End-of-year Message, May 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

As we approach the end of this Spring 2020 semester, I want to thank each of you again for your contributions to what has been an unprecedented year. As we brought the Fall 2019 semester to a close in December – a semester that saw the campus welcoming the largest freshman class in university history, the introduction of our second University of Illinois Distinguished Scholar, historian Graham Peck, and the recognition of UIS by U.S. News and World Report as the top regional public university in Illinois – none of us imagined the COVID-19 global pandemic would have such an impact on the spring semester.

As you know, the pandemic created the necessity for students and faculty to finish classes via remote learning. It also led to postponement or cancelation of important events and traditions, including commencement, and has spurred planning for fall in ways that will require innovation, creativity, and renewed dedication to our mission.

Thankfully, we are not aware of any members of our university community who have been diagnosed with the virus to date. For any students, faculty or staff who must be on campus during this time, we are carefully following state health department and CDC guidelines as well as directives from the Illinois Governor’s office to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

I’ve said it before and I must say it again: I could not be more proud of the UIS faculty, staff, students and university supporters who have stepped up in every way to deal with these difficult circumstances. By working together, you have enabled us to successfully complete the spring semester, though we certainly understand that some students, faculty and staff have experienced more challenges than others. Thank you, all.

I am especially thankful for the members of the UIS COVID-19 Response Team who have worked diligently since early February to guide decision-making and help safeguard the health and safety of members of our community while at the same time, they have helped ensure continued campus operations. I want to specifically recognize the contributions of Dr. Vickie Cook, Executive Director of Online, Professional and Engaged Learning, and Tulio Llosa, Associate Provost for Information Technology and CIO, and their talented teams for their work to assist students and faculty throughout the necessary transition to remote teaching and learning. We have also benefitted from weekly engagement with a UI system-wide team which has provided critical information and advice.

I encourage you to keep monitoring the UIS COVID-19 website for ongoing information and updates. We are navigating these challenges together and I am confident we will continue to do so.

As we close the semester, recognition is also due to campus leaders who have devoted time and talent throughout the year to ensure our university’s continued success. Among them are leaders of the Campus Senate, the Student Government Association, the Academic Professionals Advisory Committee and the Civil Service Advisory Council. I also appreciate members of the administrative team who have gone above and beyond – particularly over these past few months. I am sincerely grateful for your leadership and service.

And of course, I cannot mention leadership without acknowledging with deep sadness the sudden loss of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Clarice Ford. As you know, Dr. Ford passed away unexpectedly in mid-April after a brief illness. Her impact on the University will live on in the many students, faculty and staff she has guided and influenced. I count myself among them and will miss her friendship, her expertise, her indomitable spirit and her dedication to students. An appropriate celebration to honor Dr. Ford will take place on campus at a later time and more will be announced about a fund being created for students in her memory. An Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs will be named soon.

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

Faculty honors awarded this year include:

  • Dr. Atul Agarwal (Management Information Systems) Pearson Award for Outstanding Teaching
  • Dr. Heather Bailey (History)—Faculty Excellence Award
  • Dr. Donna Bussell (English and Modern Languages) — Burks Oakley II Distinguished Award for Online Teaching
  • Dr. Donna Bussell (English and Modern Languages) — Harry and Deborah Berman Sabbatical Award
  • Dr. Yanhui Guo (Computer Science) — University Scholar
  • Dr. Tena Helton (English and Modern Languages) — Spencer Award for Exemplary Service

Employee leadership awards this year include:

  • Kara McElwrath, assistant director of client services for Information Technology Services — CAPE Award for Outstanding Performance by an Academic Professional
  • Patty Stoutamyer, office support specialist for the Mathematical Sciences Department — CARE Award for Excellence in Civil Service
  • Jamie Weber, office manager for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — UIS Employee of the Year

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

On this Saturday, May 9, it would have been my privilege to have a special “handshake moment” on stage at the Bank of Springfield Convention Center with each of the 1,179 new University of Illinois Springfield graduates who earned their place in the 2020 commencement program. Though a face-to-face commencement cannot be held at this time, our communications team has gotten creative to ensure our graduates’ special day does not pass quietly.

I hope you’ll all tune in at noon Saturday via UIS social media channels or visit the virtual celebration website  to join in. The video salute has been described (by someone who should know) as “simply spectacular”. There are some surprises in the works for our graduates as well. (If I told you what they are, it wouldn’t be a surprise!)

I hope you’ll enjoy the full page ad in the Sunday issue of The State Journal Register – an annual tradition that celebrates our graduates. My UIS Perspecives column in the SJ-R on that same day features interviews with four outstanding members of the Class of 2020.

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 the public good and each has left their mark on this university.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020, and thank you to all who have contributed to our graduates’ success.

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

Have a safe and happy summer!

With all best wishes,

Chancellor Koch

Chancellor Susan J. Koch