Wednesday, March 17, 2010

National dissertation award named after UIS political science professor Chris Mooney

The American Political Science Association (APSA) has just announced that it is honoring University of Illinois Springfield political science professor Christopher Z. Mooney by naming a national Ph.D. dissertation award after him. Doctoral candidates worldwide can be nominated for the prize in the category of Best Dissertation in State Politics and Policy.

Beginning in 2010, the award will be given annually for the best Ph.D. dissertation in the field that is written in the previous calendar year at any university. It is awarded by the State Politics and Policy organized section of the APSA. Winners of the award and their dissertation advisers each receive a plaque, and the winners receive a $1,000 honorarium. The first award, for dissertations filed in 2009, will be presented on June 4, 2010 in Springfield, at the 10th annual State Politics and Policy Conference, a national political science conference hosted this year by UIS.

This new award has been named in honor of Mooney in recognition of his founding of State Politics and Policy Quarterly (SPPQ), an academic journal that he edited from 2001 to 2007 and has served as business manager of since 2001. Mooney was also instrumental in founding the annual State Politics and Policy Conferences. SPPQ and these conferences have helped lead the recent renaissance in the study of comparative state politics in political science.

"Many, many people at UIS and all over the country gave me an enormous amount of help in establishing SPPQ and these conferences. It's very gratifying to be recognized by my peers in this way,” said Mooney.

Mooney is a professor of political science with a joint appointment in the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at UIS. He studies U.S. state politics and policy, with special focus on legislative decision making, morality policy, and legislative term limits. He has published dozens of articles and books, including the leading college textbook in the field, State and Local Politics: Institutions and Reform, and Lobbying Illinois - How You Can Make a Difference in Public Policy. Prior to arriving at UIS in 1999, he taught at West Virginia University and the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Faculty emeriti honored at College's annual luncheon

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. Jeffrey Chesky retired in 2004 but continued to advise master's degree projects at UIS up until last year, challenging students to reach their full potential.

Michael Townsend continuously told his students how fortunate they were to be pursuing a career field where they would make a difference in the lives of others and engaged them in service learning.

Townsend and Chesky were both honored as faculty emeriti in the College of Education and Human Services at a celebratory luncheon on Wednesday, June 17, in the Sangamon Auditorium Lobby of the Public Affairs Center, and each took part in the unveiling of their painted portraits, which will be hung in Brookens Library.

After lunch, the two emeriti faculty participated in a question-and-answer session, during which they spoke about their experiences when first arriving at Sangamon State University and reminisced about their classes and memories of the early days of the university.

Dr. Bill Abler, professor in Human Development Counseling, also gave remarks called "Doing It by the Numbers: Painters, Portraits and Percipients," before the portraits of Townsend and Chesky were unveiled.

Townsend was a family counselor with the Child and Family Services of Sangamon County, where he specialized in doing work with kids who had been in trouble with the law, when he arrived at UIS - then Sangamon State - in 1975.

"He dedicated his life to teaching, public affairs and community service," said Larry Stonecipher, dean of the College of Education and Human Services. "His students were encouraged to engage in service learning even before we defined the phrase 'service learning'."

Throughout his career, Townsend wrote many grants requests totaling around $300,000, and founded and directed many other organizations and groups locally that encouraged change, Stonecipher said. He never pursued full professorship because he believed that only those with doctoral degrees should hold that title.

"Instead he dedicated his time and considerable talents to bridging any gaps that existed between his education in his application and benefit to the Springfield Community. As you can tell, Mike walks the walk every day," Stonecipher said.

Chesky came to UIS/SSU in 1977 with a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics to become a professor of human services and biology. During his career, he received grants from such prestigious organizations as the American Heart Association, the American Federation for Aging Research, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.

"The volumes of master's projects he chaired are a testament to his commitment to his students," Stonecipher said. "In the classroom, Dr. Chesky was revered as a stellar teacher/scholar who made the curriculum rigorous as well as interesting. His lectures were noted to be stimulating, captivating and laced with humor."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Matthew Holden is first Wepner Distinguished Professor in Political Science at UIS

Dr. Matthew Holden, Jr., has been designated as the first Wepner Distinguished Professor in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is the Henry L. and Grace M. Doherty Professor Emeritus of Politics at the University of Virginia. He retired from that university in 2002 after a distinguished career spanning more than 40 years.

