Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MIS online graduate student competes for Essence Magazine wedding package

Jasmine Harris, a 25-year-old online graduate student in Management Information Systems at UIS, is competing for a complete wedding package in the pages of Essence Magazine.

Harris lives in Manasas Park, VA and works at Lockheed Martin, where she met her future husband during an employee happy hour. She decided to enroll in the MIS program online because of its reputation.

“The course selection of the MIS program, the flexibility of the online courses, accreditation, along with the affordability of the tuition attracted me to the online program at UIS,” said Harris.

Her future husband, Gabriel Sheffield, submitted a letter to Essence explaining why he would like to propose to her, which led to the couple being named one of four finalists. The actual proposal came on December 17, 2009, and was video taped by Essence and posted online. Sheffield’s proposal letter was published in the February edition of the magazine.

“We hope that the glimpse into our proposal can allow the world to, if only for a few moments, feel the power of love,” said Harris.

If the couple wins the “Will You Marry Me?” contest they’ll get the following:

• A wedding consultation with renowned wedding producer and designer Diann Valentine, who will provide the winning couple with key tips on how to make their day extra special and invitations from her new collection, Wedding Paper Divas
• A wedding dress from the David Tutera by Faviana Collection -- a dress designed collaboratively by design house Faviana and celebrity wedding planner and host of WE tv's My Fair Wedding with David Tutera
• An amazing cake courtesy of one of the bakers featured on the WE tv hit show, Amazing Wedding Cakes
• $10,000 in cash for wedding day essentials

“The day a girl gets engaged is one of the most memorable occasions of her lifetime. Gabriel demonstrated his dedication and love for me by taking the time to ensure that the proposal was extraordinary and unique,” said Harris.

You can help the couple win the contest by voting online at:

Voting is now underway and ends on February 12, 2009.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Sangamon Auditorium patron donates funds for handrails

Patrons at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium no longer have to worry about taking a tumble on the steep stairs thanks to a generous gift.

Pam Reyhan has been enjoying shows at the auditorium for the past 15 years and knows how tricky the stairs can become, especially in the dark. When she was asked if she’d be willing to help finance the installation of handrails to prevent patrons from falling, the choice was simple.

“I hate to say it, but I’m getting to an age where I need them and all my friends need them,” said Reyhan.

Reyhan donated the funds to purchase and install the handrails for the 2,018 seat auditorium, which opened in February of 1981.

“I talked to the architect about why they had designed the railings the way they ultimately emerged,” said Robert Vaughn, Sangamon Auditorium director. “(The architect) said I was a lot younger then.”

Associate Chancellor of Development Vicki Megginson led the effort to secure the funding, while Facilities & Services Administration Executive Director David Barrows came up with the design.

The handrails were installed by the beginning of the 2009-10 season and the auditorium hasn’t experienced a single fall since. Vaughn says in the previous season, before the handrails, they had nine minor falls reported by patrons.

“We are very grateful for Pam’s support in doing this and helping us with the project,” said Vaughn.

Reyhan’s family has owned Sangamo Construction in Springfield for almost 100 years and she’s glad to be able to give back to the community.

“I’ve had so many complements. You have no idea the number of people who have come up to me and said we love the handrails thank you so much,” said Reyhan.

Reyhan says she also enjoys the fact that her gift to the university will be long lasting, helping others long into the future.

“It will last until they fall apart and they need new ones and I hope to god I’m not here then,” joked Reyhan.

For more information about Sangamon Auditorium visit:

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Friday, December 11, 2009

UIS' Diversity Center director will be keynote speaker at Martin Luther King Jr. service

Dr. Clarice Ford, director of the Diversity Center at UIS, will be the keynote speaker for The Springfield Ministerial Alliance of Springfield and Vicinity’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative March and Memorial Service on Sunday, January 17, at Union Baptist Church, in Springfield.

The 18-minute march will begin with a brief meditation at 3 p.m. on Freedom Corner in front of the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 2nd Street and Capitol Avenue, where the Illinois State Library is located. Church, the Student Gospel Choir at UIS, will sing at the statue and lead the singing along the route. The march will proceed to Union Baptist Church, where the Ministerial Alliance Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service will begin at 4 p.m. The UIS choir and the Southeast High School Gospel choir will perform there as well.

Ford was formerly the pastor of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rome, Georgia and was associate dean of Students at Berry College for five years. She earned a Ph.D. from Fielding University, Santa Barbara, California. She is a member of the NAACP, Eastern Star Miriam Chapter #47, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Charter Member of the National Military Women Memorial, has earned the Pennsylvania Black Achiever Award and is a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Diversity and Human Relations.

Winners of the 2010 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest will deliver their essays during the Memorial Service. The essay contest is sponsored each year by the Alliance and is open to area elementary, middle school and high school students.

The event is open to the public.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

The Journal offers students hands-on experience in journalism

The Journal
, the weekly student newspaper of the University of Illinois Springfield, is giving students “real world” experience covering the news.

The newspaper is published every Wednesday during the fall and spring semester, when classes are in session. Students also produce one summer edition following up on graduation, news and upcoming events. A special magazine edition of The Journal called “Beyond” is published once every fall and spring semester.

“We try to put the news of campus into an easy readable format for students. That’s who our audience is, so that’s who we’re trying to go after when we put out a paper every week,” said Luke Runyon, The Journal editor-in-chief.

The Journal employs a staff of about a dozen students, including two graduate assistants and has grown from an eight-page paper without full color to a paper that is typically 12 full color pages. Students are paid minimum wage to work at the newspaper reporting, serving as editors and photographers and working on layout design.

“We’re hoping to get going with a dot-com or dot-org website, so we can sell online advertising and that would provide multimedia experience,” said Debra Landis, student publications adviser.

Landis helps critique stories, photos and columns in the newspaper, but story selection and editorial decisions are left in the hands of students.

“Only by allowing students to generate their own story ideas, their own editorials, and their own photo selection can it truly be the kind of real life experiences that we want them to have,” said Landis.

Students cover public affairs events like campus senate and Student Government Association (SGA) meetings along with student life activities and events.

“It’s going to be amazing for my future career if I’m going into journalism or some kind of reporting it’s going to be invaluable experience,” said Runyon.

