SJR Column: Taylorville, October 2015

Today’s Our Towns section of the State Journal Register features Taylorville, a community just 33 miles southeast of Springfield and one of my favorite Fall destinations thanks to “Chillifest,” a wonderful weekend festival that was held just a week ago. The route between Taylorville and Springfield is even more familiar though to the many Taylorville residents who attend college each year at the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois – taking full advantage of the opportunity to earn a U of I degree so close to home.

Taylorville resident and US Bank Community President, Amy Hagen is a great example. After earning her undergraduate degree in Finance and Economics and launching a successful career that included work as a bank examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, Amy decided to pursue her Masters in Business Administration at UIS while continuing to advance in her banking career. “My dad always encouraged me to pursue more education,” she says, “and a respected colleague recommended UIS.” Amy calls herself a “proud product” of the UIS MBA program and appreciated the challenging coursework as well as the “connectiveness” with faculty that she has enjoyed for years beyond graduation. “MBA study at UIS opened my mind to new and more complex ideas,” she reports , “and helped me be ready for new challenges and opportunities.”

Elizabeth (Wright) Huffines and her twin sister, Margaret (Wright) Carlen, grew up in Taylorville and, as children, often attended ballet performances at Sangamon Auditorium on the UIS campus. “When I was a high school student, UIS wasn’t on my radar right away,” says Elizabeth, “but the Honors Program there had such a great reputation and my sister and I wanted to go to school together close to home.” Margaret adds: “ I liked that classes were challenging and that my professors knew my name. And being close to home meant my sister and I could keep our weekend jobs back in Taylorville.” After graduating in 2012 with degrees in Communication, both Elizabeth and Margaret became UIS employees and, like Amy, “proud products” of UIS.

A junior from rural Taylorville, Audrey LeVault is a Social Work major who aspires to be a school guidance counselor some day. “My father encouraged me to consider UIS and, though it’s close to home, it’s been just far enough away for me to experience independence,” says Audrey. “ The campus is more diverse than where I grew up and I’ve had opportunities to get to know people from different backgrounds, which I know will help me down the road in my career.”

Quentin Kuntzman transferred into the UIS Accounting program last year after completing his Associate of Arts degree at Lincoln Land Community College – a transition he describes as “seamless” thanks to a longtime relationship between the two campuses. “ I chose UIS because it has a good business school and I wanted to earn a University of Illinois degree ,” says Quentin, “but a big factor was really financial.” Besides commuting three days a week to campus for classes, Quentin works nearly 30 hours each week at Menards. Thanks to his job, living at home, and a great UIS financial aid package that includes several scholarships, Quentin expects to walk across the stage at commencement next May having earned his Accounting degree debt- free … a truly remarkable achievement.

UI system President, Tim Killeen, refers to each University of Illinois graduate as an “economic engine” for the state of Illinois . I’m proud of these graduates and soon-to-be graduates of the UI Springfield campus. Each of them has roots in Taylorville and aspirations for personal and professional success. They will be economic engines for our state and contributing citizens of their communities well into the future.

Chancellor Susan J. Koch