Friday, June 29, 2012

Abby Donaldson: Teaching the joy of dance -- and so much more

Lounging on the couch isn’t Abby Donaldson’s cup of tea.

The 24-year-old Springfield resident works for the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois Springfield during the day, teaches dance classes at Kinner & Co. Dance Studio at night, squeezes in classes at UIS, leads young adults at iWorship Center two to three days a week and, in her free time, volunteers at Lifetime Pregnancy Help Center.

Her friends say they don’t know how she does it all.

“I honestly don’t know how she wears all the hats she wears and keeps everything straight,” said Kirsti Carter, a friend of Donaldson’s.

Staying busy is something Donaldson said she has to do because having free time makes her stir crazy.

Out of all her activities, she said teaching dance is her passion.

Donaldson was featured in a June 29, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Innocence Project asks governor for clemency in Northern Illinois case

Supporters of a Bartlett woman convicted in 1999 of shaking a baby to death gathered in front of the Illinois Capitol Saturday morning to ask Gov. Pat Quinn to review her case and grant her clemency.

Former day care worker Pamela Jacobazzi's backers say new science around shaken baby syndrome and evidence not presented at her first trial point to her innocence. She's being helped by the Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“The theory that she was convicted with has been discredited since then,” said Jacobazzi attorney Anthony Sassan.

In 1999, a jury found Jacobazzi guilty of first-degree murder in the 1995 death of 2-year-old Matthew Czapski. She was charged with shaking the child in August of 1994, and he remained in a coma until 1995, when he died.

Now, though, supporters say that jury was never told about evidence that the child had medical conditions that could have been mistaken as shaken baby syndrome. In addition to asking Quinn for clemency, a hearing in Jacobazzi's case is scheduled for November, where her attorneys hope to get a new trial.

The case was featured in a June 24, 2012, article in the Chicago Daily Herald.

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UIS Innocence group publicizes false abuse charges

Pamela Jacobazzi, a former daycare provider, was sentenced to 32 years in prison for the death of Matthew Czapski, a child in her daycare. Prosecutors said the infant died of shaken baby syndrome.

The case gained the attention of the Illinois Innocence Project, which is based at the University of Illinois Springfield, in 2007 after Jacobazzi’s attorney requested the group’s help.

Illinois Innocence Project investigator Bill Clutter said Jacobazzi’s defense attorneys failed to introduce pediatric records from Dr. David Nadelman that would have contradicted testimony of prosecutors who claimed Czapski was a healthy baby.

“In fact, the records indicate that the child had persistent fevers, was anemic, and during a deposition after Pam was convicted, Dr. Nadelman acknowledged that he suspected the child had internal bleeding because iron supplements he proscribed had no effect on the anemic blood,” Clutter said.

Clutter believes if the jury had known about this at trial, it would have supported an emergency room radiologist’s testimony that the CT scan showed both old and new blood.

Jacobazzi’s attorney filed a clemency petition seven years ago, but Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to act on a confidential recommendation from the Prisoner Review Board made to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The case was featured in a  June 23, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jackson Browne, Janis Ian, 'Jersey Boys' reunion coming to UIS

Performances by Jackson Browne, Janis Ian, Leon Redbone and Savion Glover, plus a 1960s music revue starring Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” top the 2012-13 Performing Arts Season at Sangamon Auditorium.

Several ticket packages are on sale for new and current series subscribers (see below for ticket information). Tickets for most individual events go on sale Aug. 27.

Besides the usual mix of big-name concerts, touring musicals, dance ensembles and other entertainment, the performing arts center at the University of Illinois Springfield is also getting some improvements for its stages and for patrons — including a reception area for Friends of the Sangamon Auditorium.

“It’s nice now that they don’t have to leave the building,” auditorium director Robert Vaughn said. “They can have a drink, talk about the show and maybe get to meet the artist.”

Other auditorium improvements include lighting in both the main auditorium and the Studio Theatre downstairs, valet parking at all Performing Arts Season events and an overhaul of one of the auditorium’s grand pianos.

The series features visiting artists, Broadway shows, performances for families and the Kitchen Sink Series with a little of everything.

The season announcement was featured in a June 21, 2012, edition of the State Journal-Register.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gates grants for 'Breakthrough Learning Models'

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday announced $9 million in grants for "breakthrough learning models" in higher education:

The awards include: $450,000 to the League for Innovation in the Community College to develop and pilot a national consortium of leading online two- and four-year colleges that will help increase seat capacity in the community college system and support more low-income young adults in attaining a postsecondary credential. The consortium will initially include Coastline Community College (CA), the University of Massachusetts Online, Pennsylvania State World Campus and the University of Illinois Springfield.

