Thursday, August 17, 2017

Springfield exploring bicycle-sharing program

More residents and visitors to central Illinois cities, including Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, can now rent bicycles as part of bike-share programs.

A coalition of groups in Springfield is looking to make the capital city the next to implement a program where racks with five to 10 bicycles are set up around the city for people to rent on an hourly basis for a fee. They can then return the bike to any other rack.

Those involved in the effort say it’s a push to make the city more bike-friendly and provide another recreational opportunity for both tourists and residents.

“We think it would be a great addition to the tourist infrastructure but also give locals more reasons to come downtown and enjoy the area,” said Downtown Springfield Inc. executive director Lisa Clemmons Stott.

The coalition is meeting with companies that run bike-share programs and researching what has worked well in other cities. One estimate to start a program the group received is around $90,000. 

“What we’re looking at is more turn key,” said Nancy Barrett, an assessment and accreditation coordinator UIS and a member of the bike advisory council. “They come in and give you the bikes, they have the stations, (and) they provide the maintenance, all of that kind of infrastructure.”

Barrett said the University of Illinois Springfield has a popular bike-share program with 20 bikes that students can use for free. She’s looking for ways to expand that transportation option, particularly for international students.

“They’re depending on public transport, walking or biking,” Barrett said. ”We could use more bikes at UIS.”

Once the group has selected a vendor, which could happen as soon as this fall, they’ll begin recruiting local businesses and organizations to chip in, said Clemmons Stott.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 16, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Preparing for Monday’s solar eclipse

Joey McLaughlin talks with University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Astronomy-Physics John Martin about the eclipse on Monday.

This interview aired live on 1240 WTAX Radio on August 16, 2017.

Listen to the interview online.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Susan Koch: UIS Community Garden is an educational 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 August 13, 2017.

Renowned British horticulturalist and writer Gertrude Jekyll, who created more than 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and America during her career, once said, “A garden is a grand teacher.” 

I like to think Megan Styles, an environmental anthropologist at the University of Illinois Springfield, may have been inspired by Jekyll’s words when she led an initiative at UIS to establish a now-thriving addition to the campus — the UIS Community Garden. 

Located near the historic Strawbridge Shepherd House, the garden was dedicated during Earth Week in April 2016 and has since become an important instructional facility as well as an engaging intersection for volunteers from the campus and the community. 

More than 200 volunteers have worked in the garden since its opening, and it has already produced over 300 pounds of fresh produce. 

"The UIS Community Garden has been student-driven,” says Styles. Students in Styles’ “Introduction to Sustainability” class designed the garden as a class project, studying various sustainable garden designs, creating a comprehensive plan and budget and determining the organizational approach that would best support a community garden project over time.

The garden features raised beds which help control weeds and handle drainage. Wooden compost containers and an in-ground vermiculture compost bin provide a steady supply of organic material that promotes soil microbes and plant growth. 

The garden includes many typical vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and broccoli, but thanks to heirloom seed donations from Springfield’s own Suttill’s Gardens and the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, more unusual varieties like sweet chocolate peppers, Ping Tung Long eggplant, fuzzy purple cauliflower and Red Russian kale are also thriving. 

City Water, Light and Power donated bee balm, butterfly bushes and milkweed varieties to help attract pollinators to the garden and support Monarch butterflies and other beneficial insect varieties. 

A GoFundMe campaign raised funds for the purchase of tools and other garden supplies. An increasing number of diminutive gnomes (mysterious contributions from an unknown donor) have taken up residence throughout the garden — adding an element of whimsy, charm and, of course, good luck.

Springfield resident Alana Reynolds is one of several regulars at the garden who often brings her daughters to pitch in at the work sessions Wednesday evenings. “The UIS Community Garden is a place to learn and share practical knowledge,” Alana says. “Any Springfield resident who visits the garden is sure to leave with some sense of worth — whether it be an armload of fresh veggies, a new friend or a skill that has been learned.” 

Looking toward the future, Styles would like to work with faculty colleagues to build more connections between the garden and the student experience at UIS, offering additional coursework and research opportunities. 

“The garden is first and foremost an educational space,” she says, “and we’ll make it even more educational and more sustainable as we continue to develop.” 

You can follow activities at the UIS Community Garden via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/UISGarden, or better yet, grab your garden gloves and join us for a work session any Wednesday evening between 5 and 7 p.m. Volunteers are always welcome, and I can almost guarantee you won’t go home empty-handed.

Read the entire column online.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

UIS Professor John Martin: Southern Illinois will be epicenter for August 21 Solar Eclipse

Plans have been in the works for years at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and a vast portion of southern Illinois for the total solar eclipse which will translate across the campus sky on Monday, Aug. 21.

The total eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina during the afternoon hours of the day. A solar eclipse occurs when the orbit of the moon passes in front of the sun, causing darkness for a few moments during the daytime. According to NASA experts, southern Illinois will have the longest duration of darkness during the event, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

This is the first time in 99 years a total eclipse will be seen across the continental United States.

While the path of totality will be about 150 miles to the south of Pana, this area will be exposed to a partial eclipse – between 94 and 96% – according to University of Illinois Springfield astronomer Dr. John Martin. “Of course, in southern Illinois, the eclipse is total,” Martin said. “In the Pana, Decatur, Springfield, Jacksonville area, it will be a little less than totality. It won’t be quite as spectacular because the sun is so bright, even four or five percent of sunshine will be subdued. It will become just a little dark, something like a cloudy day.”

Dr. Martin has been with UIS since 2006 in the Physics and Astronomy Department. He is the host of the university’s “star parties” which are held periodically at night at the observatory at UIS.

In this area, Dr. Martin says the apex of the solar eclipse will occur around 1:18 p.m. on Aug. 21.
According to the NASA website, the event will begin at 11:52 a.m. and conclude at 2:44 p.m. in the Pana area.

He warns people – especially in this area – not to look directly at the eclipse because they could sustain eye damage. “Even with 97% of the sun blocked out, it can still damage the eyes,” he warns. “It would be like looking directly at an arc welding.” He suggests someone use a welder’s helmet glass to view the eclipse in this area. He said there are local retailers who have special eclipse glasses for sale.

However, the “100% safest way” to view the event is to make a “pin hole camera” and view it indirectly.

“Just seven years from now, in 2024, Carbondale will once again be in the path of totality of another eclipse,” Martin said. “But this eclipse will move from the southwest to the northeast. This is a very rare occurrence – something on the order of once every 1,000 or 2,000 years.”

This story was printed in the Pana News-Palladium on July 31, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

UIS will review safety at Sangamon Auditorium

Officials at the University of Illinois in Springfield say an outside consulting firm will review safety issues at the Sangamon Auditorium following the death of a concertgoer this year.

University spokesman Blake Wood says Grey and Associates of Champaign will conduct the study, which is expected to cost about $5,000. Wood says university officials expect the results by September, but he wouldn't say if they'll be made public.

Police say 51-year-old John Kremitzki fell through an opening near the auditorium's main stage in March during a break in a Pink Floyd tribute show. Another patron, Greg Hoffman, was injured trying to help Kremitzki.

Wood says university officials will evaluate the report before deciding how to address any potential recommendations.

This story appeared on Peoria Public Radio WCBU 89.9 on August 8, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sangamon County Citizen survey: 19% approve of state leadership

Residents in a biennial survey on Sangamon County quality of life think even less of state elected leaders than they do of the group in Washington, D.C.

The 19 percent approval rating compared with 28 percent federal, 57 percent local and 69 percent for unelected leaders was not surprising after a two-year budget impasse, organizers of the Sangamon County Citizen Survey said Friday.