Holden will be the designee of the Wepner Distinguished Professorship pending U of I Board of Trustees approval of his selection at the board’s meeting in May. He is expected to formally join the UIS Department of Political Science in the College of Public Affairs and Administration this fall.

Holden has agreed to be the speaker at UIS’ 38th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16, at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield.

His wide-ranging scholarly interests, many of which are directly related to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, include public administration and policy, public law, urban politics, and race and politics. His 1974 book, The White Man’s Burden, was a classic in the early political scholarship on race and politics. His latest book, yet to be published, is titled The World and the Mind of Isaiah T. Montgomery: The Greatness of a Compromised Man, which examines the lone African American delegate in the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1890.

“I, along with the entire Political Science Department, are truly thrilled to be welcoming Matthew Holden as a colleague,” said Dr. Christopher Mooney, professor of Political Science and chair of the selection committee for the Wepner professorship. “Holden embodies many of the most important values of UIS as a public service-oriented university. He is an eminent scholar of race and politics, of the public bureaucracy, of regulatory policy, and of urban politics.” Mooney called Holden a magnanimous and engaging individual with wide-ranging interests who will be a wonderful addition to the department, the university, and the Springfield community.

Holden has also taught at Wayne State University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and books, and served as president of the American Political Science Association in 1998-99. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Senior Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. His current research is in the area of public administration, political theory, and political power.

His public service work includes service on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University.

The Wepner Distinguished Professorship was established at UIS as the result of a $1.2 million unrestricted estate gift from a Springfield couple, Wilbur and Margaret Wepner, longtime supporters of UIS. The funds are being used for scholarships and the Wepner position. As a member of the Committee for Higher Education in Central Illinois, Wilbur Wepner helped found this university (then called Sangamon State University) in 1969.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cleaning America's rivers is focus of Earth Day speaker

By Courtney Westlake

UIS celebrated Earth Day on Tuesday evening, April 21, with a presentation by Chad Pregracke called "Making a Difference in the World: My Journey to Clean America’s Rivers."

Pregracke spoke to the UIS and Springfield community about his experiences growing up near the Mississippi River, which led him to the vision of cleaning the river a little at a time.

"I am going to talk about picking up the river one piece of garbage at a time, and I'm not just talking about picking up little pieces of garbage, but picking up thousands of 55 gallon barrels, appliances, sunken boats, you name it," he said.

In 1997, Pregracke founded a not-for-profit environmental organization called Living Lands & Waters, which has involved tens of thousands of volunteers with community-based river cleanups, Riverbottom Restoration Projects, Adopt-a-River Mile Programs and Big River Educational Workshops.

"I had one goal, and it was simple: to clean up the river," he said.

It took Pregracke years before he turned his vision into reality and slowly acquired a crew, barges and other equipment necessary for large-scale cleanups. He began organizing community cleanups, and now travels around the country with his crew of 11 fulltime staff.

"One of the most important things I have learned is how much people care about the environment in general, and I learned that right off the bat. Right after a story aired on CNN, I got baskets full of letters saying 'great job', 'way to go, the Mississippi River is a treasure' and all kinds of stuff," he said.

Some years Pregracke's crew is on the rivers cleaning for six months, and sometimes as many as nine months. To date, they have had more than 50,000 people volunteer and have cleaned more than five million pounds of garbage since the organization started. They work primarily on the Mississippi River but also on the Illinois River, Ohio River and as far east as the Washington D.C. area, Pregracke said.

Living Lands & Waters has also just started planting trees on islands to provide habitats and food for wildlife. They started a nursery in Beardstown to grow their own trees and have given out 100,000 trees in last three weeks.

During his presentation, Pregracke encouraged attendees, and especially students, to pursue any dream they have and not let anyone tell them they can't do it.

"Anything you want to do is totally feasible; if you set out to do something that's going to have a positive effect on yourself, the people around you, your community, know that you can do it," he said.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

UIS reconfigures Doctor of Public Administration program

The University of Illinois at Springfield is currently accepting applications for its newly reconfigured Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) program. The application deadline to be considered for acceptance into the program this fall is April 15.

The new program is designed for the working professional and has evolved into a degree that incorporates a candidate’s skills and life experiences into a plan of study that uniquely anticipates a lifetime of learning and application, according to DPA Program Director William Miller. “While having a common core covering essential subjects in public affairs and administration, the program allows a student to choose the elective specializations that fit his or her individual career aspirations,” Dr. Miller said. “It is the perfect blend of scholarly standards and real-world innovation.”

