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University of Illinois Springfield Student Affairs staff and programs were honored with awards at the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Region V Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, October 27-29, 2022.

Marie Watson, associate director of student life, received the Inspiring Vision Award for mid-level professionals.

This award honors an individual employed by a member institution who has exemplified the mission, vision and values of their home institution and ACUI. Any individual employed part-time or full-time by an ACUI member institution with a minimum of five years of continuous service in support of the college union is eligible for the award. 

One nominator described Watson as “an exceptional leader who is not only able to envision a successful future, but is also able to develop the goal and action plans necessary to get people there.”

Another stated, “Marie was instrumental in continuing campus programming during the pandemic and campus closure. The nominee challenged staff members of Student Affairs to engage virtually, starting a Virtual Engagement Committee to help members connect, share ideas and celebrate successes.”

UIS Creative Services received the first-place award in the graphics competition for the 2022 Fall Welcome Calendar. Jeff Williams, creative cervices graphics designer, designed the calendar with contributions from Mary Umbarger, coordinator of student organizations and leadership.

The UIS Cares Program, sponsored by the Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center and the UIS Student Union, received the Igniting Innovation Award for College Programming. Presented to an institution, group or individual, this award recognizes an outstanding program, event, project or activity that fosters the enhancement of the campus community.

The nominator stated, “Created in response to a need to support university students with low food security or food insecurity, this innovative program has helped provide over 1,000 students with meals and school supplies.”

Financed through year-round donations and charitable giving, the program helps students perform in the classroom by helping meet their needs outside of the classroom. Multiple locations on campus provide pre-order meal options to all students on campus. Student staff from both the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center and the Student Union work on this program, restocking the micro-pantry, the food pantry and running the school supply stop. This semester alone, the food pantry has filled 1,204 online orders for students between August 2022 and October 2022. The UIS Cares School Supply Stop opened in August 2019 and has served over 1,078 students and distributed over 3,851 school supplies.

Founded in 1914, ACUI is a nonprofit educational organization that brings together college union and student activities professionals from hundreds of schools in seven countries. They are students and administrators whose mission is to build campus community. Students and professionals attended this conference from schools in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Manitoba.

Cynthia Thompson, director of student life, currently serves as the Region V membership experiences coordinator and Ashley Hall,interim director of the UIS Student Union, serves as the Region V communications coordinator.

For more information, contact Cynthia Thompson at or 217-206-4762.