History

We were established in 1989 to link two types of expertise—academic and practical—for the benefit of communities in Indiana and elsewhere. From the beginning we have been entrepreneurial, funded solely by grants and contracts. It is this characteristic, in addition to our deep commitment to collaboration, partnerships, and the practical use of advanced technologies, that explains our unique and diverse range of projects.

2018

Jim Sparks, formerly Indiana’s first Geographic Information Officer, joins Polis Center as director of geoinformatics.

2017

urisa

IndyVitals tool  wins 2017 Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) Enterprise System award.

IndyVitals  nominated for 2017 Indiana Geographic Information Council Excellence in GIS Award and 2017 Innovation of the Year for Techpoint Mira Awards.

Sharon Kandris named associate director for Polis.

2016

Polis Center conducts community health assessment for Parkview Health System in northern Indiana.

A collaboration with Plan 2020 and the City of  Indianapolis, IndyVitals tool launches, providing quick access to SAVI’s neighborhood-level data through a dashboard for tracking neighborhood progress on several neighborhood health and sustainability indicators.

2015


The geographic information service experts at The Polis Center create the Indiana Flood Plain portal from multiple data sources, layering information from aerial photography with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps and data from sophisticated elevation-sensing equipment. The Indiana Floodplain Information Portal (INFIP) combines four different layers of useful information for home buyers, insurance agents, and local government officials. By clicking on a map, facts like a location’s flood zone designation, the distance to the nearest stream, and the elevation where flooding is expected are all displayed for the user.

SAVI Reports–Trends in Crime: Does Perception Match Reality? and Worlds Apart: Gaps in Life Expectancy in the Indianapolis Metro Area–are published.

2014

Spirit & Place celebrates 25th anniversary.

2012

Ecologies of Faith in New York City: The Evolution of Religious Institutions (RUC) published.

Polis and SAVI partner with the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives conference to “lift the spirit and culture of service and volunteerism.”

2011

Polis Center establishes a presence on social media.

Published “Incorporating geospatial capacity within clinical data systems to address social determinants of health.”  Public Health Reports, Supplement 3 / Volume 126, September 2011 (Comer, K.F., S. Grannis, B. Dixon, D. Bodenhamer, and S. Wiehe).

Dr. Bodenhamer, Karen Comer, and Sharon Kandris write a chapter about developing SAVI, “Developing and Sustaining a Community Information System” in M. Sirgy and R. Phillips’ book, Community Quality-of-Life Indicators: Best Cases (Springer, 2011), 21-46.

2010

Polis Center receives Spatial Humanities grant to fund projects and a book series.

FEMA Risk Map Initiative launches.

Spirit & Place Festival presents the US debut of the Vienna Vegetable Choir in coordination with the festival “Food” theme.

2009

Spirit & Place launches an expanded ten-day festival.

Polis Center partners with the Regenstrief Institute on the successful proposal to CDC to establish the Indiana Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics.

2008

The Virtual Center for Spatial Humanities created, a collaboration of The Polis Center, Florida State University, West Virginia University, and University of Richmond.

Flood projects increase funding for Polis GIS services.

2007

Covenant: Scenes from an African American Church (RUC) published.

2006

Pam Hinkle Blevins joins Polis as director of the Spirit and Place Festival.

2005

Sacred Circles, Public Squares: The Multicentering of American Religion (RUC) published.

2004

Publications this year included the article, “Public Health Education and Practice Using Geographic Information System Technology,” which appeared in Public Health Nursing 2004, Jan.-Feb., co-authored by Mary E. Riner (Assistant Professor, Indiana University School of Nursing, IUPUI), Cynthia Cunningham (Geographic Information System Analyst and Senior Research Analyst, Polis Center), and Ann Johnson (Program Manager, Healthy Families/MOM Project, Indiana University School of Nursing).

Karen Comer and Julie McGowan (Director, Ruth Lilly Medical Library with expertise in medical informatics) present “National Outreach Mapping Center and the Power of GIS in Health Care” at the Proceedings of the 11th World Congress on Medical Informatics. San Francisco, CA, 1751, September 2004.

The book, A Public Charity: Religion and Social Welfare in Indianapolis, 1929-2002, by Mary L. Mapes. (RUC), is published. Kevin Mickey named Director of Professional Development and Geospatial Technology Education.

2003

Polis partnered with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana GIS Council, and Upper White River Watershed Alliance to spur water quality and watershed management with the publishing of the Indiana Water Quality Atlas. 

