Tuesday, August 31, 2010

As pension costs rise, public colleges pay the price

The pension pressure is already being felt at the three-campus University of Illinois system, which will start discussions in the fall over how to keep its retirement benefits competitive. The system will consider starting its own defined-contribution plan to make up for the reduction in benefits, officials say.

Richard D. Ringeisen, chancellor of the Springfield campus, says that with efforts like the new supplemental plan, "we're going to be fine" recruiting faculty and staff members.

"We think the state's financial problems will preclude it from putting together attractive benefit packages," Mr. Ringeisen says. "We're looking at ways we can help ourselves."

But he also acknowledged that in a state with the budget problems of Illinois—the state's $13-billion budget deficit next year is estimated to be half of the total budget—preserving the level of worker compensation while meeting every other budget problem is getting harder. When asked if his campus would be able to handle higher retirement costs, he laughed.

"The money has to come from somewhere, doesn't it?" he says. "We have to have great faculty. There is no university without great faculty."

Ringeisen's comments were featured in a August 29, 2010, article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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UIS students push for discounted tuition

It's a proposal students at University of Illinois-Springfield say will help the entire campus. The Student Government is asking the school to cut tuition for out of state students.

The proposed pilot program would grant in-state tuition to students from the 20 counties bordering Illinois to the west. UIS's Student Government argues more needs to be done to recruit people from that area. They say the program would increase enrollment, allowing the University to cut back on tuition hikes for in-state students.

Just 10% of UIS students are from outside of Illinois. U of I President Michael Hogan and the university board would have to endorse this program for it to go ahead. Hogan has asked the Student Government to give him some time to look over the proposal. The next board meeting is the near the end of September. Students are hoping it passes then.

The story was featured by WCIA-TV in a August 30, 2010, report.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

UIS students assist community projects

Some University of Illinois Springfield students are starting the school year by donating their time to community projects, and the head of the school’s volunteer center hopes a habit develops from it.

About 40 students, including some faculty and staff members, were taken to one of three sites Friday as part of UIS’ Welcome Week Service-A-Thon, the third year the event has been held.

“That’s about the number we try to get because of the transportation we have available,” said Kelly Thompson, director of the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center. “If we had more vans, we could take more.”

The three projects selected this year included Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, Ball Charter School and Southwind Park.

“We have about 50 regular community partners, and we’re always reaching out to others,” Thompson said. “We work hard to spread the word we’re here to help.”

The Service-A-Thon was featured in a August 28, 2010, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Netted owl on way to recovery at Henson Robinson Zoo

A great horned owl that found itself tangled in a soccer goal at the University of Illinois Springfield is expected to make a full recovery.

The owl is regaining its strength at the Henson Robinson Zoo, and zoo director Talon Thornton says the owl will be released early next week — just not too close to the soccer fields.

“He was probably chasing a rabbit at night and didn’t see the back end of that soccer net and flew right into it,” Thornton says. “And then in the struggle to get out, he just got his feet tangled and his head tangled.”

Thornton says the owl probably was stuck there all day until children and their parents showed up for soccer games that evening. The fields east of the UIS campus are home to YMCA youth soccer leagues.

The story was featured in a August 28, 2010, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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College volleyball preview: UIS coach Riggle has more options

Unless she wants to, Angie Riggle won’t have to shuffle the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars women’s volleyball players around the court like chess pieces this fall.

“We’re deep in all positions whereas last year we had one setter and we had one true middle,” said Riggle, who’s in her second season with the team. “We were having to make a lot of adjustments and switching people to positions that they weren’t used to playing last year.”

Senior outside hitter Courtnee Brown and junior outside hitter Cayla Baggerly are among five returning players. Brown was first on the team in kills (313) and digs (263). Baggerly had 147 kills and 114 digs.

