Chancellor Ringeisen's Remarks
June 17, 2008
UIS: Positive Impact on the Community
This spring I celebrated seven years as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield. My wife, Carolyn, and I marvel at how quickly time as passed since we arrived here from North Carolina in 2001. Since that time we have met and gotten to know so many wonderful people in this community.
As you can imagine, the university is a great conduit through which to meet people from all walks of life and economic backgrounds. Everywhere I go, I hear stories about what the university means to the people of this community. And I have come to appreciate and value greatly what this community means to the university.
Not long ago, I met a gentleman who told me that his education at UIS had helped him turn his life around after he was laid off from his job. Now in middle age, he has found his footing on a new path with renewed confidence in his own value and worth. He has made a vow to himself to continue learning for the rest of his life, both in and outside the classroom.
It is truly a pleasure to meet graduates and learn about what they are doing with their lives and how their education has made a difference. There are nearly 8,600 UIS graduates living and working in Sangamon County – more UIS graduates than live anywhere else. And Springfield is the number one city of residence for our graduates, with nearly 6,400 living right here.
I guess then it shouldn't be a surprise that fully 25% of the members of the workforce in this county have received at least one degree from UIS, and 28% of this city's workforce has received at least one UIS degree. That adds up to a lot of impact and influence on the local and area economy. And it illustrates how vitally important the link is between the university and the community. One cannot function effectively without the other.
Someone once said they couldn't walk five feet in the state capitol building without running into a UIS graduate who was now working as a government professional, or a legislative intern or someone doing research from the university.
Speaking of interns, UIS' Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program is the premier graduate-level program of its kind in the nation, placing interns on all four legislative leadership staffs in the General Assembly.
And the Graduate Public Service Internship Program has 124 interns working in 14 state agencies. Over the years, many of those interns have gone on to managerial and leadership positions in the public sector.
During its nearly 40 years in existence, the university has developed strong connections to state government. Our students have the opportunity to learn and work in the living laboratory of state government.
And during that time, UIS has become the tenth largest employer in Sangamon County with a $37 million payroll. We put a lot into the local economy.
There are many ways in which the university helps prepare individuals to work in productive jobs, seek promotions and stay current in their career fields.
Before I tell you about some specific ways in which the university provides such preparation, I would like for you to indulge me in some outright, shameless bragging about UIS.
After all, I am the lead cheerleader for the institution.
UIS is proud to be a public, liberal arts university and a campus of the world-class University of Illinois. UIS is the place where you can earn a U of I degree in classes that are small and with professors who know you. It is our special niche in Illinois higher education.
We pride ourselves in being warm and welcoming and, at the same time, offering relevant coursework on a technologically-advanced campus. Our students choose from 42 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels (21 bachelor's degree programs, 20 master's degree programs, and one doctoral program), online courses, and 16 degree programs completely online. We are considered a leader nationally in providing online education.
In fact, we were recognized in this past year by the Sloan Consortium, based in New York for being the best institution in the nation across the board at offering online education.
The best in the nation! That sounds pretty good to us, and it is.
Our vision for UIS is bold. We aspire to be recognized as one of the best five small public liberal arts universities in the country.
It is bold. We really mean it, and we know we are not there yet.
But you see, for a New York group to consider UIS the best at online education is one important step on our way to be recognized among the top five small publics.
At the U of I, you are not used to hearing or talking about a small university and the importance of a small public university.
We aspire to be the great small public university that Illinois does not now have.
Illinois has outstanding large and mid-sized universities, but no great SMALL ones, like Miami in Ohio or the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Now, I want to tell you more about how your public university in the state capital plays a vital role in helping to prepare the local and area workforce. It's a responsibility we take very seriously because it's about helping our community thrive and become a better place to live. It's also about attracting new businesses to Springfield and bolstering our economy. A city and a university work together to make all that happen. One cannot become great without the other.
The Center for Entrepreneurship at UIS assists innovative small businesses in the area with matching grants and other assistance and works in collaboration with EntreNET, a network of organizations and individuals in greater Springfield designed to form one seamless program of opportunity for entrepreneurs. It's all about encouraging development of business in Central Illinois.
Besides 42 degree programs, the university offers several certificate and professional development courses that provide specialized knowledge and skills for the professional. They include course sequences in business process management, community health education, emergency preparedness and homeland security, environmental health, IT project management, law for human services and social work, legal aspects of education, and management of non-profit organizations.
The list goes on: marriage and family therapy, pathway to the principalship, public sector labor relations, school counselor, systems security, gerontology, and women and gender studies.
I didn't name them all, but that gives you a good idea of the range and scope of subjects that are offered to individuals who have already completed a bachelor's degree in any major.
In addition, hundreds of people come to the university every year for professional development seminars and workshops as well as conferences and other events coordinated by our Conferences Services staff. UIS is the venue for a variety of continuing education activities that range from probation officer training to an annual week-long conference for librarians who come from small libraries located throughout the state. During this fiscal year, a total of 874 such events were held at the university.
That is a huge number!
Another important way in which UIS has a positive impact on the community and, indeed, all of Central Illinois, relates to the many cultural activities that are held at the university each year.
And there are a growing number of such events and activities, especially during the last five to seven years. Campus cultural life has really taken off with the addition of a theatre program, music groups, and more focus on the fine and performing arts. Sangamon Auditorium and the Visual Arts Gallery are great assets serving to bring UIS and the community together.
UIS is now one of four major art venues in Springfield, joining the Illinois State Museum, Springfield Art Association, and Prairie Art Alliance.
The Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series sponsored by UIS' Center for State Policy and Leadership attracts nationally-known Lincoln scholars to the university each year. Free and open to the public, the series focuses on subjects from Lincoln’s time that are still relevant today.
I can barely keep track of all the events and lectures that the public is invited to. We host the meetings of the World Affairs Council and bring speakers to UIS each year to talk about environmental issues, economic forecasts, and security measures. We host a series of foreign films in Brookens Auditorium each semester, and hold an international festival every fall.
The 2,000-seat arena in our new Recreation and Athletic Center is home to our Prairie Stars men’s and women's basketball teams and our women's volleyball team. I can't tell you what great fun it has been to have so many members of this community come to the games and cheer for our Prairie Stars. I hope you will consider coming out this fall to enjoy some of the games with us. I'll warn you that we really get fired up for our teams!
As I mentioned earlier, my biggest role as chancellor is to tell people what our vision is and to be the lead cheerleader for an institution that is really coming into its own.
I believe we're on the right path in building relationships with the community and Central Illinois and in serving the educational, social and cultural needs of its citizens. We can always do more, and we will do more.
We see a very bright future.