Chapter 5: Public Affairs
Public affairs has been an important aspect of the UIS mission since the university was created. Over the years, UIS has had an ongoing dialogue about what constitutes “public affairs.” The most recent strategic planning process provided the opportunity to discuss and update what the public affairs portion of the mission entails and how it will be pursued in the future. Public affairs at UIS is viewed broadly as encompassing public policy, civic engagement, and connections between the university and the community.
This chapter begins with a discussion of the portion of the university’s mission that addresses public affairs and provides an overview of how the university is pursuing this mission. The following section addresses how public affairs and civic engagement are integrated into the curricula and enhanced through extracurricular learning opportunities. The next section addresses UIS’ contributions to the common good and its interactions with the community. The final section addresses UIS’ strengths and challenges in the area of public affairs and civic engagement and how the university plans to address these issues in the future.
Public affairs has been, and will continue to be, a major aspect of the learning environment and community outreach at UIS. The university’s mission, as well as one of the strategic plan’s major goals, “Making a Difference in the World—Local, State, National, and Global,” emphasizes the university’s commitment to public affairs and civic engagement. This section describes the public affairs mission and related components of the strategic plan. It also discusses what the university is currently doing and plans to do in the future to pursue the public affairs mission.
During the development of the most recent UIS Strategic Plan, there were serious, intense discussions about the way that the campus’ long-standing focus on public affairs education and activity would be integrated into the new, emerging identity of UIS. One of the main issues was how to view public affairs in a way that is consistent with and builds on the university’s past contributions and accomplishments, yet is broad enough to be a vital and viable part of the vision for UIS to be a premier, small public liberal arts university.
After much discussion, the university adopted the following statement as a portion of the UIS mission:
One vital area in which UIS extends its scholarship, teaching, learning, and expertise beyond the campus is in the broad area of public affairs. From its location in the state capital, UIS shapes and informs public policy, trains tomorrow’s leaders, and enriches its learning environment through a wide range of public affairs activities, programs, and organizations. (UIS Strategic Plan, p. 8)
The public affairs mission is further reflected in goal three of the strategic plan, “Making a Difference in the World—Local, State, National, and Global.” This goal is conceptualized as “a series of activities related to reflection, dialogue, and action on public policy and civic culture, resulting in engagement with the world outside of the university” (UIS Strategic Plan, p. 32). This goal reflects the UIS tradition of focusing on public affairs, civic engagement, and societal change, but it has been updated to reflect the need for the university to recognize and be involved in global issues. The “Making a Difference in the World” goal is intended to include the activities and accomplishments of faculty, staff, students, and alumni from all parts of UIS, including multiple disciplines and perspectives. At UIS, “Making a Difference in the World” is viewed as a shared responsibility.
Pursuing the Public Affairs Mission
The public affairs mission at UIS incorporates three major facets: (1) making a contribution to society through participation in the policy arena, (2) promoting and facilitating civic engagement, and (3) involving the community in campus life. As stated in the UIS Strategic Plan, the public affairs mission is pursued through activities that involve reflection, dialogue, and action.
Reflection refers to a learning process for fostering awareness and understanding that is necessary for action on public policy and civic culture. Examples of ways in which UIS facilitates reflection are noted below.
- The Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) portion of the undergraduate curriculum helps students develop an awareness of and respect for the diversity of cultures and peoples in the United States and in the world. ECCE also encourages students to reflect on the ways involvement, leadership, and respect for community occurs at the local, regional, national, or international levels.
- Graduate and undergraduate courses that address public policy, diversity, civic culture, and engagement (e.g., service-learning, internships), as well as the university’s study abroad program (the Global Experience), provide students with the opportunity to better understand societal and policy issues.
- Faculty, staff, and student scholarship on a broad array of issues provides in-depth reflection on particular issues.
Dialogue is a process of engagement that exposes participants to different perspectives, as well as new knowledge and ideas. UIS facilitates dialogue through a variety of means.
- The university sponsors public affairs events, forums, and speakers. For example, the university’s celebration of Earth Week 2007 included a keynote address on “Politics, Women, and Environmental Justice” by internationally respected Native American and environmental activist, Winona LaDuke and a panel discussion on “The Future of Renewable Energy in Illinois.”
- The university also engages the campus and community through multicultural programs and events sponsored by the arts and forensics. For example, each year UIS has an international festival that features students and community members performing music and dance from other countries, followed by a buffet of international foods. This event provides the opportunity for UIS international students to share their culture with the campus and the community.
- Through the media units of the Center for State Policy and Leadership, the university helps statewide and community audiences stay informed about and engaged in public affairs.
- UIS provides support for faculty, students, and staff to participate in regional or national conferences, thus providing an opportunity to present findings from scholarly work and to exchange ideas with other scholars.
Action involves engaging with the world outside the university in matters related to public policy and civic culture. UIS engages in action through various types of activities such as the ones identified below.
- Students develop leadership skills through their coursework, participation in student organizations and governance, and volunteer and service-learning opportunities.
- Faculty, staff, and students undertake applied research and assist in the development of policy.
- Faculty and staff provide training to help professionals become more productive and effective. For example, the Center for State Policy and Leadership provides training in areas such as adult and juvenile detention, drinking under intoxication assessment, and the state budgetary and legislative processes.
- UIS interacts and partners with civic organizations, businesses, governments, and schools in projects that are designed to improve the community or make a positive contribution to society.
As part of its mission, UIS will continue to stress the importance of having a diverse campus in which students are exposed to different perspectives and where students from all backgrounds are provided with leadership skills. One of the strategic thrusts stated in the UIS Strategic Plan is “Providing a Culturally-Diverse Campus Environment.” The intent of this thrust is described as:
Students, faculty, staff, outside partners, and other constituents will be exposed to a university community that is infused with an appreciation of diverse cultural perspectives. The UIS environment will be characterized as an inclusive and safe place for different perspectives to be explored. (UIS Strategic Plan, Strategic Thrust 3)
The university will continue its efforts to recruit students from underrepresented groups and to enhance programs and services to support the academic success of these students. The university’s programs to recruit and support students from underrepresented groups (e.g., Project Midstate Student Support for Teaching, Whitney M. Young Fellowship Program, and Student Academic Improvement Program are discussed in Chapter 2).
The use of technology is important in UIS’ pursuit of the public affairs mission. As technology has advanced, UIS has identified ways to use new technology to improve its outreach to internal and external constituencies. This helps the university’s constituents stay informed and broadens the opportunity for constituents to participate in UIS’ public affairs offerings.
The Office of Web Services is using cutting-edge technology to maximize the functionality of the UIS website as the portal through which constituents can obtain information on what is happening at UIS and find information on contacts and services. The website now features a “MediaQuad” with links to slideshows and audio and video presentations. Many live webcasts of campus events are conducted each semester. For example, the Center for State Policy and Leadership regularly webcasts its public forums and, for some events, provides web-viewers the opportunity to participate in the question-and-answer session with speakers by e-mailing their questions.
UIS also is increasing its usage of podcasts. In October 2005, the Office of Web Services and the Information Technology Services department (ITS) created the first public podcast at UIS, “What’s New on the UIS Website.” This podcast features five campus websites each month. This project capitalizes on a modern marketing technique where the same content is distributed in several ways. “What’s New on the UIS Website” is not only a podcast, it is also a website and an e-mail that is sent to all campus faculty, staff, and students. Also, a “What’s New” e-blast, or mass e-mail, is created and sent via special software to a list of nearly 10,000 UIS alumni, donors, and friends of UIS.
The Office of Web Services, also in conjunction with ITS, has created a mobile UIS website, a completely separate website designed for cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDA), and other small, Internet-connected technologies. The Office of Web Services also worked with ITS on the UIS at iTunes U collaboration with Apple, Inc. This initiative collects all of the university’s podcasts, and eventually other media, for distribution to the public and to students. With a single login, students are able to access not only UIS public podcasts but also the podcasts created by UIS faculty and students as course material.
