Wednesday, March 31, 2010

UIS College Democrat and GOP student leaders have different views, but share one roof

University of Illinois Springfield political science majors Matt Van Vossen and Ryan Melchin have been friends since their freshmen year, even with very different political views.

When it came time to pick a roommate their junior year they decided to move in with each other. That’s when all the jokes started. Van Vossen is the president of the College Democrats on campus, while Melchin serves as the chairman of the College Republicans.

“(People) sort of made fun of us a little bit, then they said maybe this is what our actual leaders should be doing working together and being civil to each other,” said Melchin.

The two try to leave politics at the door when they come home, but living under one roof does have its advantages. The pair has coordinated watch parties for events like the State of the Union, which have brought both parties together on campus.

“It just comes to a point where you just stop debating about it and settle on the idea your not going to change the other person’s mind,” said Van Vossen.

Van Vossen says during the health care debate every television in their town house was tuned into C-SPAN at one time.

“I think my other roommates might have got sick of that, but it was only a few nights,” he added.

The political duo lives with two other roommates in campus housing, one a democrat and the other leans independent.

“When I moved in, there were all democrats living in the house. There was a lot of democrat stuff hanging up. I had a sign that my buddy got me that said ‘drill, baby, drill’ and I decided without telling them to just put it up,” said Melchin.

The two hope they will in fact serve as role models for politicians.

“I think it would be interesting if they put John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi in the same house and forced them to live together. I’d like to see that,” joked Van Vossen.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Professor speaks on democratizing higher learning

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of public administration at UIS, recently spoke to students and administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the need to democratize higher learning by recruiting more students and faculty of working class origins to that campus.

The forum theme was “Class Matters: Understanding the Experiences of Low-Income and Working Class Students on Campus.”

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Professor publishes article in periodical

Kenneth Oldfield published “Our Cutting Edge Isn’t Cutting It: Why Public Administration Should Be The First Discipline To Implement A Social Class-Based Affirmative Action Plan For Hiring Professors” in the latest issue of Administration and Society, a referred periodical.

Oldfield proposes that his field honor its commitment to diversity and being a “cutting edge” discipline by hiring more professors who were raised in working class families.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Holden article published in Energy Law Journal

An article by University of Illinois Springfield Professor of Political Science Dr. Matthew Holden, Jr. was recently published in the international Energy Law Journal.

The article “Energy Policy and the Obama Administration: Some Choices and Challenges” talks about the struggles the new Administration is facing.

Dr. Holden is the first Wepner Distinguished Professor in Political Science at UIS and is a nationally recognized expert on public administration, politics and law, urban politics and racial and ethnic relations.

Energy Law Journal is published twice a year, it has over 2,900 subscribers in the United States and 22 foreign countries, including Canada, England, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Austria, France, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Scotland, Singapore, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Turkey.

You can read the article in the December 2, 2009, edition or online at:

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage arguments explored in book

Jason Pierceson, Associate Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and at the University of Illinois Springfield, has published a book, Moral Argument, Religion, and Same-Sex Marriage: Advancing the Public Good, co-edited with Gordon A. Babst (Chapman University) and Emily R. Gill (Bradley University), with Lexington Books, a division of Rowman & Littlefield.

The book presents arguments from scholars that demonstrate the moral basis for gay rights claims on a range of issues, from the rights of youth to same-sex marriage. The book challenges the notion that moral arguments can only be used to counter gay rights claims.

According to reviews, the book “contains timely and provocative essays on a subject rightly taking center stage in national debate” and “shows how and why the contemporary case for gay rights in the United States can and should be made in substantive moral terms, appealing to the values that unite us as a free people under the rule of law.”

Professor Pierceson has taught at UIS since 2005 and currently serves as chair of the department of political science. In addition to co-editing the book, Professor Pierceson authored a chapter, “Same-Sex Marriage and the American Political Tradition.”

More information on the book is available at

You may also contact Jason Pierceson at 217/206-7842 or e-mail

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Students receive honors at Model United Nations conference

A class of 12 students from UIS attended the annual National Model United Nations conference, held April 7 through April 11 in New York City, and was honored with the Distinguished Delegation Award for their efforts at the conference.

Model United Nations is a conference that simulates an actual United Nations meeting. More than 300 groups of students from schools internationally attended the conference, each representing a specific country. The group from UIS was chosen to represent Croatia.

This is the first year that a course was designed specifically to learn about and attend the conference, said Adriana Crocker, professor of political science and teacher of the class. In past years, a group of students from the UIS Model United Nations Club attended the conference.