“There’s almost no confidence for state elected officials, and federal elected officials didn’t do much better,” said Matthew Case, interim director of the Survey Research Office at University of Illinois Springfield. 

The random survey of nearly 750 Sangamon County residents was released at the monthly Citizens Club of Springfield meeting at Hoogland Center for the Arts. The survey has been taken every other year since 2013. This was the first year for the leadership confidence question. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said the state budget impasse had a negative effect on Sangamon County, while 44 percent said they had been directly affected. The uncertainty of state government gridlock appeared to affect sentiment on jobs, the loss of young professionals, education, the economy and even personal well-being.

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of it was related to the state of Illinois and just the anxiety it’s caused,” John Stremsterfer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Land of Lincoln, said after release of the survey. The foundation and United Way of Central Illinois are partners in the survey with UIS.

United Way President John Kelker said the survey helps elected officials and social services set priorities intended to improve local quality of life. But he said state government dysfunction clearly weighed on responses this year.

There were bright spots in the responses. Solid majorities said Sangamon County was a good place to live, raise kids and work, while 60 percent rated the overall quality of education good to excellent.

Well over 90 percent reported having health insurance compared with 88 percent in first year of the survey in 2013.

The detailed survey is scheduled for online release Wednesday at uis.edu/surveyresearchoffice.

This article was published in The State Journal Register on July 28, 2017.

Read the entire article online.


UIS men’s basketball team looks ahead to start of season

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team will travel to Carbondale for an exhibition game Nov. 18 against Southern Illinois University.

“We’re looking forward playing them,” UIS coach Bill Walker said. “We almost played last year, but couldn’t work out the date. I’ve known (SIU coach Barry Hinson) for a long time and I like him.” 

It will be the second time UIS has played the Salukis. In 2011, SIU beat the Prairie Stars 79-56. 

Taking on the Salukis gives two UIS players a chance to return to their neck of the woods. Junior forward Bahari Amaya is from Harrisburg. Transfer wing Gilwan Nelson is from Mount Vernon. 

When the 2017-18 season gets underway, the Stars will be without assistant coach Joel Plummer. He has been hired as an assistant at Murray State College, a junior college in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Plummer was on staff at UIS for three years. For two of those years, he was a volunteer.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 28, 2017.

Read the entire article online.


Friday, July 28, 2017

UIS program looking to bridge gap for those who may struggle academically

"My dad went to college for about two years," incoming University of Illinois Springfield freshman Jalee Braner said. "My mom never went to college and my brother went into the Navy."

Braner, a 2017 graduate of Lanphier High School, plans to become the first in her family to earn a four-year degree.

With younger siblings, Braner says she's hoping to set a positive example. "I've always been pushed to do great things and I just want to make my family happy," she said.

With dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher, Braner says the Bridge program at UIS helped her understand college will be difficult, but worth it and possible. "I feel like I was prepared," Braner said. "A lot more prepared than going anywhere else."

That's the entire goal of the Bridge program, which the students will be a part of until graduation. It's to ensure that all students, regardless of background, have the same chance at success.

"I make sure that they are transitioning into college and they know all the support services, and it provides some unity," program coordinator Dara Abina said.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on July 27, 2017.

Watch the story online.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

U of I's credit rating moves from negative to stable

S & P upgraded the University of Illinois's credit rating from "negative" to "stable." The entire U of I system is now no longer at risk of being downgraded any further.

They did receive at least one downgrade during the budget impasse, any diminishment of credit rating results in a higher cost of debt for the university.

Despite a 10 percent cut in funding, the certainty of a budget will help the university and it's students thrive.

"What it does is give in-state tuition to students in Illinois, predictability because they were getting worried,” said Dean Ron McNeil, with the University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and Management.

U of I and Illinois State University have the highest credit ratings in Illinois.

This story aired on Fox Illinois on July 25, 2017.

Read the entire story online.


Monday, July 24, 2017

UIS graduate becomes member of Illinois State Board of Education

Governor Rauner has appointed a UIS graduate to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Carlinville native Susan Morrison worked as the state director for the U of I.

Before that, she served as a principal and curriculum director for the Taylorville district.

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on July 21, 2017.

Read the story online.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Staying hydrated at camp

Wednesday was the last day for the University of Illinois Springfield Future Stars Kids Camp.

Since Monday, these campers have been beating the heat by staying in the shade, drinking plenty of water and taking much need air conditioning breaks.

The UIS head softball coach Shannon Guthrie says hydration is key to staying safe in the sun.

"It's important just to stay hydrated in general. Even when they go home at night, they can drink water once they get home and before they get out here," Guthrie said. "Eat something, drink water, get a lot of sleep. That's about all you can do in this heat."

Campers left Wednesday soaked after a balloon fight and a slip and slide.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on July 19, 2017.

Watch the story online.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Danville's Michael Rothmund named Player of the Week

Danville Dans Infielder Michael Rothmund was named week 7's Player of the Week.

Rothmund hit a double, a triple and a home run during a eight game stretch. Rothmund says his team is showing continuous improvement as 2nd half of the season gets going.

Rothmund is a junior at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he plays first base for the Prairie Stars.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on July 17, 2017.

Watch the story online.

MAP grant funding returns to Illinois

With a full state budget now in place, many state programs, higher education institutions, and social services are slowly starting to see state funds.

Universities were among the hardest hit by the budget crisis. Most were forced to make budget cuts, drop programs, and some faced losing accreditation.

During the impasse, Illinois stopped funding MAP grants, which provide assistance to thousands of the state's neediest students for college, but that funding is back and students throughout Illinois are relieved.

Though students at the University of Illinois Springfield still received funding because UIS fronted that cost for students, that was only a short-term fix. "Affordability is always an issue," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. "Every year we have students who struggle paying for college." 

Roughly 800 students at UIS rely on map grants; that's about $2.5 million each academic year. That's a hefty burden shouldered by UIS when that funding was eliminated due to budget uncertainty despite being owed millions of dollars by the state.

"We fronted the MAP money for several years to make sure that regardless of what the state does, our students will be able to attend school," Chancellor Koch said.

At UIS, an individual student receives, on average, over $3,000 per year from MAP grants.

The state is paying for this year and last year's map grant funding and all previous years have been back paid.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 18, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Miller continues his red-hot golfing at Rex Spires Men's City Amateur

Daniel Miller is on a hot streak for the ages.

The 2016 Mount Zion graduate won the Drysdale Golf Tournament Collegiate Division in Springfield Thursday and opened the first round of the Rex Spires Decatur Men's City Amateur Saturday with a low score of 68. His 4-under par performance came after he bogeyed the first hole at Hickory Point Golf Course into the trees.

The University of Illinois Springfield golfer answered back quickly with a birdie on three of the next six holes – on his way to a personal best of five at the course – to get out of the front nine with a 2-under 34. He matched the score with a 34 on the back nine.

“I've hit off the fairway here before, but I was in a tree so I thought I was going to start getting screwed all day,” Miller said of the first hole. “I kind of had a round like that in my tournament in Springfield on Monday, but it was only my first hole so I wasn't too concerned.”

Things could not have been more different for Miller Saturday after a forgettable first round in Springfield Monday.

Monday was his “worst round of the summer,” with an 83 in the match play event. He was seeded last in the tournament after the round, but gradually lowered his scores before leaving Thursday with a tournament win.

Saturday was a far cry from that. Miller turned in a career-best effort at Hickory Point with his 68.

Going into his sophomore year of college, he's having the best summer of his career.

