Friday, November 06, 2009

Third annual Dr. Matthew Holden, Jr. Symposium Lecture held at Jackson State University

University of Illinois Springfield Professor of Political Science Dr. Matthew Holden, Jr. was recently honored during the annual symposium and lecture that bears his name. The event was held on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

Dr. Holden is the first Wepner Distinguished Professor in Political Science at UIS and is a nationally recognized expert on public administration, politics and law, urban politics and racial and ethnic relations.

"I had never expected to have a lecture named for me, and at first would not agree. But it has happened and frankly is wonderful. It is greatly encouraging that others perceive one’s own work as an example to be cited. The lecture is an effort to disseminate knowledge on a broad basis, not merely inside the classroom but to a public and community outside," said Dr. Holden.

The Symposium Lecture was given by Dr. Glenn Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Economics at Brown University. The title of the lecture was “Barack Obama and the Future of the Black Prophetic Tradition”.

“The first three lecturers—Ira Katznelson, Theda Sokocpol, and now Glenn Loury ---are all persons of such caliber that they outrank oneself by a long mile,” said Dr. Holden. “Next year’s invited lecturer, Dianne Pinderhughes, will equally enrich the list. Her work on African American participation, and the Voting Rights Act, will also be relevant to the course I am going to offer on “The Changing Regime".

Dr. Holden was not able to attend this year’s lecture, due to teaching commitments at UIS, but his wife, Dorothy, was able to represent them both at the symposium.

In 2004, Dr. and Mrs. Holden donated their personal library of more than 4,000 volumes to the Jackson State University Center for University Scholars. The Center facilitates faculty research productivity and encourages academic discourse. It hosts an annual symposium for recipients of summer research grants. In recognition of Professor Holden’s accomplishments and his generous donation to JSU, the Center has named a reading room and this lecture in his honor.

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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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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Published article focuses on professor's paper

The latest issue of Graduate Connections, a University of Nebraska publication, contains an article entitled “Advice for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation.”

The piece centers on a paper Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of public administration, published earlier in College Student Journal.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Student determined to receive degree and serve as role model

By Courtney Westlake

Ricardo Montoya Picazo is no stranger to hard work and commitment - characteristics that have taken him far in life after his family moved from Mexico to the United States. Now Montoya Picazo, a senior at UIS, is using those characteristics of determination and leadership to carry him through college and onto a political career that will be shaped by his background and experience.

After moving from Mexico, Montoya Picazo’s family first lived in California and then in Iowa for a year before settling in Beardstown, where his uncle lived. He transferred to UIS in his junior year after attending Lincoln Land Community College.

Montoya Picazo was motivated to come to UIS by a professor who told him what a great political science program UIS offered and about the many opportunities available because of UIS’s location in the state capital. Montoya Picazo first became interested in political science after he was involved in a political rally at age 15.

“As I grew older, I learned more about public and social issues, and I liked it more,” he said. “I wanted to work with the public and get involved in social change. There needs to be more Hispanics in the public field.”

Latinos and Latinas make up one of the biggest minorities in the United States.

“Sometimes issues in the political field are biased if you see them from a Hispanic perspective,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t see how a law would affect our customs, and they’re not familiar with how we think.”

Montoya Picazo has always had an interest in serving the public and his community. For several years, he has been a mentor and teacher for Project Next Generation, which encourages and enables children in the Beardstown community to pursue and complete degrees in higher education.

“We want to make the parents aware that their kids can seek higher education; they don’t have to just graduate high school and go into the labor force,” he said. “Many of my kids in junior high and high school think that way.”

The Project also helps children learn about technology and computers, Montoya Picazo said.

“There is a program based on teaching digital and computer technology and software, and we want to make kids aware of technology and take them out of the streets,” he said. “Today’s kids like to burn music, create videos and create their own projects. We also take yearly trips to major cities. It is interesting.”

Being a Latino in politics will not only open doors for other Latinos in the country but also encourage them to become involved, Montoya Picazo believes.

“If somebody is Hispanic, other Hispanics tend to want to participate in events,” he said. “Changes in Beardstown have improved; they are a much more accepting town, and the town is really trying to involve Hispanics in the school and community.”

Montoya Picazo sees himself in public office in the long-term future and would like to work for governmental agencies before running, such as the department of immigration or homeland security.

When Montoya Picazo came to the United States at age nine, he assumed it was a Spanish-speaking country because his father still spoke Spanish to them over the phone while they were in Mexico. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an ESL (English as a second language) program at his school, and he “felt lost” at the culture shock, he said.

“I didn’t want to go to school; I wanted to stay home,” he said.

