SJR Column: Summer Programs, July 2018

Summer on a university campus often means a slower pace; but as I walk the UIS campus this summer 2018, I see (and hear) activity everywhere! Though many students are off to summer jobs, study abroad or professional internships, others stay on to take summer classes – accelerating progress toward graduation.

The June – August calendar is also packed with camp participants engaged in a variety of activities, new students and their parents attending orientation sessions, and an unusual number of construction projects on the fast-track for completion before the fall semester begins.

“Hello, I’m Mackenzie – for the NPR Illinois PodCamp.” That’s an example of a new voice on campus this summer! PodCamp is a summer enrichment program for area middle-schoolers sponsored for the first time a few weeks ago by NPR Illinois – the UIS public radio station. According to Communications Professor Ann Strahle, a former television news reporter/director who designed the program, PodCamp was a major hit with the area’s “digital native” crowd.

During the camp, 11 to 14-year-old podcampers learned interview and broadcast writing skills as well as the basics of what makes a good news story. They then used their smart phones as a news gathering devices– interviewing community leaders and creating mini-podcasts using audio-editing technology and technical expertise provided by NPR Illinois.

On the last day of camp, students and their parents participated in a roundtable discussion with NPR Illinois journalists and heard the campers’ own podcast episodes. (Readers of this column can enjoy the podcasts, too.)

“Given the positive response from our first participants,” says Professor Strahle, “we certainly plan to offer PodCamp again next summer – maybe even expanding to both audio and video production.”

With the increasing success of Prairie Stars Athletics, youth sports camps will bring hundreds of young student-athletes to the UIS campus this summer. At a recent Girl’s Basketball Team Camp, Head Women’s Coach Mark Kost and his staff hosted 26 high school teams for an intensive 60 games of basketball.

“Team camp helps high school coaches provide their players an opportunity to gain experience as a team and enhance their basketball skills,” says Coach Kost. “At the same time, students gain valuable exposure to a college environment.”

“It’s part of our mission to engage in community outreach and be a resource for youth sports programs in this area,” says Head Baseball Coach Chris Ramirez. (Coach Ramirez was recently named 2018 National Division II Baseball Coach of the Year following a record-setting season and the program’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA national championships.) “Camps enable us to work hands-on with young players,” adds Ramirez, “improving their fundamentals and making lasting connections with our campus and with their parents.” (View a listing of 2018 sports camps.)

An orientation leader since her own undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina, Lisa McGuire has been Director of New Student Orientation and Parent Relations at UIS for almost five years. MxGuire is the mastermind behind orientation programs provided each summer for new students and their parents.

“Our two-day Kick Start program is the foundation of our orientation program,” she says. “Parents are our partners in this college transition process and through the program we strive to provide them the same comprehensive understanding of campus that we provide new students.”

The new Student Union (opened just a few months ago) provides an ideal location to welcome new students and parents and information sessions address such topics as campus safety, health and counseling services, academic resources, financial aid and even career planning and how to gain employment experience through a campus job.

One of the most engaging sessions this summer is titled “Mindset and Metacognition,” a presentation by Chemistry Professor Layne Morsch that focuses on what science teaches us about the keys to effective learning and college success.

McGuire’s staff includes 23 students who stay on campus for the summer and serve as orientation leaders – providing new students with their perspective on academic success, student activities, residence life, engagement opportunities with the Springfield community, and many other aspects of the student experience at UIS. They even take students and their parents on a “Springfield Adventure” to showcase what downtown Springfield has to offer.

“College is the best time and place for students to explore,” McGuire says, “and we encourage them to spread their wings and try new things at the same time they pursue their valuable UI credential.”

Part Two of this column will appear in the SJR in August, when I’ll provide an update on those exciting construction projects mentioned at the outset of this piece. In the meantime, I hope you’ll feel welcome to come by and take a walk through the beautiful UIS campus grounds any time this summer – we’re open!

Susan J. Koch, Chancellor of University of Illinois at Springfield

Chancellor Susan J. Koch