End-of-year Message, May 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dear Colleagues:

As we approach commencement this Saturday, the purpose of this letter is to continue the ongoing series of regular communications from the Chancellor to the UIS community on issues of importance to the university and to look ahead to the next few months. At this, the end of my third year serving as your Chancellor, I’m so pleased with the positive momentum we have created together and I am grateful for the faculty and staff who contribute every day to the advancement of our university.

As many of you know, we hosted the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for their meetings this week and I was pleased that the Board approved our new major in Elementary Education. The new major will contribute to our growth priority, enabling us to make Elementary Education more visible to prospective students in the area at the same time it aligns our education program with new state requirements.

A special feature of the May UI BOT meeting was our collaboration with the Lincoln Presidential Museum to host the Board, legislators and guests for a dinner in the rotunda of the museum, one of our state’s greatest cultural resources. I was delighted to introduce as the evening’s speaker UIS faculty member Dr. Michael Burlingame, one of our state’s greatest intellectual resources. It’s been said that Dr. Burlingame “…knows more about Abraham Lincoln than any other living person”. It was a wonderful way to feature our campus to a distinguished audience. My sincere thanks to all who contributed to a very successful series of Board events this week.

As I reflect back on the 2013-14 academic calendar, I’m really appreciative of the regular meetings and many important consultations with campus leaders this year. My sincere thanks to Lynn Fisher, Senate Chair, and John Transue, Kathy Jamison and Holly Thompson who served with Lynn on the Senate Executive Committee. Thanks also to Teresa Szabo who led the APAC so ably and to Bobbi Fults who is an exceptional leader of CSAC. Shared governance works well at UIS because we all work at it and it has been particularly helpful this year given the challenges we’ve faced.

UIS student leaders also played a central role this year in advocating for student interests and concerns, which is so critical to our continued growth in both reputation and enrollment.

  • SGA President Aaron Mulvey has received the Donovan Pepper Award for Outstanding Student Leadership and he has earned it!
  • Student trustee and Computer Science major Jamaal Hollins will graduate this Saturday and start his new job at State Farm a week later. I am grateful to Jamaal for representing UIS and our students exceptionally well on the Board of Trustees.

It has been a pleasure to share in celebrating the contributions of several exceptional staff members this year.

  • Janice Marvel (Facilities and Scheduling Services) was recognized with the CARE Award for excellence in Civil Service;
  • Tara Sweeting-Trotter has received the CAPE Award for outstanding performance by an Academic Professional and
  • Carolyn Neitzke is our UIS Employee of the Year.

Faculty honors awarded this year included:

  • Dr. Hua Chen (Biology) – University Scholar
  • Dr. Leonard Branson (Accounting) – Faculty Excellence Award
  • Dr. Donna Bussell (English) – Pearson Award for Outstanding Teaching,
  • Dr. Beverly Bunch (Public Administration) – Spencer Award for Exemplary Service, and
  • Dr. Karen Swan (Educational Leadership) – Oakley Distinguished Online Teaching Award.
  • Dr. Patricia Byrnes (Economics) and Dr. Ann Strahle (Communication) – China Faculty Exchange Scholars for 2014 and 2015, respectively. (Each will spend a summer as Scholar in Residence at Heilongjaing University.)

My congratulations and sincere thanks to each of our award winners for all that you contribute to our campus.

As we all know, there is no shortage of leadership at UIS. I want to acknowledge and thank the 451 UIS employees who took the time this semester to participate in the Leadership lived Workshops. I did as well and I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about my fellow UIS employees and about how, regardless of our roles, each of us can contribute to the promise of “Leadership lived.”

We’ve had an exciting and productive year here at UIS and we have remained intently focused on our three strategic priorities: growth in both enrollment and reputation, the recruitment and retention of talented faculty and staff, and providing the facilities needed to support a comprehensive student learning and living experience. Here are just a few examples of our productivity this year:

  • The UIS Provost’s Office, in collaboration with SIU School of Medicine, has implemented the Caryl Towsley Moy Endowed Fund for Collaborative Research – a $250,000 gift to UIS from the Moy family. Professor Karen Reinke (Psychology) and Dennis Ruez (Environmental Studies) are the first two UIS award recipients.
  • UIS has received combined cash and other gift commitments totaling $5.49 million this fiscal year as compared to $2.28 million for the same period last year – a 140% increase in giving to UIS.
  • The new student employment project (Leadership lived Experience) has been fully implemented and 32 students now have on-campus jobs who did not have jobs previously, making the college experience more affordable for each of them.
  • UIS faculty published more than 50 journal articles, seven books and 17 book chapters. The faculty also produced 20 creative works including several music concerts and two award winning plays.
  • The UIS Prairie Stars athletics booster club has more than doubled its membership to nearly 400 members (including 66 UIS employees).
  • The student union building project continues on schedule with the BOT approving the project in January and the final design phase nearly completed. We expect to break ground in Spring, 2015.
  • We’ve created a significant increase in alumni engagement this year with many well-attended events in Springfield as well as alumni events in Chicago, St. Louis, Naples, Phoenix and (in June) Washington, D.C.
  • Brookens Library launched a Kindle Fire lending service and now offers over 76,000 e-books that can be accessed electronically.
  • International Student Services and the ESL Program have provided extraordinary support and many new activities for the increasing number of international students on campus.
  • The new Center for Academic Success officially opened in March – a one-stop academic support shop for students.
  • UIS athletes broke more than 20 school records this year, at the same time a record 111 student athletes made the Athletics Academic Honor Roll and 10 earned a perfect 4.0 GPA.
  • The number of students living on campus increased by 11.3% and purchases of food service meal plans increased by 26%.
  • The UIS men’s baseball team played at home on an improved field (across the street from TRAC) for the first time this season.
  • The Safe Zone program (a project that educates UIS staff and faulty to be better allies to LBGTQ) now has 130 trained members, up from 9 original members in 2010.
  • A shuttle bus service has been successfully implemented that provides regular transportation for on-campus students to major commercial hubs around Springfield.
  • Web Services has introduced an innovative UIS website that features large high-quality photos of campus activity and serves as a portal for our highly engaging social media.
  • Our Center for Volunteer and Civic Engagement has involved hundreds of UIS students in various projects that benefit the Springfield community.
  • Most importantly: This University of Illinois campus is growing in visibility, enrollment and reputation.

We discussed at the recent Campus Forum in April the serious challenges that continue – including the ongoing pension crisis and the uncertainty of the state appropriation for the University. Several members of our faculty and staff have felt compelled to make retirement decisions early because of changes in pension formulas. The loss of these valuable members of our academic community is going to be difficult. President Easter and I, along with members of the Board of Trustees and UI leadership team, met with legislative leaders in the Capitol yesterday to stress the necessity of funding for higher education. As the legislative session moves to a conclusion, we’ll keep you informed. If a major budget reduction becomes a reality during the next several weeks, we will reach out to faculty and staff leadership for consultation.

This Saturday, May 17th, it will be my privilege to shake the hands of 740 new graduates of the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois. We anticipate a capacity crowd and our commencement ceremony includes an address by distinguished alum Donovan Pepper. We will award an honorary degree to Evelyn Brandt Thomas, local philanthropist and co-founder of Brandt Industries. It will be a wonderful day!

Thank you for all that you’ve done to make this such a great year at UIS. Have a great summer, everyone!

With all best wishes,

Susan J. Koch, Chancellor

Chancellor Susan J. Koch