Wednesday, March 31, 2010

UIS College Democrat and GOP student leaders have different views, but share one roof

University of Illinois Springfield political science majors Matt Van Vossen and Ryan Melchin have been friends since their freshmen year, even with very different political views.

When it came time to pick a roommate their junior year they decided to move in with each other. That’s when all the jokes started. Van Vossen is the president of the College Democrats on campus, while Melchin serves as the chairman of the College Republicans.

“(People) sort of made fun of us a little bit, then they said maybe this is what our actual leaders should be doing working together and being civil to each other,” said Melchin.

The two try to leave politics at the door when they come home, but living under one roof does have its advantages. The pair has coordinated watch parties for events like the State of the Union, which have brought both parties together on campus.

“It just comes to a point where you just stop debating about it and settle on the idea your not going to change the other person’s mind,” said Van Vossen.

Van Vossen says during the health care debate every television in their town house was tuned into C-SPAN at one time.

“I think my other roommates might have got sick of that, but it was only a few nights,” he added.

The political duo lives with two other roommates in campus housing, one a democrat and the other leans independent.

“When I moved in, there were all democrats living in the house. There was a lot of democrat stuff hanging up. I had a sign that my buddy got me that said ‘drill, baby, drill’ and I decided without telling them to just put it up,” said Melchin.

The two hope they will in fact serve as role models for politicians.

“I think it would be interesting if they put John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi in the same house and forced them to live together. I’d like to see that,” joked Van Vossen.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Grounds crew works to keep UIS campus beautiful

The University of Illinois Springfield grounds crew is responsible for maintaining 370 acres of landscaping on campus every year. It’s a big job for the crew of 10 people, but one they feel passionate about.

“We’re trying to make sure everything looks good for the public and everyone concerned who utilizes the campus,” said Joan Buckles, UIS horticulturist and grounds worker supervisor.

The grounds crew is in charge of all of the campus turf, perennial beds, trees, shrubs, and parking lot areas on campus. During the winter they clear snow from campus streets and sidewalks, but it’s during the spring when they’re busiest.

“This is a hectic time of the year because of weather and getting things cleaned up before dormancy breaks,” said Buckles.

Crews have been busy laying mulch, which will allow them to plant annual flowers on campus in early May. Buckles expects many of the trees on campus to start blooming even earlier.

“Springtime is beautiful on this campus. There are just so many flowering trees,” she said.

Buckles has identified more than 300 varieties of trees and plants growing on the 750 acre UIS campus. She gives a lot of the credit to early campus planner, who invested in high quality trees and shrubs.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

UIS Admissions Counselors keep busy visiting local high schools

Amanda Bly
knows how to multitask. As a UIS Admissions Counselor she’s out the door every morning at 7:00 visiting an average of 3 high schools per day along with stops at community colleges.

Bly is one of eight admissions counselors who travel around the state and beyond meeting with prospective students and answering their questions about the University of Illinois Springfield.

“More and more people through my 4 years have gained some familiarity with the campus and they realize we provide students with a U of I degree,” said Bly.

When she’s not on the road, Bly is making follow-up calls, sending emails and postcards to students she’s met. She covers an area from Sangamon County to the Indiana border.

Bly says most frequently students ask her about the cost of tuition, what majors UIS has to offer and class size.

“I really like the small classrooms and I’m just really excited. I really like it,” said high school senior Mallory Beck.

Beck will graduate from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield this May and she’s already committed to attending UIS.

“She (Bly) told us about the teachers and how they have a close relationship with their students,” said Beck.

SHG senior Will Pufundt is looking forward to attending UIS for two reasons. He wants to join the new men’s baseball team and is also excited about the small class sizes.

“I really like the hands on teaching, because I don’t think I could do well without the hands on teaching,” said Pufundt.

UIS is hoping to admit 350 new freshmen next semester in an effort to boost the undergraduate population. The ultimate goal is to top an enrollment of more than 5,000 total students.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Students find home away from home with Host Family Program

During his senior year, as he was beginning to explore options after graduation, UIS student Jeremy Winters was introduced to Darryl Thomas, who works for the government in an entrepreneurship program in Springfield.

“He took me in like family, invited me over for dinner, and I met his family,” Winters said. “I told him about how I want to start my own businesses and own some businesses. He really taught me how to network.”

The positive relationship between Winters and Thomas was created through the Host Family Program, which is part of the Diversity Center at UIS.

The Host Family Program was started last fall by Herb Caldwell, admission and community partner counselor for the Diversity Center. Caldwell said the concept of the program came from both his personal experience and programs he has seen as part of international student offices on other campuses.

“In the town I grew up in, when dorms would close, there would always be students from the local college at my home,” he said. “My parents would feed them meals, they’d come to church with us, we’d celebrate holidays when they couldn’t get back home, and they stayed with us for two to three weeks at a time. And then a lot of schools have something like this with international students, so I thought to combine the two elements.”

And so the Diversity Center’s Host Family Program was created to provide a home away from home for UIS students.

“We started the program in hopes of giving our students new opportunities to engage with people here in the Springfield community. It provides a link and helps with the transition process,” Caldwell said.

Winters, who graduated in December 2009, studied Communication at UIS and played for the men’s basketball team. He has family members who own businesses, and he’d like to go into business for himself one day. Caldwell saw Thomas and his family as a perfect fit for Winters’ host family.

“It’s just been a really nice experience,” Winters said. “Helping each other is the way we’re all going to get ahead.”

To become part of the Host Family Program, both families and students fill out an application and are then matched up. The students then are able to spend time with members of the host family, such as having dinner at their home or talking with them about future goals.

Currently, seven students at UIS are participating in the program. Caldwell said he sees the program as mutually beneficial for both the students and local families.

“Some of the people in these host families are alums or people who are doing well in the business community, and some of our students are trying to get to the places where the host families have already been,” he said. “So there’s the whole networking aspect and building connections that might help them with a job after they graduate.”

“And I don’t want to understate the fact that it provides comfort outside of the classroom, which helps with the transition and ultimately retention of students,” he added. “We’re always looking for solid families to participate; it makes the experience here at UIS stronger and better.”

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Monday, January 25, 2010

UIS women's basketball player volunteers in West African hospital

Susan Coryell has known ever since she was a little girl she wanted to be a doctor, now she’s getting her chance to help others.

The UIS junior women’s basketball forward/center spent two months of her summer break volunteering in Ghana, West Africa at a military teaching hospital. She served as a nurse helping to change bandages and care for patients.

“Every day I just looked forward to going in and helping out and they got to know me,” said Coryell.

Coryell was in Ghana in July 2009, when President Barack Obama came to the country to speak about African relations and meet with Ghana’s President John Atta Mills. She was able to take pictures next to Air Force One and watched as Obama arrived in the country.

“I haven’t seen him in the United States, but I go abroad and I get to see my own president,” said Coryell.

Volunteering is nothing new for Coryell. As a member of the UIS women’s basketball team she’s involved in efforts every year to improve the local community.

“One of the attributes or foundations of NCAA Division II is service, so anytime we can give back to the community I think it’s positive,” said Marne Fauser, UIS women’s head coach.

Coryell and other members of the women’s team helped collect canned goods for UIS’ 2009 Holiday Star’s Project, which raised 3 tons of food for the Central Illinois Foodbank. Players are now launching a new partnership with the Special Olympics to help members improve their basketball skills.

“I just like being around kids. Giving back is always good,” said Coryell.