As UIS expands the information and services it offers through its website, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that the website is accessible to individuals who have disabilities. UIS has chosen the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0) as the university’s accessibility standard. The initial accessibility review and improvements are focusing on the 46 pages that are one link deep from the campus home page; however, the staff is also beginning to address all academic and department websites in a campus-wide initiative called the UIS Website Project.
UIS will continue to use technology to provide online courses and training to students, as well as other constituencies including government officials. The Institute of Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies (ILLPS), a unit of the Center for State Policy and Leadership, currently offers some of its government training courses online and the new Certificate Public Manager Program of Illinois (CPMPI) will also offer some of its courses online. The online training and academic courses will continue to integrate new technologies, such as those that enhance audio and facilitate “live” interactions, as they become available and reliable. More and more campus support units, such as the Career Development Center, now offer their services online.
Technology also offers a way for UIS to pursue the diversity component of its public affairs mission. UIS has offered joint courses online with Chicago State University (a university with a high percentage of African-American students), Northeastern Illinois University (an ethnically-diverse university in the Chicago area), The Warsaw School of Economics in Poland, and BRAC University in Bangladesh. (See Chapter 6.)
UIS faculty and staff are continually thinking about ways in which technology can be used to address other important public policy issues. For example, when Hurricane Katrina forced higher education institutions in several southern states to close, a UIS faculty member/administrator and a University of Illinois administrator played a major role in initiating the establishment of free online college courses for displaced students. Funding for this program was provided through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In 2007, the UIS Computer Science Program, in conjunction with InfraGard and the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance, sponsored a one-day conference on “Cyber Defense and Disaster Recovery: Preparing for a Pandemic.” The conference addressed emergency response and disaster recovery and included presentations and a tabletop exercise based on a realistic pandemic scenario.
Public affairs is integrated into the academic curricula at UIS. All undergraduate students participate in engagement activities as part of the Engaged Citizenship and Common Experience curriculum requirements. Both undergraduate and graduate students have numerous opportunities for hands-on learning and research. UIS has an almost forty-year history of incorporating experiential learning into undergraduate and graduate education. Experiential education is central to the institution’s public affairs emphasis within the framework of a liberal arts curriculum. This practice-based education stresses practical experiences, professional development, and experiential learning.
Engaged Citizenship Common Experience
The Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) curriculum includes coursework in the categories of U.S. Communities, Comparative Societies, and Global Awareness; an experiential learning experience (e.g., an internship, research project, service-learning course, or study abroad); and an ECCE Speakers Series (see Chapter 3 for a description of the ECCE curriculum). The ECCE curriculum strives to prepare students to be able to engage in questioning and critical thinking that will lead them to explore peoples, systems, values, and perspectives that are beyond their usual boundaries. Under goal three, the UIS Strategic Plan notes that “One of the signature qualities of UIS graduates will be an ability to engage a world in which the distance between local and global communities grows continuously smaller.”
UIS offers service-learning courses to provide students with an opportunity to provide community service and learn about community-based problem solving. Some of these courses address local needs, while others address needs in other parts of the country or abroad. These courses allow students to explore the connections between academic theory and the practical needs of a community and to expand their understanding of community-based problems.
For example, UIS has offered a service-learning course in which the students travel to Jamaica for a three-week program. While in Jamaica, the students interact with the local community, tour the country, and learn about its culture. The students work side-by-side with Jamaicans in community organizations and schools, addressing needs such as hurricane relief, teaching, craft demonstrations, or computer instruction.
In spring 2007, the university initiated two new service-learning courses, AST 200 and AST 201. In AST 200: Learning and Serving in the Community, students provide 60 hours of direct service and participate in a seminar. Students also prepare a reflection journal and a final project concerning their service experience. In AST 201: An Inconvenient Truth: Learning and Serving the Environment, students work in groups with a community partner on an issue related to the environment. In spring 2007, the students in AST 201 partnered with the City of Springfield, Department of Public Works on an anti-littering campaign. The students participated in a recycling extravaganza, organized a litter pick-up event in which about 75 high school students participated, and developed artwork that the city can use as part of the anti-littering campaign. The City of Springfield intends on making the high school litter pick-up event an ongoing partnership due to the efforts of the UIS students.
In summer 2008, UIS plans to offer a course in Los Angeles that will focus on the rhetoric of advocacy and allow students first-hand opportunities to work with the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. Students will stay on the campus of Pepperdine University and classes will be held on that campus. Students will travel to Union Rescue Mission each day to participate in services to the homeless, work with those advocating for the homeless, and work through the dichotomies of the ultra-wealthy in Malibu in such close proximity to the ultra-poor in downtown Los Angeles.
UIS also plans to offer another service-learning course in summer 2008 that will address the origins of Western rhetoric and community service. The students will be traveling to Athens, Greece; Rome, Italy; Florence, Italy and Assisi, Italy to explore various philosophical and psychological theories from classical times through Roman times, as well as to investigate the ethical dimensions of rhetoric and how it affects the community service people do. Community service will be performed in students’ local communities, as well as in Italy.
Applied Study Term
One form of experiential learning is the Applied Study Term Program (AST). AST is an individualized field experience that provides students with the opportunity to apply theory, expand knowledge, and develop a public awareness and an appreciation of diversity while earning academic credit. AST can take the format of internships, projects, or travel or study abroad for academic credit. Many of these opportunities have been extended to UIS online students.
For the past 14 years, the UIS AST program has received an Illinois Cooperative Work Study Grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). The grant funds are used to provide matching money to use with agencies and businesses’ money to pay students a competitive wage for their internships. There are no administrative costs in the grant, and as a result, the students have shared in a total of $1.5 million dollars over the duration of the grant. The AST Program is considered a ‘model program’ by the Grants Administration Office at the IBHE.
Experiential Learning Requirements in Particular Programs
Some academic programs have specific requirements regarding experiential learning. For example, four programs in the College of Education and Human Services (human development counseling, human services, social work, and teacher education) and the educational leadership post-master’s certificate require an experiential component (e.g., internship, practicum, clinical experience) that provides students with the opportunity to apply what they are learning in a practitioner setting. Some of these options allow or require students to work in a diverse setting. For example, the Social Work Program has made arrangements for students to intern in Romania (although as of 2006-07, no students had taken advantage of the Romania internship). In the Teacher Education Program, at least one of a student’s field experiences occurs in a school that is considered diverse in ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation, and/or geographical area.
As mentioned in Chapter 3, in the College of Public Affairs and Administration, three undergraduate programs (political studies, legal studies, and criminal justice) require students to complete an Applied Study Term (AST) and two graduates programs (public health and public affairs reporting) require students to do an internship. Past ASTs at the undergraduate level have included placements in organizations such as the Downstate Innocence Project, the White House, local police departments, the Illinois State Police, the FBI, and the Secret Service.
The Public Affairs Reporting Program (PAR) offers a one-year program in which students combine academic and hands on experiences in the Illinois Statehouse press corps to earn a master’s degree and to gain a solid professional background for a career covering government and politics. Students begin an internship during the spring semester with an experienced professional journalist covering state government and the Illinois General Assembly. During the summer, the internship is more intense as it coincides with the conclusion of the legislative session. During the academic courses and internship, each student is responsible for completing a professional portfolio that demonstrates mastery of public affairs journalism.
About 500 students have gone through Public Affairs Reporting Program over the last 30 years, and roughly two-thirds of them are currently employed in the media or in media-related fields, including editors, columnists, and reporters at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, New York Times, Washington Post, and other major metropolitan newspapers, as well as with the Associated Press, Reuters, and Business Week and New York magazines. Broadcast alums are producers and reporters with television and radio outlets in the Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Orlando, and Indianapolis markets, and with C-SPAN in Washington, D.C. More than one-third of the statehouse press corps is PAR alumni, including the bureau chiefs for the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, and four other outlets.
