Thursday, November 29, 2012

UIS music at UIS

The following is a portion of an Illinois Times article written by Tom Irwin:

Most of the live music shows held at the University of Illinois Springfield, our still growing, four-year institution of higher learning on the southern outskirts of Springfield’s civilized world, come from beyond the college’s borders. Part of the reason for this apparent lack of college-based music making comes from the absence of an extensive formal music program at UIS.

You can major in business, history, English, communications and many more subjects, but for now, an aspiring musician at UIS doesn’t have a lot of choices in pursuing a formal degree as a major or minor in music. There are courses in historical aspects of music and computer-related recording technology, along with opportunities to perform in UIS sponsored groups, but nothing that specifically offers a degree in music.

Determined to continue and poised to grow, the department has its sights set on soon becoming an academic minor. With Susan Koch, the new chancellor at the UIS helm, possessing a healthy history in liberal arts education and especially supportive of the arts, the UIS music department is in a good position to be making beautiful music for years to come as a vital part of the university community.

The article was published in the Illinois Times on November 29, 2012.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sparkman lifts UIS past Robert Morris in men's basketball

University of Illinois Springfield forward Dylan Sparkman is emerging as a force.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore led the UIS men’s basketball team in scoring for the second consecutive game, and his career-high 24 points helped the Stars to a 72-56 non-conference victory over Robert Morris University on Tuesday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

UIS scored its second victory of the season.

Sparkman has become a go-to option in a young season. He scored 18 points against Cedarville and tossed in 12 points each against Northwood and Benedictine University at Springfield.

He had career highs of seven points and five rebounds last season as a freshman. “I knew I was going to have to come in and step up to fill the shoes of Michael Fakuade,” Sparkman said. “He was a big player for us, so I knew I had to step up.”

The win was featured by the State Journal-Register on November 28, 2012.

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Physical UIS stops Robert Morris in women's basketball

The University of Illinois Springfield’s aggressive play earned the Prairie Stars more fouls than they would have liked, but it also earned them a much-needed 60-47 win over Robert Morris University in a non-conference women’s basketball game Tuesday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

“What Coach (Chad) Oletzke tries to instill in us is toughness, especially on the defensive end,” UIS junior forward Elizabeth Kelly said. “At times, I don’t know if we were as intense as we want to be, but I know it’s something we’re working to improve on because we think it will be one of the best ways to help us win games this year.”

It was the first victory of the season for the Prairie Stars (1-3) and their first contest in 10 days.

The win was featured by the State Journal-Register on November 28, 2012.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Online education trend expands

Another day, another development in the rapidly evolving world of massive open online courses, also known as MOOCs.

Over the past several months, dozens of universities have joined the bandwagon, working with MOOC providers to offer free online courses to anyone with an Internet connection.

Last week, the American Council on Education, an association for higher education presidents, raised the possibility that such courses could count toward a degree when it said it would review several to determine whether they ought to be eligible for transfer credit.

Colleges and universities have offered online courses for years, but the embrace by elite higher education was "really a game changer," says Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois-Springfield. "Now we've really moved to disruption in higher education."

Schroeder was featured by Sci-Tech Today on November 26, 2012.

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The “fiscal cliff” and the argument for progressive taxation

We’re likely to continue hearing the term “fiscal cliff” as President Obama and congressional leaders work toward a deficit-reduction deal ahead of a December 31st deadline.

Most Republicans in Washington are staunchly opposed to raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to help reduce the deficit.

But an author and philosophy scholar at the University of Illinois Springfield says the rich must be taxed more if the country is to rebound from a recession and invest in its future.

UIS Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Peter Wenz spoke with WUIS’ Peter Gray about his new book "Take Back The Center", and why regaining what he calls a “sane center” in American politics is so important as the “fiscal cliff” looms.

Wenz was featured by WUIS on November 26, 2012.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Online-education trend expands

Another day, another development in the rapidly evolving world of massive open online courses, otherwise known as MOOCs.