“I felt like the students were much better prepared,” Crocker said. “In class, we discussed Croatia, its history, culture, relations with other neighboring countries, and we also studied how the UN works.”

Each of the students served on various committees during the conference. Students defended the committee they wanted to serve on in class and were placed on those committees by their arguments and interests. Some students served in groups of two on larger committees, while other students represented Croatia by themselves on smaller committees.

“One of the most interesting challenges, I thought, was that you have to throw your own personal ideas aside and have to portray and represent Croatia, even if it’s not what you believe personally is best,” said Dustin Morrison, who represented Croatia on the World Trade Organization committee along with classmate Marko Markovic.

In addition to the group’s Distinguished Delegation honor, several UIS students also received individual awards at the conference. Kelsey Quinn received the Best Delegate Award from among more than 400 delegates. Priyanka Deo was honored with the Best Chair Award for her role in serving as chairman of the General Assembly. Deo served as chair for more than 450 delegates.

“I really got to know the rules and procedures,” she said. “I was aware of Croatia’s viewpoints because we had studied them in class and discussed them before the conference, but it was interesting to see all of the other countries’ viewpoints on issues. It was a really fun experience.”

Both Deo and Quinn have been invited to attend a conference in Switzerland this summer based on their exemplary efforts at Model United Nations.

“I have to congratulate our students; it was quite an accomplishment to receive those awards and honors,” Crocker said. “It was a great experience for our students. They got to learn about foreign policy and diplomacy and also got to hear from and learn about different students from across the world.”

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Published article focuses on professor's paper

The latest issue of Graduate Connections, a University of Nebraska publication, contains an article entitled “Advice for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation.”

The piece centers on a paper Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of public administration, published earlier in College Student Journal.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Student determined to receive degree and serve as role model

By Courtney Westlake

Ricardo Montoya Picazo is no stranger to hard work and commitment - characteristics that have taken him far in life after his family moved from Mexico to the United States. Now Montoya Picazo, a senior at UIS, is using those characteristics of determination and leadership to carry him through college and onto a political career that will be shaped by his background and experience.

After moving from Mexico, Montoya Picazo’s family first lived in California and then in Iowa for a year before settling in Beardstown, where his uncle lived. He transferred to UIS in his junior year after attending Lincoln Land Community College.

Montoya Picazo was motivated to come to UIS by a professor who told him what a great political science program UIS offered and about the many opportunities available because of UIS’s location in the state capital. Montoya Picazo first became interested in political science after he was involved in a political rally at age 15.

“As I grew older, I learned more about public and social issues, and I liked it more,” he said. “I wanted to work with the public and get involved in social change. There needs to be more Hispanics in the public field.”

Latinos and Latinas make up one of the biggest minorities in the United States.

“Sometimes issues in the political field are biased if you see them from a Hispanic perspective,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t see how a law would affect our customs, and they’re not familiar with how we think.”

Montoya Picazo has always had an interest in serving the public and his community. For several years, he has been a mentor and teacher for Project Next Generation, which encourages and enables children in the Beardstown community to pursue and complete degrees in higher education.

“We want to make the parents aware that their kids can seek higher education; they don’t have to just graduate high school and go into the labor force,” he said. “Many of my kids in junior high and high school think that way.”

The Project also helps children learn about technology and computers, Montoya Picazo said.

“There is a program based on teaching digital and computer technology and software, and we want to make kids aware of technology and take them out of the streets,” he said. “Today’s kids like to burn music, create videos and create their own projects. We also take yearly trips to major cities. It is interesting.”

Being a Latino in politics will not only open doors for other Latinos in the country but also encourage them to become involved, Montoya Picazo believes.

“If somebody is Hispanic, other Hispanics tend to want to participate in events,” he said. “Changes in Beardstown have improved; they are a much more accepting town, and the town is really trying to involve Hispanics in the school and community.”

Montoya Picazo sees himself in public office in the long-term future and would like to work for governmental agencies before running, such as the department of immigration or homeland security.

When Montoya Picazo came to the United States at age nine, he assumed it was a Spanish-speaking country because his father still spoke Spanish to them over the phone while they were in Mexico. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an ESL (English as a second language) program at his school, and he “felt lost” at the culture shock, he said.

“I didn’t want to go to school; I wanted to stay home,” he said.

In 5th grade, however, an ESL program was implemented, and he began to learn reading and writing. In 7th grade, he made the choice to not be a part of ESL anymore.

“There was no way for me to learn it well,” he said. “They offered to have me come back if I had trouble, but I didn’t. It forced me to speak English, and that’s why I’m better at English now.”

