End-of-year Message, May 2019

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

As we approach the end of the Spring, 2019 semester, I want to thank each of you for your contributions to what has been an exciting and productive academic year here at UIS. We have so much to be proud of and none of it would be possible without our vibrant and engaged campus community.

Special recognition is due to campus leaders who have devoted time and talent to ensure our university’s success—among them are Campus Senate Chair Professor Ranjan Karri, Academic Professional Advisory Committee Chair Emily Boles, Civil Service Advisory Council President Jo Barnard, Student Government Association President Rosie Dawoud, and Student Trustee Shaina Humphrey. I’m also grateful for the leadership of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Dennis Papini, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Jeff Lorber, and other members of the leadership team for their many contributions this year. Each of these individuals fully embodies “Leadership lived” and I extend my sincere gratitude for their leadership and service.

This year, as we do every year, we have celebrated the contributions of several exceptional members of our community.

Faculty honors awarded this year included:

  • Dr. Richard Gilman-Opalsky (Political Science) — University Scholar
  • Dr. Layne Morsch (Chemistry) — Pearson Award for Outstanding Teaching
  • Dr. Xiaoqing Li (Management Information Systems) — Spencer Award for Exemplary Service
  • Dr. Kim Wiley (Public Administration) — Burks Oakley II Distinguished Award for Online Teaching
  • Dr. Jennifer Manthei (Sociology/Anthropology) — Harry and Deborah Berman Sabbatical Award

Employee leadership awards this year included:

  • Lisa Whelpley, Director of Annual Giving and Major Gift Development — CAPE Award for Outstanding Performance by an Academic Professional
  • Brian Beckerman, Superintendent of Grounds — CARE Award for Excellence in Civil Service
  • Jay Swenson, Assistant Director of Competitive Sports and Facilities — UIS Employee of the Year
  • Angela Try, Public Relations Specialist – Good as Gold Star Staff Award for community volunteerism

Outstanding SGA student leaders earning well-deserved recognition this year included:

  • Eric Loera – Outstanding Committee Person of the Year
  • Selena Meints – Outstanding Student Senator
  • Luigi Cabantog – Community Ally Award

Congratulations to these talented individuals who inspire us to live our university’s mission, vision and values every day.

Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some additional highlights from this past year:

  • Freshmen enrollment grew by nearly 14 percent, according to the Fall 2018 census. We are delighted to see an increasing number of first-year students choosing UIS for their undergraduate education. Plenty of work remains to ensure we continue this momentum for first-year students as well as continue to build transfer, graduate and online programs. Under the direction of Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Natalie Herring, the new Enrollment Management unit has spent the past year addressing opportunities for streamlining and enhancing recruitment efforts and their work is producing positive results.
  • Online learning continues to be a popular path for completing a degree or a certificate program at UIS and this year, more than 1,600 students enrolled in an online program. UIS online students reside in nearly every state and almost a dozen foreign countries. In just a few days, I’m looking forward to meeting many of those online students when they come to Springfield to participate in commencement activities.
  • In August, we welcomed Innovate Springfield to the UIS family. Based in downtown Springfield, Innovate Springfield is a business incubator and social innovation hub that supports local entrepreneurs and social innovators. In joining UIS, Innovate Springfield became the first hub of the new Illinois Discovery Partners Institute/Illinois Innovation Network (DPI/IIN), which will amplify its efforts to bring new businesses and high-impact social programs to central Illinois. Funding for a much-expanded downtown facility is under consideration and a working group of UIS faculty and staff has spent the past year planning for the proposed facility and activities that will best serve students, faculty and community. My thanks go to the many UIS faculty members who are contributing to laying the groundwork with other UI faculty for this important statewide initiative. If you’d like to learn more about UIS and the IIN, I hope you’ll join us for a presentation and discussion led by Bruce Sommer, UIS Director of Economic Development and Innovation, at the Springfield Citizens Club at 8:00 a.m., Friday, May 10, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.
  • Thanks to leadership provided by the Strategic Compass Steering Committee, the University’s new mission, vision and values statements have been completed and are now being used to develop plans that will guide strategic decision-making during the next several years. Our mission, vision and values are a direct reflection of who we are and where we want to go together to provide a pathway to opportunity for students as well as for all members of our community.
  • The new Student Union has been open for about 16 months and it is exceeding expectations in every way. As predicted, it has become a point of pride and the social heart of campus for students, faculty, staff and visitors. The facility has hosted more than 1,500 events since the ribbon-cutting in January of last year. It has also won two architectural design awards: the Excellence in Design Award from the American Institute of Architects and the Facility Design Award of Excellence from the Association of College Unions International. Thanks to a substantial award from the Chester Fund of the University of Illinois, two major works of art have also been acquired for the Student Union. Sanford Bigger’s “A Convenient Fiction” now hangs above the fireplace on the mezzanine level. In a few weeks, “Obstruction, Reflection, Transition”, a work by sculptor Lisa Williamson, will be installed on the berm next to the plaza. These works by two prominent American artists will further enhance the Student Union as well as contribute to the reputation of the University.
  • Ongoing efforts to ensure our facilities meet the growing needs of students, faculty and staff are evident in many campus locations. One example is the newly renovated second-floor of Brookens Library which is benefiting all who patronize the space. Remodeled classrooms and laboratories for new programs in Exercise Science, Athletic Training and Nursing (in cooperation with UIC) are also in use. The UIS Field Station at Lake Springfield (just a few minutes’ walk from campus) has been transformed and is providing new opportunities for teaching, research and recreation in and on the lake. I recommend you stop by to enjoy the tranquil surroundings and beautiful view.