Sophomore outside hitter Ashley King, junior middle hitter Courtney Kombrink and senior defensive specialist Britni Prusa also return. Eight newcomers could help them improve on last year’s 11-20 overall record and 2-12 Great Lakes Valley Conference mark.

The Stars will be tested early since they’ll spend almost the entire month of September on the road. UIS plays its home opener Sept. 28 against Benedictine University at Springfield.

The volleyball team was featured in a August 27, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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New-look UIS women's soccer team hopes to rebound

University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars women’s soccer coach Pete Kowall spent the early days of the season experimenting with different formations to get a feel for the team.

With 10 new players, Kowall is learning what works best for his personnel.

Among the familiar faces are defenders Jessica Jaime, a junior, and Liz Perrenot, a sophomore. The duo returns from last year’s 2-14 team. Rachel Neudahl, who was a standout player for Cary-Grove High School in the spring, will join them in the backfield.

A key newcomer in the midfield is Illinois State transfer Erin Egolf, a Chatham Glenwood High School graduate who was voted to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman team last fall.

Egolf and returnees Casey Thorpe and sophomore Kaitlyn Ebarb, who’s back after tearing the medial collateral ligament in her knee, will play important roles on offense.

“One of the things we hope to do is keep the ball in the offensive third more,” Kowall said. “We didn’t do that last year. If we hold the ball a little better, I think we’ll be good.

“We’re thin at the forward spots. We’ll see how it goes. We’re looking good on paper and looking pretty good in practice.”

UIS opens the season on Sept. 3 against William Jewell at home.

The women's soccer team was featured in a August 26, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

UIS enrollment may top 5,000

University of Illinois Springfield officials are optimistic that the school’s enrollment will top 5,000 for the first time this fall.

Enrollment numbers won’t be released until Sept. 7, the 10th day of classes, because of class drops and adds that might be requested during that period, said university spokesman Derek Schnapp.

“But it is rare that we end up at a number below what we have going into the first day of classes, and we had more than 5,000 the first day,” Schnapp said. “We are cautiously optimistic it will stay there.”

The numbers were featured in a August 27, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS gives students a "Foot in the Door"

Ask anyone and they'll tell you that first job is the hardest to nail down. Thursday, college students got their "Foot in the Door” at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Vanessa Ferguson is a senior at UIS looking to go into public relations. She knows snagging a job out of college isn't easy these days.

"It's a little difficult to go to a business and represent yourself as a student with not a lot of experience trying to break into their public relations department," said Ferguson.

That's one reason why she decided to attend the "Foot in the Door" career fair at UIS in search of opportunities that will help prepare her for the real world.

The fair was featured in a August 26, 2010, report by WICS-TV 20.

Watch the story on News Channel 20's website

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Opinion: Building mosques and burning Qurans: What would Jesus do?

The following is a portion of an op-ed published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on August 27, 2010. It was co-written by Ali Nizamuddin, an associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

"The past few months have cast doubt in the hearts of many American Muslims about their role and future in this country. Two local issues have taken on national primacy and even received worldwide attention: the planned burning of the Quran on Sept. 11 and the Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan.

A small church of less than 100 followers in Gainesville, Fla., has decided to burn the Quran on Sept. 11. As such, a few zealots have successfully shaped our national discourse. Like other religious extremists, their myopia and hate prevents them from understanding the national and global impact of their actions.

The Quran is a sacred book for 1.57 billion people worldwide and approximately 8 million to 10 million American Muslims. It contains the narrative and teachings of about 25 prophets and messengers of God, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus Christ. An entire chapter is devoted to Mary and her story. Jesus Christ is mentioned 25 times by name, and his virgin birth, miracles, heavenly ascension and ultimate return are preserved in the Quran."

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quinn official's violations like 'jaywalking,' ethics advocate says

The director of a reform group who pushed the 2003 ethics law that Gov. Pat Quinn’s former chief of staff ran afoul of said Jerry Stermer’s resignation over three prohibited e-mails was “overkill.”