Montoya Picazo said while he still embraces his native culture, he is grateful for the opportunities in the United States, especially being able to pursue higher education.

“I love my culture, but I have grown into American culture too; I like American food and music,” he said. “And I know if I was over there still, I wouldn’t be at UIS. I would have only gotten through grade school. So I owe that to my father; I’m thankful to him.”

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Professor fosters education of Latino and immigrant issues

By Courtney Westlake

Before Dr. Hinda Seif returned to grad school, she spent a number of years doing social justice work, and much of this work involved working with immigrant families. She was so interested in their stories, she became motivated to record those stories and learn more about “the context for how immigrants ended up coming to the United States,” she said.

That experience led Seif to pursue a doctorate from the University of California-Davis in anthropology with a focus on immigration issues. After receiving her Ph.D., she spent a year at the U.S.-Mexico border thinking through international migration issues with scholars from many other countries as a fellow at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, and she also worked on immigrant students and college access at University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research.

Now going into her second year teaching at UIS, Seif believes the university is an ideal fit.

“When I interviewed here, I was so impressed by the camaraderie. I loved the fact that we are a public university with small classes where I really get to know students that I’m working with,” Seif said. “A big draw was the location in the state capital because I’m interested in learning about and researching Latino and immigrant politics. Illinois is a state where Latinos and immigrants are having more and more impact on state politics, so it seemed perfect for me to be at UIS.”

This fall semester, Seif will be teaching courses in the sociology and anthropology curriculum and also the women’s studies curriculum. She teaches courses on cultural diversity in the U.S. as well as Women, Gender and Society, which is a core course for the Women’s Studies minor.

And a new course, which she first developed during the spring semester, fulfills the Comparative Societies requirement and is called “Women and Gender in Mexico and the U.S.”

“I think it is a unique course because this comparative societies requirement challenges us as professors to think about some of our favorite topics in this comparative fashion,” Seif said. “Usually when people teach about gender and women in this country, we focus on the United States or an entirely different country. Actually comparing the lives of women and gender roles in the two countries is a really interesting challenge.”

“I think it helps students think through not only what their lives are like as gendered individuals, but how they might have been different if they grew up in another country like Mexico,” she added.

The Latino population, which is the largest minority group in the United States, makes up about 14 percent of the population in Illinois and about 25 percent of the population in Chicago, Seif said. She is excited about diversity issues and is looking forward to continuing to help students think about different communities across the state, the country, and the world and broaden their horizons.

Seif is also joining with other campus faculty to welcome Latino students to our campus. Starting fall 2008, she is the faculty adviser for the campus student organization OLAS, or the Organization of Latin American Students.

“In fields that range from business to education to social work, employers are looking for students who are sensitive to diversity and can operate in a global economy,” she said. “I'm looking forward to learning with my students about diverse Latino communities in Illinois, like the one in Beardstown.”

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mooney interviewed on WILL

UIS Professor of Political Science Chris Mooney was interviewed on the WILL radio program Focus 580 with David Inge during the week of April 21, 2008. Mooney's segment was titled "Government by the People: Referenda, Grass Roots Initiatives, and Recall Petitions."

Focus 580 features interviews with "newsmakers and experts on international affairs and daily life."

Listen to the interview

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mexico Diez shares knowledge gained on trip

By Courtney Westlake

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today, a group of UIS students has found.

The Mexico Diez, a group of 10 students and two faculty members, left for Mexico the week before spring break in March and spent about 10 days in San Cristobal and Chiapas, as well as some southern, rural areas, after first undergoing training with Witness for Peace, said Julian Borjas, a junior who participated in the trip.

The group, part of the political studies class called Mexico & Globalization taught by Dr. Heather Dell and Veronica Espina, was studying how workers are actually affected by different trade agreements and economic policies put forth by the United States.

“We were looking at economic effects from neo-liberal trade policies, which are the official economic foreign policies that that U.S. backs through trade organizations and through trade agreements like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) that kind of privatize government lands and publicly-owned lands so that corporations can use the resources,” Borjas said.

The students met with families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life to learn about their experiences and perspectives regarding these policies and also stayed with three Mexican families during part of their time there.

“We talked with them about what their lives are like and what their concerns are,” said Bob Skorczewski, one of the ten students on the trip. “I had a little background in some of these political and economic issues from my time here at UIS, but the actual real world application of these policies and how they affect people is something you don't really get in a classroom environment.”