The new concession area for the performing arts in the PAC represents the first phase of a makeover for an area of campus that is bringing more entertainment and educational opportunities to members of our community and to residents of the region. The performing arts at UIS will benefit, as well, this summer when the Studio Theater is renovated – thanks to a University of Illinois Arts and Humanities grant secured by Performing Arts Services Director Bryan Rives and Director of Theatre Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson.

  • The UIS Division II Athletics program had another stellar year. Women’s Volleyball brought home the Prairie Stars third GLVC championship of 2018, and many individual student athletes have received conference honors for both academic and athletic achievement. Just a few days ago, UIS Athletics celebrated “A Night of Stars” to recognize student athlete achievements for the past year. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating seniors Sam Clarke (Tennis) and Alyssa Hassler (Volleyball) who were named Men’s and Women’s 2019 Athletes of the Year.As proud of I am of our students when it comes to their athletic performance , I’m even more impressed by their performance in the classroom. This year, the average student-athlete GPA is 3.3 and Women’s Tennis won the top team GPA award with an average of 3.7.
  • The UIS “Reaching Stellar” fundraising campaign has been going exceptionally well this year. At campaign launch in October, 2017, we announced an ambitious $40 million goal. As of today, we have surpassed the $30 million mark so we’re well ahead of schedule. Thanks to the dedication of many, we have created a place here at UIS where people want to be involved and we’re so grateful for the many alumni and friends who believe in us and support the University with their gifts. One such friend is UIS Professor Emeritus Dr. Larry Shiner, who was honored with the prestigious University of Illinois William Winter Award at last month’s Celebration of Philanthropy.

Graduation celebrations have already begun and I was honored to attend Black Graduation and Hispanic/LatinX Graduation last weekend – both inspiring celebrations that honored the cultural heritage and the personal stories of our diverse student body. During this finals week, additional celebrations will take place including Lavender Graduation and the International Congratulatory Ceremony on Friday.

This Saturday, it will be my privilege to shake the hand of more than 700 new University of Illinois graduates as they walk across the Bank of Springfield Convention Center stage at two Commencement ceremonies. A special addition to Commencement this year is the conferring of an Honorary Degree, the Doctorate of Humane Letters, on UIS aluma, community leader and former University of Illinois Trustee Karen Hasara.

For each of our graduates, Commencement is a moment that represents the culmination of years of determination, persistence and just plain hard work. No matter the path that brought each graduate to this moment, each will go into the world equipped to contribute to our society and each has left their mark on this University. Thank you to all who have contributed to these graduates’ success.

As we close this academic year, my eighth as your Chancellor, I remain so proud to be a part of this University and the opportunity to work alongside such talented and dedicated staff, faculty and students.

Have a safe and happy summer!

With all best wishes,

Chancellor Koch

Chancellor Susan J. Koch