Coryell spends much of her time off the court teaching at the Cox Children's Center on campus. She hopes to one day become a pediatrician or orthopedic surgeon.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

UIS archives preserving regional history in central Illinois

If you’re looking for family genealogy records from the 1800s or researching the history of your town, the historical archives and special collections section at the University of Illinois Springfield may hold your answers.

The archives, located in the basement of Brookens Library, contain more than a million historical documents from 14 counties in central Illinois. The UIS archives are part of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository system collecting marriage, birth and death records, along with various court files.

“If we’re going to study our past we have to have authentic records of what was done in the past,” said Thomas Wood, UIS archivist.

The archive also contains a complete history of the foundation of Sangamon State University and its transition into the University of Illinois system. Wood is responsible for collecting all administrative records, pictures and other documents that have long-term historical value.

“That’s really the function of archives is to document our world for the future,” said Wood.

The archive is made up of over 3,000 cubic feet of records and serves as a training ground for students studying historic preservation.

“This has helped me learn how to sort, clean and learn what the archive has, so when I go to do my research as a grad student I know where to go,” said Anne Suttles, graduate student in public history.

Among the archives more interesting documents is an original copy of a survey conducted by Abraham Lincoln in the 1800s, which features his signature.

“This isn’t his actual hand righting. It’s a record copy that was made at the same time of the survey he made,” said Wood. “Documents that were in his hand are so valuable those have been sent to the vault at the Illinois state archives”.

The UIS archive is primarily used by people in the community who are researching their family tree, but not all the requests staff get are local.

“We also get a lot of reference use from all over the country and even other countries. We’ve had people from Europe and Russia using our oral history,” said Wood.

All archives/special collections’ materials are open to the public unless restricted by law or contractual agreement with a donor. The material must be used in the archives reading room, but photocopying and scanning are available.

For more information on the UIS archives visit:

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

UIS jumps on Google Wave for online learning tool

The University of Illinois Springfield is riding a new wave of online education.

UIS is one of the first universities in the nation to begin using Google Wave - an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration - for online learning and teaching, beginning in October 2009.

“We’re really excited to be working with Google Wave here at UIS,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. “One of the wonderful features of this new product is that it combines the Web 2.0 technologies that we have been accustomed to using on an individual basis. It molds all of these into a kind of an email or wiki format. And it enables students and others to use Web 2.0 technologies in a collaborative fashion.”

Wave was developed to answer the question: “what would email look like if we were to invent it today?”, Schroeder said. The product was released to developers in May and to the public as a beta in October.

“Email was invented nearly 40 years ago. As we developed technology over time, email was created to emulate snail mail and IM, or instant messaging, was more to emulate telephone conversations,” Schroeder said.

A wave, on the other hand, can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly-formatted text, photos, videos, maps and more. In developing Wave, Google looked at “the way in which we can use technologies as they exist today rather than as analogs for technologies developed years ago,” Schroeder said.

And the new technology allows for many opportunities within the online classroom. Wave enables students to connect not only with each other in the classroom, but with people all around the world, Schroeder said.

“The technology allows for all kinds of collaborations,” he said. “You can drag and drop documents right into a wave rather than as attachments. You can come up with final product that can be saved and shared with a broader group.”

Other features of Google Wave include the ability to embed web pages, bring up live weather forecasts, look at maps and instantly change those maps to satellite views, Schroeder said. There is also a feature that will translate between different languages.

One of UIS’ efforts in testing the online teaching capabilities includes a collaboration outside of the classroom between students at UIS in the “Internet in American Life” course taught by Schroeder and Burks Oakley and students in energy studies at the Institute of Technology in Sligo, Ireland. The students are discussing the impact of the Internet on the perception of energy sustainability in Europe and the United States.

“Wave provides an opportunity to collaborate with people in other countries, and in our case, we collaborated with people in Ireland,” Schroeder said. “It’s phenomenal - our students meeting in a wave.”

COLRS also has several upcoming projects regarding Wave, including multiple national presentations, online workshops through the Sloan Consortium and training sessions for UIS faculty on using Wave. Two training sessions have already been conducted on campus.

“UIS is really out in the forefront of this,” Schroeder said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to use this technology to reach beyond our campus and our online program. It breaks down institutional and geographical boundaries.”

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Sangamon Auditorium patron donates funds for handrails

Patrons at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium no longer have to worry about taking a tumble on the steep stairs thanks to a generous gift.

Pam Reyhan has been enjoying shows at the auditorium for the past 15 years and knows how tricky the stairs can become, especially in the dark. When she was asked if she’d be willing to help finance the installation of handrails to prevent patrons from falling, the choice was simple.

“I hate to say it, but I’m getting to an age where I need them and all my friends need them,” said Reyhan.

Reyhan donated the funds to purchase and install the handrails for the 2,018 seat auditorium, which opened in February of 1981.

“I talked to the architect about why they had designed the railings the way they ultimately emerged,” said Robert Vaughn, Sangamon Auditorium director. “(The architect) said I was a lot younger then.”

Associate Chancellor of Development Vicki Megginson led the effort to secure the funding, while Facilities & Services Administration Executive Director David Barrows came up with the design.

The handrails were installed by the beginning of the 2009-10 season and the auditorium hasn’t experienced a single fall since. Vaughn says in the previous season, before the handrails, they had nine minor falls reported by patrons.

“We are very grateful for Pam’s support in doing this and helping us with the project,” said Vaughn.

Reyhan’s family has owned Sangamo Construction in Springfield for almost 100 years and she’s glad to be able to give back to the community.

“I’ve had so many complements. You have no idea the number of people who have come up to me and said we love the handrails thank you so much,” said Reyhan.

Reyhan says she also enjoys the fact that her gift to the university will be long lasting, helping others long into the future.

“It will last until they fall apart and they need new ones and I hope to god I’m not here then,” joked Reyhan.

For more information about Sangamon Auditorium visit:

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Karen Swan researches educational technology as Distinguished Professor

Dr. Karen Swan admits that she became an education teacher “by default.”

Swan was a single mother when she got a grant from the government to return to school.

“There were only certain things you could do, and one of them was education, so that’s what I did,” she said.

Swan, a professor in the Teacher Leadership program at UIS, now serves as the James J. Stukel Distinguished Professor in Educational Leadership. Her investiture ceremony took place in the fall. She has been at UIS for about a year, after coming from Kent State University in Ohio, where she was an endowed chair for research on educational technology.

Swan’s family moved to Chicago, but she was still commuting to Ohio when she heard about the opportunity to fill the professorship at UIS.

“It’s a perfect fit; I truly love it,” she said. “It’s specifically for online learning, which I couldn’t do very much of at Kent, and it’s kind of my hobby. I can teach again, which I love, and the people are fabulous. I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity.”

The Stukel Professorship was created by the University of Illinois Foundation to honor James Stukel, the 15th president of the University of Illinois system. The professorship includes support for research and grant work and was created for a candidate who possesses expertise in and scholarly accomplishments relating to online teaching and learning issues.

Swan became interested in the field of technology within education while completing her graduate assistantship.

“I had a graduate assistantship teaching gifted kids. The only thing they insisted on was that we use computers, and that was the beginning of computers,” she said.

“I'm an old hippie, and at the time, I thought they were the devil,” she laughed, “but I did it anyway because it kept me going in school. I took a computer class, and it changed my life. I suddenly started understanding math, which I never understood before, and it turned out I was a good programmer. And the rest is history.”

