Jason Piscia

The director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program is Professor Jason R. Piscia, a 1998 PAR graduate who came to the University of Illinois Springfield following a 21-year career at The State Journal-Register (SJ-R).

After completing his PAR internship with the SJ-R, the newspaper hired him as a general assignment reporter. He also covered higher education, business and city government before becoming the newspaper’s first-ever online editor, in charge of managing the SJ-R’s website. Piscia was then promoted to digital managing editor, directing coverage and overseeing production for both the SJ-R digital and print editions.

Under his direction, the SJ-R’s website won numerous awards for excellence from the Illinois Press Association and Illinois Associated Press Media Editors.

In his role at the SJ-R, Piscia has helped to mentor and ultimately hire several Public Affairs Reporting Program alumni.

A native of Peru, Illinois, Piscia holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Illinois State University, where he was a reporter and editor for the student newspaper, The Vidette.

Piscia draws on the talents of professional journalists, state officials and public policy experts to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge academic and professional elements of the program.

Contact him at jason.piscia@uis.edu or (217) 206-7494.

Ariel Van Cleave

Ariel Van Cleave, managing editor for audio for Chicago public radio station WBEZ, is the Public Affairs Reporting program's adjunct broadcast writing instructor.

Van Cleave, a 2008 PAR graduate, two decades of experience in public radio, starting with her time at WCBU in Peoria, while she was an undergraduate student at Bradley University.

During her graduate work with PAR, Van Cleave covered the Illinois General Assembly at the Capitol as an intern for the Illinois Radio Network.

From there, she went on to work in public radio newsrooms in several places, including West Lafayette, Indiana; Dillingham and Kenai, Alaska; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and Seattle.

A native of Princeton, Illinois, Van Cleave’s current stint at WBEZ began in 2019. She manages the station's newsroom in the city in addition to its bureau inside the Illinois Statehouse that includes two full-time reporters and hosts a PAR intern.

Van Cleave works with PAR students during the fall semester to improve their broadcast news writing skills in preparation for work as Statehouse reporting interns beginning in January.