“Actually going there and communicating with the people in Mexico was very eye-opening, and you can see how these things affect them and their families,” he continued. “There are just so many things happening there that we weren't ever wanting for something to do and to learn.”

Borjas said the trip reinforced many of the ideas he had before taking the class.

“There is a lot of militarization; there are military installments in every town,” he said. “The people that are known to protest the government, the Zapatistas, are really feeling a lot of pressure. A lot of the towns are being persuaded to become more favorable to the government.”

As part of the experience, members of the Mexico Diez began speaking to groups around campus and the community upon returning from Mexico, sharing what they studied and what they learned while on their trip.

The students first talked to a couple of UIS classes, Skorczewski said, and then took on some speaking engagements at high schools in the area as well as community groups that helped to sponsor their trip.

Skorczewski encouraged other UIS students to sign up for the Mexico & Globalization class next spring for the chance to study this area, learn about globalization and make the trip to Mexico.

“Some of the experiences we had were very intense, but in a good way, in an eye-opening way,” he said. “I’m looking for ways now to get involved around here, or whatever community I end up living in, with the labor movement, or if it's in politics, keeping that in mind as we form public policy. There’s a hidden side to all these issues we see, and a lot of time we're concerned only with how it affects us and not other people.”

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

David Dodds Henry lecturer speaks on higher education

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, presented the 26th David Dodds Henry Lecture at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in Brookens Auditorium.

The focus of Ward's presentation was "Higher Education and the Global Knowledge Economy: Affordability and Accountability Redefined." Following his presentation were responses from Judy Erwin, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Naomi Lynn, Chancellor Emerita at UIS and Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. There was also a reception held after the program.

The David Dodds Henry lectures were established in 1971 by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the U of I Foundation to honor President Emeritus David D. Henry, who served as chief executive officer of the University for 16 years, from 1955 until his retirement in 1971.

Ward, who is a chancellor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spoke about the major changes in higher education over the past decades especially in terms of affordability.

"It doesn't really matter whether we talk about five, 10 or 15 years, but that the role and how we view the role and how funding is made up has changed dramatically," he said. "There is a sense that higher education, like many other sectors of the economy, is now in a global setting. Higher education is being seen by more people as critical to our future, and in that sense, our role has changed."

Tuition for public universities and colleges has increased tremendously due largely in part to lack of state funding, Ward said, but the challenges that plague higher education now have happened so gradually that many aren't aware at "how radical the changes are." It is hard to find a university president in the public sector who isn't concerned with providing the capital to find a way to "keep the excellence flourishing," he said.

"The problem is that I think in addition to these challenges and fears of global competition is we forget that over the past 25 years the role and funding of higher education has also changed," Ward said. "It doesn't mean to say that the money should come from the government, but it does mean to say some renewed funding will be needed."

Ward likened higher education's affordability to a swinging pendulum. He said many people believe that higher education and government are simply swinging back and forth between good times and bad.

"I say to those people 'the pendulum fell off its pin', " he said. "That doesn't mean we should lose our values. We now have to redefine that context through which we can fulfill our values. That pendulum's not just going to swing between good times and bad times now; they're different times."

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Professor completes challenging book project

By Courtney Westlake

Though Dr. Kent Redfield is a seasoned author, he said he found his latest publishing project much more challenging that it may appear to be to others.

"It's really an enjoyable project, but it is a lot of work," said Redfield, a professor of political science at UIS. "It's always a huge organizational task to get everybody's materials in, to revise them, to try to get a common structure and also for people to tell the story in their own states. And then to write the chapter I wrote in it is a different task; that is an effort."

The book, called "Democratic Renewal: A Call to Action from America's Heartland," was just released this month and contains profiles on the issues involving democratic institutions in the five Midwest states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota that are involved in the Joyce Foundation, which has a number of grantees in various states that work on democratic reform projects, Redfield said.

Redfield's essay in the book includes a discussion on what threats are present to American democracy in terms of lack of participation, lack of engagement, political corruption, election concerns and more. These are some things that cumulatively have an negative impact on public views of the political system, he said.

"It was an interesting project," he said. "It's an opportunity to take the research I do and then apply it, and work with groups that are trying to institute what I think are very positive changes."

Redfield's background in political science involves serving as the interim director for the Institute for Legislative Studies, which is part of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS. He has been with UIS since 1979, teaching classes on Illinois politics, legislative politics, political campaigns, lobbying and more.

Redfield has also been involved in extensive research on the financing of political campaigns in Illinois and political ethics, and many of his findings have been presented in numerous research reports, a series of articles in Illinois Issues, a book on financing legislative elections in Illinois called "Cash Clout" and a book on the role of money in Illinois politics entitled "Money Counts."

