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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Thursday, March 11, 2010

UIS Admissions Counselors keep busy visiting local high schools

Amanda Bly
knows how to multitask. As a UIS Admissions Counselor she’s out the door every morning at 7:00 visiting an average of 3 high schools per day along with stops at community colleges.

Bly is one of eight admissions counselors who travel around the state and beyond meeting with prospective students and answering their questions about the University of Illinois Springfield.

“More and more people through my 4 years have gained some familiarity with the campus and they realize we provide students with a U of I degree,” said Bly.

When she’s not on the road, Bly is making follow-up calls, sending emails and postcards to students she’s met. She covers an area from Sangamon County to the Indiana border.

Bly says most frequently students ask her about the cost of tuition, what majors UIS has to offer and class size.

“I really like the small classrooms and I’m just really excited. I really like it,” said high school senior Mallory Beck.

Beck will graduate from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield this May and she’s already committed to attending UIS.

“She (Bly) told us about the teachers and how they have a close relationship with their students,” said Beck.

SHG senior Will Pufundt is looking forward to attending UIS for two reasons. He wants to join the new men’s baseball team and is also excited about the small class sizes.

“I really like the hands on teaching, because I don’t think I could do well without the hands on teaching,” said Pufundt.

UIS is hoping to admit 350 new freshmen next semester in an effort to boost the undergraduate population. The ultimate goal is to top an enrollment of more than 5,000 total students.

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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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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Students hold Halloween makeup workshop

The “Off University Drive Players”, a new student organization on the UIS campus recently held a Halloween makeup workshop to share theatre tricks.

“The goal for the Halloween workshop is to create a good cute monster so people can learn how to do this on their own” said member “Lucy Black”.

Black says it’s best to practice what you’re going to do in advance, so you know how long it will take and what techniques to use. It’s also important to make sure you buy the right type of makeup. Theatre and Halloween makeup usually require several layers that you don’t use day to day.

The club was formed to educated students on campus about theatre. They take trips to different plays and hold workshops like this one.

“Our goal is to further the entire theatre experience for any and all UIS students,” said Black.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Welcome Week 2008

UIS celebrated Welcome Week 2008 in August to greet new and returning students to campus. Welcome Week activities included an open house at the Diversity Center, the Chancellor's Picnic, the Involvement Expo on the Quad, the Foot in the Door Job Fair, a trip to Knight's Action Park and much more.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Current UIS students give advice to first-timers

Current students at UIS weigh in on the university and what it is like to arrive as a freshmen, and give veteran advice about getting involved on campus.

Shana Stine, senior: The cool thing about UIS, and really any college campus, is however active you want to be, you can be. It's all up to the student how much they want to do. There are tons of things to do: Sangamon Auditorium has Broadway shows, Student Life is always offering crazy things, you can go in to downtown Springfield, or just go to a movie and hang out. Living in the dorms gives you a great chance to meet everyone, and you can do a lot of group study or just a lot of group fun. And don't be scared of the laundry machines; laundry is not that bad.

Derek Rhoads, sophomore: It is so easy to get involved at UIS; there are so many things to do. Get out of your safety bubble. We all have this place we feel comfortable in, and the worst thing you can do is stay there. The best thing you can do is just get out and meet new people, and not let the nervousness of somebody different keep you from interacting with them because you're going to learn a lot of new things. We get to experience diversity instead of just talk about it, and I promise you your life will be changed because of the other lifestyles you run into.

Priyanka Deo, junior: I would say to bring a lot more stuff than you think you'll be able to for your dorm room because it's a lot bigger than you think here, which is nice. And don't be nervous about coming here at all because it's one of the best experiences you'll ever have. The small campus is really beneficial because you can get so involved in so many things, and there are a lot of leadership positions available.

Jordan Haley, senior: As far as UIS goes, my favorite thing is the community. It's big enough that you always have the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and make connections around campus, but it's small enough that you can get to know friends really well and your professors really well. As a freshmen, you'll get a ton of emails about events going on around campus - go to those events, show up at stuff and you won't have a problem getting involved.

Freshmen coming in need to remember that they're here for school and because they need to build skill in a certain area so that they can graduate and get a job; I think you realize that as a senior and not as a freshman. The other thing they need to remember is that you're only going to have the opportunity to be an undergraduate once and live in a residence hall once, so you need to make the most of it and embrace the whole experience.

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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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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Student Life offers unique experiences to students

By Courtney Westlake

From hosting speakers and showing films to putting on comedy shows and ice cream socials to planning homecoming and involvement expos, there truly is never a dull moment in the Office of Student Life at UIS.