Landis says employers are looking for interns and young professionals who have practical work experience.

“There’s always going to be jobs for journalists. It might vary or evolve, but people are always going to want to know the news,” said Landis.

For more information on how to become involved in The Journal, contact Luke Runyon at or log onto

The Journal is distributed not only on the UIS campus, but at the Springfield Public Library and Illinois State Capitol.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

ITS multimedia education coordinator presents social media session at Museum

Munindra Khaund, Multimedia Education Coordinator for Information Technology Services at UIS, is presenting at a brownbag session at the Illinois State Museum on Wednesday, December 9.

The topic is "Building Communities of Interest with Social Media: Using Facebook." The session is geared toward organizations looking into Facebook as an outreach tool to build communities of interest.

More information on the session can be found online here. The session is free and open to public.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Student Volunteers Create 9/11 Video

Students from the University of Illinois Springfield’s Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center have put together a video in remembrance of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Student and staff volunteers traveled around the UIS campus asking students what impact 9/11 had on them, where they were when the attacks happened and if they think it united the country.

“It’s probably the defining event in young people’s lives on campus since they’ve been alive it’s been the one event that has impacted the entire world,” said Jordan Jeffers, Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center Americorps VISTA.

The project is being done as part of the first ever 9/11 National Day of Service, which will be the culmination of President Obama’s Summer of Service.

Jeffers hopes the video interviews will spark discussion about the importance of the events and inspire people to work towards civic engagement.

The video will air on the campus cable channel at various times through Sunday.

Watch the full video of what the volunteers created below:

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Clarice Ford will speak at Springfield banquet

Dr. Clarice Ford, director of the UIS Diversity Center, will be a speaker at the 90th Anniversary Banquet for Calvary Baptist Church and the East Springfield Nehemiah Project for urban renewal. The event will be held August 23 at the Northfield Inn Conference Center at 2 p.m.

The Nehemiah Project built 25 affordable home new homes last summer. Thirty more are planned this summer.

Banquet tickets are $50.00 each. For ticket information, contact Calvary Baptist Church at (217) 544-1424 or A few tickets will also be available at the door.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Brookens Library features new Art Wall for campus and community

By Courtney Westlake

Brookens Library is hoping to plan for art gallery space in an future renovation, but since it is uncertain when the renovation might take place, they decided to take advantage of empty space they currently have available for a new Library Art Wall that features artwork by the UIS and local communities.

“For several years, we’ve been thinking that the campus needed a place for exhibiting artwork in addition to the Visual Arts Gallery and a place to bring in additional types of displays,” said Jane Treadwell, dean of library instructional services and university librarian.

Last year when the Library was considering hosting a student art competition, Megan Hunter, multimedia communications specialist at the Library, began exploring different ways to display artwork. She found a convenient hanging system that the Library was able to install, thanks to the Friends of Brookens Library.

Now the hanging system is in place around the corner from the Circulation Desk on the main floor.

“This space I picked particularly because it's a high traffic area in the library,” Hunter said. “A lot of students use the computers here in front of the Art Wall. It’s been an empty space for a long time, and we felt something needed to go there. It has really enhanced the library.”

The first two displays currently up on the wall include paintings by Dr. Bill Abler, professor in Human Development Counseling, and Rachel Hasenyager, office manager in the Office of Alumni Relations.

Now the Library is hoping to get word out around campus and to the Friends of Brookens Library that the Art Wall is available to showcase the artwork of the many talented people on campus and in the community, Treadwell said.

“We hope this is a way to get more people into the library and interested in the library as a place for lots of intellectual pursuits,” she said. “This is the library for the community, and I think it's important that the community members have lots of ways to interact with each other and find out about talents we have on campus.”

“At any university campus, it’s just amazing how many talents there are,” Treadwell added. “What we see is just the tip of the iceberg. We felt this is one way we can contribute to a more vibrant campus.”

To apply to exhibit artwork on the Library Art Wall, contact Marcia Rossi at 206-6597 or

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Friday, October 10, 2008

UIS Prairie offers sustainability and opportunities to university

By Courtney Westlake

The state of Illinois had 22 million acres of prairie up until the 1820s, but since European settlers moved into area, there are now less than 2,500 acres. Caring for the prairie areas that remain is now extremely important, such as the beautiful prairie located on the south area of the UIS campus.

“We have such small remnants of prairie still left,” said Dr. Tih-Fen Ting, assistant professor of Environmental Studies. “By losing this part of the native ecosystem, we also put out a lot of other species that are associated with prairie, whether it be birds, mammals or insects. We hope that we can increase biodiversity locally and also help species that still depend on prairie for survival and reproductive needs.”

Prairie is a French word meaning ‘meadow,’ Ting said. A prairie system is made up of lot of grasses and flower species and is very productive. Prairie grasses and forbs have deep root systems, and once a plant dies, its roots decompose and become part of the soil.

The prairie at UIS was established in 1991 by the student organization Students Allied for a Greener Earth (SAGE). Bob Raebig, who was a SAGE member and later became the environmental health and safety officer at UIS, played a tremendous role for the prairie restoration, Ting said, and when he passed away in 2004, Ting took responsibility of maintaining the prairie, along with help from Joan Buckles, UIS superintendent of grounds.

“We can use this as a living laboratory to teach students about the prairie and its ecosystem,” Ting said. “Even though it’s only three acres right now, it’s still a nice opportunity to have that living laboratory on campus for students to be able to learn more about a prairie ecosystem.”

Having a restored prairie on campus is beneficial not only to the campus community but to the environment and to sustainability in general.

“Sustainability is a broad issue in the sense that it involves not only environmental stewardship but social responsibilities and economic wellbeing,” Ting said. “There are many ecological benefits the prairie can provide. It increases biodiversity in a human-dominant landscape. And it does not preclude the opportunity for other species to be able to co-exist with us, which is important for sustainability.”

The prairie is also appealing for its aesthetic value and provides a natural setting for people to come, Ting said.

“It's such a beautiful place, and I think people will get inspiration for all kinds of work,” she said.

In the early days, a prairie was maintained by fires from lightning or grazing done by bison, Ting said. Now, UIS uses the method of fire-prescribed burns to maintain the health of the prairie ecosystem. The Friends of Sangamon Valley assists UIS in conducting species inventory and prescribed burns.