 Miller has never won the event. He tied for seventh last year and enters today's play at Red Tail Run with a two-stroke lead on three other golfers at a course that's preferable to him. But, he's keeping a level head on the heels of the second round.

This story appeared in the Herald & Review on July 15, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Miller wins Drysdale college division title

Danny Miller won a duel of Mount Zion High School graduates as he defeated Bennett Jackson 6 holes up with 5 to play in the men’s Championship Flight title match in the Drysdale Golf Tournament Collegiate Division on Thursday at Illini Country Club.

Miller is a member of the University of Illinois Springfield men’s golf team, while Jackson plays for Millikin University.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 14, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Letter: Thanks to legislators who supported state budget

The following is a letter to the editor written by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch:

"Over the past few days, Illinois state legislators came together to end a historic and deeply damaging budget impasse. 

All of public higher education, including the University of Illinois Springfield, breathed a collective sigh of relief. Though funding in the coming year represents a 10 percent reduction from the UI’s fiscal year 2015 appropriation, this budget will enable UIS to continue to deliver on its promise of an exceptional, personalized university experience for students.

In addition, continuation of the Monetary Award Program will provide financial aid that makes college possible for more than 700 students at UIS. 

Just as importantly, this state appropriation will enable UIS to continue its forward trajectory — graduating students who will contribute to their professions and their communities. 

I am deeply grateful to the Illinois legislators who voted to support ending the impasse. On behalf of the entire UIS community, my sincere thanks to state Reps. Sue Scherer and Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, along with Sen. Andy Manar, our area legislators who voted to support the bill. We know this is a step in the right direction to restore long-term stability for higher education in our state. 

UIS is a vital resource in Sangamon County, with a total economic impact each year of about $176.8 million. With continued support from the state, the university will remain a vital resource for many years to come. 

My sincere thanks, again, to the legislators who understand that supporting higher education is essential for the future of our state."

This letter appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 11, 2017.

Read the letter online.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Susan Koch: Cox Children’s Center a campus and community asset

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 July 8, 2017.

Every week in the United States, an estimated 15 million children younger than age five spend significant time in child care while their parents work or attend school. 

Finding high-quality and affordable child care is an ongoing challenge for working parents. At the same time, child care often presents a barrier to attending college for the approximately one in four college students who have dependent children. 

Since 1970, when the first classes were held at the new campus, the University of Illinois at Springfield has offered full-time on-campus child care at the Cox Children’s Center — a resource much valued by UIS students, faculty, staff, alumni and community clients who utilize the Center. 

According to Stacey Gilmore, Director of the Center since 2003, the primary mission of Cox Children’s Center is “to provide high quality early education and care in a safe, secure nurturing environment.” 

The Center also serves as a laboratory and practicum site for UIS students with professional aspirations for careers in early childhood education. 

Enrollment at Cox each year is typically 50-55 children starting as young as six weeks old. A program for school-aged children increases enrollment to about 70 children during the summer months. 

The Center is proud to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), considered the mark of high quality for early childhood programs. It is the only day care within 50 miles of Springfield that is accredited for infant care. The Center has also received the Gold Circle Quality Designation, the highest rating possible, from ExcelRate Illinois, the state’s new quality rating and improvement system for early learning providers. 

“The thing I like best is how much they have developed from a learning perspective; Cox is really a school where the children are constantly learning and developing skills that will prepare them for kindergarten.” Riaz Tejani is a professor in Legal Studies at UIS whose children, 4 and 6 years old, have been enrolled at Cox for the past two years since the family’s arrival in Springfield. “We enrolled our children at Cox partly on the advice of faculty colleagues who extolled the Center’s caring Director and teachers as well as the exclusive accreditation ratings,” he says. “The campus location has been a huge asset, providing our children access to many UIS resources like children’s programming at the Sangamon Auditorium performing arts center, the campus/community garden, and even the colonnade fountain — which doubles as a splash pad during summer months.” 

Though serving UIS students, faculty and staff is the Center’s first priority, community clients are also served on a space-available basis. UIS alum Nichole Dorsey, whose son is 2½, is one of those community clients. “I am so grateful I can go to work with ease knowing my son is experiencing great care,” says Nichole, who worked at the Center for two years when she was an undergraduate. “I honestly felt like I had won the lottery when a spot became available at Cox for him.” 

Read the entire column online.


Friday, July 7, 2017

U of I takes cuts, still relieved with budget deal

Now that Illinois has a budget, the University of Illinois is breathing a sigh of relief despite being faced with major cuts.

Under the new budget, universities throughout the state received a 10 percent cut from the last budget in 2015, that's nearly $6 million for the University of Illinois' three campuses combined. They are also not receiving any late payments owed from 2016, which totaled more than $450 million. Still, they are happy to be able to move forward and plan for the future especially when it comes to filling positions.

"Now that we have some certainty, we know what we will be able to do," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. "We will take a very careful look at those empty positions and think about what can we most strategically move forward in hire, and yet, because of the cuts we will certainly leave some of those positions empty as well."

Also under the new budget, MAP grants are fully funded again, which UIS says, is very important for their campus.

In 2016, more than 700 students received MAP grants, totaling about $2.5 million.

UI happy to get back to work, even if new budget cuts its appropration 10%

Ordinarily, a $60 million funding cut wouldn't be terribly good news.

But Thursday's approval of a budget deal in Springfield prompted a collective sigh of relief across the University of Illinois, where faculty departures were escalating and several major construction projects shut down July 1 — including the massive reconstruction of Green Street in front of the Illini Union.

"This was a very important day for us. We're very pleased with the vote and the fact that we now have a budget," UI President Tim Killeen said immediately after legislators narrowly overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the $36 billion spending plan, which includes a $5 billion income tax increase.

"This feels to me a little bit like hands have been untied and we can move forward with our plans," Killeen said.

The story was reported by the Champaign News-Gazette on July 7, 2017.

Read the story online. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2016-17 Male Athlete of the Year: Rochester’s Collin Stallworth

Collin Stallworth was impossible to miss on both the football field and the basketball court, and not just because he was typically the tallest athlete.

It didn’t take long to see he was one of the best and most athletic players on either surface.

The State Journal-Register’s Male Athlete of the Year, as a wide receiver on the football team, caught 50 passes for 1,041 yards and scored 14 touchdowns to help Rochester High School go 13-1 and capture its sixth Class 4A state championship in seven seasons.

And the 6-foot-6 senior forward averaged 12.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in 30 games for the Rockets’ basketball team.

Stallworth turned down multiple NCAA Division I scholarship offers for football to play basketball at D-II University of Illinois Springfield.

“I’ve always grown up wanting to play basketball (in college),” Stallworth said in April. “It was my dream. But I had some pretty big football schools talk to me. I wanted to give that consideration because it was big football schools, but I wasn’t in love with football like I was in love with basketball."

The story was reported on June 29, 2017 by The State Journal-Register.

Read the story online.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Area colleges: UIS students honored for academics

Rochester High School graduate Grant Fitzsimmons and Lincoln product Kena Bere are among 12 University of Illinois Springfield athletes named as Great Lakes Valley Conference Brother James Gaffney FSC Distinguished Scholar Award recipients.

The GLVC recognized 275 athletes for achieving a 4.0 grade point average during the academic year.

Bere plays for the women’s tennis team. Fitzsimmons is a member of the men’s tennis squad. The other UIS recipients are Hannah Blyth (women’s tennis), Amanda Gosbeth (softball), Haley Inman (softball), Brittany Moore (softball), Katie Wooldridge (softball), Hayley Hawkins (women’s soccer), Brooke Hill (women’s golf), Jacob Seidel (men’s cross country/track and field), Alex Ginglen (men’s cross country/track and field) and Sam Clarke (men’s tennis).

