Success Story: Mikal Sutton
UIS Student works on Barak Obama campaign
By Sherrika Green - Guest Commentary
UIS communications major Mikal
Sutton describes her applied study term on the Barack Obama campaign as,
“more than I could have ever hoped for.” Sutton’s eight-credit
hour internship, which spanned over the summer and fall semesters, showcased
her diverse array of multi-tasking skills. Sutton’s passion and
hard work was influential in planning a public relations event in support
of Barack Obama during the 2004 Senate elections.
As part of her duties, she oversaw 10 counties in the central Illinois
region in which she gathered volunteers and community chair members. She
worked with local democratic leaders in Sangamon County such as Mayor
Tim Davlin, Democratic Chairman Tim Timoney, Senator Dick Durbin and Representative
Lane Evans to coordinate their speaking time slots. She even decorated
a special scene for the media that included lights and sounds. In the
end, Sutton’s planning attracted an audience of hundreds while taking
part in history. I sat down with Sutton to learn more about what led her
to this experience.
Sutton’s interest in politics stemmed from her previous employment
and academic experience. After Sutton graduated from high school in 1993,
she attended Illinois State University to pursue a degree in education.
It was early on her studies when she decided to pursue a different path.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out once I started at ISU
that education was not the right program for me. I left and decided to
invest two years to being an AmeriCorps volunteer. Although, I enjoyed
the experience of helping at-risk youths better their reading abilities,
I wanted to do more. It wasn’t until I started to work in sales
that I noticed I really enjoyed interacting and being around people. On
a whim, I decided to go back to school to pursue a communications degree.
Once I started the program, the curriculum drew me in and made me feel
comfortable. I felt like I was doing something I was good at and meaningful.
The program’s faculty pushed me to do the best that I could possibly
do. They were fantastic!”
As an older continuing student, Sutton wanted to take part in an experience
that would help her to find out her strengths as a learner and worker.
She sought the help of the Applied Study program in her dilemma of choosing
an experiential learning experience. “I came into the applied study
office to look for options to finish up my UIS requirements. I didn’t
feel comfortable taking a PAC or LSC. I wanted to do something that would
project me further after I graduated. I wanted something that would challenge
me. A lot of times when students go through school, they tend not to see
the big picture. Everyone is so focused on classes. Communications has
so many different avenues one can take that I felt a little lost. I really
wasn’t sure what I could do.”
As Sutton worked with placement developer Janet Kirkham, ideas started
to form. “I knew that I didn’t want to go into journalism
or print media. I’ve always been interested in politics because
ultimately in the end, politics is communication. Both draw from a lot
of aspects of life. You have to read, understand concepts and know what
is going on around you--whether it’s pop culture, or interacting
in a personal relationship. For this particular AST, I expressed my ideas
with Jan on volunteering on Obama’s campaign. We made some phone
calls and talked with the people there and then all the pieces started
to fall into place.”
Sutton drew from her communications coursework to excel in gaining additional
job duties and confidence. “Initially, I was a glorified office
lackey. I did data entry and made phone calls to volunteers. As time went
on, I projected myself as capable of doing more. When I found out my supervisor
had the responsibility of handling the Champaign stopover for Obama, I
seized the opportunity to voice my ability to plan for Springfield. I
basically took everything that I had learned from a rally earlier in the
year I helped with and started calling volunteers. We called close to
2,500 people and put up 500 fliers in the area so people would know about
Obama’s date and time of arrival. The day of the event I thought
I was going to lose all my hair because it started to rain. I spent most
of the day on the phone calling everyone I could think of to inform them
of the rain location. By the time the event started, everything went off
without a hitch. Everyone was so pleased. It was such a rush.”
Sutton’s job duties in the campaign expanded outside of her normal
realm. “One of the greatest things about doing an AST is that it
allows you to put yourself out there in the workforce within the safety
net of school. It gives students the opportunity to take chances and see
what the results are. As I was typing in my final notes in my AST journal,
I started to cry. Two years ago, I was working at a bar with no motivation
or direction in my life. I would have never guessed I’d be in the
position I am now, having the chance to work on a successful campaign.