“In terms of whether this is a hanging offense, absolutely not,” said Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “People make mistakes. As far as I know, we’re still hiring human beings. This wasn’t a mistake I couldn’t see myself doing.

James Wright, the state’s former executive inspector general, sent Quinn an investigative report on the e-mails earlier this month and urged Attorney General Lisa Madigan to refer the case to the Executive Ethics Commission.

Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, said the incident shows that more transparency is needed regarding what inspectors general are doing.

Redfield's comments were featured in a August 26, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS men's soccer team preview

New coach, new team.

It’s a clean slate for the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars men’s soccer program.

UIS heads into the season with a new coach in Chad Jones, who replaces Joe Eck, and just four players back from last year’s 1-14-1 squad.

Senior Tyler Rampey, junior Michael Waldo and sophomores Juan Perez and Jonathan Hamer started anywhere from four to 12 games in 2009. Combined Rampey, Waldo and Hamer netted four of the 11 goals scored by UIS last fall.

There are more questions than answers when it comes to this year’s team, but Jones is sure of one thing.

“Our goal this year is to be competitive in every game,” he said. “There are not any bunnies in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Every game we have to be prepared to play, and that’s what we’re trying to do in training to get that mentality.”

UIS has exhibition matches today against Lincoln College and Saturday against Millikin. The Stars play their season-opening match Sept. 3 against William Jewell at Kiwanis Stadium.

“Three things that we’ve been working on is we’re going to be organized defensively and offensively, we’re going to be fit and the last thing is we’re going to be committed to getting better every game and every training session,” Jones said.

The team was featured in a August 26, 2010, article by The State Journal-Register.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

UIS offers textbook rental program

College is now more affordable than ever at University of Illinois Springfield. A new program that allows students to rent their textbooks, instead of buying them, is saving students big bucks this year.

For years Arianna Adams has had to buy her books either at the campus bookstore or online.

"My first year I spent about $500," said Adams.

A lot of money for someone paying for college out of their own pocket. She's thrilled UIS is starting at textbook rental program this year.

The textbook rental program is just another way UIS officials are making education more affordable for students.

The Rent-A-Text program was featured in a August 20, 2010, report by WICS-TV 20.

Watch the story on News Channel 20's website

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New U of I president: 2011 will be tough

University of Illinois trustees last May picked Michael Hogan, president of the University of Connecticut, from among more than 200 candidates to become the U of I's 18th president.

Hogan, who oversees campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Springfield and Chicago, replaced interim president Stanley Ikenberry.

Hogan, an expert in the history of post-World War II American diplomacy, took over at Illinois on July 1. He held senior administrative positions at Ohio State and Iowa before assuming leadership at UConn in 2007.

He's immediately had to tackle state funding issues and repairing the university's image in the wake of the admissions scandal.

While in Springfield to attend the Sale of Champions on Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, Hogan met with The State Journal-Register's editorial board. The following Q&A represents a portion of that interview and was published in a August 22, 2010, edition.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

UIS rated high by U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report’s 2011 “America’s Best Colleges” ranks the University of Illinois Springfield as the top regional public university in the state of Illinois and the fourth best public university in that category in the Midwest.

It’s UIS’s third consecutive year in those positions.

The rankings also placed UIS 22nd on a list of the 142 top public and private universities in the 12-state Midwest region. The magazine’s ranking puts UIS in the top 15 percent of universities in the Midwest.

The rankings were released Wednesday as hundreds of UIS students moved their belongings into dorm rooms during Freshmen Move-in Day.

“We are on the right path, in bold pursuit of our strategic vision to become one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the nation,” said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen, who is retiring at the end of October.

UIS expects its enrollment to top 5,000 for the first time this fall, although official numbers won’t be available until two weeks into classes, which begin Monday.

The ranking was featured in a August 19, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Pawnbroker campaigns for redemption

The last time Illinois voters got a good look at Scott Lee Cohen he was sitting in a bar, choking back tears. But if he has his way, Democratic leaders might be crying come November.