In 5th grade, however, an ESL program was implemented, and he began to learn reading and writing. In 7th grade, he made the choice to not be a part of ESL anymore.

“There was no way for me to learn it well,” he said. “They offered to have me come back if I had trouble, but I didn’t. It forced me to speak English, and that’s why I’m better at English now.”

Montoya Picazo said while he still embraces his native culture, he is grateful for the opportunities in the United States, especially being able to pursue higher education.

“I love my culture, but I have grown into American culture too; I like American food and music,” he said. “And I know if I was over there still, I wouldn’t be at UIS. I would have only gotten through grade school. So I owe that to my father; I’m thankful to him.”

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Oldfield publishes new book

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, and Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III, a colleague from the University of Vermont, are co-authors of Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class, recently published by State University of New York Press.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Oldfield is invited panelist at national conference

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, was an invited panelist at the annual Public Administration Theory Network Conference, held in May in Richmond, Virginia. The panel's theme was "On the Marginalization of Social Class and Socioeconomic Status in Public Administration." Over the last few years, Oldfield has published several refereed papers on the topic of social class inequalities in higher education.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Kenneth Oldfield addresses national coalition

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, gave an invited presentation at the annual conference of the Coalition of State University Aid Administrators, held in April in Huntington Beach, California. Oldfield spoke about "Welcoming First-Generation Poor and Working-Class Students to College."

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mooney interviewed on WILL

UIS Professor of Political Science Chris Mooney was interviewed on the WILL radio program Focus 580 with David Inge during the week of April 21, 2008. Mooney's segment was titled "Government by the People: Referenda, Grass Roots Initiatives, and Recall Petitions."

Focus 580 features interviews with "newsmakers and experts on international affairs and daily life."

Listen to the interview

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mexico Diez shares knowledge gained on trip

By Courtney Westlake

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today, a group of UIS students has found.

The Mexico Diez, a group of 10 students and two faculty members, left for Mexico the week before spring break in March and spent about 10 days in San Cristobal and Chiapas, as well as some southern, rural areas, after first undergoing training with Witness for Peace, said Julian Borjas, a junior who participated in the trip.

The group, part of the political studies class called Mexico & Globalization taught by Dr. Heather Dell and Veronica Espina, was studying how workers are actually affected by different trade agreements and economic policies put forth by the United States.

“We were looking at economic effects from neo-liberal trade policies, which are the official economic foreign policies that that U.S. backs through trade organizations and through trade agreements like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) that kind of privatize government lands and publicly-owned lands so that corporations can use the resources,” Borjas said.

The students met with families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life to learn about their experiences and perspectives regarding these policies and also stayed with three Mexican families during part of their time there.

“We talked with them about what their lives are like and what their concerns are,” said Bob Skorczewski, one of the ten students on the trip. “I had a little background in some of these political and economic issues from my time here at UIS, but the actual real world application of these policies and how they affect people is something you don't really get in a classroom environment.”

“Actually going there and communicating with the people in Mexico was very eye-opening, and you can see how these things affect them and their families,” he continued. “There are just so many things happening there that we weren't ever wanting for something to do and to learn.”

Borjas said the trip reinforced many of the ideas he had before taking the class.

“There is a lot of militarization; there are military installments in every town,” he said. “The people that are known to protest the government, the Zapatistas, are really feeling a lot of pressure. A lot of the towns are being persuaded to become more favorable to the government.”

As part of the experience, members of the Mexico Diez began speaking to groups around campus and the community upon returning from Mexico, sharing what they studied and what they learned while on their trip.

The students first talked to a couple of UIS classes, Skorczewski said, and then took on some speaking engagements at high schools in the area as well as community groups that helped to sponsor their trip.

Skorczewski encouraged other UIS students to sign up for the Mexico & Globalization class next spring for the chance to study this area, learn about globalization and make the trip to Mexico.

“Some of the experiences we had were very intense, but in a good way, in an eye-opening way,” he said. “I’m looking for ways now to get involved around here, or whatever community I end up living in, with the labor movement, or if it's in politics, keeping that in mind as we form public policy. There’s a hidden side to all these issues we see, and a lot of time we're concerned only with how it affects us and not other people.”

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Professor changes focus to new program

By Courtney Westlake

Most people would consider getting a Ph.D. something of a "stopping point" in regards to formal education. But not Dr. Hilary Frost-Kumpf.

While Frost-Kumpf was on the faculty in the department of public administration at UIS teaching arts management three years ago, she began to have a change of heart about her educational focus, which eventually led to a change in her education.