Seven UIS teams have been honored by the GLVC for maintaining a 3.30 GPA.

They are women’s tennis (3.70), softball (3.66), volleyball (3.52), women’s soccer (3.51), men’s tennis (3.49), women’s golf (3.44) and men’s cross country (3.31).

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 28, 2017.

Read the story online.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

UIS Baseball lays down new infield turf

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball grounds crew put the finishing touches on the new infield turf over the weekend.

The new turf costed around $300 thousand. UIS Head Baseball Coach Chris Ramirez says he's excited to take the field.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 26, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Modernism and residency: The SAA kicks off a summer of unique programming

The Springfield Art Association is currently in high gear with a unique exhibit featuring nearly 300 specimens of modernist furniture and décor.

The SAA is also now hosting the first two visiting artists to participate in the recently established Enos Park residency program for visual artists.

James Pepper Kelly of Chicago and German-born Astrid Kaemmerling are both in the midst of six-week stays, during which they are creating new work relating to the Enos Park neighborhood or Springfield as a whole. The work will be presented later this summer in a special exhibit at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Visual Arts Gallery.

 Kaemmerling, who has shown work in Germany, Italy, Korea and the United States and has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, is currently based in San Francisco. The concentration for her current Springfield-based project is in the field of “walking art,” in aid of which free tickets are currently available for her “Enos Park Community Walking Laboratory.”

According to Kaemmerling’s online event page, “while meandering the streets of Enos Park for one hour you and I will engage in a conversation about the past, present and future of the neighborhood while monitoring our thoughts and passageways.” The conversations will be recorded and later presented as part of the exhibit, along with maps of the paths taken in each walk.

Kaemmerling’s enthusiasm for the residency is palpable. “It’s a fantastic way for me to put some of the research I have done into action and really field test it,” she said. “The support here so far has been incredible. And welcoming! Wherever I go, even on the street, people are super friendly; they greet you and engage in conversation. It’s been really nice.”

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on June 22, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

FMHS grad Ramirez made wise investment choosing coaching

Decisions. Decisions. You’re fresh out of college. Do you take the $50,000 a year job with a major investment firm? Or the $3-4,000 job helping coach the game you love for your nearby community college?

Chris Ramirez didn’t have to think long about that. The 2001 Fort Madison High School graduate opted to be the assistant baseball coach under Justin Schulte for Southeastern Community College, a year after graduating from High Point University in 2005.

Ramirez had a state championship on his résumé from high school and played four years of collegiate baseball. Why give up a good thing?

Besides: “I wasn’t ready to go buy a bunch of suits and sit in an office all day,” Ramirez said of rejecting an offer to be a financial advisor for American Express Financial Advisors.

Twelve years later, Ramirez is still coaching the game he loves, and now he’s a successful head coach at University of Illinois Springfield. He took over the fledgling three-year-old program four seasons ago and has kept raising the bar of expectations. The school had won no more than 12 games when he took job. The victory count so far has been: 22, 28, 28 and 33.

Ramirez grew up in Fort Madison and a fond memory was practicing and playing baseball with his father, Mike. But he wasn’t just an all-state baseball player. He competed for the Bloodhounds in football and basketball all four years, plus three spring seasons in tennis and his senior year in track. This, however, was back when being a four-sport, four-year athlete was no big deal (see separate story).

He committed to play baseball for Iowa State University. But the school dropped the program, so he went to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. There he started as the centerfield and was the closer on the pitching staff. He finished his college career with two years at Highpoint University, a small Division I program in North Carolina. He graduated with a business degree, but still had hopes for a career path to the major leagues. The opportunity never came.

 Then he was offered the high-paying job of financial advisor for American Express. At the same time, however, a call from his former coach — legendary Norway coach Jim Van Scoyoc — at Kirkwood, who informed Ramirez that Schulte, a former Norway standout, had taken the baseball coach at SCC. “(Schulte) offered me $3-4,000,” Ramirez said. “I called and turned down the $50,000 job at Greensboro.” He worked a golf course in the morning to make some extra money, “like a lot of coaches have to do to get started,” Ramirez said.

“I think it’s such an impressional age group,” Ramirez said. “You get to work with these young men and develop them. “Ultimately my message as a coach is to get these young men ready for life after baseball,”

This story appeared in The Fort Madison Daily Democrat.

Read the entire article online.

Military museum aims to give video gamers historical context

The Illinois State Military Museum is asking video gamers to put down their controllers and stop by to get a first-hand look at some of the equipment, uniforms and weapons they see as they fight in the digital world.

The “War Games” event at the museum (admission is free), which runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, was the idea of Lizzie Roehrs, 21, of Springfield, an intern at the museum and a student at the University of Illinois Springfield.

She noticed that kids coming through the museum on school field trips could easily identify many of the weapons on display. They told her they had seen them while playing video games. “The connection is already there. They are already associating what they see in video games with history,” Roehrs said. “But, with playing a video game, they don’t get a lot of context. So the idea for the event came from not only wanting to encourage kids to continue an interest in history, but also to teach them that there is more to the events in video games than what’s on the screen.”

During “War Games,” there will be re-enactors at the museum explaining how and why certain equipment was used. Attendees will also be able to try on uniforms and explore a trench.

In addition, Roehrs is setting up displays in the lobby with some of the tools and weapons in the museum’s collection that she’s seen in video games. One such item is a Japanese knee mortar that can be seen in “Call of Duty: World at War.”

Soldiers from the Illinois National Guard fought Japanese troops in the Pacific Theater during World War II as part of the 33rd Infantry Division. Roehrs has also found uniforms and uniform patches that are seen in some of the video games. “We have a ton of artifacts at the museum. We have an entire vault full of artifacts and an additional building on the National Guard base that is packed with these artifacts. We have items from the state militia through the modern, global war on terror,” Roehrs said.
“I look at these kids as potential history buffs,” Roehrs said. “Maybe they don’t realize that they are as into it as they are. If you give them a little more of the history, bring them out to the museum and show them the real thing, that could spark an interest in history.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 16, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Keeping international students safe at UIS

With just under 5,500 students, 20 percent of the University of Illinois Springfield's enrollment is made up of international students. New, eager, and unfamiliar with the surroundings, these students can be the most vulnerable.

"When we are taken outside of our normal context, sometimes we just become more susceptible," said Rick Lane, the director of the International Student Services Program at UIS.

UIS takes a proactive approach by contacting international students early and often helping them to understand what they can expect.

"What to expect in terms of procedures, but also what to expect in terms of looking out for folks who might be trying to take advantage of them," Lane said.

Yu Shao comes from China and she says her self-defense class, which is a free class for all students, was also a vital tool. "They have taught us a lot of skills: how to protect yourself or how to get away from the bad guy when you are caught by them," senior student Shao said.

In general, the services offered to international students helps prepare the students for realistic situations and guides them through their transition.

"Try to stay with someone you do trust while you're learning who these other people are and what they're doing," Lane said.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 16, 2017.

Watch the story online.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lincoln Papers suspending National Archives search

The state is shutting down a project to search the National Archives for papers written by Abraham Lincoln.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum confirmed Monday that the search for Lincoln documents is being suspended in Washington, D.C. The National Archives has provided the bulk of Lincoln documents added in recent years to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project.