Over the past several months, dozens of universities, including the University of Texas System, Brown and Wesleyan, have joined the bandwagon, working with MOOC providers to offer free online courses to anyone with an Internet connection.

Last week, the American Council on Education, an association for higher education presidents, raised the possibility that such courses could count toward a degree when it said it would review several to determine whether they ought to be eligible for transfer credit.

Two days later, a consortium of 10 universities, including Northwestern, Wake Forest and Notre Dame, announced plans to develop an alternative approach — classes are still taught online, but with just 15 to 20 students. The courses, to be offered next fall through an initiative called Semester Online, wouldn't be free, like MOOCs are, but students who pass the course could earn credit.

On Monday, edX, a MOOC founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, is expected to announce plans to bring a computer science course to two Massachusetts community colleges next spring.

Colleges and universities have offered online courses for years, but the embrace by elite higher education was "really a game-changer," says Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois-Springfield. "Now we've really moved to disruption in higher education."

Schroeder was featured by USA Today on November 18, 2012.

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UIS employees given ESGR "patriotic" awards

Chad Cooperider's son, Corey, was deployed to Afghanistan in September, but thanks to his employers at the University of Illinois Springfield, he'll have a job when he comes back.

"You can't ask for anything more than that," Cooperider says. "Like I said, as someone who's been there, you can't ask for anything more than that. It's good to know that you don't have to worry about that stuff while you're gone.

Cooperider, a Navy reservist, says some of his fellow service members have lost their jobs when going overseas -- and thanks the Illinois Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for stepping up and making sure that doesn't happen to Corey.

The ESGR has dubbed UIS a "Patriotic Employer" thanks to the public efforts of Corey's supervisors, Scott Fay and Keith McMath.

The honor was reported by WTAX-AM on November 16, 2012.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Survey: Bright future for Springfield economy

The forecast for economic growth in Springfield is bright, but there will be some bumps along the way to a smoother economy.

According to a survey of Sangamon County business members, the economic horizon will see big gains in healthcare, and the future for the downtown area looks bright. But a dip in manufacturing is expected.

When considering Sangamon County as a whole, the survey shows short-term pain but long-term gain.

"What's exciting about the survey results is that when people look at their own business, they're expecting capital investment in their firm to stay positive," UIS research office director Ashley Kirzinger said. "They're expecting employment to stay about the same, and they're not going to decrease in their employment numbers."

The survey was featured by WICS-TV 20 on November 15, 2012.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Exploring credits for free online courses

Elite universities have learned this year that offering free online courses will draw a huge global audience.

Now educators want to know whether those courses are worthy of academic credit and how they might be used to help more people pursue college degrees.

The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, said Tuesday it is teaming with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the free online education provider Coursera on an initiative to seek answers to those questions.

The announcement is the latest sign of the emerging influence of what are known as mass­ive open online courses, or MOOCs. MOOCs have gained momentum, with universities drawn toward mass audiences and consumers lured by the prospect of sampling elite education for free.

“It’s growing and continues to grow rapidly,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois Springfield, a participant in the new research on MOOCs. “People are looking for affordable access to higher education.”

Schroeder was featured by the Washington Post on November 13, 2012.

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Benedictine tries to build basketball rivalry with UIS

Benedictine University at Springfield men’s basketball coach Ian McKeithen is hoping for a cross-town rivalry with the University of Illinois Springfield.

Benedictine is playing hoops again after a 12-year hiatus. When McKeithen was hired, one of the first people he called was UIS men’s basketball coach Ben Wierzba.

The result of that conversation is a non-conference meeting tonight at 7:30 between host UIS and Benedictine at The Recreation and Athletic Center. It is the Prairie Stars’ home opener.

Benedictine and UIS are both in search of their first win. The Stars are 0-2 after losing over the weekend to Northwood (69-58) and Lake Superior State (67-62) at the GLVC/GLIAC Crossover tourney. Besides winless records, the team’s share another common thread. Both experienced mixed defensive results in games.

“In the first half of both games we defended very well,” Wierzba said. “In the first five minutes of the second halves, we were outscored 25-7. That’s the difference in the two ballgames.”