"I realized that I wanted to get back to my roots in a way – I have a doctorate in cultural geography, and I wanted to get back to that – and I wanted to internationalize myself," she said. "I wanted to take what I was doing, particularly in arts management in the U.S. and ask, 'how I can look at things more broadly? How can I ask questions in other places outside of the United States?'"

So Frost-Kumpf applied for the master's program in international studies at the University of Iowa and took a leave from UIS to complete her studies. Since her degree was much like the Individual Option program at UIS, Frost-Kumpf was able to choose what she wanted to focus her education on.

"I love being a student, love the opportunity to be a student fulltime and to study things I didn't have time to do when working fulltime as teacher," she said. "I decided I wanted to focus on the arts in Africa: history, film, theatre and literature of Africa."

During her pursuit of a new master's degree, Frost-Kumpf jumped at the opportunity to travel in Africa and study one of its many languages, Swahili. Her Swahili teacher in the United States put Frost-Kumpf in contact with her cousin in Tanzania, a former director of the ministry of culture who provided important resources for Frost-Kumpf’s research over the course of her 9-week stay in the country.

"I had always had a long-term interest in Africa; I became fascinated with the diversity and complexity of it," Frost-Kumpf said. "There are hundreds of cultures and languages - 128 languages in Tanzania alone. It was a wonderful experience studying in Tanzania."

And not only did her new educational focus stimulate some of her lifelong passions, but Frost-Kumpf returned to UIS after the completion of her master's degree to use her new education to benefit the university.

"When I told Dean Pinky Wassenberg that I wanted to get another master's degree, she said 'A redesigned Hilary! You can come back and teach in our new major in international studies'," Frost-Kumpf said. "She told me that UIS was looking into expanding our current international studies minor to a global studies major. My new focus will allow me to work in that new degree."

Currently the proposal for a new global studies major is working its way through campus governance to see if the degree can be established. Dr. Stephen Schwark is heading the proposal for the major, which will allow students to "explore global issues and look at the world from a more global perspective," Frost-Kumpf said.

"The idea of a global studies degree fits very well with the direction the university is going in terms of our general education curriculum requiring all students who graduate to have a global awareness," she said. "This expands that further so students who find those topics interesting will be able to major in the subject."

Frost-Kumpf said she has high hopes for the global studies program and for students to discover the passion and thrill she has found in other cultures and languages.

"My hope is that students will come away from the program challenged to learn broadly about global issues and more specifically, about a particular topic that they're interested in," she said. "And as a geographer, my hope is for them to leave the program with a much better understanding of world geography and a more nuanced idea of different cultures throughout the world."

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Group Heads to Mexico to Make a Difference

By Courtney Westlake

When a professor suggested that Julian Borjas take a class that corresponded with his area of study, political economy, he jumped at the opportunity. Now the class is leading him south of the border to gain some firsthand information and perspective on globalization.

A group of UIS students, known as the Mexico Diez (which means Mexico Ten), will be traveling to Mexico in the spring to study the effects of globalization nationally and internationally. They will spend ten days in poverty-stricken areas of Mexico City and rural communities such as Chiapas.

The Mexico Diez is part of a class called "Mexico and Globalization," said Borjas. During the trip, they will act as delegates for Witness for Peace and interview families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life.

"We're going to be studying globalization, including contracts like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), which will go into effect soon, and then we'll be going to Mexico to see how workers are actually affected by these different trade agreements," Borjas said. "There is going to be a lot of groundwork, which I'm really interested in."

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, many feel it is important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today. Borjas said he hopes he and others in the group will gain new perspectives about trade workers and agreements and looks forward to the opportunitity to provide service to others.

"We're taking a lot of natural resources from other places and displacing our own labor force in doing it," he said. "It's not really a good system; it's not benefiting most Americans, not benefiting other countries. So we figure it's kind of our obligation to go out and say 'this is what our country is doing'."

The group has been actively fundraising for the trip for the past three months, said Kris Bein, graduate assistant in Women and Gender Studies. At least $15,000 must be raised to cover the costs, she said. (Anyone interested in contributing can contact Bein at or 206-8205).

"The students have worked so hard and raised quite a large sum in three short months, but we're not done," she said. "We still have about $1,000 to go, so we still need support from the campus community."

The research the group compiles will enable students and community members alike to better understand the effects that trade policies have on the developing world, Bein said. The group will return home after the trip to present their work to the UIS campus and Springfield community.

"We're going to come back and talk to schools, organizations and civic groups and talk about what we did and what we saw there," Borjas said. "Witness for Peace in its entirety is to let people see the influence that our economy and government is having worldwide, and just to come back and say what you honestly saw and felt."