AST gave me an incredible sense of fulfillment. I realize that I could
hold my own.”
Applied Study Term’s dedicated instructors also helped Sutton to
flourish in her AST seminars. “I really enjoyed the fact that Jan
Kirkham and Bill Jordan put so much effort into what they taught. I was
able to call either one of them up to say ‘hey this is going on,
what can I do?’ They gave me good ideas on how to figure out for
myself, what I wanted to accomplish with my goals, what I needed to look
out for, and how to decide what I needed to learn. It was also nice to
able to share with my classmates my experiences as I listened to theirs.
It made me feel like I wasn’t the only one starting on this new
Sutton’s advice to future UIS undergraduate degree seeking students
interested in doing an applied study internship. “AST is for people
who are a little bit more ambitious because you have to make your own
way. You have to go outside your normal comfort zone and put your heart
into it. There is no syllabus telling you what you need to learn by the
end of the semester. You have to set your own objectives. I think the
basis of this program has so much potential yet it is so underrated. I
don’t hear a lot of people screaming, ‘Hey this is great,
and you should do this.’
In the future, Sutton wants to use her communications degree in conjunction
with her internship experiences to work as a public relations and event
coordinator. “Although, I am a little concerned about what happens
in my future, I know that I have gained an incredible foundation from
my studies here at UIS. There comes a time when you have to say, I’m
going to go for it and do the best job that I can do. Yes, there will
be a time when you make some mistakes but that’s OK, it’s
all about learning and moving forward.”
For more information about these and other paid and unpaid internship
opportunities, stop by the AST office (SAB 50 A) or call for an appointment
(206-6640). The AST office is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.
Visit our web site for information about Applied Study Term. http://www.uis.edu/appliedstudy
caught up in name brands
Carly Hawkins - Columnist
There once was a time in my
life when I was blissfully unaware of such things as Kate Spade purses
or Manolo Blahnik shoes. My own consciousness of such labels came with
age, a fashionista older sister, and watching too much “Sex and
But I got alarmed when I went home this past weekend and my little sister
– newly 13 – informed me of a classmate with a Louis Vuitton
purse. The thought of a middle schooler wandering around with a $500 purse
filled with pencils and Bonne Bells is disturbing, to say the least.
I’ll say it: what’s happened to the world?
There was once a time when kids were kids for longer than this. We’re
not talking about New York City or Los Angeles or London or Paris, here,
cities where kids are ensconced in the culture of hip. We’re talking
about Middle America, east central Illinois, a town with a population
of less than 20,000. A town where getting stuck behind a tractor on a
main thoroughfare isn’t unusual. A town where there’s only
one restaurant with tablecloths. A staunchly middle working class town.
Which is not to say that small town kids aren’t also label conscious.
When I was growing up, you had to wear Guess Jeans and Keds shoes and
carry an Esprit bag. Somehow, though, that seemed more accessible. That
was something you could get in a local department store, even if it seemed
a bit pricey.
But now, with the advent of reality television, kids are seeing daily
the way that celebrities really live. It’s not just about seeing
a shot of their dress on the red carpet, it’s not just about buying
their records. It’s about trying to emulate their style –
and that’s a lot more expensive now than when we all wanted to look
Eighth graders are watching “Fabulous Life” on VH1 and seeing
where Britney Spears gets her tank tops. They’re watching E! and
seeing how much Angelina Jolie paid for lunch. And, clearly, they’re
watching MTV and seeing Jessica Simpson decked out in Louis Vuitton. And
suddenly, Gap and Old Navy just aren’t cutting it anymore.
I think there’s an entire subtext here where I could get in to this
as an indicator of why other countries hate us, but I’m not going
to. I could talk about it as a sign of the times, but I think that’s
a little premature for my age. So what does a junior high age girl carrying
her Beanie Babies around in a purse mean?
I say it’s a symptom of the American Dream.