Redfield said he has always been a political scientist involved with teaching and basic and applied research but has become increasingly more active in advocacy and reform activities in recent years.

"I've been really fortunate in terms of having the position here at UIS where I can do teaching, which I really enjoy, I can do grant-funded research, and I can find ways to apply that and make a difference with what's going on in the world," he said.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

18th Congressional Seat Forum takes place at UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Campus and community members gathered on Tuesday evening to listen to the 18th Congressional Seat Forum, which took place at UIS in the Public Affairs Center. The candidates included Jim McConoughey, John Morris and Aaron Schock. The event was sponsored by UIS and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Chris Mooney, professor of political science at UIS, moderated the debate.

The candidates started by introducing themselves and giving opening remarks. They then fielded questions from Mooney on a variety of political topics, including the importance of endorsements, congressional earmarks, social security, the local and national economy and more.
Schock, a Peoria native and current State Representative, said he believes the government's role is not to create jobs but to create an environment that encourages jobs and investments from businesses.

"I believe the best way to do that is to keep marginal tax rates low, to keep tax rates on dividends and investments low," he said. "We have to make sure not only the state of Illinois, but our country remains competitive in a global market."

Morris, a former Peoria City Council member, stressed that he wants to do away with the death tax and that his highest priority is national security.

"There are threats out there," he said. "I think the defense of this country, the watchful eye, the level of intelligence, the training of specialists - this is critical. And when I get to Congress, this is going to be a top priority: national safety and security."

McConoughey, who is the CEO of a Peoria-based business umbrella group and admitted he is not a "professional politician," said the challenge for most local areas is that money is needed to be able to get projects done and correct core infrastructure problems.

"In most marketplaces, as a Congressman, I need to be able to assist the local efforts in being able to restore, replace, replenish and create new jobs in the future. I'll put a director of economic development on the staff in order to aid in new programs," he promised the audience. "It's a multi-faceted, multi-disciplined approach."

All three Republican candidates admitted they agree on many issues, but will have varying priorities if elected. The 18th Congressional primary election will take place on February 5.

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Project Vote Smart educates UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Project Vote Smart rolled onto the UIS campus on Tuesday morning, making a stop from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Lincoln Residence Hall to encourage members of the campus community to learn about the project and about making the best possible choices when it comes to voting in elections.

Project Vote Smart, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, has been in existence for about 16 years, but only about 10 percent of the public is aware of it, said Tony Boehm, a project representative. Members of the project are traveling around the country on a bus to raise awareness, currently moving through the Midwest before heading west to California at the end of January.

"We basically try to educate voters on all issues, all candidates, all elected officials," Boehm said. "We feel the more that people are educated, the more they'll know about the issues and not be influenced by the media and candidates' negative campaigns."

The project has a tie to UIS through Dr. Anthony Sisneros, associate professor of public administration at UIS who also serves as an adviser to Project Vote Smart. This was a major factor in the bus having the opportunity to stop on campus, Boehm said.

The Project Vote Smart bus holds a small movie theater that can fit 22 people. Those interested in learning about the project are shown an introductory video and given a tutorial of the Project Vote Smart Web site. There are computers available for students to explore themselves or Project Vote Smart representatives can showcase the site and its features via a projection screen.

Project Vote Smart is also toting along a giant, inflatable ball with the American flag, on which people can sign or write a short message to politicians.

"We're taking it everywhere we go and delivering it to Washington before the election," Boehm said.

To learn more about Project Vote Smart, call 1-888-vote-smart or go online here.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wheeler Sees Dedication from Students in PAR Program

By Courtney Westlake

Charles Wheeler has his lack of baseball skills to thank for his journalism career.

"When I tried out for the baseball team in high school, they had a rule that no freshmen were cut...they made an exception in my case," he laughed. "But the administration knew I was a very avid sports fan, and the Joliet Herald News was looking for someone to cover Joliet Catholic High School sports. I was a sophomore in high school when I had my first byline in the Herald News."

Wheeler eventually moved from sports reporting into political reporting - "In a sense, covering politics is like covering a sports event, except the stakes are so much higher," he noted - and spent 24 years at the Chicago Sun-Times before taking a position as the director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS in 1993.

"I was in the Sun-Times bureau at the time when the Public Affairs Reporting program started, and we had an intern the very first class and all the way through," Wheeler said. "I thought very highly of the program and enjoyed working with the interns and thought this was a way to work with all of them."