At UIS, Swan teaches a course on educational research tools and a capstone course for the Master’s in Teacher Leadership program, as well as a technology course occasionally. Being a part of UIS’ online teaching and learning has been exciting, she said.

“UIS is known throughout the online learning community as being one of the best schools in country,” she said. “Little UIS in the cornfields is really far ahead of almost any other place I've known. It's amazing.”

Online learning has been shown to be just as engaging as face-to-face learning, Swan said, and new trends continue to emerge in online learning, including using social media in online courses.

“Online learning is growing still by leaps and bounds; we thought it would flatten out, but it hasn't yet,” she said. “Blended learning – the combination of face-to-face and online learning - is growing even faster.”

“Ray Schroeder (director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service) just gave me a Google Wave account, and we’re thinking Wave might replace the learning management platforms we have now,” she added. “There are all sorts of trends outside of educational computing involving social networking which I think are going to become part of mainstream educational technology. People are now trying to figure out how to use it.”

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Monday, December 14, 2009

UIS students build positive relationships while mentoring at Harvard Park Elementary

A group of UIS students pulled out board games of all kinds in the Harvard Park Elementary School gymnasium on Friday morning and quickly paired up with their “Littles” to play.

The group is part of the mentoring program that UIS has in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sangamon County that takes UIS volunteers to several elementary schools in the area once a week to interact with some of the children at the schools.

The program is mutually beneficial for both the elementary-aged students and the UIS students, said Harvard Park Principal Kim Leverette. She said she hopes that the relationships built with college-aged students will inspire the students at Harvard Park to continue their education.

“For many of our students, their background and the homes that they come from, that dream isn’t instilled in them of pursuing higher education,” Leverette said. “So this viewpoint is very instrumental in our kids turning their attitudes around and turning their grades around.”

“It may inspire UIS students to be education majors as well,” she added. “So while it impacts our students, it also greatly impacts students from UIS as well.”

Mark Frakes, a sophomore at UIS, enjoys playing cards games like Uno with his “Little” at Harvard Park.

“He’s pretty good; he beats me a lot,” Frakes smiled.

Frakes has been mentoring for more than a year at Harvard Park through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and has been able to see firsthand how beneficial his involvement is in the life of his Little.

“This gives kids a chance to talk out some of their issues and have a positive older role model because some of these kids don’t have that sort of support system,” he said. “I like coming here to hang out with him. When he has fun, I have fun.”

“I think I’m just as excited to come here and hang out as (my Little),” agreed senior Zach Berillo with a laugh.

UIS freshman April Fountain’s Little doesn’t have a brother or “anyone his age to sit down and play with him,” she said, and he looks forward to the one-on-one time with Fountain.

“He enjoys this every Friday. I think he gets a lot out of it,” she said.

Leverette hopes the program will continue to flourish and even to grow.

“The feedback I receive from the community, from the staff, from the parents is something that we want to build on and nurture, and we want all of those great things to continue,” she said.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Liz Murphy Thomas finds connection in digital media and photography

Liz Murphy Thomas realized that she had a knack for teaching while she was an undergraduate at the University of Florida and worked as a lab monitor for the photography dark room. She began noticing more and more students approaching her with questions instead of their instructor because they liked the way she explained concepts better.

“I always knew I wanted to teach, but that was probably my first cognizant moment that I should be a teacher,” she said.

Thomas began her career as a traditional photographer and has been “amazed” to discover she’s become a portrait photographer. She is most interested in trying to document the way we as people define ourselves in this world, she said.

“Most artists know from time they're little that they want to be in art, but I was never any good at drawing,” Thomas laughed. “But I was lucky that we had a photography assignment in middle school, and I was actually good at that.”

Thomas received her BFA in photography from the University of Florida and her MFA in photography and digital imaging from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She now teaches digital imaging and digital media classes at UIS and has been traveling the world for her art and her ideas. Most recently, she has been to England twice, Seattle, Alabama, Denmark, Prague and Milan, Italy.

“When I travel, I’m either going to present at conferences about my work and the ideas and concepts behind my work or in support of the exhibition of my work,” she said. “In Milan, I was featured in a gallery there, and the show was actually about Abraham Lincoln. It was funny to go all the way to Italy to talk about Abraham Lincoln.”

When not teaching or traveling, Thomas also serves as director of the Visual Arts Gallery at UIS, which entails developing a schedule of exhibitions for the academic year. This year, there are seven exhibitions as well as the annual benefit and auction for the gallery.

“We try to develop a really broad range of exhibitions and really bring into the Springfield area things people wouldn’t have a chance to otherwise see,” Thomas said. “We try to develop events that enhance the exhibitions or maybe add more information, like lectures or brownbags, to help explain the art. This is a university gallery, so we try to make the experience as educational as possible.”

This year, the gallery is also hosting the Juried Alumni Exhibition, which is held every two years, and spring senior exhibition for senior art majors, which is held annually.

“The whole thing is organized, arranged and hung by the students,” Thomas said. “The senior show is linked to a course called ‘Professional Skills,’ which is a capstone course that all art students take.”

Having the gallery at UIS benefits both students and community members, in addition to giving students experience with arranging a gallery exhibit, Thomas said.

“Part of being an artist is learning about the promotion of your work and display of artwork,” she said. “I think it's very important for the students to have professional gallery experience as part of their education because hopefully some of them go on into the fine arts field, and if nothing else, this is their first opportunity to have a real art display.”

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WUIS statehouse reporter reflects on German visit

WUIS/Illinois Public Radio statehouse reporter Amanda Vinicky is back in the United States after spending a week in Germany learning about media and culture.

Vinicky was one of 16 young journalists from the U.S. selected by the German-American Fulbright Commission to visit the country. Journalists from radio, television, newspapers and web outlets all took part in the trip.

“The whole thing was absolutely amazing,” said Vinicky.

The trip included a tour of various German media outlets where Vinicky was able to learn how stories are covered in the country. She not only got to network with German reporters, but also her American colleagues on the trip.

“It’s great to develop a network of people that are really into the media and have the same interests,” said Vinicky.

Vinicky says she was impressed by the interest that the German public shows in the news. Part of the trip included learning how media plays a role in the day to day life of Germans.

“It was interesting and inspiring to me to see so many people reading newspapers in cafés,” said Vinicky.

She notes that German newspapers are “upfront” about the angle they take when covering a story. Papers are known for being liberal, conservative or moderate.

“People know what they’re getting,” said Vinicky.

Vinicky says German reporter’s envy the United State’s when it comes to political coverage. They feel the U.S. does a better job holding public officials accountable with more hard hitting coverage.

Vinicky has been reporting for WUIS public radio for nearly 4 years out of its bureau in the state capitol press room. During that time, Vinicky has got to cover major events like the impeachment of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

The Journal offers students hands-on experience in journalism

The Journal
, the weekly student newspaper of the University of Illinois Springfield, is giving students “real world” experience covering the news.

The newspaper is published every Wednesday during the fall and spring semester, when classes are in session. Students also produce one summer edition following up on graduation, news and upcoming events. A special magazine edition of The Journal called “Beyond” is published once every fall and spring semester.

“We try to put the news of campus into an easy readable format for students. That’s who our audience is, so that’s who we’re trying to go after when we put out a paper every week,” said Luke Runyon, The Journal editor-in-chief.

The Journal employs a staff of about a dozen students, including two graduate assistants and has grown from an eight-page paper without full color to a paper that is typically 12 full color pages. Students are paid minimum wage to work at the newspaper reporting, serving as editors and photographers and working on layout design.