The previous DPA program, with an emphasis on graduates going into or continuing in the academic arena, has graduated about 15 students during the past several years.

Located in UIS’ College of Public Affairs and Administration, the DPA program’s mission is to advance the education of experienced practitioners interested in improving their understanding of public management and public policy.

“These individuals can make a significant contribution to bridging the gap between practice and scholarship. This is done by developing a capacity to bring practitioner experience to the scholarly community and in turn translating the scholarly contributions back to the world of the practitioners,” said Patrick Mullen, a professor in the DPA program.

In the fall of every odd-numbered year, a cohort of 15 students is admitted to the program. They focus on a variety of policy and administrative issues while attending core classes in the evening.

After two years in core classes, students take electives and begin their dissertation work. Depending on how many classes they take per semester, students complete the degree in about four years. Many students hold full-time jobs while attending classes.

For information about applying to the program, please contact William Miller at (217) 206-6310 or For more information about the DPA, visit the UIS web site at Click on A to Z at the top of the page, then on D. You will find the DPA listed there.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

UIS receives award from State Farm

By Courtney Westlake

As part of an ongoing partnership, UIS was awarded a generous financial gift of $50,000 from State Farm Insurance on Monday afternoon, January 26.

UIS has had a relationship with State Farm through the university's computer science program, chaired by Dr. Ted Mims. UIS is one of 18 target schools across the nation for State Farm, and State Farm recruits students from these schools for internships and full-time positions.

"It's a lot of fun to come in and mark some of the work we have done together over the last few years with this gift," said Bob Clary, a State Farm representative who is also a graduate of UIS. "We have a lot of good opportunities for people to join us. The program is focused on recruitment, but there is more to it than recruitment; we're also building a partnership."

The money will be used to purchase equipment that will be housed in the department's computer lab, provide remote on- and off-campus access to students for technology-based classes and expand active problem-based online learning, Mims said.

"This is a great opportunity for us to get our foot in the door and get our students experience," he said. "Having this partnership has done a lot for us, not just to get the benefits of students getting jobs and the benefits of funding and investment in our program, but we're able to use this to build partnerships with other groups and get grant funding from other projects."

Several other UIS computer science graduates who now work for State Farm were also on hand to celebrate the new step in the partnership between UIS and State Farm.

"This has been a very rewarding relationship, and the gift now takes us to a new level in our relationship," said UIS Provost Harry Berman. "We're very pleased and honored to be the recipient of this award."

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Three Join UIS Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame

The Bill Miller Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame will honor three graduates from the University of Illinois at Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program who have distinguished themselves in the field of journalism. Mary Bohlen, Kevin Finch, and Ray Long will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at The Inn at 835 on Monday, November 17.

The Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame was named in honor of Bill Miller, an award-winning journalist who served as the program's director for 19 years. After a semester of classroom study, students work six months in the Capitol covering state politics while being supervised by professional journalists. Over 550 students have completed the program since the first class graduated in 1973. Illinois Issues, the state's leading public affairs magazine, and WUIS-91.9, the capital city's NPR station, established the bi-annual event in 2006. Both are units of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS.

Mary Bohlen, associate professor and chair of the UIS Communication Department, is in her 25th year of teaching journalism. She supervises nine full faculty members, six adjunct instructors, and nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate students. In 2008 she received the university's Pearson Faculty Award for Teaching, an annual honor given to one faculty member for outstanding teaching. Following her PAR studies, Bohlen was employed by United Press International full time as a Statehouse reporter for five years covering Illinois state government, especially the Illinois Senate; LPGA golf tournaments; Big Ten football; primary and general elections; and federal and state court cases. She also wrote numerous features covering Illinois. Bohlen left UPI in 1982 to become press secretary for the Illinois Senate Democrats and began her teaching career in 1983. She is a co-founder of the Springfield-area Association for Women in Journalism and a past president of the Springfield-area Women in Communications. She received her B.S. in journalism from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1972 and her master's from UIS in 1976.

Kevin Finch is a national Edward R. Murrow Award-winning broadcast journalist with 23 years of experience in radio and TV news. Finch is news director at WISH-TV, the CBS affiliate in Indianapolis, having served as assistant news director there as well. In his tenure as news director, Finch's station has won several national and regional honors, including a George Foster Peabody Award; several regional Emmys; and the Indiana AP Outstanding News and Weather Operation Awards. Prior to WISH-TV, he spent 13 years at the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis. Early in his career, he covered news for radio and TV stations in Morton, Peoria, Springfield, and Champaign. Finch has reported on major political events, serving as executive producer and organizer for 15 election nights and 10 televised political debates for U.S. Senate, governor, and other offices. He has covered four national political conventions, a presidential inauguration, and the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton. Finch guided coverage of 9/11 from Washington and covered the anniversary of that event in New York a year later. He also produced reports from Washington on the start of the current war in Iraq. He is the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. Finch received his bachelor's degree in 1981 from Murray State University and his master's from UIS in 1986.