The highly-regarded Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) program at UIS is a one-year master's degree program in which students spend one semester in classes and then work for six months as a full-time reporter for a news organization in the State Capitol, under the direct supervision and guidance of the outlet's bureau chief. The program emphasizes the importance of informing readers, listeners and viewers about ongoing events and activities that impact on their daily lives, Wheeler said.

"I would say the one thing that sets us apart from any other program I know of is our internship," he said. "Our program offers these students the opportunity to show what they can do in a real-life setting under the deadline pressures and the complexity of state government, and as a result, they are able to walk away with proof they can handle any beat someone would give them."

Graduates and students within the PAR program have certainly showcased this each year by receiving numerous awards in an annual competition sponsored by Capitolbeat, the national organization of journalists covering state and local governments. Wheeler himself received top honors in 2007, for the fourth straight year, for magazine commentary, recognizing his contributions as a columnist for Illinois Issues magazine.

Along with continued success, PAR students and professors, as well as other media professionals, also face challenges and changes today regarding a huge push for multimedia reporting, Wheeler said.

"When I started as a reporter using typewriters, you didn't have to worry about shooting a picture or recording a tape," he said. "Nowadays reporters at some places are expected to go out with video cameras and get film or audio clips, and all of that goes on the Web. I think that's the big challenge for our program, and for other journalism education: to get people to be thinking in a broader concept about what the different ways are to be telling the story."

Because of the amount of internships available with news organizations, the program isn't able to grow much regarding the number of students it can accept. But it has grown more competitive, Wheeler said, and all of the students are extremely committed both in the classroom and within the internship.

"My hope is that the program continues to flourish and attract the kind of people that we've been able to attract," Wheeler said. "I tell people I'm the most fortunate college instructor in the whole world because all of the students I work with in the program are highly motivated and very talented. I don't have to deal with folks just trying to get a Gentleman's C; they are very committed, and that's a real pleasure."

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Group Heads to Mexico to Make a Difference

By Courtney Westlake

When a professor suggested that Julian Borjas take a class that corresponded with his area of study, political economy, he jumped at the opportunity. Now the class is leading him south of the border to gain some firsthand information and perspective on globalization.

A group of UIS students, known as the Mexico Diez (which means Mexico Ten), will be traveling to Mexico in the spring to study the effects of globalization nationally and internationally. They will spend ten days in poverty-stricken areas of Mexico City and rural communities such as Chiapas.

The Mexico Diez is part of a class called "Mexico and Globalization," said Borjas. During the trip, they will act as delegates for Witness for Peace and interview families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life.

"We're going to be studying globalization, including contracts like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), which will go into effect soon, and then we'll be going to Mexico to see how workers are actually affected by these different trade agreements," Borjas said. "There is going to be a lot of groundwork, which I'm really interested in."

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, many feel it is important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today. Borjas said he hopes he and others in the group will gain new perspectives about trade workers and agreements and looks forward to the opportunitity to provide service to others.

"We're taking a lot of natural resources from other places and displacing our own labor force in doing it," he said. "It's not really a good system; it's not benefiting most Americans, not benefiting other countries. So we figure it's kind of our obligation to go out and say 'this is what our country is doing'."

The group has been actively fundraising for the trip for the past three months, said Kris Bein, graduate assistant in Women and Gender Studies. At least $15,000 must be raised to cover the costs, she said. (Anyone interested in contributing can contact Bein at or 206-8205).

"The students have worked so hard and raised quite a large sum in three short months, but we're not done," she said. "We still have about $1,000 to go, so we still need support from the campus community."

The research the group compiles will enable students and community members alike to better understand the effects that trade policies have on the developing world, Bein said. The group will return home after the trip to present their work to the UIS campus and Springfield community.

"We're going to come back and talk to schools, organizations and civic groups and talk about what we did and what we saw there," Borjas said. "Witness for Peace in its entirety is to let people see the influence that our economy and government is having worldwide, and just to come back and say what you honestly saw and felt."

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hunger Banquet Raises Global Awareness

By Courtney Westlake

Students and other participants learned about the worldwide issues of hunger and even got a small taste of what life would be like going hungry during the 3rd annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

On Wednesday evening, November 14, UIS hosted the Hunger Banquet in the Great Room in Lincoln Residence Hall. The event is held in observance of National Hunger and Homelessness Week and focused this year on the theme "Poverty Has a Woman's Face."

During the Hunger Banquet, guests are randomly assigned high-, middle-, or low-income rankings and are served food that range from gourmet meals to small portions of rice and water, depending on the guest's designation.