“We’re hoping to get going with a dot-com or dot-org website, so we can sell online advertising and that would provide multimedia experience,” said Debra Landis, student publications adviser.

Landis helps critique stories, photos and columns in the newspaper, but story selection and editorial decisions are left in the hands of students.

“Only by allowing students to generate their own story ideas, their own editorials, and their own photo selection can it truly be the kind of real life experiences that we want them to have,” said Landis.

Students cover public affairs events like campus senate and Student Government Association (SGA) meetings along with student life activities and events.

“It’s going to be amazing for my future career if I’m going into journalism or some kind of reporting it’s going to be invaluable experience,” said Runyon.

Landis says employers are looking for interns and young professionals who have practical work experience.

“There’s always going to be jobs for journalists. It might vary or evolve, but people are always going to want to know the news,” said Landis.

For more information on how to become involved in The Journal, contact Luke Runyon at or log onto

The Journal is distributed not only on the UIS campus, but at the Springfield Public Library and Illinois State Capitol.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Video message from Chancellor Ringeisen

Chancellor Richard D. Ringeisen has a video message about the U of I Board of Trustees’ visit to the UIS campus and the latest on the search for a new U of I President.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Students hold Halloween makeup workshop

The “Off University Drive Players”, a new student organization on the UIS campus recently held a Halloween makeup workshop to share theatre tricks.

“The goal for the Halloween workshop is to create a good cute monster so people can learn how to do this on their own” said member “Lucy Black”.

Black says it’s best to practice what you’re going to do in advance, so you know how long it will take and what techniques to use. It’s also important to make sure you buy the right type of makeup. Theatre and Halloween makeup usually require several layers that you don’t use day to day.

The club was formed to educated students on campus about theatre. They take trips to different plays and hold workshops like this one.

“Our goal is to further the entire theatre experience for any and all UIS students,” said Black.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

UIS continues Lincoln Legacy

The University of Illinois Springfield continues its dominance as a leading institution in the study of the life of President Abraham Lincoln. The 2009 Lincoln Legacy Lecture series was held on October 15, 2009 focusing on “Lincoln and the Environment”.

Dr. Mark Fiege, associate professor of History at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins talked about how Lincoln’s views on the environment were shaped by his time on the farm working outdoors in Illinois. Dr. Fiege is the author of a book on the environmental history of the United States that is forthcoming from the University of Washington Press in its Weyerhaeuser Environmental Series.
Fiege met with a group of UIS students before his lecture to answer their questions about Lincoln.

“We’ve had a long history of top notch Lincoln scholars here and this just continues that,” said UIS History Club President Matt Parbs.

The Legacy Lecture was moderated by Dr. Michael Burlingame, professor of History and Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at UIS. Burlingame taught History at Connecticut College for over 30 years before accepting the appointment at UIS this year. His recent two-volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) has been described as the definitive study.

“I’m deeply honored to hold the Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies and I hope I can live up to the high standards set by my predecessor,” said Burlingame.

Burlingame travels all around the world speaking about the life of our 16th president, but plans to return to Springfield to study at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum.

Watch the entire Legacy Lecture in the Video on Demand section

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WUIS's Rich Bradley to Anchor Last Newscast

After 35 years leading the newsroom at WUIS-WIPA/Illinois Public Radio News Director Rich Bradley will anchor his last newscast on September 25, 2009.

Bradley has been a part of the radio station since the day it went on the air as WSSR in 1975. Bradley is considered the father of the Illinois Public Radio Network, which he created to allow other public radio stations around the state to voluntarily share stories.

Bradley has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and city government during his more than four decades in radio. He came to Springfield in 1965 to become news director at WCVS radio. Bradley later went on to take a job with the Illinois News Network as a capitol beat reporter before coming to WUIS radio. Bradley attended the U of I at Urbana-Champaign and graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“All these years I’ve been reluctant to let go of this child of mine, but the time has come. The technology is at a point where I feel like I’m falling behind the curve rather than staying out in front of the curve,” said Bradley.

Bradley’s advice for young journalists is to focus on good writing and study history.

“Working at the university and in the university environment with young students has in a lot of ways I think kept me young,” said Bradley.

WUIS is currently in the middle of a multi-million dollar upgrade to all digital radio equipment. Bradley says he plans on keeping track of the changes even in retirement and isn’t ruling out voicing holiday specials. Bradley also plans to visit other public radio stations that are part of the Illinois Public Radio network that he built.

For more information on listener-supported WUIS pubic radio visit their website at

Watch the full raw version of our interview with Bradley:

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Student Volunteers Create 9/11 Video

Students from the University of Illinois Springfield’s Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center have put together a video in remembrance of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Student and staff volunteers traveled around the UIS campus asking students what impact 9/11 had on them, where they were when the attacks happened and if they think it united the country.

“It’s probably the defining event in young people’s lives on campus since they’ve been alive it’s been the one event that has impacted the entire world,” said Jordan Jeffers, Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center Americorps VISTA.

The project is being done as part of the first ever 9/11 National Day of Service, which will be the culmination of President Obama’s Summer of Service.

Jeffers hopes the video interviews will spark discussion about the importance of the events and inspire people to work towards civic engagement.

The video will air on the campus cable channel at various times through Sunday.

Watch the full video of what the volunteers created below:

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Diversity Center helps campus celebrate differences

By Courtney Westlake

Snacks, comfortable couches, a big-screen television and a caring staff draw students into the Diversity Center – Student Life Building 22 – whether it be for studying, watching a popular TV show with friends or discussing the need for a particular service with a staff member.

“The Diversity Center is a space where students can come and be whoever it is they want to be,” said Herb Caldwell, admission and community partner counselor for the center. “But more importantly, we are made up of staff who are really student-oriented, who are really going to help the students get connected with other resources. That is really the strength of the Diversity Center - helping all students from all backgrounds and all cultures.”

The Diversity Center was created a year ago at UIS to develop the understanding of differences through educational, cultural and social activities. The opening of the center kicked off with an open house during Welcome Week 2008.

The Diversity Center fulfills a great need to the UIS campus, Caldwell said, helping students, staff and faculty to celebrate the differences between people.

“It's a diverse world; we come from so many different backgrounds - geographic, ethnicities, religious, cultural, how we identify sexually,” he said. “A lot of times, misunderstandings come from ignorance. So what the Diversity Center is really trying to do is bring all these different things together so we can celebrate these things that make us different.”

“You may not agree with everything, but you want to have understanding so there can be acceptance,” Caldwell added. “That is key, to not just have tolerance but acceptance.”

Many changes and progress have been made since the opening of the Center, Caldwell said, including the extension of the center’s hours, especially in the evenings and weekends.

“Being student-friendly, you have to be up and at 'em when the students are,” he said. “We try to really keep an open door policy in practical sort of way. Students rise late and are up late, so we try to be accessible to them.”

The Diversity Center is made up of staff members Caldwell, Jeannie Capranica, who is the program manager, Yolanda Beamon, the center's graduate assistant, and Dr. Clarice Ford, who is the associate dean of student support services and director of the Center. Under the Center also falls the Women’s Center – directed by Lynn Otterson –the LGBTQ Resource Office, and the Center for First-Year Students, Caldwell said.

“We make sure we have dialogue and co-exist peacefully in terms of unity as a campus,” Caldwell said.

The Diversity Center is offering several new programs this year, including the Necessary Steps mentoring program that connects first-year students with older students and the Host Family Program, which enables local alumni and community members to serve as models of success to students.