“The current priority for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln is to improve its policies and procedures so that our staff’s hard work and the taxpayers’ money is not wasted,” ALPLM spokesman Chris Wills said in a statement. “The search for Lincoln-related documents at the National Archives is on hold while we focus on how to handle the 100,000 documents that have been collected and what additional material should be gathered. The Papers will not lose access to any additional Lincoln documents at the National Archives.”

Wills could not say how long the search will be suspended.

There are two researchers based in Washington conducting the search. They are employed under contract to the University of Illinois Springfield. Money for the workers is provided by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation. University of Illinois Springfield spokesman Derek Schnapp said contracts for the two workers, which run year-to-year, will expire June 30. He said it is his understanding no money will be provided by the foundation after that. Three other workers are employed on the project on a contractual basis in Springfield. Schnapp said it is his understanding funding for those contracts will also end on June 30.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 12, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Susan Koch: Praise for exceptional performing arts at UIS

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 June 10, 2017.

"Just a few days ago, The State Journal Register’s “Weekend and More” section featured the rollout of UIS Sangamon Auditorium’s 2017-18 performing arts season. 

The season represents the final encore for auditorium director Bob Vaughn. Bob is transitioning to a well-earned retirement after 11 years of bringing exceptional quality and diversity to the Sangamon Auditorium stage. 

But many of the more than 75,000 patrons who regularly attend Sangamon Auditorium Broadway Shows, Visiting Artists and Kitchen Sink Series each year are not aware of an additional slate of rich performances that are equally appreciated. I’m talking about the Class Acts program — special daytime performing arts programming offered for students from preschool through high school from across central Illinois. 

Thanks to enthusiastic partnerships with several school districts, including the Springfield Public Schools, almost 15,000 students attended at least one of 15 Class Acts performances this year, ranging from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” for high school students to “Pete the Cat” for primary-aged children. 

A complimentary program called “Grow Up Great” provides additional funding for professional development for teachers and opportunities for parents and Head Start children to attend an evening meal and performance. 

The Class Acts and Grow Up Great programs would not be possible were it not for the generosity of donors who believe in the importance of arts education and who help fund the programming, subsidize the purchase of tickets for the students and help pay the cost of bus transportation. 

In addition to being a show sponsor every year, PNC Bank is a major sponsor of both Class Acts and Grow Up Great. “We’re so appreciative of PNC’s consistent support for these programs,” says Vaughn. “They’re helping us create a point of entry to the performing arts for both students and educators who might not otherwise have access to these experiences.” 

Bob and Liz Staley have also been longtime supporters of the programs. Though Liz is now deceased, the Staley family continues to provide a generous grant each year to enable small-town schools in New Berlin, Auburn and Waverly to participate in the Class Acts program. 

The Staley gift also provides funding for teachers to attend an evening performance at the auditorium each year. Participating teachers are asked to provide feedback about their students’ experiences, and their words may provide the best commentary on the value of the Class Acts and Grow Up Great programs. 

A music teacher from Riverton High School reported, after her class attended a performance of the 
acappella group Vocalosity: “An excellent performance! The students loved it. Students need opportunities to compare and contrast real professionals with their own ensembles so they can better understand what a high quality performance really is.” 

As we bid director Bob Vaughn a fond farewell and welcome new Sangamon Auditorium director Bryan Rives in the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to another exceptional year of performing arts at the University of Illinois Springfield — for audiences of all ages."

Read the entire column online.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Steve Stein's Sports Notebook

University of Illinois Springfield senior men’s golfer Talon Supak from Washington was named to the NCAA Division II Ping All-Midwest Region Team for the second straight year.

Supak had a heck of a senior season, which included a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA regionals.

His stroke average of 73.26 in 23 rounds broke his own school record. Other school records broken by Supak this season were national ranking (67), rounds at par or better (11), eagles (3), low round (64), low 36-hole total (139) and low 54-hole total (203).

Supak finished in the top 10 in seven of 11 tournaments during the season.

This story appeared in the Washington Times-Reporter on June 5, 2017.

Read the entire article online.


Monday, June 5, 2017

State Finances, Health Care Among Top Concerns in Sangamon County

The results of the University of Illinois Springfield's biannual economic outlook survey for Sangamon County have been released.

Sixty-one percent of organizations say state finances is one of their top three concerns, which is the highest percentage ever.

The survey also found many people are worried about the healthcare sector in Sangamon County.

"It's a very large and very important part of Sangamon County economy," Matthew Case, director of Survey Research Office, said. "But in this survey, there's a little bit of a drop off in this survey in terms of the optimism. So right now only 55 percent say they expect the health care industry will grow compared to about 70 percent in the last two surveys."

This story aired in WICS Newschannel 20 on June 2, 2017.

Watch the story online.


State budget impasse weighs on local economic outlook

The prospect of a third Illinois fiscal year without a budget is weighing more than ever on expectations of local employers.

A spring economic-outlook survey released Friday showed 61 percent of businesses and other organizations listed state finances among their top three concerns for the coming year, the highest percentage since the University of Illinois Springfield Survey Research Office began spring and fall surveys in 2008.

The percentage listing state government has steadily increased since 2012, said Josh Collins, director of business and community development for The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“Obviously, it affects cash flow of those who are owed money, and even business-to-business folks. A lot of their suppliers are owed money,” said Collins. “It’s just a cyclical issue. You’re either worried about getting money or you’re worried about your customers.”

The chamber and UIS are partners in the survey.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Baseball: Stars’ Taylor gets another All-America honor

University of Illinois Springfield junior shortstop Cole Taylor has been named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings NCAA Division II All-American third team.

He led the Great Lakes Valley Conference in hits (85), runs (63), doubles (25), triples (four) and on-base percentage (.461). He hit a team-high .395 for UIS.

Taylor, a transfer from Parkland College who is from Fairmount, was named earlier to the National College Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division II All-America honorable mention team.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online. 

Volleyball: UIS signs Parkland player

Outside hitter Taylor Bauer is transferring to the University of Illinois Springfield after winning back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championships with Parkland College.

She collected 437 kills, 496 digs and 85 blocks in her sophomore season.

Deer Creek-Mackinaw setter Caitlynn Whitaker and Chicago Marist rightside hitter Megan Krasowskih also have signed with the Prairie Stars.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Golf: Supak named to all-region team

University of Illinois Springfield player Talon Supak has been named to the Golf Coaches Association of America Division II Ping All-Region Team.

Supak finished in the top 10 in seven of 11 tournaments. He placed second at the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and tied for fourth at the NCAA Division II Midwest/Central Regional. He set multiple records in his final season including, scoring average (73.26), national ranking (67), rounds at par or better (11), eagles in a single season (three), par-3 scoring (3.08), par-4 scoring (4.18), par-5 scoring (4.81), low round (64), low 36-hole total (139) and low 54-hole total (203).

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Softball: Gosbeth honored for academics

University of Illinois Springfield catcher Amanda Gosbeth received Academic All-America Division II Softball third-team honors.

She earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average over four years. She graduated in May with a degree in mathematics and minors in economics and marketing.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sangamon Auditorium names new director

Bryan Rives, a performing arts center manager with more than 30 years of experience, has been named the next director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium.

Rives will be the auditorium’s “director designate” from July 3 to Sept. 30 and will take over as director on Oct. 1 following the retirement of director Robert Vaughn.

Most recently, Rives has served as tour manager and company manager for Talmi Entertainment, where he was responsible for the Moscow Ballet Nutcracker Tour, an eight-week, 43-city tour in the United States and Canada. In addition, he was a production manager for Celebrity Cruises in Miami from May 2014 to October 2016 and a company manager for several other touring productions.