Mr. Cohen withdrew as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in a weepy February press conference at a local tavern. Now Mr. Cohen is running again, this time for governor as an independent.

Part of Mr. Cohen's strategy is to appeal to African-Americans, who generally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

"If he starts making inroads among blacks...that's just a nightmare" for Gov. Quinn, said Kent Redfield, a political scientist at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

Redfield's comments were featured in a August 19, 2010, article in The Wall Street Journal.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nature of internships changing

The difficult economy and the U.S. Department of Labor are changing the nature of internships.

Human resource, career specialists and educators say internships are still a valuable route to experience, getting to know potential employers and letting potential employers get to know interns as prospective employees.

But a tough job market also has spilled over into competition for internships, and federal rules issued this spring have paved the way for what some say eventually will be a requirement that all internships be paid.

“There’s some gray areas in there regarding that,” said Tammy Craig, director of the Career Development Center at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Craig said the marketplace still offers plenty of internship and volunteer opportunities, but the economy has made a difference.

“This also has been brought to the attention of the Fair Labor Standards Act. There are criteria that have to be met, and because of the economic downturn, employers are wanting to do more unpaid internships,” said Craig.

Even so, she said a record number of employers have signed up this year for an Aug. 26 “Foot in the Door” fair at UIS that concentrates on local internships, volunteer opportunities and part-time work.

“It really is worth doing. It’s the new way to test out potential employees,” said Craig.

Craig's comments were featured in a August 15, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some suburban districts rehire many laid-off teachers

By the time suburban students return to class this month, their districts will have hired back about half of the teachers they let go last spring when the lingering recession and state financial woes forced sweeping cuts, according to a Tribune analysis.

There's hope for even more hires since Congress passed a federal school jobs bill this week that promises to send $415 million to Illinois as early as September.

But many education officials sounded a note of caution Wednesday, saying they can only work with the money they have in hand when the school year begins. They appreciate the money for teachers, but say they've learned to be skeptical about windfalls in a state beset by financial troubles and unable to deliver all of its promised funds.

School finance experts said the federal cash for school jobs will surely help. On average, districts invest up to 80 percent of their resources in personnel costs.

"They are so far behind in getting money from the state that any new money is good," said William Phillips, a former superintendent who now teaches school finance at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "But timing is the biggest factor right now."

Phillips' comments were featured in a August 12, 2010, article in the Chicago Tribune.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

UIS alumni group plans celebration

The University of Illinois Springfield Alumni SAGE Society is celebrating the start of the university’s 40th year with a “Back to School for 40 Years Party” for alumni, community members, students, faculty and staff from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27, at the Island Bay Yacht Club, 76 Yacht Club Road, on Lake Springfield.

The celebration will include a slide show of photos through the decades, historic displays from various campus units and a trivia quiz with prizes. Anyone who has had any association with the university over the past 40 years is urged to attend. The cost is $18 per person, which includes hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks. A cash bar will be available.

Reservations are requested by Friday, Aug. 20, and can be made online at www.uiaa.org/uis or by calling 206-7395.

The SAGE society, affiliated with the University of Illinois Alumni Association, provides U of I-related service opportunities and activities.

The event was featured in a August 8, 2010, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Kids collecting school supplies for kids

You can find crayons for 50 cents and notebooks for a $1 during the back to school shopping season, but it's a price not everyone can afford.

That's why kids at the Cox Children's Center on the UIS campus have been collecting paper, pencils, crayons, and pretty much everything else: to give to the less fortunate.

The center has used the collection drive as a chance to teach the kids about helping those in need.

"It makes me sad," says seven-year-old Caleb Hoffman, "Because a lot of people don't have school supplies and won't be good learners."

The supplies will go to UIS students who are parents and need a little extra help this time of year.

The collection was featured by WCIA-TV Channel 3 in a August 6, 2010, report.