“Jeannie also runs the Cultural Dine-Out program, which is a wonderful program where students can meet and go feast out in the community at different ethnic restaurants,” Caldwell added. “It provides dialogue and an opportunity to learn and experience different cultures.”

Students are first priority at the Diversity Center, and the Center not only works with other offices in Students Affairs, but also on the academic and social sides as well, Caldwell said.

“We want to really meet students' needs on every level, always helping with the students,” he said. “And we do provide a lot of emergency assistance - students without books, a student living in the townhouses without food, or any services within the community- but there doesn't need to be any great need to come in and hang out.”

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Professor utilizes ecology background for History Channel

By Courtney Westlake

When the History Channel decided to produce a series called “Life After People,” Dr. Matt Evans, assistant professor of biology at UIS, was one of the international experts they contacted for the show.

“They were hypothetically examining what the world would look like tomorrow, a year from now, a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, without humans – if humans were to disappear tomorrow,” Evans said. “It is an interesting hypothetical concept. I prefer to look at what the world was like before people - before dinosaurs, the Ice Age, and the evolution of humans, but the History Channel wanted to take this apocalyptic kind of twist to the idea of what the world would look like and how long it would take to recover. They wanted to ask me what the wildlife would do since I'm wildlife specialist.”

Evans is originally from Canada and earned his Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in 2003. His doctoral thesis was on wildlife ecology and the effects of forestry on wetland ecosystems in British Columbia. His background fit quite nicely with the questions the crew from the History Channel had for their show.

Evans traveled up to Chicago to meet with the crew in December for a three-and-a-half hour interview to discuss things like how long it would take the wildlife to recover if humans were wiped out, what kinds of behavioral consequences might occur and what kind of competition between animals might arise that humans currently suppress.

“They also asked a number of questions about the spread of naturally-occurring diseases in the animal population, such as rabies, which humans are trying to quarantine,” Evans said. “So they asked a lot of questions about how these diseases, which humans are trying to eradicate or quarantine, how they would spread and affect the natural population of animals without humans to stop the diseases from spreading.”

Evans said he wasn’t nervous because the History Channel crew was small and relaxed.

“It was a very fun and enjoyable experience,” he said. “It was an enjoyable conversation to ask these questions and to imagine what the world might be like and what animal populations might do without humans.”

The segment aired at least three times in April – “students came up to me saying they had seen the episode on three different dates,” Evans said – and Evans was also part of a promotional commercial for the series, which reportedly even played in movie trailers. Evans was pleased with both the show and with the exposure of UIS name, which was used in a caption during his interview, both during the show and the commercial.

Evans has been teaching at UIS since August 2007. Before arriving at UIS, he spent four years teaching at Mount Allison University, one of the “top undergraduate universities in Canada,” he said. He was looking for a position in a city about the size of Springfield when the opportunity opened up to come to UIS.

“I’m happy to be here. I enjoy the city and the size of university,” Evans said. “I like that we can build a rapport with students. We know our students by their first names and a little bit about their background and why they are enrolled in a certain program.”

Evans teaches courses on ecology, conservation biology of birds and mammals, human physiology and more at UIS. He has also been conducting research in the Arctic – northern Alaska and northern Canada, by the North Pole – since 2003, and has made several trips to the Arctic for research this summer.

While there, he has been studying general wildlife ecology and Arctic animal ecology projects on a variety of species and mammals, including caribou and grizzly bears. He has also been studying several bird species in great detail including golden eagles, swans, and a number of species of ducks.

Next year, Evans is anticipating taking students up to the Arctic with him and expanding his research projects and assisting students on projects as well.

“My goal is to continue this research indefinitely,” he said. “I’d like to conduct this Arctic research annually and continue to write about it and publish papers about it and, of course, get students involved with it.”

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Commencement Moments 2009

UIS' 38th Commencement Ceremony was filled with emotional and celebratory moments as hundreds of students received their diplomas on Saturday, May 16, 2009.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

New admissions counselor focuses on international students

By Courtney Westlake

More and more college students today are looking to go beyond the borders of their native countries to study abroad, and that has become a positive thing for United States and for UIS.

Though facts like the U.S. is one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to education can sometimes deter students from other countries from seeking to study here, universities like UIS also have a lot of offer, and that is what Samba Dieng is using to counteract those drawbacks.

Dieng arrived at UIS in December 2008 as the first-ever international admissions counselor who specializes in international recruiting. Dieng, who was born in Senegal in West Africa, received his master’s degree in international relations and political science from Indiana State University and decided to pursue a career working with international students.

“Recruiting international students is crucial to any institution,” Dieng said. “International students bring differing perspectives to the classroom and to the dormitories. They are great addition to any campus. International students also bring in tuition dollars, which is important.”

International recruiting had not been a priority at UIS in previous years due to the fact that UIS has only recently become a four-year institution, Dieng said, but that is changing. UIS now has an international recruiting taskforce on campus to discuss issues involving international students and recruiting strategies.

“A well-reasoned approach, especially for an institution that has not really been in this business before, is to target very specific areas, like Asia and Latin America, instead of trying to recruit from all parts of the world,” Dieng said. “Specializing in specific areas will help us not only with understanding the cultures there but also with our future and where we want to have a presence five or 10 years from now.”

Competing on the international scene can be extremely challenging, especially being in competition with countries like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, who are not only very aggressive in terms of recruitment but also have country support, Dieng said.

Additionally, the effects of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were tremendous as students found it difficult to get a visa to come to the U.S. and the U.S. lost much political credibility in other parts of the world, he said. More recently, the current economic crisis has also slowed down international recruitment because students are worried about the future of the U.S.

And soon, an initiative called the Bologna Accord in Europe will allow European students to move freely to any country in Europe – up to 40 different countries – to study, Dieng said, which could present another challenge in recruiting European students to the U.S.

“That being said, I think we have a whole lot to sell,” he noted. “I don't know of any other country that spends more on students’ success that the United States. You go to any institution and you see an advising center, a writing center, a diversity center - all sorts of centers and organizations focused on students’ successes.”

Part of Dieng’s job is finding out what matters to international students who are looking to study abroad and why UIS and its academic programs could be a good fit for them, which is key to UIS’ success in international recruiting.

“We need a more nuanced funnel when we’re dealing with international students,” he said. “We need better communication because they ask so many more questions than domestic students. We need to mention things like small class size – a 12 to one ratio with faculty – as well as location and safety.”

“The quality of education itself matters a whole lot to international students, and besides location and quality of education, safety matters the most,” he added. “I think any institution needs to put in the time, personnel and resources in order to be successful with the international recruitment initiative.”

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Brookens Library features new Art Wall for campus and community

By Courtney Westlake

Brookens Library is hoping to plan for art gallery space in an future renovation, but since it is uncertain when the renovation might take place, they decided to take advantage of empty space they currently have available for a new Library Art Wall that features artwork by the UIS and local communities.

“For several years, we’ve been thinking that the campus needed a place for exhibiting artwork in addition to the Visual Arts Gallery and a place to bring in additional types of displays,” said Jane Treadwell, dean of library instructional services and university librarian.

Last year when the Library was considering hosting a student art competition, Megan Hunter, multimedia communications specialist at the Library, began exploring different ways to display artwork. She found a convenient hanging system that the Library was able to install, thanks to the Friends of Brookens Library.

Now the hanging system is in place around the corner from the Circulation Desk on the main floor.

“This space I picked particularly because it's a high traffic area in the library,” Hunter said. “A lot of students use the computers here in front of the Art Wall. It’s been an empty space for a long time, and we felt something needed to go there. It has really enhanced the library.”