“Those are the ways to prevent trees, brushes and shrubs from taking over the prairie ecosystem. We try to mimic the natural force with controlled fires,” Ting said. “The fire will help release nutrients from vegetation back to the soil so it will enhance soil productivity and help other plants to grow. It also helps to control a lot of invasive species as well.”

The UIS prairie gives the campus community the opportunity to be immersed in a different kind of natural setting, Ting said.

“I encourage everyone to come here. It’s right on campus, on west side of the Strawbridge-Shepherd House,” she said. “There are beautiful species and grasses. You can come, meditate, take a nice walk, and it will probably help with your day.”

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association looking for new volunteers for 2008-2009

The Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association is currently looking for new volunteers for the 2008-2009 schedule of events and performances at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS.

A dedicated corps of over 280 trained volunteers, SAVA (Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association) members make up the team of ushers who help greet patrons, tear tickets, hand out show programs, and help ensure the safety and comfort of those who attend performances and other events at Sangamon Auditorium and the UIS Studio Theatre. Interested volunteers also have opportunities to provide support in the administrative office, as needed, assisting with marketing, community outreach, and the Auditorium's educational and family programs.

Concerning the benefits of being a volunteer at Sangamon Auditorium, Carly Shank, director of audience and development and communication noted, "Although it's a wonderful way to support the university and the arts, it's also great way to network and make social connections within the community. It's the best way to get involved with our organization."

Requirements and Expectations - Sangamon Auditorium Volunteers are requested to volunteer for at least three events a semester and are required to attend at least one mandatory training session. Two training sessions will be offered during the month of August -- on Tuesday, August 12, at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday, August 23, at 10 a.m. New and returning volunteers are required to attend only one of these sessions. Training sessions are held at Sangamon Auditorium. Those planning on attending are asked to RSVP by calling Carly Shank at the number below.

For a complete description of volunteer responsibilities and expectations, visit

For additional information, or to join the Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association, contact Carly Shank at 217/206-8286 or via e-mail at

Sangamon Auditorium, UIS

Located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, the Auditorium hosts more than 120 performances annually. Home to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Ballet Company, it is the only auditorium of its kind and size in the Springfield area with a seating capacity of 2,018.

With a staff of 11 full-time employees, graduate assistants, more than 280 volunteers, ushers, and local stagehands, Sangamon Auditorium continues to fulfill its mission of presenting and supporting varied cultural and educational professional arts activities to the audiences in Springfield, Sangamon County, and the surrounding areas. The Auditorium administrative offices can be reached at 217/206-6150 or by e-mail at

For more information, contact Bryan Leonard at 217/206-8284 -

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Commencement celebrates exciting and surprising journey

By Courtney Westlake

Life has a way of surprising us.

That was the theme of the speech from student commencement speaker Denean Vreeland as she spoke to her fellow graduates, celebrating their common commitment, college career and all of the surprises along the way.

Hundreds of graduates gathered in their robes and gowns on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, May 10, to receive their hard-earned diplomas in the presence of their proud friends and families with happy tears and beaming smiles across their faces.

Years of dedication and hard work culminated into an exciting and emotional ceremony celebrated by the graduates, many members of the UIS community and people from around the country and world.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke served as the commencement keynote speaker, and UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen and University President B. Joseph White also gave remarks during the ceremony. White challenged the graduates sitting before him to be people of high integrity and professionals of high integrity.

“This is the happiest day of the academic calendar; I’m so happy to be able to share it with you,” White said. “I want to congratulate the graduates, and I want to thank all of the families and friends for all of their support and sacrifices. It’s really taken your love and support to get all of the graduates here.”

Vreeland, who received her degree in math and will be teaching the subject at Pawnee High School, said she was extremely excited to be chosen as the student speaker and could hardly believe her graduation day had finally arrived.

“It’s so exciting to be at the end,” she said right before the graduation ceremony. “This thing I have anticipated for so long is finally here. I really had a tremendous experience at UIS.”

Vreeland's speech was a surprise to her parents, who were in attendance. With the element of surprise being the focus of her presentation, she urged her audience not to equate surprise as being unprepared or naive.

“Each of us today has worked hard to reach this moment in our lives. For most of us, it has required careful planning and dedication,” she said. “Despite these carefully laid plans, though, I am certain each of us has encountered our share of surprises. Speaking from a later season of life, I can tell you there are always surprises ahead.”

Vreeland acknowledged the online learning at UIS, noting that she was rarely physically present on campus but was grateful for the opportunity to study and take classes online, while still feeling like she was an important part of the university. She encouraged her fellow students, both online and on-campus, to explore new possibilities and “not be afraid to open new doors.”

“Those areas least explored are sometimes those that hold the most wonderful surprises,” Vreeland said. “Our professors here at UIS have given us the tools we need to succeed. We have learned how to understand problems and come up with our own solutions. They have encouraged us to think critically and independently.”

And when it comes to planning for the future, Vreeland quoted a sentence from actor Steve Carell’s character in “Dan in Real Life” when he says “Maybe we should tell them this...plan to be surprised.”

“As we leave this ceremony today, no matter what your plans, I invite you to look for and embrace all of life's surprises,” Vreeland said.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Campus guest discusses Creole culture

By Courtney Westlake

UIS Music hosted guest Dr. Sybil Kein, Creole scholar and composer on Friday, May 2. Kein presented a public lecture titled "Gumbo People: Celebrating and Teaching the Creole Culture of New Orleans," on Friday afternoon, which featured poetry, folklore and personal stories collected from Creole muscicians, entertainers and other historical and cultural figures.

Kein, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, is a recognized expert in Creole culture and history, as well as a musician, composer and poet. She has numerous books and CDs to her credit and recently served as a translator and dialect coach for the Screen Gems production Bolden, a film about early jazz in New Orleans.

Kein discussed where many beliefs about different races came about, and how various races were "assigned" a color at some point in time, such as black, red, yellow and white. People need to understand that many beliefs about race were invented in the beginning and are still fiction.

"The key word in all of this is 'folklore,' but it has stuck," Kein said.