Ray Long has written about Illinois government and politics for more than 25 years. He is a reporter in the Chicago Tribune's Statehouse bureau, where he has been since 1998. Previously he ran the Associated Press bureau in Springfield. Long covered Mayor Richard M. Daley, City Hall, local courts, Cook County Board, and state government for the Chicago Sun-Times. He worked local, state, and federal beats for the Peoria Journal Star. Currently, he is president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association, a position chosen by colleagues in other news organizations. Long is a founding member of Capitolbeat, formerly known as the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, a nationwide organization promoting excellence in state government coverage. He is the author of a chapter about investigative reporting in the book A Guide to Statehouse Reporting. His experience includes writing about numerous scandals, questionable public spending, massive budgets, ethical lapses of government figures, and major legislative issues under four governors, including one sentenced to prison. He has received local, state, and national awards for spot news, enterprise, investigative reporting, and news analysis from numerous organizations. The Illinois AP awarded Long the 1997 Charles Chamberlain Award, a staff honor recognizing a reporter's storytelling ability. The National Commission Against Drunk Driving presented Long and a Tribune colleague its 2002 media award for a series of articles that led to the revocation of more than 3,000 licenses of drivers whose convictions -- including 67 percent of those reckless homicide offenders in prison or on parole -- had gone unrecorded in state driving records. Long received his bachelor's degree in 1980 from what was then Sangamon State University and is now UIS, and his master's from UIS in 1980.

Christi Parsons, national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, will be speaking at the event. Parsons joined the Tribune's Washington bureau two years ago to cover the presidential election. A 19-year veteran of the paper, she covered city and suburban politics before moving to Springfield to write about state government in 1995. She is a 1989 graduate of the University of Alabama, where she was recently named a Distinguished Alumna. She holds a master's in the studies of law from Yale Law School.

The Hall of Fame event at The Conservatory at the Inn at 835 begins with a 5:15 p.m. reception, followed by the program and induction at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, and are available until November 5 by calling Illinois Issues at 206-6084.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

UIS professor receives Fulbright grant

Dr. Calvin Mouw, associate professor in the department of Political Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has received a Fulbright grant to lecture in Slovenia.

He will spend the 2009 spring semester, from January through May, at the University of Ljubljana, doing research on comparative political behavior and lecturing on electoral politics, political institutions, and public policy in the United States.

"I'm pleased because it allows me to spend time in an area of Europe that is relevant to my research on political behavior and electoral politics," Mouw said. "And the current presidential election and economic crisis in the United States make the lectures on American politics more relevant than usual."

Slovenia became an independent republic in 1991 and now has a stable multi-party democratic system, although modern democratic electoral politics is still a new concept in the country. Mouw's research focuses on examining patterns of electoral behavior across electoral systems at different stages of democratic development.

"While not directly relevant to my research or teaching, Slovenia is nevertheless interesting because of its role in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the resulting conflict and war in the Balkans," Mouw said.

Mouw wants to bring the knowledge, research, and experience he gains back to UIS, where he hopes it will advance and enlighten his teaching and research.

"When you spend an extended period of time in a country you learn and gain experiences that you do not get as a tourist," he said. "I'm looking forward to building contacts with the people of Slovenia that will last a long time."

Each year, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars awards 800 traditional Fulbright Scholar grants to college or university faculty and professionals to lecture and conduct research abroad. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Awards recognize the recipient's globally important teaching, research and service; in addition, they provide an opportunity for faculty to further their areas of expertise or pursue new directions in research.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is managed by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

UIS implements Global Studies major

By Courtney Westlake

When UIS made some changes to the general education curriculum several years ago, it opened the door for the addition of a new major focused on global awareness.

Since the early 1990s, UIS has offered a minor in international studies, and now, beginning in Fall 2009, UIS will offer a major degree in Global Studies within the College of Public Affairs and Administration.

