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.

2019

 

 

 

 

Work on a digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis commences; it is expected to launch as part of the official Indianapolis bicentennial effort. The Polis Center and IUPUI University Library are working in partnership with several major Indianapolis cultural and heritage institutions  including Indiana Historical Society, Indiana  Humanities, Indianapolis Public Library, the University of  Indianapolis Mayoral Archives, the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, the Indiana Historical Bureau/Indiana State Library, Indiana Landmarks, and Butler University. This will be a free, web-based knowledge platform/encyclopedia for the city.

The Polis Center, in partnership with United Way Fox Cities (Wisconsin) is updating the data, visualizations, and analysis on its Cities Leaders Indicators for Excellence (LIFE) Study website.

Polis is collaborating with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) and the IU Public Policy Institute (PPI), on a study that looks at social, health, and economic impact of INHP’s investments.

David Bodenhamer serves as one of three international experts on a panel that met at the University of Antwerp to award € 1 million+ grants to six proposed centers from a field of twenty-four applicants in a major EU research initiative.

Polis, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, develops a Social Risk Index model and pilot for Toledo, OH for flood hazards. The report will be published as part of a larger project involving the American Planning Association and other strategic partners.

The Polis Center, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, completes its report to the Georgia department of Natural Resources. The work, which was part of a multi-year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funded undertaking, explores current and potential impacts of green infrastructure on mitigating flood and wind hazards in Tybee Island and the City of Hinesville in Coastal Georgia.

In partnership with the IU Center for Aging Research, the Public Policy Institute’s Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy, and Regenstrief Institute, Polis will develop a dynamic State of Aging in Central Indiana report, funded by the Central Indiana Senior Fund.

SAVI Topic Profiles tool launches.

The State of Indiana Multi-hazard Mitigation Plan, prepared by Polis, is approved by FEMA and adopted by the state.

2018

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

Marianne Cardwell, PMP, GISP, CSM joins Polis geoinformatics team as the GIS Project Coordinator.

The Polis Center begins a new Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) with Community Health Network in Central Indiana and completes the second phase of a major assessment for Parkview Health Systems.

In partnership with IUPUI’s Office of Community Engagement, Polis receives an IUPUI Welcoming Campus Fund award for Building a Data-Informed Approach to Community Engagement. We are building a key technical and institutional infrastructure that will result in better data to inform decisions about how community engagement efforts can be more strategic, coordinated, effective, and responsive to community issues.

The Polis Center qualifies to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Cooperating Technical Partners (CTP) Program, thereby allowing Polis to collaborate with FEMA, participating National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) communities, regional and state agencies, and others to maintain up-to-date flood hazard maps and other flood hazard information. Polis is working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which is also a CTP, to update Indiana’s flood hazard maps and data.

Polis, a recognized leader in curriculum development and instruction on the use of geospatial technologies to identify and analyze natural hazards risk, continues to offer customized GIS and Hazus-MH workshops nationwide including in Florida, South Carolina, Washington, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia. We support FEMA’s Emergency Management Higher Education Program, conducting workshops at its annual Higher Education Conference, and presented on the strategic use of geospatial technologies for emergency management at FEMA’s Executive Academy, with convenes senior emergency management executives to explore contemporary and emerging 21st century challenges.

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.

The Polis Center, in collaboration with the United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI), is awarded a major Social Innovation Fund grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service for Great Families 2020. We are developing evaluation metrics to help improve family stability for four high-risk  neighborhoods in Indianapolis.

In collaboration with the Bowen Center for Health Information, we develop an online portal that features interactive mapping, a map gallery, and data download capability built a Report Generator Component; added four additional health professions, and introduced the project during the 2017 Indiana Health Workforce summit.

2016

The Polis Center, working collaboratively with the Fairbanks School of Public Health, begins Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) for hospital systems across Indiana, starting with Parkview Health Systems, a nine-hospital, nonprofit health system based in Fort Wayne that serves about 800,000 across seven counties.

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.

Allegra East joins Polis as communications manager.

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 Areaare published.

2014

Spirit & Place celebrates 25th anniversary.

In collaboration with the US Geological Survey (USGS), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Indiana Silver Jackets, Polis develops a national Hazus-MH methodology for USGS Flood Risk Library Risk Assessments to help build more resilient communities.

Polis continues its partnership with the IUPUI Department of Geography and the IU Supercomputing Center to evaluate LIDAR data to automatically improve the detection of non-governmental approved levees.

