An alumnus of Leadership Fort Wayne, she also served on state and national economic development boards of directors and taught at the Economic Development Institute.

Geoff Schomacker

Project Manager for the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University

As part of the ICI team Geoff helps develop programming that ties community economic development policies and practices to research. He develops strategic partnerships with national and statewide organizations and consults with them to expand their capacity. In the eleven years prior, Geoff worked for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). He was part of team that created nationally recognized programs such as the Hometown Collaboration Initiative (HCI) and the Stellar Communities Designation Program. Geoff holds a bachelor’s degree in management, is certified as an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP), and is a Simplex Creative Problem-Solving facilitator.

Emily Wornell

Research Assistant Professor Indiana Communities

Emily J. Wornell, PhD, is a research assistant professor in the Center for Local and State Policy at Ball State University. A rural sociologist and demographer, her areas of specialization are inequality and population change in rural communities. Her research explores household livelihood strategies; community and economic development; and immigration in rural communities. Emily also has a strong interest in the intersection of research and policy, and she regularly works with communities and policy makers to better understand and utilize research to develop more sustainable and efficacious policy.

David R. Terrell

Executive Director of the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University

David Terrell is the Executive Director of the Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) at Ball State University and of the RUPRI Center for Local and State Policy. The ICI focuses on community strategies around people-focused community economic development. It performs research that informs state and local policy, and engages communities and organizations through training and consultations.

Mr. Terrell previously served two Indiana Lt. Governors in various positions, including Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, where he oversaw five state agencies. He also started the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Angie Popplewell

Administrative Coordinator for the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University

Angie Popplewell is the Administrative Coordinator for the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University where she has worked since 2017. In her current role, she works with the Executive Director and staff of Indiana Communities Institute to plan, coordinate, and execute all of the activities conducted by ICI.

Angie graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ivy Tech State College in 1999, with an associate of applied science in business administration. She earned her bachelor of science in business administration from Ball State University in 2005.

Angie enjoys spending time with her family, church activities, cooking, and being outdoors in her gardens and koi pond.