MUNCIE, Ind. (NewsLink) – Ball State University launched its “Rocktober” initiative this morning with a community conference from the Next Muncie organization.

Rocktober is a program led by the college to inform students and community members of ways to make change in Muncie. Changing Muncie is the top priority of the Next Muncie organization.

Today’s conference was led by Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns, who serves as one of the organization’s primary leaders. Next Muncie is composed of a group of community members from Ball State University, the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital and local organizations.

Next Muncie was inspired by research conducted by a group of Muncie residents. These residents traveled across the nation to observe how other cities revitalized their own communities.

“This initiative began with Judd coming back to me and talking about what he had learned in some of these other communities,” Mearns said. “That’s what led to the formation of Next Muncie. We began those conversations in 2017, and we founded Next Muncie in January or February of 2018.”

The inspiration from other cities coupled with legislation allowing Muncie to nominate regions of the city as “opportunity zones” inspired a group of community members to take action. That action resulted in the formation of Next Muncie.

Since the creation of the organization, four opportunity zones have been identified in Central Muncie. The group is moving forward with plans to develop the city in a variety of ways. Including the development of a river walk and walking trails, the construction of an Ivy Tech location and an initiative to increase housing in central Muncie.

“The quality of any community is increasingly dependent on the vitality of the central city,” Said Mearns, “that’s why the primary focus of Next Muncie is in central Muncie.”

As Next Muncie continues to push for change, it hopes to engage the community and surrounding businesses. In doing so, community members hope that the future of Muncie will reflect on a future they wish to be a part of.

“I’m raising my children here, my spouse is here.” Kristen McCauliff reflected on how Next Muncie would influence her future as a Muncie resident. “But our university is founded on community engagement and support of the Muncie and Delaware county community. I think it’s important that we not only highlight that commitment, but also learn to do it in new and innovative ways.”

For any comments or concerns about this story, contact the author at aesterle@bsu.edu.