The grant was featured in a June 20, 2012, Inside Higher Ed article.

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UIS student a write in candidate for state representative

There’s a new candidate in the running for state Representative in the 96th district, which includes parts of Decatur and Springfield. Andrew Dambrauskas is a 23-year-old student studying History at the University of Illinois Springfield. He’s announced he’s running for state representative as an independent write in candidate this fall.

Dambrauskas has served in Lincoln Land Community College’s Model Illinois Government group, but says now he wants a more tangible role in state politics.

“I was partially motivated because I was reviewing a couple, my two choices, to represent me at the statehouse, and I was generally dissatisfied with the both of them," he said.

Dambrauskas says he’s running on a pro-education platform. He says focusing on education would reduce crime in the the district and would help the district’s economy in the future.

He is a Southeast High graduate and is the son of John and Deej Dambrauskas. Schoolteacher Sue Scherer of Decatur is the Democratic nominee. Dennis Shackelford, a businessman from Rochester, won the Republican primary.

Dambrauskas was featured in a June 20, 2012, report by WUIS radio.

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Jackson Browne to perform in Springfield

Springfield will be a stop on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Jackson Browne's acoustic tour.

Browne, famous for songs such as "Running On Empty," "Somebody's Baby" and "The Load Out/Stay," will perform with Sara Watkins on Oct. 23 at Sangamon Auditorium, University of Illinois Springfield.

Browne's management announced the tour Monday. He'll perform with just a piano and guitar and will sing songs from throughout his four-decade career.

The concert is part of Sangamon Auditorium's 2012-13 Performing Arts Season.

The concert was announced in a June 19, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Awards: GLVC honors 6 Prairie Stars

Six University of Illinois Springfield athletes representing five sports have received the Great Lakes Valley Conference Council of Presidents’ Academic Excellence Award.

The Prairie Stars’ Angie Augspols (softball), Bailey Beale (women’s basketball), Tyler McKay (baseball), Mark Klinger (men’s golf), Scott Mauer (men’s tennis) and Matt McGowan (men’s tennis) were among 203 student-athletes who earned the honor.

Award winners must have competed in the GLVC for a minimum of two years, earned 96 credit hours, completed their eligibility and maintained at least a 3.5 grade-point average throughout their academic career.

The awards were featured in a June 15, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Longest-serving UIS employee retires

On June 30, Lynne Price intends to sleep in, get the newspaper and have coffee with her dogs on her patio. Beyond that, she has no plans for her first day of retirement after nearly 42 years at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Price, UIS’s director of campus health services, joined then-Sangamon State University as its one-and-only staff nurse in September 1970. She is the university’s longest-serving employee.

“I must have been interviewed by about 40 people in the Myers Building downtown,” she recalled. “Jerry Curl (an SSU administrator) came out of an office and said, ‘We’d kind of like you to stay two years. Can you do that?’ “

Price agreed.

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life to come here,” she said. “It’s been a great ride, let me tell you.”

Price was featured in a June 14, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Three UIS teams honored by GLVC

The Great Lakes Valley Conference announced the University of Illinois Springfield men’s tennis, volleyball and women’s tennis teams are among the recipients of the 2011-12 academic All-GLVC awards.

 The conference recognizes teams that maintained a 3.30 grade-point average for the academic year. A record 85 teams garnered honors. The total broke the previous record of 70 set during the 2010-11 academic year.

The UIS men’s tennis team carried a 3.56 GPA. The Prairie Stars’ volleyball team produced a 3.40 GPA. The UIS women’s team posted a 3.36 GPA

The honor was featured in a June 13, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

'Proudest Moment' UIS student reaches graduation goal

Children's author Ben Mikaelsen made Mary Hettel, of Marseilles, a promise when she was still a grade school student — he'd be there when she met her goal of receiving a college degree. This spring, he kept that promise when she graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield.

Mary, 25, was born with cerebral palsy. She is non-ambulatory, using a wheelchair, and her verbal skills are limited.

"She can write, but it is not legible," said her mother, Julie Hettel. "She mostly types. A practiced ear can understand her speech. She's verbal if people take the time to let her speak, instead of trying to say what they think she is saying."

Mikaelsen met Mary and her family while he was in Illinois for a round of speaking engagements, and the families remained friendly through the years. At some point, Mikaelsen asked Mary what her biggest dream was, and she replied it was to graduate college. He promised if she met her goal, he would be there.

After graduating high school in 2005, Mary chose to pursue a degree in social work at UIS. Adjustments had to be made to allow her to live away from home, and she took only three to four classes at a time because it takes her longer than most students to do her homework assignments.

But she never gave up, and seven years later she earned her degree, maintaining a regular place on the dean's list.