The program also included a video, artwork, and displays, as well as a presentation by UIS student Shana Stine, who spent a month in Kenya, Africa last summer. Stine told the personal stories of several framed photographs of children she had taken while there.

"When you hear numbers like 854 million people are hungry today, we forget that for each number, there is a story and a face, and a lot of crying, a hungry belly and a lot of pain 854 million times over," Stine said. "I was blessed to spend the summer in Kenya, and it changed my whole perspective on life and what it means to be privileged. After living with hungry orphans most of my trip, I came back a changed person."

The name of the Banquet, "Oxfam", came from the original postal abbreviation for the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, which was started in England during World War II to provide relief to war victims in Europe. Oxfam America, an affiliate of Oxfam International, is a relief and development organization that works to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The purpose of the Hunger Banquet is to raise awareness of hunger nationally and internationally.

"The majority of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are women; poverty has extensive implications for women around the world," said Ashley Rook, who helped to coordinate the event. "For most of us in this room, we can't imagine what it would be like to be in a refugee camp or lose a relative to starvation."

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wheelhouse Finds Integrity and Expansion at WUIS

By Courtney Westlake

Like most media outlets, national public radio has its fair share of challenges, but during a time when commercial radio is struggling, public radio is expanding and continuing to find its niche. WUIS is no exception.

"It's making yourself relevant and trying to offer something that goes along with public radio's quality of providing programming people can't find elsewhere but still providing in-depth news," said Bill Wheelhouse, general manager of WUIS.

Wheelhouse has been general manager at the station for two years, after previously spending ten years as a statehouse news reporter for all public radio stations in Illinois. WUIS has about ten staff members, and are looking to expand the station and modernize the facility, Wheelhouse said.

"The real challenge is that technology keeps changing and will be changing, and the audience is going to continue to fragment," he said. "We keep hoping to adapt with the technology while sticking with our core principles."

HD radio is now making it possible for WUIS to broadcast in digital. Audience members with special receivers can pick up extra channels, and WUIS hopes to eventually be broadcasting three channels.

Public radio has an average audience age of 50 years old. One of the new channels for HD radio listeners will be a "form of alternative programming" geared toward a younger audience, Wheelhouse said, to attract the younger demographic to tune in.

"We want to do that with quality and public radio integrity, but we have to have something in public radio that caters to that age group," he said. "So our second station will be to serve the students of the university and also those under 35, or under 50 even, around the region."

Wheelhouse said now as a manager, he plans to keep a strong emphasis on news after spending years as a reporter, but also wants to bring "alternative forms of music to the radio that aren't necessarily commercial successes," he said. What he likes best about public radio is "being in it," he said.

"It has integrity," Wheelhouse said. "In public radio, you still find the true commitment to journalism."

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Former New York Times Reporter Talks Freedom of the Press

By Courtney Westlake

In the past, the public has turned to the press for information that is being suppressed, and leaking the truth is healthy for the balance of the country. Currently, though, that balance is being thrown off, according to Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former investigative reporter for The New York Times who was on campus on Wednesday, November 7.

Miller's evening presentation and a luncheon seminar also Wednesday featuring Charles Lewis were the first two programs in the Government Accountability and a Free Press Project, a series of events designed to explore legal, ethical, and practical political and policy issues that may arise as members of the press engage in investigative reporting that is intended to uncover less-than-transparent government conduct.

In July 2005, Miller was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the source of a leak outing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. Miller did not write about Plame, but she reportedly possessed evidence relevant to the investigation. Because of this, she spent 85 days in jail, twice as long as any American reporter has ever been confined for protecting a confidential source.

On Wednesday, Miller spoke about freedom of the press. Lewis and a panel of investigative reporters from around the area were also part of the presentation, and Bill Wheelhouse, general manager of public radio station WUIS 91.9 FM, was the moderator of the event.

"Other reporters are also in jeopardy," Miller said during her speech. "The number of journalists being subpoenaed in civil and criminal investigations in the United States to force them to disclose who leaked secret information to them is growing dramatically."

Some issues, however, need to be confidential to the government, Miller admitted. From her experiences as a reporter in Iraq, she has seen the necessity for certain information, like troop deployment, to be "secrets," she said.

"But why did the Pentagon also insist on banning TV cameras from recording the return of our dead in caskets from Iraq? Why did it prohibit the publication of photographs of those caskets?" Miller asked. "Reporting restrictions on reporters and growing secrecy has led the American Society of Newspaper Editors to issue a call to arms to its members, urging them to demand answers about this deeply disturbing trend of secrecy."