Graduate Governmental Internship Programs, GPSI and ILSIP
UIS also has two well-established governmental internship programs for graduate students. For more than 30 years, the university has administered the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program (ILSIP) and the Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI). These programs provide paid internship experiences within Illinois state government and provide a strong connection between UIS and various state agencies and the legislature.
The ILSIP experience is intended to broaden a student’s perspective and understanding of the legislative process and to provide legislative leaders with research and other professional staff assistance. With the capitol as both workplace and classroom, ILSIP interns work ten and one-half months full-time and earn eight hours of graduate credit from UIS. Students work as professional legislative staff members with either the Illinois General Assembly or Legislative Research Unit and participate in an academic seminar conducted by UIS faculty.
After completing the program, interns often continue on as staff members or find employment in other government offices or firms related to the legislative process. ILSIP attracts up to 100 applicants per year for the 24 internship positions. Since 1973, ILSIP has placed 790 interns.
The Center for State Policy and Leadership sponsors a Hall of Fame for alumni of the ILSIP and Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) internship programs. This helps UIS maintain contact with alumni and recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding alumni.
- The Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI) allows students to pursue a master’s degree at UIS while beginning professional careers through placements in state agencies and nonprofit entities. Under this program, students work in a state agency or nonprofit agency for 20 hours per week (full-time in the summer) and receive a tuition waiver and stipend. The public sector work environment allows the students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the work place and to bring to their class discussions the reality of administrative life and policy implementation. The GPSI program accepts applications from eligible students in all UIS academic programs and requires all interns to complete four credit hours of GPSI seminars that address the organization environment in public service, conflict management and interpersonal skills, career development, and facilitation and presentation skills.
- After completing the two-year program, many GPSI interns continue working in state government while others gain employment at other levels of government or pursue opportunities in the private sector. In 2006-07, GPSI had 150 intern placements in 16 state agencies. This represents about a 50 percent increase in the number of interns compared to 2004-05. Over the 32-year history of the program, GPSI has placed 1,500 students in internships in state agencies and commissions.
- Figure 5-1 shows the funding the three internship programs (AST, GPSI, and ISLIP) have received from the state government over the past 10 years. The GPSI program, in particular, has experienced significant gains in recent years. This increase is partially attributable to cutbacks in full-time state employees, but also reflects the high quality of work performed by GPSI interns.
“Intersession” Concept—Combining Courses with Policy Summits
Public affairs also is present in the UIS curriculum through what was initially referred to as the “intersession” concept. For many years, the university offered one-week, two credit-hour public affairs colloquia (PAC) courses during the January or March semester break. These “intersession” courses combined class sessions that met during the day taught by UIS faculty with public lectures by guest speakers in the evening that were open to the public. The courses presented multidisciplinary perspectives on broad public affairs topics such as “The Bill of Rights after 200 Years,” “Preparing for the 21st Century,” and “Race: Myth, Reality and Public Policy.”
In 2004, the Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) revived the “intersession” concept. In recent years, CSPL has combined its annual public policy summit with a summer Public Affairs Colloquium online course. The “Policy Summit on Issues in Cyberspace” held in June 2004 was presented in conjunction with a summer online course on Cyberethics taught by a faculty member in computer science. The “Policy Summit on Politics and Religion” held in June 2006 was presented in conjunction with a summer online course taught by a team of five faculty representing four different disciplines. In 2007, a practitioner conference, public lectures, and a PAC course on the “Crisis in Environmental Health” were offered by CSPL’s Institute for Legal and Policy Studies (now the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies).
As part of its public affairs mission, UIS recognizes the value of having diverse perspectives represented in its curriculum.
UIS offers a minor in African-American studies and a minor in women’s studies and, starting in 2007-08, will offer a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. UIS also offers individual courses that address, in whole or in part, other dimensions of diversity, such as sexual orientation and ethnic studies.
Students also have the opportunity to learn about other cultures and perspectives through participation in international learning experiences. The UIS Global Experience Program offers students the opportunity to study abroad in Japan, Australia, Mexico, China, Greece, and England and service-learning options in Jamaica and Romania. Study abroad programs are available through affiliation agreements between UIS and partnering institutions and agencies.
UIS also offers courses in which students travel abroad as part of a specific course. For example, students enrolled in a course called Research on Globalization and Gender in Nicaragua studied human rights issues and the political culture in Nicaragua and then visited Nicaragua to assess local working conditions. The students participated in activities such as meeting with management and interviewing employees from a local maquila and visiting urban and farming areas to see how people live and the challenges they face that are associated with local and international economic policies.
The university has offered faculty development workshops to help faculty learn more about how to address diversity issues in the classroom. In 2005-06, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences sponsored a campus-wide workshop on “Pluralism in the Classroom,” which was presented by Diana Eck, professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University and director of the Pluralism Project. Dr. Eck discussed productive ways to engage students in dialogues regarding differences, especially as they involve issues of religious identity and values, and she presented strategies for conducting “difficult dialogues” and conflict resolution. In spring 2007, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences also sponsored a faculty workshop on “Discussing Sensitive Topics.”
Graduate Closure Activities
At the graduate level, all degree programs are required to have some type of closure activity, such as a master’s project or thesis or a capstone course with a paper requirement. These activities often provide students with the opportunity to integrate and apply what they have learned in the classroom to a particular policy issue or setting. For example, a graduate student in the Individual Option program has developed a degree that examines the connection between health/wellness and movement. As a dance teacher, this student became interested in the positive impact movement could have on well-being and life satisfaction. These ideas were translated into the development of a workshop for Down Syndrome children that will form the basis of her master’s project. (See Graduate Closure Requirements.)
Given the practitioner-focus of the Doctorate of Public Administration program (DPA), many of the students conduct research on applied policy or managerial issues. For example, one DPA student analyzed why African Americans have disproportionately higher infant mortality rates, and another student addressed short-run financial vulnerability in nonprofit organizations.
Assessment, NSSE Results
Several of the questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) address the extent to which students participate in public affairs-related activities as a part of their course work (e.g., community-based projects, internships, foreign language courses, study abroad) (see NSSE Data Summary). Table 5-1 shows how the responses from UIS undergraduate students compare to the responses from students at other master’s institutions. The replies from UIS freshmen students were equal to or better than the replies for students from other master’s institutions for each of the questions except the practicum/internship question in 2004 and 2005. However, the responses from UIS seniors were lower than those at other masters’ institutions for each of the four questions.
Consequently, while UIS offers strong internship opportunities, study abroad options, and foreign language courses, these survey results suggest that undergraduate students at UIS may not be fully taking advantage of these programs. The UIS internship responses may be at least partially due to a higher percentage of part-time non-traditional students enrolled at UIS, some of which most likely already have full-time jobs. As the proportion of full-time undergraduate students increases over the next several years, UIS expects the responses in these items to move toward being higher than the national norm for master’s institutions.
UIS Strategic Plan Action Steps
The UIS Strategic Plan includes the following action steps that are designed to enhance the civic engagement and public affairs aspects of the curriculum. The university has already made significant progress in implementing these steps.
- Implement the ECCE portion of the undergraduate general education curriculum (Action Step 1)
- Develop new courses that have public policy, civic culture, and engagement themes (Action Step 2)
Opportunities for students to learn and experience public affairs extend beyond the academic curricula. Students can obtain public affairs knowledge and skills through activities such as involvement in campus governance, clubs, organizations, and graduate assistantships.
UIS has a tradition of including students in campus governance and related activities. There are student representatives on the UIS Campus Senate and its committees, Graduate Council, Undergraduate Council, and academic program and college executive committees and personnel committees. Students who serve as representatives are able to experience firsthand the responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities associated with participation in governance.
A UIS student also serves as a student trustee on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Students at each of the three University of Illinois campuses (Springfield, Chicago, and Urbana-Champaign) elect a student trustee for a one-year term. One of these student trustees is designated by the Governor as the voting student trustee. Academic year 2006-07 was the first year that the UIS student was designated as the voting student trustee.