2013

In partnership with the IU School of Health and Regenstrief Institute, Polis secures an IU Collaborative Research grant to develop neighborhood-level health indicators from the Indiana Network for Patience Care clinical data. We develop novel social risk and population health risk indices.

2012

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

Polis partners with the Indiana Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives to merge our Indiana Nonprofit Capacity Building Conference with the Governor’s Conference in Service and Volunteerism to establish the Governor’s Conference of Service and Nonprofit Capacity Building. This expands our ability to show organizations statewide how to use data and SAVI.

Polis helps 72 counties in Indiana develop successful hazard mitigation plans. We complete plans for several Illinois and Texas counties and establish new partnerships in Ohio and Georgia.

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.

Polis Center recognized as a leading multidisciplinary research center and resource base and for its extensive and innovative activities in the field of GIS and web-based information systems in support of research and community outreach. Other states and agencies now draw upon, and many have adopted, The Polis Center model for collaborative community-academic outreach, cooperation, and service.

2006

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

David Bodenhamer co-edits (with Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard) The History of Indiana Law, which is published in 2006, bringing together historians and legal practitioners to explore the ways in which the state’s legal culture responded to—and at times resisted—the influence of national legal developments, including the tortured history of race relations in Indiana.

2004

The article, “Public Health Education and Practice Using Geographic Information System Technology,” appears 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 partners 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. Karen Comer was lead writer of our successful National Outreach Mapping Center proposal to the National Library of Medicine that propelled our work with the healthcare sector.

The Electronic Cultural Atlas launched.

 

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.

Don Brindle joins Polis as first chief operating officer.

Polis asked to lead ECAI’s North American team.

In its fourth year, Spirit & Place Civic Festival receives a major planning grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. The festival grows to include more than 40 partners and three dozen public events.

Polis partners with WFYI TelePlex, Thirteen/WNET, and Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly to sponsor Taking Religion Seriously in Education conference.

Polis receives US Department of Commerce grant to expand SAVI information distribution to the World Wide Web.

NUVO Cultural Institute honors Polis with its first Cultural Vision Awards for the Center’s creativity and innovation in the arts, citing the annual Spirit & Place Festival and Falling Toward Grace: Images of Religion and Culture from the Heartland.

Polis staff numbers 46.

1998

Polis conducts The Front Porch Alliance evaluation, 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 presents 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.)

Polis is invited to join the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI), an international consortium of 60 universities. The project will map cultural data and make it available on the World Wide Web for teaching and research.

Voices of Faith book is published.

Falling Toward Grace: Images of Religion and Culture from the Heartland is published Indiana University Press. The book receives national recognition as one of the best books of its type from the National Catholic reporter.

A related photography exhibition debuts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Falling Toward Grace exhibition will go on display in Cologne, Germany in 2001.

Religion as a Window on Culture video series and curriculum guide is produced. The series is distributed internationally by Films for the Humanities & Sciences. Religion as a Window on Culture receives a national Telly Award for outstanding non-broadcast video.

Spirit & Place Civic Festival design and promotional materials by Young &  Laramore receives an American Advertising Addy Award from the Advertising Club of Indianapolis.

Polis works on the Goodwill Heritage project.

Polis conducts the Indiana Private Industry Council’s Landmark Workforce study

Polis conducts the St. Joseph County GIS project.

Polis staff numbers 37.

1997

The City Street Centerline project launched.

Polis reorganizes into three departments: Religion, Advanced Information Technology (AIT), and Community Analysis. The religion department collects and manages high quality data about the role of religion in Indianapolis and provides interpretation and analysis of those data in ways that increase community understanding. It functions variously as a repository of information, an interpreter, an evaluator, conversation partner, and a forum for conversation.  AIT uses information systems technology to create, manage, and apply the information repository of geographically referenced data. It specializes in the design and implementation of cost-effective Automated Mapping (AM), Facilities Management (FM) and Geographic Information System  (GIS) computer solutions. Services include needs assessment and master plan development, system and database design, project management and implementation assistance, standards development, mapping and data conversion, and training and ongoing technical support. The Community Analysis Group (CAG)  documents and analyzes community needs and assets, models community-based organizational networks, and designs and evaluates community programs. It advances the application of GIS technology and spatial analysis to land use, human service, and development planning issues. Partners include governmental and nonprofit agencies, school systems, and neighborhood organizations as Polis helps them understand the populations they serve to plan for future needs.

Neighborhood assessment work begins with projects in Mapleton-Fall Creek and the United Northwest Area (UNWA).

Community Analysis begins program assessment of the Front Porch Alliance for the City of  Indianapolis.

AIT manages the University Geographic  Information Systems Alliance (UGISA) conference.