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Working on Improving the Environment Keeps Professor Motivated

By Courtney Westlake

A self-described "outdoor person," Dr. Tih-Fen Ting is still getting used to the cold winter weather of Illinois after having spent most of her life in Taiwan and also living in California. That hasn't stopped her, though, from gaining a fast appreciation for the plains and animal life of Central Illinois, particularly the UIS prairie, where she spends much of her time exploring nature.

Ting, who came to UIS in 2003 after receiving her Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environment, says that no matter the climate or location, the environment is always of utmost importance to her.

"Environment has always been something I have cared about and been concerned with; it probably started with my appreciation of nature," she said.

After getting acquainted with UIS, Ting quickly became involved with Students Allied for a Greener Earth, or SAGE, as the faculty adviser in 2004. The only student environmental club on campus, SAGE seeks to find a balance between meeting human needs while still maintaining ecological integrity, Ting said.

"The reason to do that is so that we can actually have a sustainable future with what we are doing with the current generation and not undermining what the future generations can do," she said.

As part of its strategic plan, the UIS campus is striving to be a model in promoting environmental sustainability and is now taking action with plans for a green roof on the new residence hall, Founders Hall, and more.

"The green campus is a huge movement in the nation," Ting said. "What UIS is doing is what a lot of institutions are doing, and what we are making sure of is that we are keeping up and doing a lot of the right things."

There are many small things that the individual can do to make a huge change in environmental sustainability, Ting said. This includes being aware of water conservation, turning off the lights and computer when not in use and being diligent about recycling.

"It doesn't take much effort to recycle and make it a daily habit," she said. "Don't be a passive bystander; an individual can make a difference if everyone acts."

The future of
the environment and nature relies on the actions of people today, Ting said, and there is no reason more can’t be done. Thanks to a grant from Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, UIS is now working to expand its recycling program. Ting also encourages people to buy more local food in order to support local farmers and producers and to promote organic farming, which will increase sustainability of local agriculture.

Ting said she hopes to eventually see all new buildings compliant with LEED standards (Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design), which includes being energy-efficient, being conservative in water usage, using recycled materials and having an interior with carpet and paint that have low emission of harmful fumes.

Students and others interested in environmental sustainability and keeping the campus green are encouraged to learn about SAGE, its mission and its future events, Ting said. (Check out more information on SAGE here).

"Humans are an integral part of the ecosystem,” Ting said. “What we are doing impacts the environment; I think it's very important we have to be conscious of what we are doing. Whether clean air to breathe or clean drinking water, those are services we get from having a healthy environment."

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Former New York Times Reporter Talks Freedom of the Press

By Courtney Westlake

In the past, the public has turned to the press for information that is being suppressed, and leaking the truth is healthy for the balance of the country. Currently, though, that balance is being thrown off, according to Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former investigative reporter for The New York Times who was on campus on Wednesday, November 7.

Miller's evening presentation and a luncheon seminar also Wednesday featuring Charles Lewis were the first two programs in the Government Accountability and a Free Press Project, a series of events designed to explore legal, ethical, and practical political and policy issues that may arise as members of the press engage in investigative reporting that is intended to uncover less-than-transparent government conduct.

In July 2005, Miller was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the source of a leak outing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. Miller did not write about Plame, but she reportedly possessed evidence relevant to the investigation. Because of this, she spent 85 days in jail, twice as long as any American reporter has ever been confined for protecting a confidential source.

On Wednesday, Miller spoke about freedom of the press. Lewis and a panel of investigative reporters from around the area were also part of the presentation, and Bill Wheelhouse, general manager of public radio station WUIS 91.9 FM, was the moderator of the event.

"Other reporters are also in jeopardy," Miller said during her speech. "The number of journalists being subpoenaed in civil and criminal investigations in the United States to force them to disclose who leaked secret information to them is growing dramatically."

Some issues, however, need to be confidential to the government, Miller admitted. From her experiences as a reporter in Iraq, she has seen the necessity for certain information, like troop deployment, to be "secrets," she said.

"But why did the Pentagon also insist on banning TV cameras from recording the return of our dead in caskets from Iraq? Why did it prohibit the publication of photographs of those caskets?" Miller asked. "Reporting restrictions on reporters and growing secrecy has led the American Society of Newspaper Editors to issue a call to arms to its members, urging them to demand answers about this deeply disturbing trend of secrecy."

The "war on our freedoms" is putting civil liberties in danger, Miller said.

"Over the years, far more damage has been done to national security by government secrecy and deceit than by the press's reporting of that secret information," she said. "The pendulum, that national balance, may be swinging too far toward national security and away from civil liberties, and as a result, we risk now being both less free and less safe."

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