Kein described her family tree dating back to her great-grandparents, with roots in the Jewish religion, France, Ireland and more. Multicultural is really the definition of Creole, Kein said.

"We have 17 million multicultural people in the United States. As Creole people in the culture and language, we are more than 55 million in the world," she said. "And one of the things I like about the news laws is that the law cannot tell you who you are. It's up to you to decide who you identify with in your ancestry. If you have that culture, that is a part of you."

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Women's Center hosts annual Garden Party

By Courtney Westlake

The Women's Center held its annual Garden Party and Awards Ceremony on Thursday afternoon, May 1, at the Women's Peace and Friendship Garden at the campus pond.

The Center gave out two awards: the 11th Naomi B. Lynn Award for Contribution to Environment for Women at UIS and the 4th Women's Issues Caucus Student Activism Award.

Nominees up for the Naomi B. Lynn award were Dr. Heather Dell, associate professor of Women and Gender Studies, Amanda Page, student, and Dr. Kent Redfield, professor of Political Studies. Nominees for the student activism honor included Jimmy Brower, Amanda Looney, Katelyn Murray, Renee Rathjen and Ashley Rook.

Dell was selected as the recipient of the Naomi B. Lynn Award. She recognized that she could not have gotten the award by herself and thanked many of those who supported and encouraged her.

"Heather's work is deep in the core of human condition," said Lynn Otterson, director of the Women's Center. "Students respond well to what Heather Dell teaches, and how she teaches and mentors. The students I know never leave what they learn in Heather's class at the door."

Brower received the honor of the WIC Student Activism Award. Brower served as the chair of Queer-Straight Alliance, was involved with the Women's Issues Caucus and coordinated the Great Midwestern Wigout, among many other activism roles he held on campus.

"I think we can do great things at UIS; I'm committed to that, and I know all of you are," Brower said. "I couldn't be more honored to be one of the nominees with these five people. They're my peers, and I've worked with them so hard doing so many things over the past five years, and I owe a lot of that to all of you."

Before the awards were given, Otterson told the gathered crowd about the significance of the Peace and Friendship Garden, which was built in 1997. Many aspects of the garden, such as the chimes, bench, birdhouse and more, were added in honor of the recipients of the Naomi B. Lynn Award each year.

"This garden is a communal effort of the community; it's a wonderful thing," Otterson said. "It really does continue to grow every year."

Naomi B. Lynn, former UIS chancellor, was present during the event and commended the Women's Center for its work, as well as the efforts and dedication of the nominees.

"I wanted to congratulate each and every one of you," said Lynn. "You're our next generation; that's what it is all about, and that's why we're here."

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mary Jane's Café celebrates opening

By Courtney Westlake

Coffee, ice cream and other treats were passed around as the campus community celebrated the official ribbon-cutting for Mary Jane’s Café, the Brookens Library coffee shop, on Tuesday afternoon, April 29.

"This is a dream that has been a long-time coming, and I'm so glad to have all of you here today," said Jane Treadwell, university librarian and dean of Library Instructional Services at UIS.

Mary Jane’s is named after Mary Jane MacDonald, the first librarian hired at Sangamon State University. The space for the café had previously been called the MacDonald Lounge to honor MacDonald. MacDonald was on hand to participate in the ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, and Treadwell commended her for her work and dedication at the library.

Located on the first level of Brookens, the café features pastries and light lunch items as well as coffee, espresso and other gourmet beverages. Bevande Coffee out of Bloomington, which serves shade-grown coffee roasted in Seattle, has been chosen as the operator for Mary Jane’s.

"I remember when we started talking about this, to create a 'let's get back in the library, Barnes & Noble' kind of place right here on our own campus, and now we can all see it," said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "You have to dream to have a dream come true, and the library certainly dreamed this."

In the strategic plan for UIS, education, research and study are greatly emphasized, and Mary Jane's falls into place with the plan, Treadwell said.

"What we were lacking on this campus was what is called 'third spaces', some really nice community gathering spaces, and here at Mary Jane's Café, we now have such a space," Treadwell said. "We had put the idea of a café in our short-term goals of the library's strategic plan. Dreams usually don't come through without money though; our chancellor made the funds available for us to have this cafe."

Bevande co-owner Tyler Buckley said the company is thrilled to be on campus and has found UIS to be an open and friendly environment.

"We're just excited to be here, we hope to live up to the expectations that Mary Jane's Café has been asked to do, and we hope to be here for a long time," he said.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Emiquon Field Station dedication held

By Courtney Westlake

It was a momentous occasion on Friday, April 25, as an excited crowd braved the strong winds and rain to celebrate the dedication and ribbon-cutting of the new Emiquon Field Station at the Emiquon Preserve located near Havana, Illinois, along the Illinois River.

The Illinois River is part of one of the greatest large-floodplain river ecosystems in the world. A century ago, most of the Illinois Rivers' floodplain was isolated from the river and converted to agricultural land, which significantly altered the natural ecological processes of seasonal flooding that sustained the ecosystem.

In 2007, however, the Nature Conservancy and UIS teamed up to transform 7,425 acres of land immediately adjacent to the Illinois River and owned by The Nature Conservancy back to its original state of a floodplain, which is one of the biggest transformations of its kind in the world.

UIS decided to establish the Emiquon Field Station to study, research, and document this incredible transformation and give students the opportunity to learn at the site. Dr. Michael Lemke, professor of biology at UIS, is the director of the field station.

During the field station dedication ceremony, Lemke explained how the restoration of the floodplain began and gave thanks to everyone involved who made the restoration and the field station possible.

"The physical function of the field station allows the vision that a lot of us have here; many of us have been busy studying this 7,000 acre-land restoration," he said. "A lot of planning and foresight has gone into this project. There is a chance for students here to learn biology, ecology, anthropology and many other disciplines."

The station features laboratories and an electronic classroom, Lemke said. The classroom lets instructors teach over the Web or bring guest speakers from distant locations to Emiquon, providing a connection to the rest of the world.

"Stories here at Emiquon aren't just for college-age students; we plan to share what is going on here with people from 'K to gray' through workshops, outreach and other ways," Lemke said. "I'm excited about sharing the stories here that have a global impact."

The Emiquon Project and the field station are right in line with UIS' goal to become one of the top five public, liberal arts universities in the country, said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringseisen.