The men's basketball team was featured by the State Journal-Register on November  14, 2012.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Susan Koch: UIS home to many student-athletes

The following is part of a guest column written by UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. It was published in an November 11, 2012, edition of the State Journal-Register.

"Several years ago, Indiana University professor Murray Sperber published a fascinating book titled, 'Beer and Circus.' Considered the country’s leading authority on college sports, Sperber argued that big-time intercollegiate athletics has had a profound and tragic impact on higher education, depriving students of the education they deserved.

'Beer and Circus' has become a “must-read” for every college president and chancellor. As chancellor of one of the 300 NCAA Division II schools in the United States and Canada, however, I can tell you that the “beer and circus” scenario is a world away from what I see every day on the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

Division II Athletics is based on an institutional commitment to providing a balanced educational experience for student-athletes. According to the Division II philosophy, students who participate in athletics are students first, with the same opportunities and expectations for academic achievement as other students."

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Young residents one of the keys to downtown revival

Mayor Mike Houston took up the theme of young people living downtown while introducing the downtown Springfield Sustainable Design Assessment Team report. A natural source of 20-something shoppers, pedestrians and residents, he said, is at the University of Illinois Springfield.

UIS has state government interns, the mayor reasoned, and interns might like to live near state government.

“An ideal situation for UIS students would be some type of housing that would allow them to walk to work,” Houston said.

The idea isn’t entirely farfetched, said Edward Wojcicki, UIS associate chancellor of constituent relations.

Wojcicki said a survey of UIS graduate students early this year found they would like to see options for living downtown.

“We have done some preliminary internal discussions, and we do occasionally talk to people in the community who might be able to develop some type of residential space for college students,” Wojcicki said. “We know there’s some interest ... but we are closer to being in the idea stage than any kind of implementation.”

The downtown living options were featured by the State Journal-Register on November 11, 2012.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Innocent, but still guilty

Although Anthony Murray walked out of prison on Oct. 31 a free man after 14 years, gaining his freedom required admitting to a murder he says he didn’t commit.

“It’s been a long road,” the 41-year-old Chicago resident said in a Marion County courtroom in Salem during a hearing the day before his release. “I’m not guilty of the charges. I want this to go on the record.”

Murray’s case is the fifth in which the Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, helped free a prisoner whom they believe to be actually innocent. But this case is different from most others the project handles. It wasn’t some new piece of evidence that set Murray free; it was his exasperated willingness to strike a deal that marks him as a killer.

 John Hanlon, legal director for IIP, says Murray’s case highlights problems in the criminal justice system that can produce wrongful convictions, and no one is fully satisfied with the outcome.

The case was featured by the Illinois Times on November 8, 2012.

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UIS men on the defensive for basketball opener

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team left the University of Evansville’s Ford Center Saturday with a clear practice plan for this week.

Coach Ben Wierzba pinpointed exactly what the Prairie Stars needed to address after Evansville’s 79-54 exhibition win over UIS. “We didn’t defend as well as we can,” Wierzba said.

“We gave up too many easy baskets and offensive rebounding. It’s what we’ve been working on in practice this week.

“We went back to the basics of stopping the ball one on one and getting the ball stopped when it’s dribbled at you.”

The Stars are preparing for Friday’s season-opening game against Northwood at 7 p.m. in the Great Lakes Valley.

The team was featured by the State Journal-Register on November 8, 2012.

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UIS women's hoops coach sees potential in Stars

Little flashes of possibilities were visible to University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball coach Chad Oletzke.

A 15-minute spurt in the first half of an exhibition against Eastern Illinois University Sunday clued in the first-year coach on what could be.

“We climbed back from a 10-point deficit and gained the lead,” Oletzke said. “We played them even for 15 minutes. The last minute and a half, we kind of broke down. For a 15-minute stretch, we had exactly what we were looking for on both ends of floor.

“We were doing a good job on the defensive end and turning them over. We weren’t giving them easy shots. We were pushing it in transition. We were executing things offensively.”