I guess you could say that it’s the American Dream that got us where
we are today – unbridled ambition and a hard work ethic built this
country in a lot of ways, from the American Revolution to the technology
revolution. Americans are all about the bootstraps, about the guy who
goes from abject poverty to the head of a Fortune 500, with more money
than they know how to deal with. We like that.
And more importantly, we believe it can happen to us.
Americans might be the most cynical people on the planet, but secretly
we’re also the most optimistic, at least when it comes to ourselves.
We’re going to make that income bracket leap, we’re going
to own the small island nation, we’re going to be the one getting
all the breaks from the Bush administration tax cuts.
So in the meantime, watching “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”
has evolved into trying to actually live it ourselves – and not
because 14 karat gold toilet seats are readily available, but because
of the Louis Vuitton stores in the suburbs, where people are apparently
buying outrageous status symbols for 13 year olds.
I’m not saying don’t buy kids nice stuff. I’m not saying
that this girl doesn’t deserve what is clearly a really nice present.
What I am saying is that we shouldn’t try to live like people we
are not – and I’ve always liked to think that our little corner
of the world here could roll their collective eyes at the drooling over
labels, because we are about more than that.
I get caught up in it, too, sometimes. But it’s then that I like
to remember that my Target clearance rack stuff looks about as nice –
and I wouldn’t mind purchasing it for my little sister, either.
of the feasibility of Greek life on campus
Life Committee, a subcommittee of the SGA, is charged with exploring
the potential, both negative and positive, impact of Greek letter
organizations on the UIS campus community. The following represents
the third in a four part series, where members of the committee examine
the pros and cons of various aspects of Greek Life. After the guest
commentaries have been presented, the committee will develop a survey
to be held concurrent with spring SGA elections, to assess the student
body's sentiments regarding Greek Life at UIS, after which the committee
will report to the SGA and campus administrators with their findings
While the stigma of Greeks
as rapists and alcoholics may have been true in the past, Greek
letter organizations have come a long way since to curb their stereotypes
as cesspools for alcohol abuse and sexual assault.
Greek organizations all have sanctions regarding violations of alcohol
and sexual assault policies. Most go far beyond the slap on the
wrist that UIS Housing students currently receive for alcohol violations.
Members can be excluded from future events, placed on probation,
or have their membership revoked. Many universities, like Washington
State, require members to attend further trainings when violations
More actively than other student organizations, students in fraternities
and sororities often require alcohol and sexual assault training
for their members and provide outreach programs for the campus community.
On our campus, this would be an incredibly positive influence on
the student body, as currently the only students on campus with
any mandatory training on substance abuse and sexual assault are
first-year Capital Scholars, and this requirement is lax, at best.
Statistics report that over 10 percent of sexual assaults among
college-aged students occur in Greek houses; however, what the opposition
doesn’t say is that students who are members of fraternities
and sororities comprise 10 percent of college students. Taking into
account this new statistic, we can see that sexual assault is no
more prevalent in Greek-letter organizations than among those students
who don’t go Greek.
There is no concrete evidence that the addition of Greek life will
increase the occurrence of sexual assault or binge drinking on campus.
In fact, when properly construed, policies and procedures in place
within Greek-letter organizations, in addition to the outreach programs
that they sponsor, could likely help to decrease the incidence of
sexual assault and binge drinking here at UIS.
During any discussion
of Greek Life, the topics of drinking and sexual assault must be
approached, and to dismiss this important topic could put UIS students’
safety in jeopardy.
UIS reported only one forcible on-campus sexual assault from 2001-2003,
and 12 liquor law violations during 2003. This information solidifies
the perception of UIS as one of the safest public universities in
Illinois. However, we need to keep these statistics regarding sexual
assault and alcohol abuse in mind.
The addition of on-campus fraternities and sororities could increase
the occurrence of drinking, especially in Greek houses. A study
conducted by the University of Washington confirms this concern.
That report found that members in Greek houses were more than 10
times more likely to engage in binge drinking, compared to those
students living in dormitories.
