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Donna McCracken

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This Year



UIS announces Armstrong scholarship recipients

November 30, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Three graduate students in the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield – Mike Riopell, Shelby Sebens, and Amanda Vinicky – have been named recipients of the James E. Armstrong Scholarships for 2004.

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State Journal-Register
UIS Public Affairs Reporting

Patrick Coburn, publisher of the State Journal-Register, presented the scholarships at a luncheon held November 30 at the SJ-R offices. The scholarships are given in memory of Armstrong, who was publisher of the Illinois State Journal and the Illinois State Register, predecessors of the State Journal-Register, from 1964 until his death in 1967. They are awarded to students in the PAR program who have demonstrated strong interest and potential in the field of government and political reporting.

Riopell, son of Marianne and Bob Riopell of Washington, Illinois, received a B.S. in Mass Communication, cum laude, from Illinois State University in 2004. While at ISU, he was a reporter, features editor, weekly columnist, assignment editor, and managing editor for the student newspaper, the Daily Vidette.  He was a founding member and first president of the ISU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and was honored as the Outstanding Senior in Journalism by the ISU Department of Communication. During winter breaks, he worked as a news, features, and sports reporter for the Times Newspapers in the Peoria area and also interned as a general assignment reporter with the Peoria Journal Star. The summer before enrolling at UIS, he was a full-time copy editing intern with the State Journal-Register.

Sebens, daughter of Anita and Gary Sebens of Warrensburg, Illinois, also received a B.S. in Mass Communication from Illinois State University in 2004.  At ISU, she was a reporter, assignment editor, news editor, and editor-in-chief for the Daily Vidette.  She also was a free-lance writer for Limited Edition and for Weddings, both magazines published by the Decatur Herald & Review.  Sebens served as national liaison for the ISU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Vinicky, daughter of Sue and Jim Vinicky of La Grange, Illinois, received a B.S. in Journalism and a B.A. in Political Science, with high distinction, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003. Before coming to UIS, she was a staff writer for The Doings in Hinsdale, and a correspondent for the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights.  While at UIUC, she was a reporter for the student newspaper, the Daily Illini, and for Buzz, the campus entertainment weekly.  She was a founding member and vice president of the U of I chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and served as president of the Student Senate.  She has served internships with commercial radio and television stations in Champaign as well as with CLTV in Oakbrook and with WFLD-TV in Chicago. In summer 2003, she was a parliamentary assistant with the House of Commons in London, England. Currently, she is a news intern with WUIS/WIPA, the national public radio affiliate at UIS.

The Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS, directed by Charles Wheeler, is a one-year master’s degree program focusing on coverage of state government news.  In addition to academic work, students serve six-month internships with newspaper, magazine, radio, television, wire service, or audio news service bureaus in the Statehouse pressroom in Springfield.

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.