The first two displays currently up on the wall include paintings by Dr. Bill Abler, professor in Human Development Counseling, and Rachel Hasenyager, office manager in the Office of Alumni Relations.

Now the Library is hoping to get word out around campus and to the Friends of Brookens Library that the Art Wall is available to showcase the artwork of the many talented people on campus and in the community, Treadwell said.

“We hope this is a way to get more people into the library and interested in the library as a place for lots of intellectual pursuits,” she said. “This is the library for the community, and I think it's important that the community members have lots of ways to interact with each other and find out about talents we have on campus.”

“At any university campus, it’s just amazing how many talents there are,” Treadwell added. “What we see is just the tip of the iceberg. We felt this is one way we can contribute to a more vibrant campus.”

To apply to exhibit artwork on the Library Art Wall, contact Marcia Rossi at 206-6597 or

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Professor brings utility regulation focus to UIS through Ameren Professorship

By Courtney Westlake

It was purely an accident that Dr. Karl McDermott wound up as a leading expert on public utility economics and utility regulation.

McDermott was studying for his master’s degree at the University of Wyoming, pursuing a focus in money and banking.

“When one professor retired and the other one got sick, there was no money and banking anymore,” he said with a laugh. “So I ended up taking public utility economics as a placeholder and wrote my master’s thesis on it. Sometimes, you just find something when you weren’t looking for it.”

In April 2008, McDermott arrived at UIS to become the new Ameren Endowed Professor in Business and Government, a professorship that is housed in the College of Business and Management. Through his Ameren professorship, McDermott’s duties include teaching, conducting research and facilitating lectures and seminars for corporate, political and civic leaders.

Prior to being at UIS, McDermott served in numerous roles within the field of public utility economics, including being a commissioner at the Illinois Commerce Commission under Governor Jim Edgar, founding the Center for Regulatory Studies at ISU and traveling the world as a regulation consultant.

“The Ameren professorship was exciting,” he said. “I had been a consultant working in court cases and being cross-examined, and while it was interesting, I missed teaching. With the opportunity to have this endowed chair and have a chance to create a regulatory institution that could do research and educational programs, that seemed like the right thing to do. So I was willing to give up life as a consultant and traveling around the world; now I can help students get into that world, and that’s exciting.”

Through funds provided by the Ameren professorship, McDermott is planning to hire a research assistant this summer, as well as travel around the region to promote the public utility economics focus at UIS.

“One of the things I’m trying to do is reach out to the public utility community, both companies and regulators, and let them know that we’re in the market and turning out students,” he said.

McDermott is currently in the process of creating the Center for Business and Regulation at UIS within the College, he said, which is a major step for UIS’ role in the field of utility economics.

“It’s a place where I hope we can get research money and help try to solve some of the public policy problems,” McDermott said. “It will also hopefully be part of the MBA program, so we’re hoping to have a sequence in regulation so students can get a concentration in regulation or even a certificate.”

One of the first items on the list for the Center for Business and Regulation will be to host the American Gas Association annual meeting in Chicago this summer.

“I’ll be teaching some of the classes, and I’m hoping that we can use this to bring some students up there and introduce them to different people and help them with job prospects, so it has a lot of different angles,” McDermott said.

“We need more students who are interested in regulation,” he added. “This is a potential field for advancing their careers. Regulation can involve all aspects of management, and not just management but also public affairs, public policy, history and other aspects. Hopefully we can get a program up and running and turn out some students. The more we do that, the more utilities and government agencies will come looking for us to supply them with people for jobs.”

McDermott is currently teaching an ECCE (Engaged Citizenship Common Experience) class – Accounting 454 - on American economy and regulation’s role in the American economy.

“Through this class, we’re trying to introduce our students to a wide range of ways in which regulations actually impact our lives,” he said. “I tell students ‘it's from the cradle to the grave - your pediatrician is regulated all the way to your undertaker, and almost everything in between.’ There are a lot of ideas that can pop out and a lot of job opportunities. In today’s economy, where what we’ve seen is the potential failure of a free market process that didn’t have enough regulations to kind of reign it in, this all of a sudden makes the idea of studying regulations that much more important for the students. So they may see this as way of having job opportunities, and I’d like to encourage that.”

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Professor pursues love of singing outside the classroom

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. Michael Lane
, Clinical Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at UIS, participated in school choirs when he was young, but then he found the trumpet in 6th grade and continued to play through junior high and high school. However, when he married his musically-inclined wife, Cathy, and moved to her hometown of Rushville, Illinois, he found a love for singing again.

“There is quite a fine arts orientation to that community,” he said. “They have a very active theater and put on many musicals both through the school and in the community.”

In around 1990, Lane and his wife had the opportunity to join the newly-formed Madrigal group in the area and became very involved with the group. The group performs two out of every three years, practicing every Sunday starting in September (and memorizing between 20 and 25 pieces) until they begin one week that includes three performances in December.

“It’s a full Madrigal performance, which means costumers, sometimes jugglers, dancers, strolling minstrels, and they serve a full Madrigal meal,” Lane said. “It’s been a wonderful experience and very well-received. It’s a bit grueling at times, but we get very good audiences; usually our shows are sold-out.”

Lane currently teaches in the College of Education and Human Services at UIS. He had stepped into just about every position possible in the public school system during his career - from coach and teacher all the way up to superintendent - but when he decided to retire, he couldn't step away from his life-long passion that easily.

So Lane finished up his doctoral degree and came to UIS to teach other teachers.

“I had taught as an adjunct professor in the Educational Leadership Department for a few years, and then I had the opportunity to come here full-time,” he said. “I really enjoy the university; I like the size of the university and the caliber of the students that are here. I feel the university does a good job in supporting us in the opportunity to be creative in our courses.”

When he first began college, Lane was a marketing major, but he found he “just missed school,” he laughed.

“I always liked school; I always very much enjoyed education,” he said. “I thought that I’d really like to teach and coach. So for many years, I taught English and physical education, and I coached football for 11 years, track for 8 years, and 2 years of basketball.”

Both teaching and singing are family-wide interests in the Lane clan. His wife Cathy minored in music in college and taught music full-time when they were first married. In addition to the Madrigals, the couple has also sung with a group called the Schuyler Singers for many years. His grown children - a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Elizabeth (also called Libby) - have both sung and performed throughout their lives as well.

“My wife is very musical; she plays many folk instruments that she learned to play on her own,” Lane said. “My son didn’t pursue music in college, but my daughter got her bachelors degree in fine arts and musical theater from Millikin and got a masters degree from Western in theater performance. She still does regional theater on weekends and evenings.”

Though getting a doctorate was always a goal of Lane’s, he didn't find the time to actually pursue one until his kids were grown and away at college because of all of his musical and family commitments.

His responsibilities at UIS now, among others, include supervising clinical experiences for students in his program, who must complete 240 hours of clinical activity experiences in about two semesters. He also teaches a blended learning course called Supervision of Instruction, so the class meets both online and in the classroom.

Lane said he has found new approaches to technology, such as blended learning, very appealing at UIS and commends the university for its willingness to explore new technology.

“I find this campus to be very dynamic and on the cutting-edge of technology,” Lane said. “The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service and Tech Support are so supportive. It’s wonderful to have that technical support here, and the university is not afraid to explore whatever is most up-to-date in technology, and that’s rather impressive.”