The team was featured by the State Journal-Register on November 8, 2012.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Year of the MOOC

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been around for a few years as collaborative techie learning events, but this is the year everyone wants in. Elite universities are partnering with Coursera at a furious pace. It now offers courses from 33 of the biggest names in postsecondary education, including Princeton, Brown, Columbia and Duke. In September, Google unleashed a MOOC-building online tool, and Stanford unveiled Class2Go with two courses.

Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois, Springfield, says three things matter most in online learning: quality of material covered, engagement of the teacher and interaction among students. The first doesn’t seem to be an issue — most professors come from elite campuses, and so far most MOOCs are in technical subjects like computer science and math, with straightforward content. But providing instructor connection and feedback, including student interactions, is trickier.

“What’s frustrating in a MOOC is the instructor is not as available because there are tens of thousands of others in the class,” Dr. Schroeder says. How do you make the massive feel intimate?

Schroeder was featured by the New York Times on  November 4, 2012.

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UIS students tie yellow ribbons for vets

If you've wondered why yellow ribbons are hanging on the trees around the University of Illinois - Springfield campus, they're there to remind us of our veterans.

Students and volunteers wrapped them around hundreds of trees on campus. It all started when a student who has a boyfriend in the service wanted to do something to show appreciation.

"The idea came about because my boyfriend's currently deployed, and I wanted to tie one single ribbon on a tree outside my apartment," organizer Samia Ahmad said. "And I kind of figured it would be taken down by someone, so I was talking to some students and they're like, 'Why don't you tie a ribbon around every tree around campus?' And I was like, 'Why not just the trees on the outer drive?,' which is like 403 trees."

This is the first year the event has taken place. Besides ribbons, students also held a toiletry drive.

The story was featured by WICS-TV 20 on November 4, 2012.

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UIS students pay tribute to vets

Some college students are paying tribute to the troops this Veterans Day. School wasn't in session, but students were out on campus at University of Illinois Springfield.

They were tying yellow ribbons to more than 400 trees. The volunteers had a lot of ground to cover, but say it was worth it. Organizers hope they'll raise awareness about veterans.

The students also held a toiletry drive. All the items will be given to the American Legions and then sent to soldiers overseas.

The story was featured by WCIA-TV on November 4, 2012.

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Issues key to turnout of young voters

While many of Springfield’s teenagers are forced to sit out on Election Day, they’re wholly vested in who Americans will send to the White House.

On top of a job shortage, many teenagers are headed to college and are concerned about student loans.

Students are right to be concerned, said Gerard Joseph, director of financial assistance at the University of Illinois Springfield. State funds have been stagnant, he said, and students have to apply earlier and earlier to try and access help from Illinois’ Monetary Assistance Program.

“You’ve got more students trying for the same pool of dollars,” Joseph said.

High school respondents also ranked quality of college education, elementary and high school education, and war, Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism as their other leading concerns.

Joseph was featured by the State Journal-Register on November 4, 2012.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Former UIS administrator named interim IBHE director

Harry Berman, a former provost and interim chancellor at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been appointed interim executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Berman takes over for George Reid, who announced his decision to step down after nearly two years in the position.

State officials will launch a nationwide search for the permanent IBHE director.

The appointment was reported by the State Journal-Register on November 1, 2012.

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Meagan Cass encourages students to discover what moves them

Almost everyone who has tried their hand at fiction has heard the advice: Write what you know. By doing so, the thinking goes, the writer will be able to draw upon the familiar, and then the prose will begin to fly.

Meagan Cass is an author and assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield. Many of her short stories contain autobiographical elements — in particular, her experiences playing sports while growing up in upstate New York. While Cass does mine her own past for material, she puts a caveat on the “write what you know” axiom.

“The trick is writing about what you don’t know about what you know. Because if you only write about what you know, there wouldn’t be any element of discovery,” Cass says.

In her creative writing and short fiction writing courses, she tells her students to focus on subjects that interest and inspire them on an individual level. Rather than simply writing a rote description of historical events, Cass encourages them to use what they know as a starting point from which invention and creativity can spring.

