Monday, May 15, 2017

UIS graduates set example by getting degree

More than a dozen family members cheered Saturday as Duane Willingham, 21, walked across the stage at the Prairie Capital Convention Center and became the first person in his family to earn a college degree.

Willingham was one of 1,270 University of Illinois Springfield graduates to participate in commencement ceremonies at the convention center. He majored in sociology and anthropology and hopes to have a career in higher education.

Already, Willingham’s trailblazing role as the first in his family to graduate from college has turned him into a role model for family members and people in his south Chicago neighborhood.

Speaking just before the commencement ceremony, Willingham said he appreciates the opportunity to talk other people about the advantages of a college education. “The things you learn in college, you can’t get anywhere else,” Willingham said. “I talk to old high school friends, people in my community and church. A lot of them haven’t seen people go to college and come back with a degree. I’ve had the awesome opportunity of telling them they can do it.”

Denise Sagendorph, 25, of Palatine also is the first person in her family to earn a college degree. She took online courses from UIS and never actually stepped foot on the campus. She earned a degree in computer science in 4 1/2 years while working and raising her daughter, now 7.

While Sagendorph took classes online, Willingham attended classes in Springfield. He said he liked the small campus atmosphere of UIS.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said she was especially proud of students like Willingham and Sagendorph. “My final message, to all of the graduating students, is that I’m proud of you. Every single student has a story to tell,” Koch said. “There has been a moment of adversity somewhere along the line and there has been a great challenge somewhere along the line. Every one of these students, some more than others, have really been determined.”

Out of 1,700 students eligible to graduate at UIS, the 1,270 students who participated in commencement marked the largest in UIS’ history. To accommodate the large number, the university opted for two separate ceremonies instead of one large event.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 13, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

View commencement photographs from The State Journal-Register online.

Susan Koch: Lives transformed by UIS experience

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 13, 2017.

"Today’s UIS Perspectives column appears just hours after the 2017 University of Illinois Springfield commencement. With 1,250 students crossing the stage at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in two separate ceremonies, UIS’ 46th commencement celebrated the largest graduating class in school history, and it was a memorable day for graduates and their families. Like every other faculty and staff member, I’m proud of our graduates — each of whom has worked with such determination to earn his or her University of Illinois degree. 

Among the many smiling graduates shaking my hand on the commencement stage was Jeremy Embalabala, who is now a two-time UIS graduate in computer science. Jeremy completed his master’s degree online at the same time he was employed at Horace Mann as a member of the corporate security team. 

“I decided to pursue my master’s degree because I wanted to challenge myself from a technical perspective,” says Jeremy. “The flexibility of online was key for me. I appreciated being able to take courses from professors with real-world experience who are on the cutting edge of implementation and execution. Thanks to the online program, I could go to work, come home and play with my kids, and then work on my online coursework.” 

Jeremy recently accepted a new position at HUB International in Chicago (a global insurance broker) where he is director of security architecture. 

Nathan Hoffman, a political science major from Springfield, and Noah Sisson, a business management major from Virden, may not know each other, but they have more in common than being in the same graduating class. Both came to UIS looking for opportunities to pursue their passions — Nathan for public service and Noah for business entrepreneurship. “I owe much of what I’ve learned at UIS to several outstanding professors, including Dr. Adriana Crocker and Dr. Richard Gilman-Opalsky,” says Nathan. Noah echoes that same sentiment. “Professors Nathan Steele and Bruce Sommer are both great teachers,” he reports. “Dr. Steele’s class on negotiations helped me successfully negotiate the purchase of a piece of land, and I’ve worked with Bruce to develop the concept for a firefighter accountability system — new technology to track a firefighter’s location inside a burning building.” Besides being a full-time student, Noah is a farmer, small business owner and EMT/firefighter. 

The mission of the University of Illinois is to “transform lives and serve society.” I am confident the lives of Jeremy, Nathan and Noah have, indeed, been transformed by their UIS experience. I’m also confident they, like the thousands of other 2017 graduates of all three University of Illinois campuses, will serve society in productive ways across Illinois and around the world for many years to come. 

Congratulations, graduates. We’re proud of you."

Read the entire column online.

Women's Soccer: UIS soccer season shapes up as new coach finalizes squad

Everything is new for the University of Illinois Springfield's women's soccer team: a new coach, new players and a new season.

Head coach Erin Egolf is also hoping for a new (and improved) record after the Prairie Stars finished four games below .500 last year. "I expect our program to do exceptional things," she told the Sangamon Sun. "This team has a lot of potential, and I think we can certainly achieve a lot. I expect this program to achieve success on the field and in the classroom, and this fall is shaping up to be an enjoyable season. This is an outstanding group of girls already, and I am excited to add our new players into the mix. The future is bright for UIS women's soccer, and I am looking forward to the upcoming season."

Egolf, who played soccer at UIS, was a three-time Great Lakes Valley Conference all-league selection and an assistant with the Prairie Stars for three seasons. She said she has big expectations in her first year at the helm, hoping to help her players perform well both on and off the soccer field.

This story appeared in the Sangamon Sun on May 14, 2017.

Read the entire article online.