Other publications this year include Souls of the City: Religion and the Search for Community in Postwar America and Rising Expectations: Urban Congregations, Welfare Reform, and Civic Life (RUC). 

HAZUS-MH training by Kevin Mickey begins.

2002

The National Library of Medicine named IU School of Medicine and Polis to create the National Outreach Mapping Center to identify and track special outreach efforts by libraries of medicine to provide access to health information.

The Electronic Cultural Atlas launched.

Karen Comer is lead writer of our successful National Outreach Mapping Center proposal to the National Library of Medicine that propelled our work with the healthcare sector.

2001

North American Religion Atlas published.

Kevin Mickey named quality assurance manager.

2000

The  Hudson Institute partners with Polis to evaluate Goodwill Industries programs.

Wayne and St. Joseph Counties GIS projects.

The Mitigation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-390, also known as DMA 2000.) passed. After the especially devastating floods on the Mississippi River and its tributaries in 1993, the federal government applied more aggressive changes to disaster relief efforts. DMA 2000 provided money and guidance to communities that planned for floods with the goal of long-term prevention in mind. Polis GIS division would ultimately assist counties in creating their disaster mitigation plans.

1999

The Urban Tapestry book is published.

The Finding Common Ground program  re-established to sustain and dialogue about race.

The Commerce Department for Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP, now Technology Opportunities Program) granted Polis the first TOP grant.

The Polis Center moved into offices at 1200 Waterway Blvd.

Sharon Kandris joins Polis Center as director of community informatics.

1998

This was a prolific year for The Polis Center and included:  implementation of the first online version of SAVI, the Goodwill Heritage project, the Indiana Private Industry Council’s Landmark Workforce study, the St. Joseph County GIS project, the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI), the Front Porch Alliance evaluation, and the Organization of American Historians conference.

The Front Porch Alliance was an initiative of Mayor Stephen Goldsmith to improve neighborhoods by bringing resources to local groups within them.

The Center’s Urban Analysis Group provided evaluation advice during the formative phase rather than the traditional retrospective study.

The American Historians organization is one of the largest and most prestigious historical associations in the country.  Nine Polis staff presented papers at this event and Dr. Bodenhamer showcased a large body of work pertaining to the religious life of the City of Indianapolis.

Karen Comer presented SAVI at the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., marking the beginning of our engagement with the public health and health care sectors. (Frederickson, K.E. “Enhanced Local Coordination and Collaboration through the Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators (SAVI) Project.” Proceedings of the 126th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C., November 1998.)

1997

The City Street Centerline project launched.

1996-2002

The Project for Religion and Urban Culture (RUC) launched.

Karen Comer joins Polis as a GIS Analyst and shortly thereafter became the SAVI Project Manager– leading the completion of the first phase of the project and then the first online implementation of SAVI.

1996

The first Spirit and Place Festival offered, “A Public Conversation-Thinking Out Loud about Indianapolis – Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield, and John Updike.” In 2015, Dr. Bodenhamer noted, “It was the beginning of the dream for “a diverse, reflective community with hundreds of people that celebrate the spirit of this place we call home.”

Neil Devadasan joins the center as a visiting research associate.

1995

SAVI (Social Assets and Vulnerability Index) community information system launched. SAVI (savi.org) is one of the nation’s earliest, largest, and most comprehensive system that integrates data from more than 30 providers to provide an interactive, in-depth look at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) at scales from census tracts and neighborhoods to the region at large.

1994

The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis published. It provides a comprehensive social, cultural, economic, historical, political, and physical description of Indianapolis and serves as the standard reference volume for information about the city. Featuring the work of 485 community and academic experts, the encyclopedia also includes information on the eight counties that comprise the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area.

1992

The Main Stem, an architectural history of homes on North Meridian Street, published and the Center for Corporate History created.

1990-1991

Polis Center conducts the Museums Assessment Study for the Association of Indiana Museums (AIM), funded by the Institute of Museum Services, Foellinger Foundation, Indiana Arts Commission, Nicholas Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation, Ball Brothers Foundation, Lincoln National Life Foundation, Indiana Humanities Council, and PSI Energy.

1990

Laboratory for Applied Spatial Research (LASIR) created at IUPUI.

Kevin Mickey joins Polis Center as staff cartographer and training coordinator.

1989

Polis Center founded with Executive Director David Bodenhamer.

Public On Line Indianapolis Study conducted.

International Guide to Indianapolis published.

1985

As IUPUI began to expand, the city was undergoing change as well. Faculty recognized that this was a good opportunity to study a changing Mid-American city. First steering committee meeting to discuss creation of a center to do so.