Cass was featured by Springfield's Own Magazine on November 2, 2012.

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Educator working to raise awareness of health concerns in black community

When Dorine Brand received an invitation to attend and present at the national meeting of the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN) in Philadelphia this past August, she says it put a smile on her face.

Brand recently joined the faculty at the University of Illinois Springfield as an assistant professor of public health. AACORN, formed in 2002 and funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a colloquium of national and international researchers that serves as a catalyst in the implementation of obesity research and interventions.

Brand, who did her doctoral research on Illinois and North Carolina churches being agents of change for health in African-American communities, says she plans to reach out to Springfield leaders and community organizers, especially those in the faith community, to see what programs are in place to help address obesity and weight-related issues.

Brand was featured in Springfield's Own Magazine on November 2, 2012.

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UIS' Oletzke inherits experienced players


It’s a new beginning for the University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team, which returns nearly its entire core from last season.

Coach Chad Oletzke succeeded Marne Fauser and inherited a squad that produced a 9-17 record and finished next to last in the West Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference with a 4-14 mark.

With a new coaching staff, eight returning players and two newcomers, UIS takes the court tonight at 7 in an exhibition game against host Illinois-Chicago.

The team was featured by the State Journal-Register on November 2, 2012.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

UIS students help those in need

While little ones were out getting candy on Halloween, some college students from the University of Illinois Springfield were helping those in need.

Students from UIS went door-to-door asking for canned goods. All of the donations will be donated to the Central Illinois Foodbank. Last year, they collected about 8,000 pounds of food. This year they hope to collect even more.

The story was featured by WCIA-TV on October 31, 2012.

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Course-Management companies challenge MOOC providers

Two software companies that sell course-management systems, Blackboard and Instructure, have entered the race to provide free online courses for the masses.

Arizona State University, the State University of New York’s Buffalo State College, and the University of Illinois Springfield chose Blackboard after considering other MOOC providers.

Instructors may be drawn toward teaching MOOC’s on those platforms rather than Udacity or Coursera because they are already familiar with the companies’ course-management software.

Because the Springfield campus has used Blackboard for years, instructors will be able to teach MOOC’s more comfortably, said Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning and director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service. “There are plenty of challenges with MOOC’s, aside from just the technical challenges,” he said. “The different languages, the different cultures, serving thousands of students at a time—this platform allows us to focus our energies on those things instead.”

The software choice was featured by the Chronicle of Higher Education on November 1, 2012.

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Innocence Project helps free Chicago man

A Chicago man convicted of a southern Illinois murder 14 years ago is scheduled to be set free Oct. 31 because of the efforts of the Illinois Innocence Project housed at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Anthony Murray, 40, had been convicted of first-degree murder for his alleged involvement in the death of Seneca Jones of Centralia. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

A Marion County judge in August ordered vacated Murray‘s conviction for stabbing Jones to death after a dice game.

UIS students helped review the case and assisted Innocence Project lawyer John Hanlon and Marion County public defender Timothy Hewitt. The students searched for new evidence, interviewed Murray and attended a June hearing challenging his conviction.

The Innocence Project case was featured by the State Journal-Register on October 31, 2012.

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Illinois man pleads no contest in fatal stabbing, will leave prison after 14 years

With help from the Illinois Innocence Project, a man is expected to leave prison Wednesday after serving 14 years for a murder he's adamantly denied committing.

Anthony Murray, whose last address before prison was in Chicago, pleaded no contest to a charge of a second-degree murder on Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court, allowing him to walk out of jail. The Alford plea means he does not admit guilt, but concedes prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him.

Murray was serving 45 years in prison in the 1998 stabbing of Seneca Jones when he asked for help from the Illinois Innocence Project, which includes students and staff from the University of Illinois Springfield, the Southern Illinois University Law School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Law. The team found new evidence pointing to Murray's innocence, Executive Director Larry Golden said.

The Innocence Project case was featured by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 30, 2012.

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