New Harmony, USI collaboration continues to grow

Bobby Shipman

Rachel Eickhoff stepped foot into a cellar that had been buried beneath the Earth for over a century this summer.

During an archaeological dig in New Harmony, a group of USI students — and two from UE — excavated the underground remnants of what is known as Dormitory One. The dormitory ‘s foundation was left behind from the days of a utopian society.

“It was a lot of fun. We had a really great group of students that came out,” the junior biology major said. “We all just bonded instantly.”

The archaeological dig, led by Professor of Anthropology Mike Strezewski, was worth six credit hours and just one of the many projects made available through the small, historic town’s collaboration with USI.

“Some days it was really tedious when you would be digging in the dirt and wouldn’t find anything,” Eickoff said. “And then all of a sudden you would find this really cool feature; like we found the foundation of the dormitory. It just makes it all worth it.”

Since 1985, when USI gained management of Historic New Harmony, which is now a branch of USI’s Outreach and Engagement office, the two entities have worked together to assist one another, and the collaboration has continued to expand.

Catherine Cotrupi, Historic New Harmony community engagement manager and liaison between USI and the former utopia, said she has seen the partnership grow since stepping into her position in February.

“Every year we have an Outreach and Engagement grant that we give out and that’s for a faculty member, or a few faculty members, who want to relate their research interests on campus with something to do with New Harmony,” Cotrupi said.

Several grant projects recently finished up.

Bill Elliot, professor and chair of the Geology Department, completed an exhibit of geology at New Harmony related to the history of the town and its close ties to several very prominent geologists in Indiana and the U.S.

Associate Professor of Biology Eric McCloud received an entire house for entomology studies, which will also serve as a work lab for some of his students to utilize. There will also be an exhibit space for his findings. The house is currently open, but an official opening reception will be held in the fall.

Historic New Harmony will also hire an inter-faith intern, who will work with students on campus and in New Harmony to get them engaged in inter-faith history, within the next month.

“Retreats are something we’re stepping up as well,” Cotrupi said. “We are just really trying to step up getting faculty and students out there and also letting the town benefit from having the university so closely tied.”

The New Harmony Writers Workshop offered weeklong summer workshops in both poetry and prose.

The university owns 28 buildings and 40 acres of land in New Harmony.

“Things like these internships we are trying to get started, some of the local businesses can benefit from having marketing interns or having students from campus use their newfound knowledge to either improve the business or help out in someway,” Cotrupi said. “The town will also benefit from having the resources the university has to offer.”

Sara’s Harmony Way, which is located in the center of town, offers student discounts for coffee with a student I.D. and Cotrupi said she has been working with more businesses to make more discounts available to students.

Assistant Professor of Marketing Chad Milewicz and Assistant Professor of Economics Perry Burnett will present findings for their recently completed grant project on the branding and marketing of New Harmony at 6 p.m. Aug. 28.

“Just last week, I started working with Sarah Harlan, who works for Alumni and Volunteer Services, and she and I are going to be talking about different ways students can volunteer,” Cotrupi said. “We’ve got a lot of events coming up that we’ll need student help with, so she’s going to bring students out.

“I think campus benefits from having such a valuable historic resource just 30 minutes up the road. I think we take it for granted a lot.”