Students at UIS have established the Student Government Association (SGA) as the representative body for the students. Students are actively involved in learning while being members of the SGA and its sub-committees, the Student Activities Committee, and the Inter-Club Council Board.
Student Clubs and Organizations
Student clubs and other organizations provide additional leadership and public affairs opportunities for students at UIS. The number of officially registered/recognized student organizations has grown from 35 in fall 2002 to 71 in 2006-07. These organizations address a wide range of issues, such as politics (e.g., College Democrats, College Republicans), public health (e.g., Public Health Club), the environment (e.g., Students Allied for a Greener Earth), community service (e.g., Habitat for Humanity) and issues of interest to underrepresented groups (e.g., Descendents of Africa, Queer-Straight Alliance, and the Women’s Issues Caucus). The Journal, the UIS student newspaper, which has been in existence since 1970, also offers experiential opportunities in writing and photojournalism.
UIS is considering the creation of a student radio station as one of WUIS’ new digital channels. The station would have programming aimed at students and would actively involve students in the operation of the station. A student radio station would provide an outlet for campus and community dialogue, artistic expression, commentary, and personal enrichment.
The university’s Graduate Assistantship Program offers graduate students another opportunity to become engaged in campus activities. Assistantships are available in each of the campus’ 20 master’s degree programs, as well as in over 30 campus support and research units. Assistantships have a nine-month appointment and work 20 hours per week. The work responsibilities vary depending on the placement and may include activities such as conducting survey research, mentoring undergraduates, developing websites, creating print materials, conducting library research, participating in program or departmental meetings, serving on search committees, and helping with classroom instruction. Some assistantships, such as those with the research and media units of the Center for State Policy and Leadership, offer students the opportunity to be involved in applied public affairs work and to interact with leaders in the public sector.
Civic Engagement Opportunities
UIS offers a variety of programs and events to help students become more informed and engaged in a democratic society and more respectful of diversity. These opportunities include the Model United Nations project, the Model Illinois Government project, training and experience in lobbying, the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, plans for two new projects: the American Democracy Project and the Illinois Democracy Project, and events that address diversity.
The goal of UIS’ Model United Nations project is to gain an understanding of the United Nations, to increase international understanding, and to develop the art of peaceful negotiations. Program participants are assigned a country that they will represent in a simulated General Assembly session. Several international political issues are identified that will serve as the focus of discussions. Participants meet, caucus, prepare policy papers, debate issues, and draft and vote on resolutions. The UIS Model United Nations group has competed at the Midwest Model United Nations conference in St. Louis and at the National Model United Nations conference in New York.
UIS participates in the Model Illinois Government consortium of Illinois universities, colleges, and community colleges dedicated to the teaching of state government. The purpose of this program is to foster understanding of government and politics through simulation of the government of Illinois and related institutions. The major activity is a student-directed four-day simulation each spring at the Capitol Complex in Springfield.
In 2005, UIS hosted “Raise Your Voice—Lobby Day,” a two-day conference of students from 13 public and private colleges and universities all over the state. Students attended forums and training on civic engagement and lobbying the first day and then attended a rally and met with their legislators the second day. The event was jointly sponsored by groups at UIS, The McCormick-Tribune Foundation, and the Illinois Campus Compact.
Students also have the option of participating in the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project. Students in the Legal Studies Program and other degree programs provide research and investigative assistance to individuals who have been arrested, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned for crimes they most likely did not commit. The Downstate Innocence Project, housed in the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies, was recognized as the only undergraduate innocence program at the National Innocence Project conference in San Diego in January 2002. At present, it is one of only two undergraduate innocence programs in the country. The most recent case the project focused its efforts on was the Julie Rea Harper case. On July 26, 2006, the jury found her not guilty at the new trial.
UIS is in the initial stages of developing the American Democracy Project. The American Democracy Project is a national multi-campus initiative that seeks to create an intellectual and experiential understanding of civic engagement for undergraduates and graduates enrolled at institutions that are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The goal of the project is to produce graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in a democracy.
The university also is in the preliminary stages of establishing an Illinois Democracy Project, which will be dedicated to increasing citizen participation and strengthening democratic institutions and processes in Illinois. This project will use integrated strategies of research, application, engagement, and participation to increase civic engagement, to help UIS students becomes more knowledgeable and engaged in public policy and civic activities, and to improve the quality and effectiveness of public officials and the media coverage of public affairs.
During the past year, UIS observed a Day of Dialogue and a Day of Silence to reflect on issues faced by people from underrepresented groups. On January 16, 2007, UIS observed a Day of Dialogue, an interactive session designed to discuss issues of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination among all members of the campus community. The purpose of the dialogue was to create productive communication on controversial topics, allow members of the community to share in a safe environment, and to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 18, 2007, members of the UIS campus community were encouraged to observe a Day of Silence. The Day of Silence is a national event held to commemorate and protest anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment, and discrimination in schools. Participants observe the day in silence to reflect the silence that LGBTQ students face everyday.
Volunteer and Service Opportunities
In 2003, UIS established the Office of Student Volunteers and Service-Learning. In 2006-07, the office was renamed the Office of Student Volunteers and Civic Engagement (OSVCE). The primary purpose of this office is to connect service and learning to social justice and civic engagement while fostering responsive, reciprocal partnerships between students, faculty, staff, and the community. Initially the office was funded through a grant, but it is now supported by the Division of Student Affairs. The office has a director and a resident assistant/graduate assistant. (For additional information about OSVCE, see Chapter 2.)
Through an M3C grant, OSVCE administers a M3C STARS (Students Taking Action through Responsible Service) Fellowship, which supports the participation of nine first-year, first-generation and/or low income students in a volunteer program that provides 300 hours of service to the campus and community. These STARS Fellows have been involved with activities such as initiating the first campus Relay for Life in conjunction with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, promoting diversity awareness during Black History Month, supporting mentoring for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization, and providing tutoring and mentoring services at a local junior high school.
In conjunction with a community organization and The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, UIS sponsored an Ox-Fam Hunger Banquet in recognition of Hunger and Homeless Awareness week. This is a luncheon in which some individuals get an elegant meal, others get a middle class buffet style lunch, and most get basic foods of rice and bread to represent the proportion of those throughout the world who suffer from hunger and homelessness. UIS has institutionalized the Campus Cancer Relay for Life and the Ox-Fam Hunger Banquet as annual events involving not only the campus but also community organizations.
Several of the UIS programs for students from underrepresented groups have a service component. Each year, Whitney Young Fellowships participate in some form of research or community service project. Examples of past activities include mentoring and tutoring students at a middle school, working with a neighborhood association to address code enforcement, and drafting a proposal to explore the feasibility of adding the Children’s Colored Home to the state or national historic registries. Several Fellows also have worked with IMAGE, an organization that addresses issues of interest to the Hispanic community. Project Midstate Support for Teaching (MSS) also has a community service requirement of 10 hours per semester.
Some of the student clubs on campus, such as the Women’s Issues Caucus and Students Allied for a Greener Earth (SAGE), have a special service focus and are actively engaged in advocacy and service activities.
Recognition of Leadership
The University of Illinois Alumni Association presents Student Leadership Awards to recognize outstanding student leaders at UIS. The awards are made to students who demonstrate exceptional leadership through their involvement in campus and/or student organizations. Leadership might be exemplified through an officer or chair position or through outstanding loyalty and commitment by a person whose actions inspire others. Recipients are honored by the alumni association at a program that is held close to graduation time.
The Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) has collaborated with the Capital Scholars Honors Program in presenting the Capital Scholars Forum on Leadership and Public Service. This forum provides students the opportunity to meet the recipient of the Annual Motorola Excellence in Public Service Award, cosponsored by the CSPL, and hear the recipient’s advice on beginning a career in public service.