"It might be a surprise that my course work was the easiest part of college," Mary said. "The biggest challenge was learning to live away from my parents, as a person with a disability. I learned how to do it and just did it."

Hettel was featured in a June 12, 2012, article in The Times, a newspaper in Ottawa, Ill.

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Ex-Streak, Charger Baker to continue volleyball career at UIS

Carl Sandburg College volleyball player Sara Baker has signed to continue her career next season at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Baker, a 5-foot-11 setter from Galesburg, led the Chargers last fall with 413 kills, 733 assists and 82 aces during her sophomore season. She also finished second on the team in digs with 135, ranked 21st nationally in hitting percentage and ranked 26th nationally in aces. Baker was a second-team NJCAA Division II All-American in addition to being an All-Arrowhead Conference, All-Region IV and All-Region IV tournament first-team selection.

UIS is an NCAA Division II program that competes in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Prairie Stars finished 5-25 last season but recently hired Noelle Rooke as their new head coach. Rooke spent the previous eight seasons at Mercer University.

“I’m really excited. It’s going to be a different level of competition,” Baker said. “They have a new coach coming in from Georgia that they’re really looking forward to. She knows what she’s doing. It’s going to be a big step for me.”

Baker was featured in a June 12, 2012, article in the Galesburg Register-Mail.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Cheers & Jeers: Astronomy fans get a real treat

CHEERS to University of Illinois Springfield professor of astronomy John Martin and the many members of the Sangamon Astronomical Society who gave hundreds of people the chance to view Venus’ transit of the sun last Tuesday.

With numerous telescopes set up on the patio of Erin’s Pavilion at Southwind Park, Martin and the SAS members provided many views of this rare and fascinating event. Those who showed up got to see the now-famous image of Venus occluding the sun in a variety of formats: projected on a screen, projected on cloth through a telescope’s eyepiece, against a vivid red sun through a special light filter and through the eyepieces of assorted telescopes.

Martin and the assembled astronomy enthusiasts also provided explanations of what was happening and answered any astronomy-related questions from visitors with enthusiasm. Barring major developments in health care, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. You’ll have to live until 2117 to see it again.

The event was featured in a June 11, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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UIS professor stars in summer production of Steel Magnolias

Robert Harling's classic play Steel Magnolias will open the McLeod Summer Playhouse in Carbondale June 14, 16, and 22 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance June 24 at 2 p.m.

Steel Magnolias is a fan favorite and follows a group of Louisiana women who often meet each other at Truvy's Beauty Shop.

“This is the first time that I've actually played a role for a second time,” Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson, a professor of theater at the University of Illinois Springfield, who is portraying Truvy in this summer's production, told "Nightlife". “I played Truvy two years ago at the Shawnee Summer Theater in Bloomfield, Indiana, which was very, very fun. I absolutely love this role-- I love the show. [Truvy] is the glue that holds the rest of the women together because her beauty shop is the home away from home. It's the women cave. I love her-- ever since I first started working on the show a couple of year ago. She has all these wonderful, fun zingers, great lines. She has wonderful compassion about her, and she is really fun to play.”

Thibodeaux-Thompson was featured in a June 2012 article in the Carbondale "Nightlife" Entertainment Guide.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lincoln expert featured in national broadcast

UIS professor Michael Burlingame recently discussed the controversy surrounding "The Letter to Mrs. Bixby," one of Lincoln’s literary masterpieces, on the GBTV program “Real News”.

Burlingame is the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at UIS.

The broadcast first aired on Friday, June 1, 2012.

Watch the full segment online

UIS introduces new women's basketball coach

Chad Oletzke was introduced as the new University of Illinois Springfield women's basketball coach during a reception on Tuesday.

Oletzke comes to UIS with 15 years of coaching experience, most recently as an assistant at South Dakota State for the past three years. A native of  Minnesota, Oletzke is glad to be back in the Midwest and happy to take over the Prairie Stars program.

He hopes to make it a program where local talent want to play.

"As local as you can get with recruiting it's better off for a whole lot of different reasons," said Oletzke. "Those kids once they feel that connection with the university they fight even harder because they feel like it's there hometown team."

Oletzke was featured in a June 5, 2012, report by WICS-TV 20.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Heartland's Sabol picks Ill.-Springfield

Heartland Community College sophomore pitcher Drew Sabol has committed to play baseball at the University of Illinois-Springfield next year.

Sabol, a former Streator High School star, is the 11th Hawk to sign with a four-year school from this year’s Heartland sophomore class.

Sabol helped the Hawks finish third this week in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla.

Sabol was featured in a June 3, 2012, article in the Bloomington Pantagraph.

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