"One of the phrases we like to use a lot is 'local excellence, global impact,' and if there's ever been an example of that, it certainly is this station," Ringeisen said. "This is an excellent and highly visible example of statewide and national recognition, so we're very excited today."

The field station is more than just a new building and observatory, Lemke said.

"It's also the people that work here. All of the people that have planned this and made it happen are part of the life of Emiquon," he said.

With the dedication of the new field station, UIS is becoming part of the long, rich history of the Emiquon floodplain, said UIS Provost Harry Berman.

"Dreams can come true," Berman said. "And with dreams come responsibility. At UIS, we now have a responsibility to take advantage of this wonderful facility and the splendid opportunities it offers to faculty and students. We will teach here, we will do research here, and in partnership with the Nature Conservatory, we will educate the public about biodiversity and conservation."

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day presenter encourages action for sustainable Future

By Courtney Westlake

UIS celebrated Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22 with a presentation on "Education and Action for a Sustainable Future" given by Dr. Debra Rowe, president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, on Tuesday evening in Brookens Auditorium.

Earth Day, an annual event since 1970, is a chance for people around the world to celebrate the planet and our responsibility toward it. (For more information about Earth Day, go here.)

Rowe is a faculty member and administrator at Oakland Community College in Michigan, where she creates and teaches interdisciplinary projects about futuring, environmental sustainability and a more humane society. She is also a senior fellow with the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, national co-coordinator of the Higher Education Association's Sustainability Consortium, founder of the Disciplinary Associations' Network for Sustainability, and senior adviser to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

As president of the U.S. Partnership, Rowe works with educational institutions across the country to integrate a sustainable worldview into formal education at all levels. "Sustainable development," as defined by the United Nations 2002 World Summit, is that which would improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.

Rowe discussed topics such as what sustainability is, what the challenges in creating sustainability are, what solutions already exist, what national trends are occuring and resources for the attendees.

"This isn't about saving the planet; the planet's going to be fine," she said. "It's just a question of what kind of species is going to be able to survive on the planet and with what quality of life."

United Nations declared a decade of development for sustainable development starting in 2005. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, every ecosystem is degrading. Nearly half of the world's major rivers are going dry or are badly polluted, the fishing areas are collapsing or in decline, and there is dangerous climate change, Rowe said.

"With each breath you take, with each drink of water, each piece of food, you are receiving life-sustaining gifts from the ecosystem, and you're not paying the full price the way our economic system is structured," she said.

In higher education, we learn knowledge, values and skills, Rowe said, and we need to do two things with those.

"We need to change private choices and behaviors, or our habits," Rowe said. "And the second thing we need to do is change our public choices, our laws."

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Disability Services holds open house

By Courtney Westlake


The 11th annual Disability Awareness Week at UIS came to a close on Friday with an Open House at the Office of Disability Services on campus, located in Human Resources Building 80.

"I think the week went wonderfully well; we've had lots of people attend the events, even those from outside our campus community," said Suzanne Woods, director of disability services.

Disability services at UIS provides academic accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Through inclusion, advocacy and support, the office strives to provide higher education and accommodation to all students by offering an environment that enriches their educational experience.

During the open house, the disability services staff gave tours of the office and showcased the various adaptive technology and services available through office.

"We are at the historic end of campus, and sometimes poeple don't come over here like they go to the library or the PAC," Woods said. "We wanted them to see where we are. We also wanted them to see our lab, where we have assistive technology, we have computers, and we have quiet rooms where students can come to take tests. And we wanted to see them in our own environment and see what a good place this is to come and work if you need a quiet place."

Woods said she was pleased with turnout from not only people from campus but the surrounding community as well during the Disability Awareness Week events. The office had a steady stream of people come through the open house between 12 and 2 p.m.

Woods thanked the campus for all its support this week and wants to leave Disability Awareness Week with the reminder that people can acquire a disability at any time due to an illness or accident.

"We just want people to be aware that people with disabilities are, first and foremost, people," Woods said.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Activities and presentations continue Disability Awareness Week

By Courtney Westlake


The second day of UIS' 11th annual Disability Awareness Week was full of presenters, a movie showing of "Kiss My Wheels" in Brookens Auditorium in the evening and a fun and insightful event called Color Me Blind in the afternoon.

In the morning, guest speaker Carol Schaefer discussed the topic of "Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome: A Family Affair." Schaefer is the mother of a UIS student with Asperger's Syndrome. She talked about the challenges she and other families have faced, specifically within the educational system, and the efforts and rewards of helping her daughter succeed.

"All I can say is find a group, find support, talk to people," Schaefer said. "Trust your instincts. With doctors and educators, find one you like and can believe in."

In the afternoon, Suzanne Woods, director of Disability Services at UIS, led a session called "How to Be Assertive without Being Aggressive." Woods, who has a 29-year-old son with several disabilities, discussed advocacy and bringing about necessary change.

"We all have a voice and need to use our voice, and we have to make changes that will impact everyone," Woods said. "You need to be assertive without being aggressive; you need to learn what battles to pick."

And in the Lincoln Residence Hall lounge at 3 p.m., Color Me Blind allowed participants a first-hand perspective into the life of someone who is blind or has vision impairments. The activity gave participants an opportunity to experience art on an entirely different level by envisioning a subject, then painting it without physically seeing.

"We have blindfolds, and you have to remember the different paint colors that you are using and then paint whatever you're thinking of," said Chrisa Potthast, disability services specialist in the Office of Disability Services at UIS. "It's an experience in itself, and it's very fun. And it's creating awareness for our office on campus and for our disability services."

A similar event, called Model Me Blind, will be held Thursday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m., also in the Lincoln Residence Hall lounge.

"You'll basically have to sculpt something blind-folded," Potthast said. "We're just raising awareness at how hard it is to paint or model or just do everyday things with a disability."

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Disability Awareness Week kicks off

By Courtney Westlake

This week marks Disability Awareness Week at UIS. From a wheelchair race to presentations on assistive technology, advocacy and accessible fitness equipment, the events are all focused on raising awareness about disabilities.

Disability Awareness Week kicked off on Monday morning with the annual Youth Transition Fair in the Public Affairs Center concourse. The fair provided an opportunity for students, families, school staff and service providers to learn more about planning the transition to life as a young adult.