From 2007 to 2011, Rives was director of event services at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where he oversaw the university’s performing arts center and regional ticketing system.

“I am excited to be returning to the great state of Illinois,” Rives said in a statement. “The University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium is not only a beautiful venue for the campus and greater metro area, but the current director and staff have put together a fantastic season of events for the upcoming year which I expect will bring out record attendance.”

Sangamon Auditorium, which seats 2,018, hosts more than 120 performances annually.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 1, 2017.

Read the story online. 

Chicago-area man free on bail, gets new trial in arson case

William Amor has walked out of a suburban Chicago prison after a judge vacated his 1997 conviction on charges of arson and murder in his mother-in-law's death.

Amor, 60, of Naperville, spent the last 22 years behind bars after he was arrested in 1995 accused of intentionally igniting the 1995 Naperville fire that killed Marianne Miceli. But DuPage County Judge Liam Brennan in early April vacated Amor's conviction after considering new advances in fire science.

Amor's new trial date is Sept. 12. He is represented by the University of Illinois-Springfield's Illinois Innocence Project. Lauren Kaeseberg, legal director of the group's Chicago office, said they believe the fire was an accident and he should have never been charged.

"We are ecstatic to be here today looking up at the clouds and breathing the fresh air with Bill," she said Tuesday. "It's really great."

The story was reported by the Associated Press on May 31, 2017.

Read the story online.

Column: One last check of the mailbag

Illinois-Springfield senior Amanda Gosbeth (West Chicago) had a season and career to remember. A third-team Division II CoSIDA Academic All-America selection with a perfect 4.0 GPA in mathematics, the -- yes -- catcher hit .336 and started 48 of 54 games to finish fourth in Prairie Stars history in games played. She's top-seven in 12 other categories, first in stolen base percentage (54 of 60) and sacrifice bunts. On April 30 Illinois-Springfield named Gosbeth its female athlete of the year, its senior scholar-athlete, and softball MVP.

The story was reported by the Chicago Daily Herald on June 1, 2017.

Read the article online.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Illinois Innocence Project honored by Decatur NAACP

Charles Palmer has thanked members of the Illinois Innocence Project hundreds of times for coming up with the DNA evidence that exonerated him from the murder he'd spent 16½ years in prison for.

On Saturday night, Palmer was present at the Decatur Hotel and Conference Center to see the Decatur community thank the Illinois Innocence Project, which became the first entity outside Decatur to win the Joe Slaw Civil Rights Award, given annually by the Decatur Branch of the NAACP.

Illinois Innocence Project Executive Director John Hanlon called Palmer and his wife Deborah Palmer to the podium as he accepted the award, but Palmer said all the credit should go to the Innocence Project staff, whom he hugged individually before leaving.

"I'm glad they're finally getting the recognition they deserve," Palmer said. "They're out there affecting people's lives for the better. They said they got this award because of me, but it's not because of me, it's because of the fight they put up for justice.

"Just to be a part of seeing them get honored, and being the first from outside of Decatur to win the award, that meant a lot to me."

The Decatur NAACP has been awarding the Slaw award for more than 30 years. Jeanelle Norman, NAACP Decatur Branch president, said it took a special circumstance to give the awards to someone outside Decatur.

"Their work gave us hope and justice, and it moved the Decatur community one giant step forward in criminal justice," Norman said. "The NAACP believes the service of the Illinois Innocence Project was of such magnitude."

Based out of the University of Illinois-Springfield, the Illinois Innocence Project's goal is to bring justice to the wrongfully convicted.

The story was reported by the Decatur Herald & Review on May 27, 2017.

Read the story online.

'The Afterlife of John Fitzgerald Kennedy': A New Book About How Americans Remember JFK

Like many Americans who were alive on Nov. 22, 1963, noted historian Michael J. Hogan remembers vividly the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“Even though I was too young to vote for Kennedy at the time, I was not too young to remember the personal impact of the assassination and the incredible drama of the funeral, which captured American attention minute by minute for the better part of four days,” Hogan said in a recent phone interview.

Emeritus professor of history and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Ohio State University, Hogan is now a distinguished professor of history at the University of Illinois Springfield. When he began researching what he thought would become a book about Kennedy’s funeral, he discovered what he called Kennedy’s “astonishingly high” three-year average popularity rating, based on Gallup Poll data.

“It just got me thinking about Kennedy’s memory over time, because even now he’s often rated in public opinion polls, one after the other, as the most popular and the most highly regarded president in the whole of the 20th century and certainly since the end of the Second World War. So here he is, gone 50 years and yet still very, very highly regarded. And I wanted to know why that was – after 50 years his memory seems to be so strongly sustained in the popular imagination,” Hogan said.

Hogan was featured by WOSU Public Media on May 24, 2017.

Read the full story online.

Friday, May 26, 2017

UIS and ALPLM cut partnership on Lincoln Papers

The following statement was sent to Newschannel 20 by Chris Wills with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum:

"The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is an important part of ALPLM’s work, designed to promote a deeper understanding of the rich legacy of the 16th president. As we address numerous issues in completing the project, the ALPLM will not be renewing its agreement with the University of Illinois at Springfield. The agreement will expire by its own terms on June 30.

We thank UIS for its assistance in years past, and look forward to finding other ways to partner in the future.

Questions about the status of the UIS employees assigned to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln can only be answered by the university.

The ALPLM is actively taking steps to ensure the Papers fulfills its vital mission of finding, organizing and sharing the words that Abraham Lincoln wrote and read.

More details, including a staffing plan, will be announced soon."

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on May 26, 2017.

Read the story online. 

Rochester’s Stallworth, Lanphier’s Williams could be huge boost to UIS basketball team

Basketball players Collin Stallworth and Aundrae Williams were on campus earlier this week at the University of Illinois Springfield preparing for summer school even though they have not yet graduated from high school.

Williams, who graduated from Lanphier High School, and Stallworth, who graduated from Rochester High, are eager to kick start college life. And UIS men’s basketball coach Bill Walker is happy they’re joining the program.

“There’s no way anyone saw them play more than we did,” Walker said. The coaching staff’s persistence paid off. Stallworth signed his letter of intent to play for the Prairie Stars in April. Williams inked his letter this month.

“We’ve got a positive response,” Walker said of the signings. “Both those kids are well liked. They were leaders on their team and well thought of.”

That could be a huge boon to the program. Only two players from The State Journal-Register circulation area have played for UIS in its NCAA Division II era dating back to the 2009-10 season. Those two players were Lincoln High School products Brandon Farmer and Caleb Sutton, and Farmer was the last area player on the UIS roster when he was a senior on the 2010-11 team.

Stallworth and Williams played at different high schools, but go way back. They played for the same team in grade school as members of the Springfield Predators in third to fifth grades.

Now they’ll begin their college journey together -- a journey that will start sooner than later with UIS’ summer semester beginning June 5.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on May 26, 2017.

Read the story online.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Men's Baseball: A strong finish for college achievers

A three-year player for the University of Illinois Springfield, through May 23 junior first baseman Michael Rothmund led all of Division II with 24 home runs.

The Prairie Stars' male athlete of the year and a first-team pick in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, Rothmund hit .343 with a .789 slugging percentage (sixth in the nation) on 11 doubles, 4 triples and all those homers.

He scored 56 runs and drove in 68 others, ninth in Division II, and his 161 total bases tied for seventh best.

This article appeared in the Daily Herald on May 24, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Men's Baseball: Stars’ Taylor earns All-America honors

Junior shortstop Cole Taylor became the first All-American in University of Illinois Springfield baseball history with a selection to the National College Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division II All-America honorable mention team.