The "war on our freedoms" is putting civil liberties in danger, Miller said.

"Over the years, far more damage has been done to national security by government secrecy and deceit than by the press's reporting of that secret information," she said. "The pendulum, that national balance, may be swinging too far toward national security and away from civil liberties, and as a result, we risk now being both less free and less safe."

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Washington Post Reporter Discusses National Leadership During Series

By Courtney Westlake

"Where are all the leaders?" is a familiar question to David Broder.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Washington Post political correspondent has heard many comments and questions on the leadership of the United States.

On Thursday evening, Oct. 18, Broder addressed the topic in a presentation in the Sangamon Auditorium as part of the annual Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation's Jim Edgar Lecture Series. The program was sponsored by the Foundation and University of Illinois at Springfield.

Broder, who Jim Edgar himself called "the best in his profession," reports on the national political scene for The Washington Post and writes a twice-weekly column that covers American political life. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for distinguished commentary and has been named "Best Newspaper Political Reporter" by the Washington Journalism Review.

As a reporter, Broder said he believes in "traditional reporting" and spends time each day listening to people's questions and worries face-to-face. Four major concerns in the country today include illegal immigration, the rising costs of healthcare, energy prices and shortages and the war in Iraq, he said.

"What those four issues have in common is that when you ask what has Washington done in recent years to solve these problems, the answer is not very much," Broder said. "There is reason for dissatisfaction, and it is cause for concern about the leadership in the nation's capital. I hear people saying that there are real problems in the country, and they're frustrated. The public senses there are challenges that are big and growing and need to be met."

Today, Broder said, political parties are so evenly balanced that even the slightest change can have huge consequences. The parties now in the capital are very differently composed than they were when Broder first worked in Washington D.C., he said. Broder also suggested that the generation of Baby Boomers has "special problems" in providing leadership for the nation.

Broder noted that his dicussion is largely speculation on his part, as to why leadership in the country is lacking. Whatever the reason, however, the people are beginning to grow restless, he said.

"Historically, the American people have been optimistic," Broder said, "but in recent years, they have said they see things going in the wrong direction. Along with that pessimism comes a persistent question: where are the leaders who will seize control of this situation and set things right?"

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Student Government President Has Big Plans for His Term

By Courtney Westlake

Every meeting, before President Bob Skorczewski calls for new and old business, he asks the members of the UIS Student Government Association and meeting attendees to stand and honor their country by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

He realizes, as most involved in politics do, that the political system wouldn’t be where it is today without the basic principles the nation was founded on.

Skorczewski, who is originally from Nashville, Ill., first became interested in politics in high school, and after serving his first term for the Senate-at-Large, Skorczewski said he began to find that politics and government contained many more “niches that needed to be filled” than he originally thought.

Skorczewski then ran for vice president his junior year and served as Sergeant-at-Arms his senior year. Now, as a graduate student in political studies, he has stepped up into the role of president.

“When you study politics you learn about agenda setting; the president has a lot ability to influence what gets discussed,” he said. “It also allows me to be in a position to talk to other student government presidents around the state about legislative issues we want to work together on.”

The student government association is made up of 16 main positions, 14 of those being voting positions. There are also 20 committees, subcommittees and councils.

Skorczewski said his decision to attend UIS rested largely on the excellent “public affairs package,” and the opportunity to get to know his professors and mentors on a more personal level.

“It really helps, with the small class sizes; I didn’t realize how great it would be until I got here,” he said. “I think I know the faculty here better than my teachers in high school.”

As president of the student body, Skorczewski said he has many plans for not only the government and the students, but for the university as a whole.

“This year already, we are talking with the Springfield Mass Transit District to try to get more bus service to UIS,” he said. “In a campus setting committee, we’re working on revising the UIS academic integrity code, and in the Student Government Association, we’re working on a student Bill of Rights.”

And in working with other student government presidents this term, Skorczweski hopes that a coalition called the Illinois Students Coalition will be formed that will be able to lobby the state and federal governments as a voice for students, which he believes is a part of the population that is often overlooked.

When he’s not governing the student body or attending classes, Skorczewski serves as a research assistant for the Center for State Policy and Leadership, locating and researching grants and implementing forums for the center.

Through each of his roles, Skorczewski is hoping to get students at UIS more involved in the center and politics in general.

“We’re always looking for ways that people can get involved,” he said. “We have a number of committees; even if you don’t want to serve on the actual board, you can serve on a committee. And a personal goal is to try to get people involved in government on any level. Raise your hand and let us know what you think.”

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