Watch the story on WCIA's website

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Quinn accentuating positive, burying negative this summer

Gov. Pat Quinn is spending the summer polishing his image for voters this fall. He's toured jail cells, navigated rubble at construction sites, met with dental students and even shared the podium with his Yorkshire terrier, Bailey, all while signing routine bills into law.

Quinn's not the first governor to accentuate the positive. For Quinn, the steady stream of carefully orchestrated, TV-friendly events allows him to conserve campaign cash and appear gubernatorial. They provide the public with a can-do view that contrasts with Quinn's inability so far to pass the major tax increase he covets and make enough cuts to balance the state budget.

Republican foe Sen. Bill Brady questions Quinn's approach, saying it's a concern that the governor is using state resources to stage elaborate bill signings when he can just as easily take action from the comfort of his office.

As the Nov. 2 election nears, the issues Quinn seizes on are just as telling as those he lets quietly slip by, said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

"Mixing business with politics is as old as the Republic," Redfield said. "How you handle these things is going to depend on whether you can use them for your advantage and gets you coverage in terms that are generally favorable for the narrative you're mapping. And other issues, you do them late on a Friday because you want to minimize the coverage and you don't want the attention."

Redfield's comments were featured in a August 8, 2010, article in the Chicago Tribune.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Google Wave washed up

Google Wave was supposed to make class discussions richer and more coherent. It was supposed to make research collaborations easier. It was supposed to break down walls between offices, disciplines, countries. It was even supposed to give learning-management systems such as Blackboard a run for their money.

Instead, it is kaput. Just over a year after being rolled out, the much-hyped Wave has crashed on the shores of indifference and is now set to recede into obscurity. Google said Thursday that it will stop selling Wave as a product and close the host website by the end of the year, citing a dearth of users.

A number of professors experimented with Wave. Raymond Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield, used Wave to bring together students from two of his classes — one on the cultural impact of the Internet and another on energy studies — to discuss how the prevalence of the Internet ties into perceptions of energy sustainability.

Schroeder was featured in a August 5, 2010, article by Inside Higher Ed.

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Google Wave, embraced by many on campuses, to get wiped out

Google Wave may have had more fans on campuses than it did anywhere else, but those academic enthusiasts weren't enough to keep the free service afloat. Google announced yesterday that it will stop development of Wave, its experimental next-generation e-mail system that blended instant messaging, video chat, document sharing, and other tools in one platform.

Several college professors had been trying out Google Wave with their courses, and some saw it as a possible replacement for learning-management systems like Blackboard. At first the service was only open to those who snagged an invitation from an existing user, and last year at the annual conference of Educause, professors stood in line at a packed Google presentation to get their free invites. Google only officially opened the service to all comers in May.

"The Wave announcement is disappointing to those of us who use it daily in our classes and other collaborations," said Raymond Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield, in an e-mail interview today. "It crossed institutional boundaries unlike the LMS," he said, referring to learning-management systems. Mr. Schroeder had used Wave in a course, and he has presented it on its use at several conferences.

"The potential uses in higher education were many," he added. "The potential uses in commerce and marketing were not clear. So, the business case was never effectively made."

Schroeder's comments were featured in a August 5, 2010, blog by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Perseids meteor shower viewing planned at Thompson Lake landing at Emiquon

The public is invited to a walk-and-talk event entitled “The Perseids and Thompson Lake” which will be led by Dr. John Martin, assistant professor of astronomy/physics at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The event will be held Thursday, Aug. 12, from 8:30 p.m. to midnight at the Thompson Lake landing at Emiquon Preserve in rural Lewistown.

Martin will present an introduction to the annual Perseid meteor shower under the dark skies of the Emiquon Preserve. The Sangamon Astronomical Society will also be on hand to share views of the sky through their telescopes.

Visitors are advised to dress appropriately for being outdoors and encouraged to bring binoculars.