According to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1 in
4 women will be raped during their college experience. The most
common “date rape” drug is alcohol, which is often available
at on-campus parties. Of reported sexual assaults nationwide, 90
percent involve alcohol, and a Justice Department report shows that
10.3 percent of rapes on college campuses occurred in fraternity
houses. And according to ICASA, fraternity members commit 55 percent
of gang rapes by college students.
So, as we can see, binge drinking, which occurs heavily in Greek
houses, is inextricably linked to increased incidence of sexual
assault, which also occurs disproportionately among Greek-letter
organizations. To avoid both binge drinking and sexual assault,
UIS would do well to stay its course and keep social Greek-letter
organizations out of this campus.
By allowing fraternities and sororities on campus, if UIS is to
follow the national trend, the occurrence of binge drinking and
sexual assault will dramatically increase, and UIS may lose its
reputation as the safest public institution of higher learning in
Spotlight Josh Evans serves as public service intern
By Adriel Ippolito- Guest Commentary
“When you’re driving
on an Illinois highway and go over a bump, and curse and scream ‘when
are they going to fix this road!,’ I can tell you . . . guarantee
you . . . that if there is a problem, it is being addressed somewhere
within Illinois Department of Transportation,” states Graduate Public
Service Intern Josh Evans.
Evans originally heard about the GPSI program from friends when he was
an undergraduate at Illinois College. “I heard GPSI at UIS was a
good program to get into if you were interested in a career in state government.
I thought that was something I’d be interested in, so I put my application
together and here I am,” remembers Evans. “I interviewed at
IDOT with my current supervisor, Joe Ori, who is a former GPSI intern.
I knew very little about IDOT, so they handed me their 5-year program
book, which was over 900 pages of various road projects. I didn’t
know what any of it meant! But the interview went well and I was picked
for the position. I’ve gone from knowing nothing to having a fairly
strong grasp of what goes on in IDOT, all the way from initial planning
stages to project completion.”
Evans, a graduate student in the political studies program at UIS, will
graduate in May. His interest in political theory, combined with strong
research skills, were pivotal in giving him the background necessary to
succeed in his internship with IDOT. “One of the benefits of this
position is that it has allowed me to gain work experience that enhances
my theoretical learning. I’ve come to learn so much about state
bureaucracy and the transportation process,” states Evans. “Something
I really think is wonderful about IDOT is that they work really well as
a group in order rise above unpredictable challenges and make things work.
I feel lucky to have been placed in a bureau that has that kind of camaraderie
among staff. Hopefully, I will take that attitude with me wherever I go.”
Evans is currently applying to the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship
Program at UIS for a fulltime, 10-½ month paid internship with
the Illinois State Legislature. “At IDOT, I gained more awareness
of state and local politics and an interest in the transportation planning
and development process. I’ve used transportation issues as my policy
essay topic and discussed road fund diversions in applying for the ILSIP
internship. I couldn’t have spoken intelligently about road fund
diversions prior to working at IDOT. I had no idea of the impact of resurfacing
projects, bridge rehabilitations and traffic safety improvements before
I started the GPSI internship.”
Evans touts the benefits of the GPSI program: “GPSI is a great resume
builder. The program pays for your tuition, pays you a stipend and it’s
an opportunity to meet people and form business relationships. I’ve
forged friendships in the GPSI seminar classes that I hope I will take
with me the rest of my life. I recommend it to any graduate student interested
in any major.”
For over 30 years the GPSI program has provided interns with the opportunity
to simultaneously begin a career while earning a master’s degree
at UIS. To be eligible for the GPSI applicant pool, you must be admitted
to a UIS graduate academic program and submit the following documents:
GPSI application (Section II of the UIS graduate admission application),
a resume, an educational goal statement, three letters of reference and
official transcripts. For first round consideration, the GPSI application
deadline is March 15. Go to the GPSI website at http://gpsi.uis.edu to
download an application. For more information, please stop by the Graduate
Intern Program office in PAC 514, call 206-6158 or e-mail email@example.com.