Thousands of students attend the five local universities in Northwest Indiana.
Each campus has its own flair and contributions for the area through cultural offerings and special events. Ranging from cultural plays and programs to intramural programs and art opportunities, the cultural scene on Northwest Indiana campuses is vibrant and thriving.
Indiana University Northwest
Indiana University Northwest in Gary was established in 1963 and has more than 6,000 students.
"The university serves many adult learners, as well as younger students that have adult commitments, who must balance the competing demands of college, work and family responsibilities," said Emily Banas, an assistant director at IUN.
The university's annual Speech Forum is one of the highlights that continues to grow and draw participants.
Alicia Wright, a lecturer at IUN and coordinator of the Speech Forum, said the forum is used to showcase the students at Indiana University Northwest by "demonstrating to the public and the IUN community the abilities our students have learned during their introductory public speaking classes."
Ivy Tech Community College Northwest
Ivy Tech Northwest is one branch of Indiana's Ivy Tech community college system. The Northwest branch has four campuses: East Chicago, Gary, Michigan City and Valparaiso. The courses and programs average a total of 15,000 students on the four campuses, ranking it the largest university in Northwest Indiana.
Ivy Tech's Campus Activities Board constantly plans and organizes events for the student body such as regular outings to area plays and galleries and trips highlighting unique learning destinations in the region.
Purdue University Calumet
Purdue University Calumet in Hammond serves more than 10,000 students. Matt Dudzik, assistant athletic director, said part of school's draw is the unique intramural offerings.
"With a diverse population, we try to offer something for everyone. We have fishing, baking and gardening," Dudzik said.
Dudzik said one of the more interesting contests is the "Intra Mural" art contest, where the participants draw a picture of a certain theme, and "the winner gets to paint this mural on the wall in the fitness and recreation building. It is a way to leave their legacy."
Additionally, the Purdue Calumet Theatre Company is celebrating 50 years on the campus as a live entertainment organization.
"In the theater company's history, there have been four full-time directors and over a hundred shows performed by hundreds of students and community members," said Wes Lukoshus, assistant vice chancellor for advancement.
"This year, 2014, the company will be creating a retrospective review that will include scenes and songs from productions over the last five decades."
Purdue North Central
Purdue University North Central, established in 1948, serves more than 4,000 students in Westville.
The North Central campus has a Shakespeare's Garden, which is comprised of flowers mentioned throughout the various works of William Shakespeare. Purdue North Central's garden is one of about 40 worldwide.
"[The garden] was created by a group of English professors as a tribute to Shakespeare and to give the campus and community a tranquil place to visit, reflect and enjoy," said Carol Connelly, director of media for North Central.
North Central also has an outdoor sculpture garden with large-scale sculptures as well as various art shows and exhibits. The university recently celebrated its Odyssey Arts and Cultural Series 15th anniversary in October.
Valparaiso University is the oldest of the universities in Northwest Indiana, established in 1859.
Among Valparaiso's various events and activities is the annual Word Fest, which allows students to hear from practicing writers to help stimulate students' writing. VU begins a new event this month.
"Valpo will host its inaugural Shakespeare Week March 17-24," said Kristen Knoerzer, creative associate at Valparaiso University.
"The week features performances by the Actors from the London Stage, as well as a variety of lectures and other performances."