"We've had some parents come by and UIS students come by who didn't realize we have a disability services office on campus, and we've had groups from various schools from around the county and in town," said Suzanne Woods, director of Disability Services at UIS. "It's all different agencies that have services for kids as they transition from high school to college."

This is the 11th year that Disability Awareness Week has been held on campus, and the first year it's been held in conjunction with SpringFest. Woods advised anyone with any questions or concerns to contact the Office of Disability Services at UIS and encouraged the whole campus community to come out and enjoy the events planned for the week. (To read more about the events, go here.)

"We have a comedian, Color Me Blind, Model Me Blind, a wheelchair race and an open house on Friday," Woods said. "What we want people to realize is that disability is the only minority you can join at any minute. I'm not going to wake up male tomorrow, I'm not going to wake up African-American, but I could wake up with a disability due to an accident or illness."

Disability Awareness Week is important at UIS, Woods said, to give people a better insight into the lives of those living with a disability.

"It's important because a lot of people don't know much about disabilities. One out of every five Americans has a disability of some kind," she said. "This is really to bring awareness to people about the challenges of people with disabilities but also the successes they have."

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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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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

UIS celebrates Health Awareness Day

By Courtney Westlake

The campus community was able to get their health in check on Wednesday, April 2 during Health Awareness Day at UIS.

There were several speakers throughout the day in PAC room F. Cindy Ladage kicked off the event with a presentation about radon, and then Drs. Jim Bonacum, Hua Chen and Michael Lemke conducted a program about the Emiquon Project at 12 p.m. Finally, Dr. William Warren spoke about global warming and public health.

"Emiquon is one of the largest restoration projects in this country," Lemke said during his presentation. "Restoration ecology is not as simple as it might sound. You can't just add water into lakes and expect them to be the same. There are a lot of things that go into the study and restoration of these areas."

After Lemke explained the work going on at Emiquon (to read more, go here), Chen discussed the implications of the restoration on the climate, and Bonacum added perspectives about overall climate change.

During her presentation, Ladage, from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, spoke about what radon is and why residents should be concerned about radon present in their homes. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that enters the home through any opening between the building and the soil, Ladage said.

"The only way to tell if you have high levels of radon is to test for it," she said. "Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking; it's a proven carcinogen."

There was also a variety of health information on topics such as smoking cessation, back care, skin care and more offered throughout the event, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Area healthcare facilities set up booths for free health screenings, including cholesterol and blood sugar, vision, bone density and stress.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Speaker discusses financial innovations

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. William Poole, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, spoke to campus and community members on Thursday evening, March 6, on the topic of "Financial Innovation: Engine of Growth or Source of Instability?" in Brookens Auditorium. Poole's presentation was part of the ECCE (Engaged Citizenship Common Experience) Speakers Series at UIS.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is one of 12 regional Reserve banks, serving the Eighth Federal Reserve District. Regional Reserve banks, along with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., constitute the Federal Reserve System.

In his current position with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Poole directs the activities of the Bank's head office in St. Louis, as well as its three branches in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. He also represents the bank on the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Reserve's chief monetary policymaking body.

"The markets, as we're all aware, have been pretty upset," Poole said during his presentation. "Distress in home mortgage markets, falling new home construction and falling home prices in many areas have been a focal point in the outlook for the U.S. economy for at least the past nine months."

There is "nothing fundamentally new" about the recent subprime mortgage "debacle," Poole said. There are many examples in history of innovations that led to instability, at least initially, he said, but in general, economists agree than financial innovation plays a big role in economic growth, such as the long-term amortizing mortgage, money market mutual funds and credit cards.

"Financial markets are always innovating," Poole said. "Some innovations, such as credit cards, reflect technological advances. Clearly some people borrow more than they can afford. Credit cards, however, like many other payments and credit innovations, have lowered transaction costs, improved resource allocation and thus contributed to economic growth."

Subprime mortgage lending took off in the 1990s, but default rates on subprime mortgages began to rise in 2006, when the growth in house prices began to slow down, Poole said. He claims there are five major mistakes that led to the "meltdown," with plenty of blame to go around.

But there are lessons to be learned from this occurrence and other cases of instability, he said.

"For the individual or the firm, the lessons are clear: educate yourself about the potential risks of any investment or financial transaction, understand the incentives of counterparties in those transactions and avoid putting at risk money you cannot afford to lose," he said.

Above all, the importance of financial innovation in promoting economic growth shouldn't be forgotten, Poole emphasized.

"Successful financial innovations - those that meet the market test over the long term - promote the efficient allocation of capital and contribute to raising our standard of living," he said.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Technology Day met with success

By Courtney Westlake

With the theme of "Building iCommunity: Toolsets for Today," the 8th annual Technology Day was held on Wednesday, February 27 from 11:30 to 4:30 in the PAC Concourse and received a great turnout from the campus and local community.

"I thought it went great," said Tulio Llosa, director of Educational Technology at UIS. "We reached out to the entire UIS community; there were faculty, staff, students, and educators and technology coordinators from District 186."

Numerous participants stopped by to visit the various booths of poster sessions set up and take part in the educational and interactive workshops on subjects like online learning and teaching, job search in the digital age, technological resources available at UIS and much more.

Ann Peterson Bishop, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and community organizer, spoke to a group of campus community members at 12 p.m. about the field of community informatics and using technology in innovative ways.

Community informatics is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses research, practice and policy, Bishop said. It has to do with how knowledge is created and mobilized and how information technologies help and hinder the sharing of knowledge.

"Community informatics kind of looks at one geographic community and looks at that entire community as a unit and asks how all relates together," Bishop said. "It is specifically grounded in community development. We're interested in how technology and knowledge play a role for good and really help communities and community members."

Bishop discussed her work with the Community Informatics Initiative - integrating technology within communities and organizations of all kinds - and showed numerous examples of the ways the initiative collaborates with communities.

"I really liked her presentation," Llosa said. "I like the concept of an iCommunity using technology not only in our work but in our community. It tied in really well with our theme."