Assessment, NSSE Results
Table 5-2 shows how responses from UIS undergraduate students compare to those from students at other master’s institutions on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) survey questions that relate to campus and civic engagement (e.g. volunteer work, co-curricular activities, campus events and activities, voting, and contributing to the welfare of the community). These results suggest that UIS freshmen generally have participated at higher rates in co-curricular activities and at comparable or lower rates for the other activities listed. The replies from UIS senior students generally indicate lower rates of participation compared to students at other master’s institutions for each of the items listed, but more analysis needs to be conducted to determine why this is the case. Again, this is likely to change over time as the proportion of full-time undergraduates increases.
- Develop leadership skills in students by expanding the number of student organizations and increasing participation in student government (Action Step 9)
As stated in the UIS Strategic Plan, the university facilitates reflection, dialogue, and action on public policy, civic culture, and engagement. UIS achieves this by sponsoring events that inform people about important social and policy issues, conducting and disseminating research on policy issues, providing training to help workers become more effective and productive, and working with state government agencies and other organizations in a variety of ways to improve the well-being of the residents of Illinois.
Public Lectures, Forums, and Workshops
As noted in Chapter 4, UIS sponsors a series of annual events that are open to the campus, and the general public. These events include the Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series, the Public Policy Summit, and events held in celebration of particular days (e.g., Earth Day, International Women’s Day, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, and U.S. Constitution Day) or particular groups (e.g., Disabilities Week, the International Festival). These events, which cover topics such as environmental justice, politics and religion, and ethics, provide the community the opportunity to hear people who are experts in their fields.
Faculty also have prepared materials that are designed to inform the public about particular issues. For example, a UIS professor and the UIS Office of Electronic Media produced an hour-long film, The Sangamon River: A Sense of Place, which profiles and celebrates the people, ecology, history, and economy of the Sangamon River Valley. This movie was showcased at the university and also has been shown at various locations within the community.
The Human Services Program has hosted and conducted several series of community workshops on “Caring for Aging Faculty Members.” These series have addressed topics such as understanding late life dependency, cognitive changes and management issues associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and navigating the Medicare maze.
UIS faculty, staff, and students throughout the university are involved with research and projects that help inform and shape public policy. The dissemination of this information occurs through a variety of outlets, such as presentations at conferences, publications, training, and speeches to organizations. For example, faculty in the colleges have addressed diverse public affairs topics such as policy options for addressing structural deficits in the state of Illinois, health care resource allocation, collaboration and advocacy as a means to reform schools, and management and restoration strategies for the Emiquon flood plain of the Illinois River.
Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies
As mentioned in Chapter 4, the Center for State Policy and Leadership merged the Institute for Legal and Policy Studies with the Institute for Legislative Studies in 2007 to create the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies. The merger allows for increased operational efficiency and for a synergy in the projects and activities addressed by the institute.
The Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies (ILLPS) conducts projects and programs that contribute to the understanding and improvement of the legal system and executive branch of government in ways that are accessible to scholars, policymakers, practitioners, and the general public. Over the years, the ILLPS has become known for its work in developing training and educational programs for members of the court, including the judiciary, state’s attorneys and prosecutors, and probation officers. Its long-standing training programs in the adult and juvenile probation fields and with driving under intoxication (DUI) assessment and risk education demonstrate the ILLPS’ commitment to the development of partnerships and customized training programs with public and private agencies. Currently, a social work faculty member who is affiliated with the ILLPS has received funding from the Illinois Community Action Association to provide multi-year research and training.
In 2007, the ILLPS initiated the Certified Public Manager Program of Illinois (CPMPI). CPMPI training is presented in a series of daylong classes conducted by experts in public management and administration, including UIS faculty. The training addresses a number of core areas, such as leadership, ethics, cultural sensitivity, problem analysis and problem solving, organizational and human resource management, and improving productivity and quality.
ILLPS also has sponsored various workshops on issue related to the legislature, including (1) “The Illinois Legislative Process: The Basics and Beyond,” a day-long workshop on how law gets made in Illinois and how to work effectively in the General Assembly, (2) “Illinois State Budget: Tax and Spend 101,” a half-day workshop on how the state budget process works in Illinois and how to work effectively to impact the budget-making process, and (3) “The Third House: Workshop on Lobbying,” a day-long series of training workshops and lectures on how to effectively lobby the Illinois General Assembly. ILLPS also publishes the Almanac of Illinois Politics, a biennial reference book on the Illinois General Assembly and Illinois politics.
UIS Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
The College of Business and Management recently re-established the UIS Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) and appointed the UIS National City Distinguished Professor to be the Director of the center. CEED is uniquely positioned to unite central Illinois business and academic resources to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in the region and beyond. The region relies on state government jobs, health care, government-supported employment, insurance, banking, and agriculture. In a survey of the region’s business and government leaders, 54% of respondents identified entrepreneurial assistance as a weakness, followed by a weakness in support for small business development (50%).
CEED has been actively involved in promoting economic development in central Illinois and beyond. The Governor has designated the center as one of 13 centers to administer state grants to entrepreneurs. In 2006, with grant funds provided by the state, CEED awarded a total of $50,000 in matching grants to 10 small businesses in Springfield in order to foster innovation and further economic growth.
CEED is conducting research including an economic impact study for a $1.2 billion capital investment in central Illinois, an economic impact study on rising energy costs to Illinois, and a study that addresses barriers to commercialization of nanotechnology. CEED also is teaching courses on entrepreneurship, small business management, and franchising; developing new academic program tracks in entrepreneurship and leadership; and working with local small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the Chamber of Commerce as well as others.
Assessment, Grants and Contracts
One indicator that can be used to examine UIS’ contribution to society and connections with the community is UIS’ grant and contract activity. The university tracks this activity and presents it annually in the university’s Performance Report. The amounts shown in Figure 5-2 and Figure 5-3 reflect all grants and contracts except for those associated with the university’s student internship programs (GPSI, ILSIP, AST), which were shown in a prior section.
The number of grant and contract applications and awards has decreased over the past 10 years. (See Figure 5-2) The average annual number of applications in the first five-year period (1997-2001) was 92 compared to 73 in the second five-year period (2002-2006). Similarly, the average annual number of grant and contract awards was 74 in the first five years, compared to 54 in the second five years. The average annual dollar value of the grant and contract applications for the past five years ($8.6 million) is higher than the dollar value for the first five years ($7.8 million). (See Figure 5-3) However, the average annual dollar amount of the grant and contract awards has decreased from $5.3 million in the first five years to $4.3 million in the second five years.
- Provide increased support for applied research and program evaluation (Action Step 11)
- Encourage faculty to become involved in policy development and to improve policy processes through the application of professional expertise and research findings and participation in private associations, nonprofit groups, and public organizations (Action Step 12)
- Develop faculty skills for securing grants through mentoring and workshops (Action Step 16).
UIS partners with community organizations to further the public affairs mission. Examples include projects undertaken with local school districts, the mayor’s office, neighborhoods, and other community-based organizations.
UIS has partnered with community and school organizations in projects that focus on improving public education. These projects include the GEAR UP project, the Midstate Student Support for Teaching Program, and a series of symposiums on closing the educational achievement gap.
The GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) project was a six-year initiative that focused on increasing the number of local low-income students who are prepared and able to pursue postsecondary education. The project, which was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, was a partnership that included UIS, Springfield Public School District 186, Lincoln Land Community College, and the Springfield Urban League. Services included student tutoring, one-on-one contact with students and parents by the project’s parent coordinator, college classroom visits combined with individual college placement testing, campus tours, and various parent workshops.
UIS also is a partner in the Midstate Student Support for Teaching Program (MSS), formerly known as Project Minority Student Support for Teaching. This is a partnership designed to prepare students from underrepresented groups for college and a teaching career and assist the Springfield and Decatur school systems in the recruitment of teachers from underrepresented groups. Partners in this program are UIS, Lincoln Land Community College, Richland Community College, and the two local school districts, Springfield School District 186 and Decatur School District 61.