The event was featured in a August 5, 2010, article by the Canton Daily Ledger.

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Mahaffay to become a Prairie Star this fall

Kellee Mahaffay, an outside hitter who had a team-high 255 kills last season for Coal City's volleyball team, is heading to the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Mahaffay, a social work major with a minor in elementary education, will be playing volleyball for the Prairie Stars in the fall. She fell in love with UIS on her visit there.

"UIS had a gorgeous campus, the coach had a real bubbly personality and I liked the girls," Mahaffay said.

Mahaffay's choice was featured in a August 3, 2010, article by Free Press Newspapers.

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Obama returns to Illinois for U.S. Senate campaign dominated by scandals

President Barack Obama, who left Chicago promising hope and change, appears in his adopted hometown today to raise money for a U.S. Senate candidate amid reminders of the difficulty of getting away from the tarnish of a place renowned for its political corruption.

Obama’s speech at a downtown hotel for Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat seeking the seat he once held, will be two blocks from the federal courthouse where jurors are weighing the fate of Rod Blagojevich. The former Illinois governor stands accused of trying to sell the Senate post to the highest bidder.

Giannoulias and his Republican opponent in the Senate race, Mark Kirk, have spent much of the campaign debating who is the more scandalized. Giannoulias has dealt with fallout from the failure in April of a bank his family ran, while Kirk was forced to apologize for repeatedly exaggerating his biography.

“Maybe the candidate pool isn’t as deep as it used to be,” said Charles Wheeler, a public affairs professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Wheeler's comments were featured in a August 5, 2010, article by Bloomberg News.

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Watchdogs flee Springfield

George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, Pat Quinn and potentially Bill Brady. The Statehouse press corps has watched them all, but with each new governor fewer and fewer eyes make up the group of journalists in the Capitol who observe, investigate and report on Illinois government and the General Assembly.

Charlie Wheeler, former Statehouse reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and now the director of a Statehouse reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, says the decline in the last 10 years is an extension of a gradual decline that’s taken place over the last several decades. Earlier bureau closings, however, were a result of newspapers going out of business entirely, he says. “That was not somebody deciding, we’re an ongoing operation, we just don’t care about Springfield anymore, which in the case of Rockford, that was their decision. And should Arlington Heights not fill this, that would be their decision too, that we don’t care enough about Springfield and state government to bother having a full-time presence.”

Wheeler's comments were featured in a August 5, 2010, article in the Illinois Times.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Richard Judd: Entrepreneurship, investment, job creation

The following is a portion of an article written by Richard Judd, National City Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois Springfield. It was published in a August 4, 2010, edition of The State Journal-Register.

"Historically, the American economy has been rooted in the underlying concepts set forth in the Constitution over 200 years ago.

Freedom of expression, ownership of private property and economic opportunity are the hallmarks of the American story.

In economic terms, America has been a system marked by open competition in a free market wherein the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned, with development proportionate to increasing accumulation and reinvestment of profits.

This free enterprise approach to our social and economic system has provided the highest standard of living ever known to mankind, the envy of the world’s nation-states."

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Home-course feeling works well for Graceffa at women's classic

Allison Graceffa used her home-course advantage to reach Thursday’s semifinals of the Greater Rockford Women’s Golf Classic.

“I have experience playing here,” Graceffa said after holding off former champion Jordan Hatch 1-up Tuesday at Rockford Country Club. “I figure I have a little one-up on the girls playing here, which probably helped me out on the greens. I did know how to read some of those.”

But it took a while for Graceffa, seeded seventh, to get adjusted as the second-seeded Hatch went 4 up through five holes. Upon reaching No. 8, something clicked for Graceffa, who went on a hot streak winning that hole and Nos. 9, 10 and 11.

“I was nervous in the beginning,” said Graceffa, who attends the University of Illinois-Springfield. “Match play gets into your head a little bit.”