Participants of all backgrounds were able to find something that interested them and were able to learn something new, Llosa said. There was a session on eDocs for faculty, one about Cisco communicators and IP Phones for staff, and employers from companies like ADM and State Farm that students were able to speak with about technology skills, he said.

"I'm very happy with the turnout, especially at the presentations," Llosa said. "It really gave us an opportunity to showcase the innovative ways we are using technology here at UIS."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Native speaks about the crisis in Sudan

By Courtney Westlake

Simon Aban Deng, a refugee from Sudan and survivor of child slavery, spoke to the UIS community on Tuesday afternoon, February 26, about his experiences and the troubles in his native country.

Deng was born into a large family, and his village of Tonga was a peaceful farming community, despite frequent raids by the Sudanese army. But when Deng was eight years old, the Sudanese army swept through his village, burning huts and brutally murdering the residents.

"What came in my mind was 'today I am going to die'," he said.

The raid displaced Deng's surviving family and neighbors, who took refuge in the city of Malkal. Then Deng was kidnapped while living there and forced into slavery. He eventually escaped and later went on to work as a messenger in the Sudanese parliament and then became a national swimming champion.

Today he is an American citizen, working as a lifeguard on Coney Island and leading the struggle to stop genocide in Sudan. He has addressed audiences across the nation about human rights.

Originally, after he became free from slavery, he vowed to never talk about what he had experienced, he said. But after reading about his fellow Sudanese people being sold for $5 or $10, he knew he had to tell his story.

"To me, it was a turning point. I have to come out and tell the world that when they are talking about buying a human being, yes it is true; I was one," he said. "I have to do the right thing and be the voice for those who have no voice. We are all entitled to the God-given right of freedom."

The crisis in Sudan is not new, Deng said. Murder and slavery have been occurring since 1956, when the country gained its independence from Britain.

"The Sudan you know today became known in 2003 because of what is happening in the western regions of Darfur," he said. "What happens in Sudan is not new to me."

No human being should be subjected to the slavery and violence that is occurring in Sudan, Deng said.

"Slavery still exists, and I am standing before you as living proof of slavery in Sudan. Every pain that they are going through, I know those pains," Deng said. "This is the Sudan you are probably not aware of. This is the Sudan I'm aware of and those who come from Sudan are aware of. Today we are coming together and saying that we are not going to be bystanders."

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Technology Day to educate participants

By Courtney Westlake


The 8th annual Technology Day will be held Wednesday, February 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the lower level of the PAC. The theme for the event is "Building iCommunity: Toolsets for Today."

"We chose this theme because we wanted to highlight the ways that technology is used to build community, particularly in education," said Tulio Llosa, director of Educational Technology at UIS. "Technology Day is important to participants because of the wide variety of learning opportunities that it affords. We believe that participants will walk away from Technology Day with at least one new idea or tool to implement in their teaching, learning or work."

Both UIS participants and community members will have no problem finding a presentation or poster session that suits their interests or needs, Llosa said.

"The purpose for Technology Day is to be an outreach not only to UIS community but to local school districts and community members who also might be interested in learning about new technology and how to use that new technology to do the things that make sense in their lives," said Vickie Cook, professor of Educational Leadership who is on the planning committee for the event.

The keynote speaker for the event is Ann Peterson Bishop, associate professor in the graduate school of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-director of the Community Informatics Initiative. She will speak at 12 p.m. about ways that technology is being used at UIUC to build bridges between the university and community, Llosa said.

There will also be a variety of poster sessions and workshops throughout the afternoon on topics like podcasting, E-waste recycling, Photoshop, public social networking, organization in online courses, and much more.

Technology Day organizers hope the workshops and sessions will be utilized by teachers, students and other community members to learn how to access more information using technology, how to create items that might be of interest to them personally and professionally or simply to learn how to communicate effectively, Cook said.

"We're hoping that presenters will able to share with participants they ways they can use different types of technology tools to do the things they might be most interested in," she said.

Everyone who is interested is invited to come share the day, which is free and open to participants, Cook said. Prizes and light refreshments will be provided, and the campus community is encouraged to stop by and take part. For more information, check out the Technology Day Web site.

"We hope to have a good turnout from UIS students, staff and faculty, so they can learn more about the resources available to them," Llosa said. "And we hope to provide each participant with relevant learning experiences and creative, new technology-related ideas."

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Prairie Star takes over the radio

By Courtney Westlake

The brightly shining Prairie Star became radio-active today.

With support from the UIS Communication Department, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Division of Student Affairs, a new Internet radio station, called the Prairie Star, began broadcasting 24 hours a day today, February 14, from the UIS campus.

WUIS, a popular campus radio station and NPR affiliate, will continue its award-winning music and information programming, but the Prairie Star was created to provide a learning venue and creative outlet for UIS students, said Dr. Jim Grubbs, associate professor of communication at UIS. Last fall, the necessary funding was met to start the station with the proper equipment, music and programming.
"The Prairie Star is an idea that has been in process for about a year and a half," Grubbs said. "We were looking for something that could serve as a working laboratory for students, where they could get hands-on experience."

During business hours, the Prairie Star will play a broad, eclectic mix of favorites from the 1970s through today’s "lighter" hits along with full-length news and information features at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. that will come from several station partners, Grubbs said. There will also be mini-features every hour on the half hour.

"Then when we get to 3:00 in the afternoon, we send all the adults home and let the students take over," Grubbs laughed. "We're really going for an alternative rock format at that point. Part of the vision I see for us is to truly become a college station and to really be something you don't find anywhere else."

The weekends will bring a mix of specialty programs including music genres of root, folk, classical, traditional and classic and modern jazz.

Future goals for the station include moving into an expanded production facility, where students can come in and produce shows, Grubbs said.

"What we're really going for is a sense of community. Yes, primarily for students; that's why we're here," he said. "We want it to be fun, and we're looking for people to become involved who want that. For our students exploring career goals, we want to serve them too."

To listen to the Prairie Star station, go here. Click on the image of Radio Star, which is the station’s mascot, and you can then choose either the MP3 or Windows Media Internet stream. Only an Internet connection and your favorite media player is required to tune in. For further information, visit or e-mail

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Cox Children's Center stands out

By Courtney Westlake

On a recent Wednesday at the Cox Children’s Center, members of the three-year-old class carefully spread tomato sauce on small circles of dough before placing handfuls of cheese on top.