During 2005-2007, the Center for State Policy and Leadership and the Springfield Mayor’s Office co-sponsored a series of forums on closing the educational achievement gap between minority and non-minority students. The purpose of the series was to engage the public and the education community in a dialogue and to spur action to address the educational achievement gap. The planning for the forums was undertaken with the input of an advisory group of education professionals and community leaders and the forums were co-sponsored by private and nonprofit entities. Approximately 100-200 education professionals, community leaders, and members of the general public attended each of the three forums.
Other Community-Based Partnerships
UIS partners with community-based organizations on issues and concerns that are important to the Springfield community and/or society in general. Recent examples include a community-based partnership called the Springfield Project, participation in an economic development initiative sponsored by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the restoration of an historical landmark in partnership with a local historic preservation organization, and the university’s ongoing relationship with the World Affairs Council.
The Springfield Project, which was established in 1996, is a partnership between UIS and numerous other institutions and individuals in the community. Its mission is to help generate and target resources on Springfield’s most pressing problems. In 1998, UIS received a Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The mission of the UIS COPC was to support the work of the Springfield Project by leveraging UIS faculty and student efforts, as well as those of other educational institutions in the area, on “neighborhood revitalization and capacity building” by conducting research, providing technical assistance and engaging in outreach activities leading to the solution of community problems on the east side of Springfield.
UIS is a partner organization in the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s Quantum Growth Partnership (Q5). This is a five-year, $4.3 million strategic plan for economic growth in the greater Springfield metro area. The intent is to develop and implement strategies for creating new jobs and wealth and for bringing new firms into the metro area. UIS is contributing faculty expertise, student internships, and meeting space for the effort.
UIS also is partnering with a local historic preservation organization to restore the Strawbridge-Shepherd House, an 1840s-era farmhouse located on campus-owned property. UIS is leasing the house and the two acres on which it sits to the Elijah Iles House Foundation and, in exchange, the foundation will restore and preserve the house and plan for its use. UIS is responsible for maintaining the grounds and for providing security through the UIS Police Department.
UIS also has maintained a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the World Affairs Council of Central Illinois (WACCI) since its inception in 1988. Former and current UIS faculty have held leadership positions in WACCI, and UIS hosts the organization’s dinner/speaker program. This partnership has brought noted speakers on international affairs (including such luminaries as former Economics Novel Laureate James Tobin and former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake) to campus for presentations that are open to the campus and the general community. Not only do faculty regularly bring classes to these events, but WACCI regularly sponsors five UIS students to attend the dinners free of charge. The Center for State Policy and Leadership also has partnered with the WACCI to cosponsor presentations on campus by major speakers, such as Constitutional scholar Louis Fisher of the Congressional Research Service, Noah Feldman of New York University, and political scientist James Morone of Brown University.
Informing and Engaging Constituents
Goal two of the UIS Strategic Plan states:
The University of Illinois at Springfield’s community is characterized by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and outside partners and constituents as providing an atmosphere that is vibrant and actively engaged with comprehensive and integrated initiatives that contribute to the intellectual, cultural, social, and personal enrichment of all its participants.
UIS entities, such as the Center for State Policy and Leadership and Friends of Brookens Library, sponsor public events and programs that enable participants to gain new knowledge, to hear ideas debated, and become more informed and engaged. For example, the Friends of Brookens Library, along with several co-sponsors, hosted two presentations in 2006-07 by renowned poet/storyteller Robert Bly. The first was entitled “Poems and Ideas: An Evening with Robert Bly” and the second was titled “What Responsibility Do We Have for the Iraq War.”
Other units, such as those associated with the university’s fine arts programs, expand the cultural offerings and help build a sense of community among the university and the organizations and residents in the central Illinois region.
Center for State Policy and Leadership Programs and Services
The mission of the Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) is “to identify and address public policy issues at all levels of government, promote governmental effectiveness, foster leadership development, engage in citizen education, and contribute to the dialogue on matters of significant public concern.”
CSPL is unique among university-based policy centers in that it houses not only applied research, training, and internship units, but also three media units. The media units include the WUIS/WIPA public radio station, CSPL Publications/Illinois Issues, and the Office of Electronic Media.
CSPL helps facilitate informed and engaged constituents through the sponsorship of speakers series, forums, and publications/programming produced by CSPL’s media units. In academic year 2005-06, more than 2,600 people attended CSPL events, plus those who viewed the live webcasts. These events included the annual Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series and the annual Public Policy Summit offered in conjunction with an online summer course.
CSPL collaborates with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs in cosponsoring an annual luncheon series on Public Policy, Governance, and Administration held in downtown Springfield. Six programs are held each year drawing an audience of 80–100 individuals in state government, education, associations, civic organizations, and the media. These programs cover a variety of topics such as the state budget, diversity in state government, and election results.
CSPL maintains a large mailing list for promotion of its annual Lincoln Legacy Lecture series, policy summits, and other forums and special events. CSPL advertises its events in local media and also targets specialized audiences. The Illinois Channel, the state’s version of C-SPAN that was launched by CSPL, re-airs CSPL programs on its network, thereby giving UIS statewide visibility.
WUIS/WIPA reaches an audience of more than 22,000 listeners every week in central and western Illinois. WUIS/WIPA is the hub for the Illinois Public Radio Network, providing daily reports from its statehouse bureau to 13 public radio stations across the state, including stations in the Chicago and St. Louis areas. The station produces a weekly news and analysis program called “State Week in Review,” which features representatives of the media and UIS faculty. The station also recently produced a special show entitled “With Malice Toward None: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and His Views on Religion.”
The station provides live coverage of election results and the Governor’s budget message and sponsors community events, such as the Young Musicians contest and the “This I Believe” writing contest for area students. WUIS/WIPA is in the process of completing a performing arts studio, which has been financed primarily through private donations. As a community service, WUIS/WIPA provides the Radio Information Service, a special channel for the visually impaired. The station also offers podcasts and downloadable programs from its website and streams its programming on the website. WUIS is converting to a digital signal and in the future will have additional digital channels. In addition to its 24-hour radio service, including community calendar announcements, WUIS communicates with the community through meetings of its Campus and Community Council, its website, its quarterly member newsletter, fund drives, and speaking engagements.
Illinois Issues, written, edited, and published by UIS for over 30 years, is the state’s leading public affairs magazine with a circulation of 3,500 and an estimated readership of 12,000. With two-thirds of its subscribers in the Chicago region, Illinois Issues is an important connection between UIS and Chicago. Moreover, its readers are the opinion leaders of the state. It is published monthly and is considered an authoritative, nonpartisan source of reporting and analysis on state government and politics. The magazine also communicates through its website, statehouse blog, advertising, and the semi-annual meetings of its statewide advisory board held in Chicago. Illinois Issues maintains editorial independence from the university. Faculty with expertise in public affairs issues and who can write for a general audience are among the writers who are featured.
The Office of Electronic Media (OEM) produces broadcast-quality video recordings of UIS events as well as contract production work, such as public service announcements, documentaries, and training materials. For 20 years the unit ran the local community access cable television channel until 2006, when Insight Communications decided to operate the channel itself. OEM videotapes UIS forums, lecture series, guest speakers, and a variety of campus events, which enables live webcasts and later video-on-demand and podcasts of the events, extending the audiences for these programs. OEM also videotapes commencement each year. It produces DVDs of the programs it tapes and makes them available for faculty use and for sale to the public at a nominal charge.
OEM is currently developing the UIS Campus Channel, a “closed-circuit” television channel that will be available in buildings throughout the campus and will feature a campus calendar of events, broadcast of guest lectures and special events, films, and sporting events. The channel can now be seen in University Hall, student housing, and select other buildings and soon will be available over the UIS website. To date, programming has included the campus calendar, Student Government Association meetings, CSPL’s Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series, student musical performances, a variety of guest speakers, and the local weather forecast.
The partnership between the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) and the Illinois Channel, the state’s version of C-SPAN, is a unique example of collaboration. The CSPL provides the Illinois Channel with broadcast quality tapes of CSPL events. The Illinois Channel then distributes these tapes to educational and local government cable television stations around the state, thereby extending the reach of UIS public affairs programs.