Graceffa wasn’t the only player in the championship flight mounting a comeback.

Allison was featured in a August 4, 2010, article in the Rockford Register Star.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More than 100 apply for UIS men's hoops coach job

The University of Illinois Springfield is getting closer to hiring a men’s basketball coach.

The post has been vacant since Lanphier High School product Kevin Gamble resigned in June to take the director of player development and video operations job at NCAA Division I Providence College.

More than 100 individuals have applied for the UIS job, according to associate athletic director Scott Reed.

“The search committee is evaluating resumes,” Reed said Monday. “We were thrilled with the fact a lot of people applied. The committee cut it to a workable number and are sorting out the finalists.”

Reed said UIS would like to have Gamble’s successor “ideally in place by the time classes start on Aug. 23.’’

The position was featured in a August 3, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS baseball diamond under construction

Things are coming together for the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars’ first-year baseball program and coach Brian Grunzke.

A practice diamond is under construction south of The Recreation and Athletic Center on the UIS campus near the soccer practice fields. UIS associate athletic director Scott Reed hopes the diamond will be completed by the time classes begin on Aug. 23.

UIS plays its first season beginning in spring 2011 and the Prairie Stars have secured a field for home games. The team will play its home contests at Chatham’s Community Park, according to Reed.

The baseball team was featured in a August 3, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

UIS proposal for 'campus living room' in limbo

University of Illinois Springfield students last spring defeated a proposal to increase student fees to build a student union that would serve as the “campus living room.”

The vote leaves the idea in limbo, likely until students choose to bring it up again, UIS officials say.

The student-driven proposal would have been funded with an increase in student fees of up to $200 per semester for full-time students and $100 per semester for part-timers. The cost of the project was estimated at $17 million.

"It's on hold until we have some students who want to pick it up and push it," said Tim Barnett, UIS vice chancellor for student affairs.

The follow-up was featured in a August 2, 2010, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS tries out textbook rental program

College textbook costs have risen at four times the rate of inflation and can add several hundred dollars to a student's annual education bill.

But students at the University of Illinois Springfield may be able to reduce some of those costs this fall with a Rent-A-Text program being offered through the UIS Bookstore, which is operated by Follett Corp.

Tim Barnett, vice chancellor for student affairs, said it was up to UIS to participate in the rental program.

"We said we'd try it for a year and see how it goes," he said.

Barnett said 20 faculty members have put rental books on their class lists, and students will have 285 titles to choose from.

The textbook rental story was featured in a August 1, 2010, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Are electric cars better for the environment?

A full 12 years after Toyota sold its first Prius in the United States and came to pretty much dominate the U.S. market for environmentally friendly cars, drivers in America will have two more options for green transportation: Chevrolet's Volt and Nissan's Leaf.

It all comes down to carbon emissions, and even though electric vehicles spew zero emissions, they aren't necessarily carbon neutral. So that begs the question, are they better for the environment than ones powered by fossil fuels?

"Zero-tailpipe emissions unfortunately don't necessarily mean zero emissions," says Dennis Ruez Jr., the environmental studies department chair at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Carbon-neutrality refers to emissions of carbon dioxide that are released during any point in the life span of the vehicle, from the earth-moving machines used to mining the lithium for the car's batteries, to the plant where the car is built, to the power plant that feeds the electrical source the car is ultimately plugged into. None of those can emit carbon dioxide. If any do, the electric vehicle isn't carbon-neutral.

Attaining complete carbon neutrality is virtually impossible, or at least so unattainable it's akin to holding out for a vehicle that runs on cold fusion. Instead, researchers are chipping away at problems in smaller sizes, with a specific focus on the power plant -- the source of most EV emissions.

"The well-known issue here is the source of the electricity," says Ruez. "If the electricity is from a coal- or gas-fired power plant, then there are still carbon emissions from that vehicle's use."

Ruez's comments were featured in a July 30, 2010, article by Discovery News.

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