Taylor led the Prairie Stars in batting average (.395), hits (85), runs (63), doubles (25), triples (four) and on-base percentage (.461).

He ranked among the Great Lakes Valley Conference and national leaders during the season.

UIS won a school-record 33 games and went 2-2 at the conference tournament.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 24, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

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.

Men's Baseball: UIS baseball gets first postseason win

The University of Illinois Springfield’s offense came alive and with the help of pitcher Brayden Jensen, the Prairie Stars upset No. 24 Southern Indiana 7-1 in an elimination game at the Great Lakes Valley Conference Baseball Championship Friday.

It is the first postseason win in program history for UIS.

Jensen gave up a run in the top of the first inning, then retired seven of the next eight batters and did not allow another hit until the fourth. After allowing a hit in the fourth, he retired 14 consecutive batters. Jensen improved his pitching record to 7-0 with two strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. He gave up six hits.

Zach Patterson’s two-run single gave UIS a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Cole Taylor’s two-run home run in the seventh made it 5-1. Trey Hannam hit a two-run homer in the eighth. The Stars out hit Southern Indiana 16-7.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 12, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Men's Baseball: Seven from UIS earn GLVC honors

Three University of Illinois Springfield players were honored on the Great Lakes Valley All-Conference Team on Wednesday, and four more made the second team.

Senior outfielder Trey Hannam, junior first baseman Michael Rothmund and junior shortstop Cole Taylor each made the first team.

Sophomore pitcher Adam Gregory, junior second baseman Myles Hann, junior pitcher Ethan Howard and senior outfielder Austin Muench were all named to the second team.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 10, 2017.
Read the entire article online.

Men's Golf: Stars’ Supak shoots school-record 64 at regional

University of Illinois Springfield senior Talon Supak shot a school-record 8-under-par 64 Wednesday in the final round of the NCAA Division II Central/Midwest Regional and tied for fourth.

Supak recorded a three-day total of 13-under-par 203 at Awarri Dunes Golf Course.

Supak just missed returning to nationals for the second straight year. He was the third-highest individual player. He put himself in the running with an unforgettable round that included two eagles and five birdies.

Supak, who started on No. 1, had eagles on the eighth and 12th holes. He had birdies on Nos. 1,7,9, 15 and 18. Supak opened the 54-hole tournament with rounds of 69 and 70.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 10, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Men's Baseball: UIS baseball splits doubleheader

James Battley had two hits, including a home run and two runs scored as the University of Illinois Springfield baseball team won the first game of a doubleheader over Indianapolis on Monday, 5-4. 

Michael Rothmund also homered for UIS. Adam Gregory got the pitching win, throwing five innings while giving up four hits while striking out three.

Jensen Brayden pitched the final four innings to earn his second save.

UIS was shut out in the second game 2-0.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 8, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Talon Supak ready to defend his NCAA regional title

University of Illinois Springfield senior Talon Supak looks to win his second straight NCAA Central/Midwest Regional Title.

Supak, one of five individual golfers selected, will tee off Monday morning in Axtell, Nebraska.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on May 7, 2017.

Watch the story online.

University of Illinois at Springfield faculty ends strike

University of Illinois at Springfield administration and faculty have reached a tentative contract agreement, ending a dayslong strike that fell on the last week of spring classes, both sides announced late Sunday.

UIS United Faculty, which represents about 160 tenured and tenure-track professors, went on strike last Tuesday. Striking instructors did not teach classes or hold office hours during the walkout, though university and union officials could not say how many classes were affected.

The strike is over," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch and union President Lynn Fisher said in a joint statement. "We are so glad to be finishing this academic year on a strong note, with the largest-ever graduating class receiving their diplomas on May 13. As we move forward, we will continue working together to realize more of the aspirations of our students, faculty and all those who belong to our university family."

No details of the tentative contract were released.

The final agreement needs to be ratified by a union vote, which Fisher said will take place before the end of the semester Saturday.

This article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on May 8, 2017.

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Downtown shuttle for UIS students wraps up first semester

Robert Ewa sat in the parking lot of University of Illinois Springfield’s recreation center Friday night with the lights of his 16-passenger van flashing, waiting to shuttle college students looking to experience Springfield’s nightlife to downtown and back. “Some weekends, it’s crazy,” said Ewa, with more than a dozen students lining up for a ride each hour. “And then some weekends, maybe there’s other events, I carry only three (passengers).”

This past weekend marked the end of the semester-long test run for the free service that ran every hour between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

UIS Student Government Association, several bars and Downtown Springfield Inc. sponsored the shuttle. Student government members said it went well and the incoming president is considering continuing the service in the fall.

Meanwhile, a couple of bar owners say they’d be on board to support the shuttle next semester as well. “This was more of test phase to see if students would be interested in it, and we found they are,” said outgoing student government president Austin Mehmet, who worked with downtown establishments and DSI to set up the service.

Knowing the shuttle is there for students to use was one hurdle in its first semester. Ewa said some passengers found out about the service from others who had used it.

The student government association put $3,000 of its $10,000 budget toward the shuttle, according to Mehmet. It’s up to the incoming government to decide whether to allocate the same chunk next semester. Garrett Nimmo, the incoming student president, said he’d be open to funding it again if students are interested, but he’s also heard about another transportation need on campus.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 7, 2017.

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UIS administrators, professors reach agreement; strike ends

Final exams will begin as scheduled at the University of Illinois Springfield on Monday after school administrators and the union that represents tenured and tenure-track professors reached a tentative agreement that will end the strike that kept instructors out of the classroom since Tuesday.

The deal was reached Sunday evening after three days of long bargaining sessions, including a meeting that went from 9 a.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Sunday.

“This is a step forward in bridging the gap between faculty members and administration.” Exact terms of the agreement won’t be released until the contract is ratified by the union, UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp said.

UIS’ commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. “We are so glad to be finishing this academic year on a strong note, with the largest-ever graduating class receiving their diplomas on May 13,” UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said in a statement. “As we move forward, we will continue working together to realize more of the aspirations of our students, faculty and all those who belong to our university family.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 7, 2017.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

UIS takes back the night

The University of Illinois Springfield rallied against sexual violence at the 10th annual Take Back the Night event, held on April 28. Protesters gathered at the colonnade at 8:30 p.m. to march around campus, followed by a rally at the Lincoln Residence Great Hall.

The event, organized by the UIS Women’s Center and the Department of Residence Life, featured testimonies read by students, faculty and staff.

Campus sexual assault is pervasive. According to a 2015 report by the Association of American Universities, 23.1 percent of female undergraduate students and 5.4 percent of male undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault through violence, physical force or incapacitation.

“The best part of Take Back the Night is that it brings everyone together,” said Lynn Otterson, Director of the UIS Women's Center. “Even if it’s not a lot of us, the event helps us understand that we have the same connections and that we have that sense of togetherness to go through these issues.”

This story appeared in The Illinois Times on May 4, 2017.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Three UIS softball players earn GLVC honors

University of Illinois Springfield softball players Jaycee Craver, Amanda Gosbeth and Katie Wooldridge received All-Great Lakes Valley Conference honors Wednesday.

Craver, a sophomore pitcher, and Gosbeth , a senior catcher/outfielder, were named to the second team. Craver had a 2.95 earned run average and a 10-9 record in the regular season.

Gosbeth hit .350, had 29 RBIs and 13 stolen bases and is a James R. Spalding Sportsmanship Award nominee. 