CSPL also communicates with its constituencies through various other mechanisms, including an annual report that highlights the accomplishments of the CSPL’s units; an annual convocation for all CSPL faculty, staff, students, and guests where each unit makes a presentation; an electronic newsletter; and the CSPL website.
The UIS Survey Research Office (SRO), another unit in CSPL, specializes in serving the survey needs of state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations. To illustrate, since spring 2001, SRO has conducted the annual Illinois Motorist Opinion Survey for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), a mail-out survey that is sent to 3,500 Illinois households. Since spring 2002, SRO has completed 2,000 to 2,800 telephone interviews each year for IDOT’s Division of Traffic Safety, conducted both before and after major seat belt and DUI enforcement and media campaigns. SRO is in its third year of surveying over 3,000 clients and employers who have been served by the Workforce Investment Act program for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Recently, the Survey Research Office conducted an Illinois Statewide Survey on Citizen Views of and Participation in State Government. The results were presented at a forum on state government and citizen participation and are available on the web.
UIS Alumni Association
Another group that informs and engages UIS constituencies is the Alumni Association at UIS. As one of three branches of the University of Illinois Alumni Association (UIAA), the UIS Alumni Association publishes a quarterly magazine called Horizons. It also sponsors a series of Taste of UIS luncheon programs held in downtown Springfield each year, featuring alumni and faculty as guest speakers.
UIS engages the public through making its facilities available for conferences, meetings, and community events that bring a variety of constituents to campus. The Office of Conference Services coordinates over 800 events yearly. While about 78% are campus-sponsored events, the remaining 22% are community constituents. In fiscal year 2006, events sponsored by outside groups drew 14,506 people to campus. Summer institutes, such as those for independent-living youth leadership, judicial education, or small public library management, create an especially strong bond with the campus.
Brookens Library is open to the public. People with a Springfield public library card have borrowing privileges. UIS alumni have borrowing privileges and members of the University of Illinois Alumni Association (any campus) also have borrowing privileges as well as access to a journal database. Additionally, membership in the Friends of Brookens Library is open to the public. The Library sponsors special events open to the public such as guest speakers and satellite teleconferences. Brookens Library participates with other local libraries in offering Black History Month programming.
Brookens Library houses the Central Illinois Nonprofit Resource Center (CINRC). CINRC is a Cooperating Collection of the Foundation Center, the nation’s leading authority on philanthropy dedicated to serving grant seekers, grant makers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public. As a member of their nationwide network of libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit agencies, Brookens Library provides visitors with free public access to grant maker directories, books on fundraising and nonprofit management, and the Foundation Center’s electronic database—the Foundation Directory Online Professional. In addition, CINRC subscribes to Illinois Funding Source, a database produced by the Donor’s Forum in Chicago listing many foundations located in and focusing on Illinois. CINRC at Brookens Library offers workshops and electronic and print resources to help nonprofit organizations find private grant funding.
The UIS Observatory also is open to the public. The UIS Observatory has welcomed more that 125,000 people since 1977 to its Friday night “Star Parties,” hosted by UIS astronomy professors. UIS developed the world’s first telescope dedicated to people with disabilities. People who use wheelchairs or have other physical disabilities are invited to Sunday night “Star Parties.”
Among UIS’ greatest assets in reaching out to the community is Sangamon Auditorium, a 2,000-seat performing arts venue that serves Springfield and central Illinois with a broad spectrum of local and touring cultural, arts, and entertainment events. Since it opened 25 years ago, over two million people have attended events held at the auditorium. The Illinois Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Ballet Company are resident organizations of Sangamon Auditorium and present performances throughout the year. Many community organizations rent the auditorium or the UIS Studio Theatre to present events. The auditorium has a volunteer usher corps of over 300 individuals.
The mission of the Sangamon Auditorium is “to present and support varied cultural and educational professional art activities of high quality to the many audiences on campus, in Springfield, in Sangamon County, and in the surrounding areas, reflecting a broad representation of music, theatre, and dance in all their forms.”
The auditorium communicates with the campus and public on local television through a weekly feature about events at the auditorium, media advertisements throughout central Illinois; participation in public radio on-air fund drives, local magazine features, participation in Arts Connection, a community-wide arts service effort in Springfield, as well as through direct mail, the website, speaking engagements, and other means.
Since 1997, Sangamon Auditorium has offered an educational outreach program, Class Acts, in which students in grades K-12 in the Springfield and surrounding areas attend special performances at the auditorium. Sangamon Auditorium offers an average of 13 performances each year that are geared toward Illinois Learning Standards set by the state and in support of the arts and arts education. The Class Acts program also offers seat scholarship opportunities, which are underwritten by donations from local businesses and individual donors.
The auditorium also offers other educational programs. A program called Class Pass provides discounted tickets to main stage performances that have an educational value. These tickets are offered to schools in the area that have interest in experiencing professional performing arts. The auditorium also encourages UIS, Lincoln Land Community College, and Southern Illinois University students to partake of the arts by offering a student discount to all of the main stage performing arts performances with the hope that these productions will help these students learn to appreciate the arts and carry on the tradition to future generations. In compliance with various different grants that the auditorium receives, the auditorium often provides a workshop experience for local students and others within the community. For example, a professor from Illinois State University spoke to two different groups of students within the community about opera in preparation of them seeing The Barber of Seville in the Sangamon Auditorium.
Sangamon Auditorium uses a variety of mechanisms to promote the arts and arts education. Examples include the OnStage Magazine, which identifies performances in the performing arts season and is mailed a few times each year to an active patron mailing list of 35,000 names within central Illinois. Class Acts brochures and Learning Stages are mailed to approximately 7,000 educators in the Springfield area. Posters are distributed around the community that advertise events in the performing arts season as well as other attractions that come to the auditorium. The auditorium also uses e-mail blasts, the Friends Newsletter, and postcard mailers.
UIS Fine Arts and Forensic Programs
As a result of efforts to enhance student life on campus in the early 2000s, UIS now has thriving theatre, music, visual arts, and forensic programs. These programs not only provide increased opportunities for students, but they also offer performances and events that are open to the public.
- A major theatre production is produced every semester and theatre coursework is offered to students. In 2006, the UIS Theatre Program and Sangamon Auditorium hosted the Illinois State High School Drama Festival.
- The Music Program includes organized groups (band, chorus, chamber orchestra, jazz combo) and affiliated organizations (UIS World Percussion Club, the UIS Native American Flute Circle, and the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band). The Music Program has biannual showcase concerts and offers music courses in areas such as music technology. The music organizations participate in public performances in the community and the Music Program hosts the All-City music festival and a Band Day, which was held for the first time in 2006 in conjunction with the UIS Homecoming.
- The Visual Arts Program includes student gallery exhibitions, student art club activities, studio art workshops/lectures, as well as art coursework. The Visual Arts Gallery is open to the public.
- Through the Forensics Program, students participate in forensics tournaments and performance showcases. Courses in forensics are also offered.
The events sponsored by UIS fine arts programs provide cultural value to the community and may serve as a means for encouraging dialogue. For example, in 2006-07, UIS hosted a panel discussion of the life and work of sculptor Preston Jackson, along with an exhibit of some of Jackson’s work. In describing Jackson’s work, a UIS Visual Arts professor noted that Jackson “creates bronze figurative work, monumental steel sculptures, and small abstract pieces as well as two-dimensional work. His pieces are often politically charged, and they explore themes such as war, racism, sexism, violence, and forgotten histories” (UIS Press Release, September 15, 2006).
Also in 2006-07, the UIS Theatre Program encouraged reflection and dialogue with its production of Two Rooms by Lee Blessing. This play features a hostage drama set in the Middle East with the two rooms being a small room in Beirut where an American is held hostage by terrorists and a room back home that his wife has emptied of furniture to symbolically share in his ordeal. The play centers on these two rooms, the imaginary conversations between the hostage and his wife, and real meetings between the wife and an ambitious reporter and a detached State Department official.