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Conference coordinator keeps busy outside of UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Grant Johnson
doesn’t settle for a life that revolves solely around his daytime job.

Johnson, who is a conference services coordinator, admits that he thoroughly enjoys his career as one of three coordinators that plans conferences and events in coordination with university departments, clubs, organizations and professors to plan and implement their events.

But besides his full-time job, Johnson also pursues a plethora of outside interests that keep him on his toes…literally.

“I’ve been dancing with the Springfield Ballet Company for the past 10 years,” he said. “My older brother was involved in theater and got me involved with the company. The ballet company was looking for additional men, so I met the director, and she asked if I could dance and I said ‘I've done some’.”

Johnson has been a featured performer and dancer with them for many productions.

“I’ve done numerous Nutcrackers. This year was 10th anniversary doing the Nutcracker,” he said. “I’ve done most of the storybook ballets: Swan Lake, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and other performances.”

As if that isn’t enough, Johnson has also been raising and showing Clydesdale draft horses with his parents for the past 20 years.

His family is primarily involved in the breeding aspect, and they also participate in local shows, such as the one held at the Illinois State Fair each August and the National Clydesdale Show in Milwaukee. Last year, they traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to take part in the World Clydesdale Show.

“It’s a family affair, something my family and I are very involved in,” Johnson said. “I just love working with the animals. I do a lot of the hands-on work with the horses; I do a lot of the showing. I love to give them attention and preparation for show. Just like an athlete needs to be trained or have practice, we have to do that with our horses.”

“I enjoy riding,” he added, “but I also like the traditional way of showing draft horses hitching the horses to a cart or wagon.”

Between his hobbies and full-time job, Johnson rarely gets a break, but he prefers it that way. Doing ballet, raising horses and especially working at UIS has allowed him to get to meet so many people.

“With my job I get to deal with so many entities and departments that I get to know numerous personnel,” he said. “I work with food services, building, electronic media, sometimes television, and other personnel around campus. Plus, I enjoy working with students to help them with their events to make them well-attended and successful. I like just making everyone happy and pleased with their event and showing off the university to the best of our ability."

Does he feel he is unique for having such a variety of interests?

“I don’t know if it's unique, but it keeps me busy,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy being busy. Having horses is fulltime job in itself. We don’t live at our property, so we have to go out there twice a day, if not three times a day, to feed them and take care of them. It’s just something I really enjoy doing.”

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Office of International Student Services brings students together

By Courtney Westlake

At this year’s International Festival, Rick Lane noticed that during downtime, members of the Students of African Descent group and the Indian group began to dance together and enjoy each other’s cultures.

That is exactly the environment Lane is working to create, with help from many others on campus, as the director of the Office of International Student Services at UIS.

Organizing the International Festival, held annually, is just one of the responsibilities of the office. Its primary duty is to assist international students with immigration issues, whether they are arriving as new students or maintaining their legal status, and the benefits of that status, in the United States, Lane said.

“We also do programming with the students and for the students, like the International Festival,” he said. “We assist them with tax workshops and cultural adaptation. I am also one of two advisers (along with Dana Atwell) for the International Student Association, so we do welcome parties and other activities to help them interact with each other and get to know the campus and Springfield.”

The Office of International Student Services works closely with numerous other offices on campus, including the Diversity Center, Housing, Student Life and the Admissions office. In fact, a new counselor recently started in the admissions office who is dedicated solely to international students.

“We know how important it is for international students to get a quick response when they’re trying to figure things out from many miles and many hours away,” Lane said. “We wanted someone who could understand their unique needs and questions and respond promptly to those, and dedicate himself to that.”

The Office of International Student Services is located in the Human Resources Building, in the same space as the Office of International Programs led by Jonathan GoldbergBelle. The student services office also includes office manager Sherri Boner, graduate assistant Jolene Vollmer and student worker Reid Johnson. A future goal for both offices is to rename the space the “International Center” to bring all programs together.

The international studentson the UIS campus, including U.S. lawful permanent residents and all non-immigrant visa categories, number around 500, Lane said, which is close to 10 percent of the campus population. The majority come to study at UIS from India, most of those in computer science. The office and the international recruiting task force, which is chaired by Lane, have plans to expand recruiting efforts to parts of Asia, as well as recruit students in a variety of majors and programs.

“We have many students from India, Korea, Japan, China, but we also have students from western Europe, Africa and the Americas – North, Central and South,” Lane said. “We are now going to be concentrating on Asia; that area of the world is sending the most students to the United States, and we would like to grow our international population very quickly. While we certainly want to continue welcoming students from India in computer science, we have a goal of diversifying to other parts of the world as well as what majors they are pursuing outside of computer science.”

While it’s the law to have such a department on campus to provide services regarding forms and legal status, Lane believes the office provides much more than that to the international students who come to UIS.

“I believe that interaction between international students and American students is crucial not only for education of those international students but for - dare I say it? - world peace,” he said. “I don't think there is anything that does as much to help foster good understanding of who were are as Americans, and understanding of the rest of the world, as having international students and American students interacting. They couldn't do that if we weren't here to help that happen; they need someone to be their advocate, their liaison.”

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Computer Science grad student wins 2nd in international contest

By Courtney Westlake

Tejesh Morla
, a graduate student in Computer Science, recently won second place in the General Students category of the MySQL and GlassFish Contest sponsored by SUN MicroSystems. The contest challenged participants to create a web application using MySQL and Glassfish along with Java, Morla said.

"It's a global contest; anyone can participate," he said. "I found out about it because of an email sent by Dr. Ted Mims (computer science department chair)."

Morla's winning project was a basic web application that responds to customers' needs to register on a site to place and view orders, as well as administrators' needs to view and list all registered customers. He then created an in-depth blog entry that detailed the steps he took to develop his application and how he used MySQL and GlassFish in the process.

Morla says the project took a lot of time and research.

"It was a tough task," he said. "At one point, I thought I would never make it. I had problem where mySQL stuff was not syncing with the Java."

The contest began on September 2, and October 22 was the deadline to submit a project, Morla said. He found out he won 2nd place while he was on Thanksgiving break vacationing in Las Vegas.

"One of my friends always says there should be something in your resume which would tell the difference from others, so I thought I should participate in that to get some experience," he said. "I am very excited and can't believe that I happened to win."

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Professor finds expression through poetry

By Courtney Westlake

While writing may not be the most lucrative of careers, Dr. Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor of English, has found that writers, and especially poets, are constantly aware of what is going on around them, what is going on inside of them and are able to record it, which is a unique and interesting way of life.

“I don’t know how many of us will make a living at it, but it is a great life,” Perkins said. “Poetry I like because it distills and intensifies the emotions. One of the reasons we write is to explore both what we know and what others know and to try to come to the truth of the moment. I like exploring the terrains of the spirit and terrains of the outer world. I like the distillation and the intensity of poetry."

Perkins has written for as long as she can remember. In fact, she still has a copy of a book from her childhood that contains the scribbles of the words she used to “write” and then she would “read” her stories to her mother.

“There is not a time in my life when my family can remember me not writing,” she said. “As I grew up, I found genres - creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. I choose a genre by what I have to say; I like to have a grab-bag of genres.”

Perkins began her undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky before moving to Illinois to finish her bachelor degree at Illinois State University. She also earned her master’s and doctorate degrees at ISU and earned a Specialist in College Teaching from Murray State University in western Kentucky. While teaching English and directing the Writing Center at Eureka College, Perkins heard about a “wonderful job that would just be in creative writing and children’s literature” at UIS, she said, and started here in 2000.