RUC attracts national speakers to the city for a conference on Charitable Choice.

1996-2002

The Project for Religion and Urban Culture (RUC) launched, making a major contribution to scholarly understanding of religion in the modern American city and to public discourse about religion and urban life.

Indianapolis Philanthropy Project, developed with the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, in early stage of planning.

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

RUC gathers national religion scholars for a round-table meeting to discuss current research on Religion in the City, with support from the Louisville Institute.

Polis completes first school enrollment projection using small area demographic methodology for the Metropolitan District of Warren Townships.

First Spirit & Place Civic Festival is launched with the keynote public conversation featuring Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, and Dan Greenburg. The event attracts the largest crowd in the history of Clowes Memorial Hall.

Neil Devadasan joins the center as a visiting research associate.

Polis staff numbers 29.

1995

Polis receives the Fadley History Award from the Marion County/Indianapolis Historical Society for the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

Discovering Indianapolis: Thee Generations of a Community’s Stories, an exhibit curated by Polis, opens at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Work begins on Wayne County GIS Project, the Center’s first full-scale implementation of a countywide GIS.

GIS-based spatial analysis work begins with projects on bus ridership for Metro Bus Services and facilities use planning for Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.

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 1600 page encyclopedia also includes information on the eight counties that comprise the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area.

Polis receives first Religion and Urban Culture (RUC) grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Polis-curated exhibit commissioned by Thomson Consumer Electronics opens at the company’s North American Headquarters in Indianapolis.

Allen County, Indiana becomes the first county to sign on to a countywide GIS Needs Assessment, initiating the Center’s Statewide GIS initiative.

Polis begins prototype development of the Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators (SAVI) database project under auspices of United Way of Central Indiana/Community Service Council. The SAVI project leads to the founding of the Center’s Community Analysis department.

Polis contracts to provide maps for the revised Historical Atlas of Religion in America, to be published by Oxford University Press in fall 2000.

Polis begins multiyear technical update work on Indianapolis base map for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area Geographic Information System (IMAGIS) Consortium.

Polis staff numbers 13. Most of Polis’ projects have been conducted in cooperation with a community partner and nearly all are connected in some way to life in Indianapolis. Polis is earning the reputation for combining the perspectives and methods of academic scholarship with the interests and needs of the community, thus serving as a bridge connecting campus and the city.

1993

Polis received National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to support the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

Polis completes its first corporate project, History of State Life Insurance Company.

Polis works with local law enforcement agencies to create the Law and Community Institute workshop series to improve their communication with community groups.

Polis’ AIT group begins facilities management work for the Indiana University system, with a project for Campus Facility Services.

1992

Polis produces The Main Stem: The History and Architecture of North Meridian Street, published by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Over 2,000 copies are sold in first six months.

Center for Corporate History created.

Polis launches three-year Urban Agenda lecture series, a community outreach effort to disseminate information gathered for the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

Polis assumes responsibility for LASIR, which eventually becomes the Center’s Advanced Information Technology (AIT) department.

Polis received first grant for participation in a national research project, Congregations in Changing Communities, a study of the communities of Anderson and Carmel along with selected communities nationwide.

History of Indianapolis from a Religious Perspective project launched in partnership with the  Indianapolis Religious History Association, funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The planning grant leads to a pilot study and eventually to the founding of the Center’s Religion department.

Polis staff numbers 8.

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.

Polis participates in the Race Relations History Project sponsored by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Stanley  K. Lacy Executive Leadership Center. This work is the precursor to the Finding Common Ground Project.

1990

Laboratory for Applied Spatial Research (LASIR) created at IUPUI. Through LASIR, Polis will conduct work ranging from a study of public health to cartographic service for the revised edition of the Historical Atlas of American Religion to the SAVI project with the Community Service Council that will create a database for community service agencies in Indianapolis.

Polis assumes management of and develops funding for the Joseph Taylor Symposium, an event sponsored by the School of Liberal Arts to discuss community issues. It becomes a major annual event.

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

1989

In January 1989, David Bodenhamer assumes position of Director of The Polis Center, a department in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. (POLIS is an acronym for Project On-Line, Indianapolis Studies.) Its stated purpose is to create a database and establish an interdisciplinary urban research center focused on Indianapolis.

Public On Line Indianapolis Study conducted.

Polis’ first project completed and published: International Guide to Indianapolis.

Lamond Hulse joins Center as associate director.

Work begins on The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

Polis staff numbers 4.

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. Project On-Line, Indianapolis Studies is proposed in the Center for American Studies, School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.