Other Programs that Engage the Community
UIS also hosts a variety of other programs that engage the community. For example, each year UIS hosts an International Festival that features dance, music, and food from a variety of countries. UIS international students play a major role in providing the dance and music for this event. The university also attracts members of the community to the campus through UIS athletic events and the youth baseball and soccer fields that are located on the UIS Campus.
Advisory Boards and Community Boards
The university’s relationship with the community is enhanced by having UIS administrators, faculty, and staff serve on community boards and by having community members serve on UIS advisory councils or “friends” groups.
UIS administrators—including the Chancellor, Associate Chancellor for Constituent Relations, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Provost, Deans, Center for State Policy and Leadership Executive Director, and others—serve on numerous community boards and maintain a regular schedule of speaking engagements to community groups. UIS participates in the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Business and Education Committee and the Chancellor meets regularly with the Mayor of Springfield.
Members of the community serve on many of UIS’ community advisory councils or friends groups. This includes the Chancellor’s Community Advisory Council, the WUIS Campus and Community Council, the Friends of Brookens Library, the Friends of Sangamon Auditorium, the Development Advisory Board, the Campus Alumni Advisory Board, and alumni councils of the colleges.
Assessment, Springfield Community Opinion Survey Results
In spring 2005, the UIS Survey Research Office conducted a telephone survey of Springfield area households for the UIS Brookens Library and the Springfield public library. In addition to questions about library-related topics, the survey included questions that related to community attitudes about and contact with UIS. The results reported in this section are based on responses from 361 respondents who were selected randomly from the Springfield community.
Respondents were asked “Overall, would you say your opinion of the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) is: very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative, very negative; or would you say you don’t know enough about it to have an opinion here?” Among the respondents, about three-fourths (73.5%) expressed a positive evaluation, while about one-fourth (23.3%) said they did not know enough about UIS to have an opinion. Less than one in twenty (3.2%) had a negative opinion about UIS. Among those with a positive impression, those who had a “strong” impression outnumbered those with a “somewhat positive” impression by more than a two-to-one margin (44.5%:19.2%).
The survey also asked whether a household member had been to the UIS campus in the past 12 months, not including for school or work. For those households with no current UIS student/employment connection, 63.4% replied affirmatively to this question. Among the households with no current UIS student or employee, the reasons for UIS visits included: Sangamon Auditorium event (57.1%), soccer/softball games (17.0%), meetings/training (12.2%), library (11.5%), and other events (12.2%). (See Springfield Community Survey Report.)
These results suggest that UIS is viewed favorably in the community and that many households are taking advantage of university resources or events.
UIS Strategic Plan Action Steps
Action steps in the UIS Strategic Plan that relate to informing and engaging constituencies include:
- Develop public affairs events and forums, speakers series, and academic and policy conferences
- Promote and facilitate faculty presentations and service activities to community, business, professional, and advocacy groups (Action Step 5)
- Increase public recognition of UIS activities and accomplishments (Action Step 8)
- Take the university to the community through outreach to civic organizations, businesses, governments, and schools (Action Step 314)
THE DISTINCTIVE ORGANIZATION
Recognizing Strengths and Challenges
UIS’ major strengths in relationship to public affairs are summarized below.
- UIS has a strong tradition in public affairs and civic engagement. This emphasis is stated in the university’s mission and is reflected in the university’s internship programs, the curriculum (e.g., the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience requirements, service-learning opportunities), the teacher-scholar model, public events, and community collaborations.
- The Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) plays a leadership role in promoting public affairs at UIS. Through the CSPL’s training, applied research, internship programs, media units, and many collaborative programs, it successfully connects with both internal and external constituencies.
- UIS supports diversity through its recruitment and academic support programs, its curriculum, campus activities and clubs, community volunteer opportunities, and collaborative projects with the community and other institutions of higher education.
Areas of concern or in need of improvement are listed below.
- Integration of the public affairs mission with UIS’ vision of becoming a premier public liberal arts university with professional programs will create both challenges and opportunities.
- Given the university’s successful track record in community engagement projects, it is important for the institution to develop means to sustain partnerships.
- The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results for UIS undergraduate students indicate that UIS students are not participating in some of the university’s public affairs-related activities (e.g., internships, community service/volunteer work opportunities) and are not attending campus events and activities (e.g., special speakers, cultural performances) to the extent that students at other master’s institutions are. Further analysis and research is needed to identify why this is the case and what type of improvements may be needed. The expansion of service-learning courses and the integration of speakers into the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience may have a positive impact in the future.
Building on Strengths and Addressing Concerns
UIS has a proud heritage in public affairs engagement. As the university prepares for the future, it will be important to build on past successes and to address weaknesses and challenges.
The university has a good track record in producing applied scholarship and conducting training for governmental and nonprofit entities. It has good relationships with the city and other educational entities in the community. Nonetheless, as the funding for several major initiatives (the COPC and GEAR UP programs) is no longer available, it will be important to find other sources of funding or other means for supporting public affairs in the Springfield community and beyond.
Engaging students in public affairs also will be a challenge. While some students are attracted to UIS largely because of its public affairs offerings, other students, such as older students with family and work commitments, may have less time available to participate in these offerings. As faculty, staff, and students seek to balance the competing demands on their time, the university will need to find ways to make it possible for individuals to participate in pubic affairs offerings. These methods may entail further efforts to integrate course requirements with public affairs and civic engagement (similar to the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience approach) and utilize technology to help facilitate participation.
As the university continues to pursue the public affairs mission, it will be important to monitor performance indicators and to evaluate the impacts of new initiatives, such as the expansion of service-learning opportunities. Performance indicators that will be tracked include:
- Number of experiential learning placements—graduate and undergraduate;
- Annual number of grant applications, grant awards, and dollar value of grants and contracts;
- Number of events, forums, and lectures; and
- Number of community outreach activities.
UIS is making progress in the implementation of the strategic plan action steps that relate to public affairs.
- UIS is expanding its service-learning course offerings to provide students more opportunities to participate in volunteerism and civic engagement. These courses are addressing community issues in the Springfield area, as well as in other parts of the country and abroad.
- In 2007, UIS observed a Day of Dialogue and a Day of Silence in recognition of diversity and social issues associated with diversity.
- In 2006-07, the UIS fine arts programs engaged the campus and the general public in dialogue through an exhibit of Preston Jackson’s art work, along with a discussion panel on his work, and the production of Lee Blessing’s Two Rooms, a hostage drama set in the Middle East.
- As noted in Chapter 2, a planning committee has begun working on the first annual campus dialogue which is expected to take place in 2008-09. The Annual Campus Dialogue will focus on a theme involving a broad issue or topic of local, state, national, and/or global relevance and will include a variety of opportunities for intellectual and experiential engagement among students, faculty, staff, alumni, as well as constituents in the external community.
- The Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) also is undertaking activities that are tied to civic engagement.
- In June 2007, CSPL sponsored a public forum on state government and citizen participation which featured a speech by Alan Ehrenhalt, Executive Editor of Governing, one of the nation’s premier professional magazines on state and local governments. Ehrenhalt’s speech on “The Role of the States in the 21st Century” was followed by a presentation by the Director of the Survey Research Office, who discussed the results of a new Illinois state-wide survey on the community’s perception and knowledge of state government.
- CSPL is developing the Illinois Democracy Project, which will be dedicated to increasing citizen participation and strengthening democratic institutions and processes in Illinois. The project will use integrated strategies of research, application, engagement, and participation to achieve its goals. As part of this initiative, CSPL plans to establish an Advocacy Academy, which will consist of a series of seminars to provide training and develop leadership skills for individual and nonprofit organizations to make them more effective in outreach and lobbying.
- CSPL is continuing its partnerships with other civic and governmental entities. For example, it is developing a partnership with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and the Papers of Abraham Lincoln has entered into a joint project with the U.S. Library of Congress to help make additional Lincoln papers available to the public and scholars.