“There are a lot of things to like about UIS,” she mused. “In the English department, we’ve had the online degree program, the Capital Scholars program and now there is a shift to having freshmen, which I adore. I like the energy of all of that.”

Perkins is teaching a class this fall in fiction writing, a graduate seminar in fiction writing and an online course in children’s literature.

“In my online children's lit class, I have students in Tokyo, Sweden and an island off Galveston - I have students literally all over the country, so that class is a great deal of fun,” she said. “I’m also teaching fiction writing, which is splendid. It’s compiled of people who have never written fiction before and those who are graduate students who have written a lot.”

Perkins will be taking a sabbatical during the spring semester to complete the third book in her poetry trilogy about NYX, the primal Greek goddess Night. Each of the three books focuses on a specific aspect of the goddess’ being. The first book, called NYX: Mother of Light, is about the “joys of being alive and celebrating the fact that we’re human, and it’s full of resolution,” and the second book, NYX: Daughter of Chaos, is full of poems of “things not resolved,” Perkins said.

The third book of the trilogy is called NYX: Sister of Erebus and speaks about the journey that Perkins has gone through recently with her mother who had Alzheimer's disease. Erebus is the mythological region of darkness where souls must journey from this world on their way to the underworld.

“I’ve been working on this book since 2001, and my mother passed away a year ago in September,” Perkins said. “I want to take and shape the poems I have into the stages of Alzheimer’s so people can know they’re not alone if they must also make this journey.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Perkins is also continuing to work on a project she laughingly calls her “life project”: a book on the early settlers of Woodford County, Illinois, which is about 90 percent complete, she noted.

Though Perkins is so busy that she is barely finding enough time to submit her poetry for publication and readings, she is still doing her best to make time for what she loves. She has been invited to be the featured poet in three different states, and she feels honored at the opportunities.

“It feels really nice that people are inviting me to be a featured poet and that people are giving me feedback about my poetry, saying ‘I like that, I understand it, and it’s what I’m going through right now’,” she said. “I’m doing all the things I like to do; it’s great."

To listen to Perkins read two of her recent poems, watch the video below:

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Monday, November 03, 2008

English course inspires play-writing for Illinois Issues editor

By Courtney Westlake

It was at an alumni event several years ago when Beverley Scobell, projects editor for Illinois Issues magazine, first heard the story of New Philadelphia, a community that was established in Pike County by a free black man in 1836.

“I was captivated by the story; I couldn't believe I had lived this long in the state and not heard it,” Scobell said. “I pitched it as an idea for the magazine about the archaeology being done there.”

Then, after reading the book about the community, called “Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier” by Juliet E.K. Walker, and taking an English class at UIS, Scobell decided to turn out a new form of writing to express her thoughts about the subject: play-writing.

“I thought it was such a story of courage, that it was an incredible love story of a man who so wanted not only his own freedom but also the freedom of his entire family,” she said. “He came to an Illinois frontier not particularly welcoming to African-Americans and established this town. It became a multi-racial town. It apparently was a town where people of all different kinds of backgrounds got along.”

Scobell took a course taught by Dr. Marcellus Leonard, who is now the director of First-Year Programs at UIS. While in the class, she wrote her play about the Springfield Race Riots and New Philadelphia, a story which is not historical but is based on fact, she said. Scobell's play is from the point of view of the “spiritual descendants” of New Philadelphia, families of different races who are caught up in the violence of the Race Riots. A character, Aunt Lucy Ann, the family storyteller, tries to calm the children with the story of New Philadelphia, a place “where character was more important than skin color,” Scobell said.

“I thought the play might be a way to introduce schoolchildren to a part of Illinois history,” she said. “The story I was trying to tell was of New Philadelphia, but the technique I was using was the 1908 riots. Until recently, these two events in our past have not been well-known.”

Leonard recognized the timeliness of the play, Scobell said, and suggested that the UIS TV station produce it as readers’ theatre. Over the summer, volunteers dedicated their time to work on it, and it was filmed a couple of months ago. It will be aired in the near future.

“Characters kept talking to me, and I would go to work on it and find a new name,” Scobell said. “As everybody tells me, I have way too many characters, and it jumps around to different time periods, so it is a director's challenge, if not nightmare.”

Scobell said she is nervous about seeing her new story acted out but is looking forward to seeing the finished product.

“This is a totally new process for me. The kind of writing I do at Illinois Issues is reporting, putting facts together, but I hadn't really done anything creative,” she said. “It's one thing to write it on your computer at home, but another thing to have people read it and speak the lines. It’s exciting.”

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Friday, October 10, 2008

UIS Prairie offers sustainability and opportunities to university

By Courtney Westlake

The state of Illinois had 22 million acres of prairie up until the 1820s, but since European settlers moved into area, there are now less than 2,500 acres. Caring for the prairie areas that remain is now extremely important, such as the beautiful prairie located on the south area of the UIS campus.

“We have such small remnants of prairie still left,” said Dr. Tih-Fen Ting, assistant professor of Environmental Studies. “By losing this part of the native ecosystem, we also put out a lot of other species that are associated with prairie, whether it be birds, mammals or insects. We hope that we can increase biodiversity locally and also help species that still depend on prairie for survival and reproductive needs.”

Prairie is a French word meaning ‘meadow,’ Ting said. A prairie system is made up of lot of grasses and flower species and is very productive. Prairie grasses and forbs have deep root systems, and once a plant dies, its roots decompose and become part of the soil.

The prairie at UIS was established in 1991 by the student organization Students Allied for a Greener Earth (SAGE). Bob Raebig, who was a SAGE member and later became the environmental health and safety officer at UIS, played a tremendous role for the prairie restoration, Ting said, and when he passed away in 2004, Ting took responsibility of maintaining the prairie, along with help from Joan Buckles, UIS superintendent of grounds.

“We can use this as a living laboratory to teach students about the prairie and its ecosystem,” Ting said. “Even though it’s only three acres right now, it’s still a nice opportunity to have that living laboratory on campus for students to be able to learn more about a prairie ecosystem.”

Having a restored prairie on campus is beneficial not only to the campus community but to the environment and to sustainability in general.

“Sustainability is a broad issue in the sense that it involves not only environmental stewardship but social responsibilities and economic wellbeing,” Ting said. “There are many ecological benefits the prairie can provide. It increases biodiversity in a human-dominant landscape. And it does not preclude the opportunity for other species to be able to co-exist with us, which is important for sustainability.”

The prairie is also appealing for its aesthetic value and provides a natural setting for people to come, Ting said.

“It's such a beautiful place, and I think people will get inspiration for all kinds of work,” she said.

In the early days, a prairie was maintained by fires from lightning or grazing done by bison, Ting said. Now, UIS uses the method of fire-prescribed burns to maintain the health of the prairie ecosystem. The Friends of Sangamon Valley assists UIS in conducting species inventory and prescribed burns.

“Those are the ways to prevent trees, brushes and shrubs from taking over the prairie ecosystem. We try to mimic the natural force with controlled fires,” Ting said. “The fire will help release nutrients from vegetation back to the soil so it will enhance soil productivity and help other plants to grow. It also helps to control a lot of invasive species as well.”

The UIS prairie gives the campus community the opportunity to be immersed in a different kind of natural setting, Ting said.

“I encourage everyone to come here. It’s right on campus, on west side of the Strawbridge-Shepherd House,” she said. “There are beautiful species and grasses. You can come, meditate, take a nice walk, and it will probably help with your day.”

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