“We decided to build into the new general education curriculum, a new goal that all students have to take course in global awareness, and students who came in at the lower division would have to take courses in comparative societies,” said Dr. Steve Schwark, who put together a proposal for the new major two years ago. “To do this meant adding new faculty who could teach those courses in a variety of topics. For the first time, we really had a faculty that could offer a full major in global studies.”

The implementation of a Global Studies major matches the direction that is occurring in global and international studies programs across the country, said Dr. Hilary Frost-Kumpf, who will teach courses in the major.

“These programs are very interdisciplinary and are pulling from topics like geography, political science, history, anthropology, women's studies and environmental studies because all of those disciplines are boundary-crossing,” she said. “So we're really tying into and looking at what's happening across the country in terms of these studies.”

The new program at UIS will consist of an introduction course called Introduction to Global Studies, taught by Frost-Kumpf, and six other core courses at the 200 level, Schwark said. The core courses will cover topics in political science, history, economics and a course that will require students to look at different cultures, such as world literature, cultural geography or world cultures.

At the next level, students will be able to choose a concentration in Globalization or Politics and Diplomacy.

“There is also a self-designed concentration that consists of four courses that might deal with a part of the world like Africa or Latin America, or students might choose to focus on a functional topic like human rights or women's issues,” Schwark said. “And then students come back together and take a capstone class in which they will put together a project or paper that will be a culmination over what they learned in previous semesters.”

Global Studies majors will be required to develop intermediacy competency in a foreign language and also encouraged to study abroad.

“The study abroad programs have expanded considerably on campus in the past 10 years. This is a way to build upon the direction and competencies that the university is already taking,” Frost-Kumpf said. “We’re very committed to the goals that the university has set to expand global awareness for UIS students and to be able to do that through an entire major is very exciting.”

Along with study abroad, another exciting aspect of the Global Studies program is the opportunity for students to obtain internships abroad, Schwark said.

“More and more students understand that we live in a global economy, that we live in a world in which it’s really important to have experience dealing with people who speak different languages and know about other cultures,” Schwark said. “If they can add to that and can say they had work experience, where they worked in London or Paris or East Asia, this adds an extraordinary amount to their resumé.”

While the focus right now is to establish the Global Studies program at the bachelor’s level, Schwark and Frost-Kumpf anticipate the degree possibly being offered online in the future. Both faculty members are excited about the possibilities to enrich the lives of students in the program and encourage global awareness.

“When prospective students see that we offer a Global Studies major, we think this will attract students to our honors program, as well as transfer students who will see for the first time that they can get degree in global studies,” Schwark said. “There are not that many of these in the state of Illinois, at least at state universities. Any student who understands that we’re becoming an increasingly close-knit, global community will be intrigued by this.”

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Speaker focuses on globalization in the Midwest

By Courtney Westlake

Globalization is transforming the Midwest of the United States, and the region is struggling to meet the challenges.

This is the message that guest speaker Richard Longworth brought to the campus on Tuesday evening, May 20, during a presentation in Brookens Auditorium. Longworth is the author of "Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism," which describes this transformation and suggests ways in which the Midwest can fight back.

Longworth lives in Chicago, but grew up in Iowa. It was while he was traveling abroad as a foreign correspondent that he picked up an interest in globalization and spent a lot of time looking at the effects of globalization on the third world and the first world.

"I got curious recently about how the Midwest, my old home, was handling globalization, so I spent most of the year driving around the eight states of the Midwest, visiting as many places as I could and talking with as many people as I could," Longworth said. "And the short answer is that we've got problems."

Longworth said his personal definition of globalization is that the United States is in a global competition with the entire world, not only with other states or regions of the country.

New global challenges are coming about in the Midwest - challenges to the education system, innovation, a political system that is inadequate to the needs of the 21st century and more, Longworth said. And these challenges are turning both heavy industry and family farming upside down, undermining old factory towns and rural areas, destroying old jobs and putting new demands on education, government and Midwesterners themselves, he said.

"A lot of what is happening has been going on for years, but globalization is putting the final nail in lot of coffins, is making many of these trends irreversible," he said.

The Industrial Age was very good for the Midwest, Longworth said, and created thriving Midwestern towns and cities. But globalization is seemingly causing the death of many Midwest cities today, with less immigration, more unemployment and poverty-stricken inner-city areas with a dim future.

"What I really found is that the Midwest is, by and large, in denial," Longworth said. "This is a big deal; this vast inland nation that we call home may have been a winner in the industrial area but is losing in the era of globalization. Globalization is here and is not going to go away."

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