Student and campus participation in Student Life activities has continuously been on an upwards trajectory since the arrival of Director Cynthia Thompson in 2002 and then later Assistant Director Beth Hoag. Through their leadership, the office has grown tremendously in terms of programs, activities and traditions on campus.

Thompson, who was originally a school teacher, decided to started working in career counseling for a change of pace, and she realized she loved being around college students. And because she likes the historical connection of Springfield and the fact that it is fairly close to her hometown in Iowa, Thompson accepted the director of student life position at UIS.

“It’s a great campus with great people who are very down to earth and modest; I love that,” she said. “Everyone is very willing to work together to make things happen. Whenever I've suggested something new, they are supportive and make it happen."

Thompson acknowledges that while academics are certainly important in providing the educational component to students' lives, Student Life provides the “laboratory to carry that out,” she said.

“We can provide opportunities for students to try out the skills and things they are learning in their classes,” Thompson said. “Students learn very important leadership skills and qualities through running organizations, participating in activities, planning the activities. It's an exciting mix; you've got students planning programs while learning from the content of what they're attending. Plus you can't beat the social aspects, the stress relief and the fun that is a necessary part of college.”

Many studies have shown that students who are active on campus, whether through participating in organizations or going to events, are “much more likely to succeed academically,” said Hoag, who has been at UIS for about a year and a half.

“We look at student affairs as developing the student as a whole, to teach them, outside of the classroom, the skills that they really need when they get out into the ‘real world’,” Hoag said.

Thompson, Hoag and the Student Life office, with help from students, have implemented many of the traditions students now take part in on campus.

“We do the Homecoming parade and the Involvement Expo, which was very popular at campus I came from, so we implemented it here,” Thompson said.

Thompson and Hoag agreed that they would like to expand on the programming that the Office of Student Life is currently doing.

“I’ve really seen programming board develop; we’ve come from doing a couple of events a semester to an event almost every week,” Hoag said. “And that's obviously helped Student Life on this campus really grow.”

A Student Organization Center is the most recent project for the Office of Student Life, which will give student organizations the ability to have their own space as well as have more opportunity for various event planning experiences.

"The Student Organization Center is the focus of this semester and next, and we want to bump up the number of activities and events we have on campus and empower our student organizations more," Hoag said. “I’m not as concerned as much with quantity of organizations as with quality and being able to support them better and help them to achieve their goals and motivate them to do what they want to do on campus.”

“There is a lot of flexibility and room to grow,” she added. “It’s really exciting how we’re a young campus and there are lots of different ways we can go.”

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Students get involved with UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Students packed through the concourse of the Public Affairs Center's lower level on Wednesday evening to get an idea about what opportunities UIS offers in terms of clubs, organizations and more.

The semi-annual Involvement Expo allows campus clubs, departments and groups to set up booths in the PAC, showcasing their missions and activities to interested students.

"The Involvement Expo is a very exciting event; it's probably one of our most successful events of the year," said Cynthia Thompson, director of the Office of Student Life, which coordinates the Expo. "It's an opportunity for campus departments, student organizations and local businesses to showcase what they've got to the new students. The students get very excited; it really gives them a chance to show off their organizations."

The Involvement Expo takes place twice a year, in the beginning of the fall and the spring semesters, Thompson said.

"Every time during First Week we do this," she said. "Each semester, we have new students, and we want to introduce them to Student Life and student activities."

Ashleen Woods, co-president of the Vegetarian Club at UIS, said the club has become very active in the last couple of years and wanted to showcase itself at the expo.

"The main thing we like to do is provide information for people if they're interested in vegetarianism," she said. "We're always welcoming members; it doesn't matter if you're a vegetarian or not. We welcome everybody, and it's just a great way to be part of student activities."

Ana Morales, president of ESCAPE, or Entrepreneurs of Space Concepts and Planet Exploration, said the club is currently working with the Entrepreneurship Club at UIS to give students the opportunity to gain business experience and form possible entrepreneurship opportunities.

Morales said the club was very interested in having a booth at the expo to share information about ESCAPE. ESCAPE had a game set up at the Involvement Expo to engage passing students and give out prizes, along with information about the club.

"It's a very good way for students to see what's out there," she said. "A lot of people don't know how maneuver through the Web sites. This is a good way to attract students and let them know what we're doing."

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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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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Homecoming Kicks Off with Pep Rally and Bonfire

By Courtney Westlake

The University of Illinois at Springfield kicked off the 2007 Homecoming festivities with a Monday evening bonfire and pep rally. A few hundred students gathered near the campus pond to make s'mores, get their UIS Homecoming T-shirts and cheer on the Prairie Stars athletic teams.