“They’ve been really interested in pizza and eating pizza, so we’re doing projects about pizza and how it’s made,” explained center director Stacey Hembrough.

Hembrough, who first worked as a consultant and supervisor at the center before stepping into the director position, where she has been for four and a half years, has been working with children for 20 years and obtained her bachelor’s and master’s in early childhood education. Serving in administration was a personal goal as well, she said.

“I like the involvement with other directors in the community; I like the involvement with all of the children and all of the families,” Hembrough said. “When you’re a teacher, you are kind of isolated in your own classroom, whereas this way, I get to have a relationship with everyone.”

The Cox Children’s Center, located on UIS’ campus, accepts infants through school-age children, who are present in the summer only. When school is in session, there is a class for babies ages 6 weeks to 15 months and a class for toddlers ages 15 months to 24 months, as well as classes for two-year-olds, three-year-olds and pre-kindergarten children, Hembrough said.

While the environments in each of the classrooms may differ because of the ages, the same philosophies stand. The center has an interest-driven curriculum that is focused on engaging students in hands-on projects and providing them with quality interaction, Hembrough said, such as the case of the children making pizzas. The center strives to utilize an educational philosophy called the Reggio Emilia approach, which views children as very capable and strong, Hembrough said.

“A lot of Americans tend to view children as needy, and we believe a little differently,” she said. “We set up an environment to challenge them, provoke them and to make them discover things and wonder.”

Due to the strong curriculum as well as the diligence of its staff, the center recently became one of the first early childhood programs in the country to earn accreditation through a new system of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the leading organization of early childhood professionals. The process is voluntary, and reaccreditation must be achieved every five years.

“It was a year-long self-study and was very intensive,” Hembrough said. “We spent almost two years challenging each other to take risks and not be afraid of change. We found out in November that we received it.”

The accreditation, philosophy and many other aspects set the Cox Children’s Center apart from other childcare centers in the area, Hembrough said.

The staff expectations in regards to education, experience and training hours are very high, and there is very little turnover among staff members. The ratio of children per adult in the classroom is small in order to promote interaction, Hembrough said, and the center provides the only accredited infant center in Central Illinois.

“We also have an open door policy and encourage lot of parent involvement,” she said. “I think parents are starting to realize importance of quality and starting to become aware of what to look for when they're looking for early childhood care, so those things stand out.”

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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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Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't Make Excuses During Holiday Season

By Courtney Westlake

The holiday and winter season is the number one time for people to stray from their workout routine. But although schedules are more hectic with shopping, parties and out-of-town trips, with a little planning, you can ditch the excuses and remain on track with healthy living.

"It's an easy excuse for people to fall off the wagon, but don't just make it an excuse," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the Recreation and Athletic Center, or TRAC. "There's always ways to slip in a quick workout, such as taking the stairs at work. Stay focused on your workouts, stay focused on what you want in your lifestyle."

Exercise plays a huge role in healthy living because it helps with your overall well-being, Jillson said.

"Especially for students, we have a lot of things going on," she said. "Right now it's finals, so there is a lot of stress, and working out can help relieve some of that stress."

Jillson suggested interval training for a quick workout to get in strength conditioning and cardio. If you aren't able to make it to your gym, try crunches, pushups and lunges at home as part of your exercise routine. Eating habits also play a big part in healthy living, especially during the holidays, Jillson said.

"Maybe eat before you go to a holiday party; have a small meal before you go to the party, so you don't attack the snack table," she said. "Or just have a little sampling of each hors d'oeuvre or item, and you'll at least be on the road to success with party after party."

If you are wanting to add an exercise routine to your lifestyle or mix things up, Jillson encouraged the campus community to check out the TRAC.

"We have wonderful state-of-the-art equipment and personal training that will be at a significantly reduced rate than any other club you'll find in town," she said. "We also have group exercise programs, ranging from kick-boxing to yoga. It will help people get right back on track or at least help them understand why it's important to exercise and what they can be doing to reach their goals."

"Everyone does a New Year's Resolution," she added. "You might as well add health and fitness to it."

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Gay Moralist" Challenges Arguments Against Homosexuality

By Courtney Westlake

Imagine an activity that takes place between consenting adults, doesn't hurt anyone and results in a great deal of pleasure for the people involved. Also imagine this activity is an avenue of meaning and communication in the people's lives, which is usually something that is celebrated.

But when this activity involves two men or two women, some might not only condemn it but call it a "moral abomination," says Dr. John Corvino.

Philosopher, moralist, and gay rights advocate Corvino, also widely known as the "Gay Moralist," spoke on Wednesday afternoon, December 5, in Brookens Auditorium on the topic of "What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?" Corvino holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin and is currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State.

Corvino has traveled the country for more than 15 years speaking on gay rights. He uses humor as he dismantles common arguments against homosexual conduct, including those based on nature, harm and religion.

"Homosexual relationships make some people happy," Corvino emphasized. "And I don't just mean they are pleasurable, but they can be an important avenue of meaning and fulfillment in people's lives. If we're going to deny that to an entire group of people, or say 'that's wrong,' we should have a darn good reason."

One of the primary reasons many argue that homosexuality is immoral is that the Bible condemns it, Corvino said. But the Bible also says that eating shellfish and wearing clothing of mixed fiber are abominations unto God, according to the Book of Leviticus, and that slavery is acceptable, Corvino said.

"What I'm saying is that if you're going to use the Bible as a source of moral revelation, you have to pay attention to context to understand what it's really saying; if you don't do that, you commit yourself to some pretty strange views about slavery, women's roles and a whole host of other things," he said. "If you're going to use the Bible, you need to be consistent about it, and if you're going to take context into consideration, you need to be consistent about that."

Other arguments Corvino has heard is that homosexuality is unnatural or is a threat to the traditional family. Corvino admits he still cannot understand the latter argument.

"Do we think that if we support gay and lesbian relationships, straight people will stop having heterosexual relationships and all go gay?" Corvino said. "Do we think that if we support same-sex marriage, straight people will give up on the institution of marriage? Not only do I think this argument is a whole lot of smoke, I actually think it does more harm to the traditional family than anything it's trying to target."

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