Thursday, July 9, 2020

UIS offers detailed plan for students returning to campus in fall


The University of Illinois Springfield on Wednesday detailed how it hopes students might safely return to the campus for fall semester classes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 18-page plan, “Return to the Prairie,” addresses how the campus will offer “on-ground,” or in-person classes as well as blended classes, that combine face-to-face and remote instruction.

It also spells out plans for student living arrangement and on-campus activities.

Of note is that the university will go remote with all classes beginning Nov. 25 until the end of the semester, which is Dec. 12.

Face coverings that cover the nose and mouth will be required on campus when a six-foot physical distance from others is not possible. Face coverings are required in all common areas, which includes classrooms.

“It is our best intention to unite us in public health and safety, and we are committed to providing a high-quality experience regardless of the circumstances in which we may find ourselves,” said UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney. “Whether our Prairie Stars are learning via on-campus instruction or remotely, UIS is committed to and capable of providing a high-quality university experience to everyone who calls UIS home.”

Classrooms and laboratories, along with common, meeting and event spaces will be set up and organized to facilitate appropriate social distancing. They will be cleaned and disinfected daily by building service workers.

Students will be allowed to live on campus in single and double occupancy residence halls, townhouses and apartments, however, guests will not be allowed in residence halls.

Carry-out options will be encouraged at the UIS Student Union Food Studio and no self-service options available. Seating in dining areas will be arranged to encourage social distancing.

COVID-19 testing will be available to all students on campus through Campus Health Services.

The “Return to the Prairie” plan was created by two teams focused on academic planning, student affairs and community engagement.

Classes at UIS begin Aug. 24.


Monday, July 6, 2020

UIC, UIS announce pathway for undergraduates to earn nursing degree

The University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois Springfield are announcing the creation of a joint undergraduate nursing curriculum that will guarantee a spot for incoming freshmen in UIC’s nursing program.

The agreement, which begins this fall, will allow a student who is interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree to apply to the Springfield campus as a freshman. If accepted, the student would be guaranteed admission to the UIC College of Nursing BSN program on the Springfield regional campus when they achieve junior-level standing.

“It’s an opportunity for very competitive students to have this pathway guaranteed for them,” said Kevin Browne, vice provost for academic and enrollment services at UIC. “We guarantee admission to the BSN degree, which is a major threshold to enter the health care industry.”

If students are not accepted into the program as freshmen they still could apply to UIC’s BSN program as a junior or senior without the guaranteed acceptance.

The effort is designed to help increase the number of students in the program, said Cynthia Reese, director of the Springfield regional campus of the UIC College of Nursing.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 2, 2020.

‘This is how I can help’ / UIS interim chancellor takes reigns amid pandemic

University of Illinois Springfield interim Chancellor Karen Whitney was clear-eyed when she accepted the yearlong appointment earlier this year.

Among the challenges staring her down: an unprecedented public health crisis that has significantly altered the delivery of academic services, great social upheaval as institutions across the country confront uncomfortable truths on race and ensuring that other major university initiatives, such as the construction of the Springfield Innovation Center, don’t get lost in the shuffle.

These circumstances are exactly what attracted Whitney to the job.

“This is how I can help,” Whitney said in an interview with The State Journal-Register last week. “I’m not in science or public health. If I could, I’d go to a lab and I would make the vaccine that would keep us safe. I can’t do those things, but I know how to run a university and work with a lot of people and that’s how I’m going to help.”

She takes over for Chancellor Emeritus Susan Koch, whose retirement became official last week after nine years leading the Springfield campus.

Whitney laid out her list of goals and priorities she hopes to accomplish during her limited tenure in Springfield. At the top of this list is meeting the moment the country currently finds itself in, she said.

“So the goal is to work with the university, the faculty, the staff and students to ensure the university continues to provide high quality teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitney said. “That’s job one. Job two is to embrace this incredible moment we’re in and to continue the university’s work around anti-racism and social justice.”

Though the plan now is to welcome students back to campus this fall, Whitney acknowledged that it can change on a dime.

Whitney said the response to the pandemic and social unrest in the country are top priorities. But, this won’t distract her from the other important work to be done, she said.

Whitney said she plans to work with the university’s enrollment team to improve recruitment efforts of both graduate and undergraduate students. This includes implementing the Common Application, an admission application that allow students to apply for hundreds of schools at once verses applying for each individually.

Whitney said she would work to continue implementing the university’s strategic plan, secure a new collective bargaining agreement with university faculty and reach out to the Springfield community as Koch did.

She will also continue the push for the development of the Springfield Innovation Center, which will be the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network.

Yet even on borrowed time, Whitney said don’t expect her to be a caretaker chancellor.

“This year is going to be a very busy year, it’s going to be one with unprecedented existential threats that we will respond to,” Whitney said. “And it’s a year though, because of that, to take stock, and to advance on what we do really well, and to be clear that we always need to innovate, create and improve. So I would say, hang on, it’s gonna be a busy year.”

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 5, 2020.