Senior Rachel Dasenbrock, president of the student activities committee, said she was impressed by the turnout of students at the bonfire and pep rally.

"It gets students out and active and excited about homecoming," she said. "The bonfire is meant to be the kick off and start of the week to get students thinking about homecoming even though the game isn't until Saturday. So it just gets us in the mood to have school spirit."

Mary Umbarger, a sophomore who is coordinating many of this year's student homecoming activities, said a lot of work goes into planning and preparation for homecoming events.

"We moved things around a little bit, but we kept pretty much the same general line-up," she said. "We did add some of the other teams coming to the bonfire to give it a stronger kickoff. I think a lot more people stayed around this year to support our teams."

During the pep rally, students gathered around as each of the Prairie Stars teams were introduced, and the cheerleading and dance teams performed. Several nominations for homecoming court representatives were also announced.

Students said they enjoyed the night out on campus and the opportunity to celebrate the new tradition of Homecoming at UIS.

"I decided to come out because it's a good opportunity to show my support for UIS programs," said junior Ian Beall. "I like the overall atmosphere of all the students coming out. I think the turnout was pretty good from past years; now that I'm a junior, it's interesting to see how the campus has grown and become more involved."

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Workshop brings out float creativity for students

By Courtney Westlake

Who knew that spray paint would disintegrate Styrofoam?

Students got their fair share of tips and advice on constructing and decorating a parade float on Monday, September 17, using materials like Styrofoam, chicken wire, garbage bags, paint and more.

A Build a Parade Float workshop was held in the Student Life office and was the second program of its kind this school year. The Student Life office decided to coordinate these workshops in hopes of inspiring more students and staff to build floats for the October 6 homecoming parade.

“We wanted to make sure our students could get some idea of how to build a float, or even just decorate a car, to make it easier for our student groups to enter things into the parade,” said Beth Hoag, assistant director of Student Life. “It’s fun and just casual to get people interested in the techniques and also to talk about cost-saving methods because that’s usually a concern with our student groups.”

Participants were given booklets with information on materials and pricing and practiced creating floats by stapling chicken wire on a wooden box and using paper mache and pieces of garbage bags, folded to look like flowers, to decorate.

UIS freshman Charles Olivier said he was intrigued by how parade floats are constructed, so he decided to come find out for himself. Since the deadline is looming for float applications, Olivier said he doesn’t think he will be able to pull together a float for this year’s parade, but he is excited to get some friends together to create a float for next year’s homecoming.

“I thought (the workshop) was great; they had a lot of creative ideas that you wouldn’t regularly think of,” he said.

Last year was the first year that UIS held a parade in conjunction with homecoming, and floats ranged from a fire truck to a decorated red wagon, Hoag said. She hopes the numbers of floats will begin to increase with each homecoming celebration.

“We hope to get more each year and have it build, and also get floats from the community as well,” Hoag said.

Applications for parade floats are available in the Student Life office.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Students Remember 9/11 on Sixth Anniversary

By Courtney Westlake

Tuesday’s cool and calm night provided a serene backdrop for UIS students to pay tribute to the thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives six years ago during the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a plane crash in Shanksville, Pa.

At a 9/11 Remembrance Event on Tuesday evening, small, tea light candles were available for students, staff and passerby to light in memory of those who were affected by the tragedy. The candles were placed around the Colonnade and fountain, lighting up the Quad area and providing a peaceful atmosphere for people to reflect and pray.

The remembrance event, which occurs on each anniversary of the attacks, was sponsored by the resident assistants of the townhouses.

“We decided that something needed to be done; something needs to be done every year to commemorate and remember 9/11 and what happened,” said Heidi Fisher, an RA for the west side townhouses. “It’s something that really shouldn’t be forgotten. We need to have an active effort to remember it.”

Seniors Laura Strum and Kathleen Knolhoff spent some time reflecting by the fountain and sharing their thoughts with each other. Strum said she has family members who live in New York, and the events of the day were very personal for her.

“It was the experience that we heard about from them that really touched me,” she said. “It means a lot to come out and honor them and everyone that died that day.”

“I came out for support and remembering that very tragic day,” Knolhoff added. “It was just an eye opener.”

Blank poster boards were also provided to attendees who wished to express their thoughts in the form of a poem, picture or, for some, a simple phrase or quote.

“This is still a major event in the life of our students here at UIS,” said Loni Oehlwein, Resident Director for West Campus Apartments. “The event was just something calm and interactive for students to stop by for.”

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