Wooldridge, a junior third baseman, appeared on the third team. She hit a team-high .355.

This is the fourth time in program history UIS has had three players named to the all-GLVC team.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 3, 2017.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

UIS professors hit picket line; many classes called off

University of Illinois Springfield professors, both active and retired, and students formed a picket line Tuesday morning as members of the instructors’ union went on strike. Meanwhile, many students roamed the campus wondering how the remaining few days of the spring semester will play out, with final exams scheduled to start next week and graduation day coming May 13.

“My thoughts are in support of the faculty, but at the same time, I feel it’s kind of bad timing with finals week going on and a lot of the stress the students are under,” said Crystal Summerrise, a 19-year-old UIS freshman from Chicago.

“The cancellation of class has kind of put us at a halt.” University of Illinois Springfield United Faculty, the union that represents 168 tenured and tenure-track professors, announced Monday night they were going on strike after a seven-hour bargaining session earlier in the day didn’t produce an agreement.

Jon Welton, a 20-year-old freshman from the Decatur area, read the signs and wondered why the professors didn’t stay in the classroom and teach. “If you look at this from the outside, if you are here for the students, I feel that you would be teaching and fighting your battle on your own time,” Welton said. “If you’d rather be teaching, nobody has required you to come out here and protest. You could be teaching your class, in my eyes.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 2, 2017.

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Women's Softball: Stars seeded sixth in GLVC tourney

The University of Illinois Springfield is the No. 6 seed for the eight-team Great Lakes Valley Conference Softball Championship Tournament starting Thursday in East Peoria.

UIS opens the double-elimination, three-day tourney against third-seeded Missouri-St. Louis Thursday at noon at EastSide Centre.

The Prairie Stars opened GLVC regular-season play with a split against the then No. 17 Tritons. Missouri-St. Louis won the first game 4-3 in 10 innings.

UIS won the second game 6-1. UIS is in the tournament for the first time since going 1-2 at the 2015 tournament.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 1, 2017.

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Men's Baseball: UIS baseball sets program record for wins

The University of Illinois Springfield set the single-season record for wins with an 11-5 victory over Saint Joseph’s in the second game of a Great Lakes Valley Conference doubleheader at Lenz Field Monday.

The win was the Prairie Stars’ 29th of the season, surpassing the 28 wins they had in the 2016 and 2014 campaigns. It also clinched a spot for UIS in the GLVC Baseball Championship Tournament. 

Brayden Jensen was the winning pitcher with eight strikeouts and two walks in eight innings.

UIS’ Cole Taylor was 4-for-5 with two doubles and had three RBIs. Michael Rothmund also drove in three runs for the Stars.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 1, 2017.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Men's Baseball: UIS baseball ties school record for most wins in a season

The University of Illinois Springfield had to move its game with St. Joseph's from the UIS Baseball Field to Lenz Field in Jacksonville.

The Prairie Stars split the double header 5-4 & 5-4.

UIS moves to 28-16 on the season and ties the school record for most wins in a single season.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on April 30, 2017.

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UIS holds 10th annual "Take Back The Night" event

The Women’s Center and Residence Life at the University of Illinois Springfield held the 10th annual “Take Back the Night” to raise awareness about sexual assault.

The candlelit march went through campus, ending with a rally at Lincoln Residence Hall.

The theme for this year's event was "Be the Change."

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on April 28, 2017.

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Local college commencements feature sports, business, government leaders

Ed Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters from the University of Illinois Springfield, which will hold two commencement ceremonies on May 13, both at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

The 12:30 p.m. ceremony is for students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences while the 5:30 p.m. ceremony is for students in the College of Business and Management, College of Education and Human Services and College of Public Affairs and Administration.

Curtis, who began his career as a registered nurse, has made Memorial Health System, which includes seven affiliates, “a premium health care destination,” according to the award. Under Curtis’ leadership since 2008, the health system’s annual revenue has doubled to $1 billion.

Curtis currently chairs the Illinois Health and Hospital Association Board. He has served Springfield in volunteer leadership roles with several community organizations, including the Springfield Urban League, United Way of Central Illinois and Central Illinois Foodbank.

Kristi Barnwell, assistant professor of history, will serve as the grand marshal for both ceremonies.

The student speaker is Alexander William Camp, who will graduate with a master’s degree in public affairs reporting. He will address both graduations.

Both ceremonies will be webcast live at www.uis.edu/technology/uislive/.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on April 30, 2017.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

UIS students raise money for Hazel Dell school

Annette McCarthy of Auburn was tapping into her creative side Wednesday night during a special art fundraiser for Hazel Dell Elementary School.

The fundraiser, “Canvas with a Cause,” was organized by the 18 University of Illinois Springfield graduate students in the Social Justice and Advocacy class, which is part of the Human Development Counseling program. The students wanted to raise money for school supplies for Hazel Dell, and also shine a light on the inequities of public education funding for low-income schools.

Wednesday’s fundraiser was held at the Aqua Sports Club on Lake Springfield. The students raised about $700 to be used so Hazel Dell can buy school supplies such as notebooks, dry erase markers and an overhead projector.

Hazel Dell was singled out because its location at 850 West Lake Shore Drive is close to the UIS campus.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on April 27, 2017.

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UIS baseball, softball teams earn regional ranking

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball team has earned a regional ranking for the first time in program history.

UIS is No. 10 in the first Midwest Regional rankings released Wednesday.

The Prairie Stars are tied with Southern Indiana for first place in the Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division. UIS is 27-15 overall and 15-5 in the conference.

Meanwhile, the UIS softball team is No. 10 in the Midwest Region rankings released Wednesday.

The Prairie Stars (29-21) have swept four straight Great Lakes Valley Conference doubleheaders and are on a nine-game win streak.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on April 27, 2017.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Men's Baseball: UIS 1B Michael Rothmund earns GLVC award

University of Illinois Springfield junior Michael Rothmund has been named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Week and is the first player in program history to earn the weekly honor. 

The first baseman from Lombard hit .579 and was 11-for-19 in five wins last week. He hit a home run, two triples, two doubles and five RBIs and scored seven runs. He had 20 total bases and a 1.053 slugging percentage. He had multiple hits in four games.

Rothmund leads the GLVC in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. He ranks second in runs scores and is in the top six in hits.

Rothmund hit a pair of two-run home runs and the University of Illinois Springfield beat MacMurray 18-14 at UIS Baseball Field Tuesday.

UIS built a 7-1 lead in the first inning. The Prairie Stars hit five home runs and finished with 21 hits in their sixth straight win. Rothmund and Troy Cantu had four RBIs each. Zach Patterson was 4-for-4. Austin Muench was 2-for-3 with two doubles.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on April 26, 2017.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Women's Golf: Hill leads UIS to victory

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s golf squad won its home Spring Invite Sunday.

Brooke Hill led the Prairie Stars with a second-place finish in the 46-player field, shooting a four-over-par 76 to gain one of only three scores under 80 for the day.

UIS shot a team-best 640 over the two-day event, beating Lewis by four strokes and easily outpacing five other Great Lakes Valley Conference teams in the field.

Jocelyn Matsen carded a 77 on Sunday and Maria Espinosa had a 78.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on April 23, 2017.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Men's Baseball: Ramirez picks up 100th baseball win at UIS

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball team blew open a close game with five runs in their half of the seventh for a 6-2 win over visiting Truman State.

It marked the 100th victory of coach Chris Ramirez’s career.

UIS trailed the Bulldogs 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh before Cole Taylor doubled down the left field line and came home on a Trey Hannam RBI single.

Hannam later scored on a sacrifice fly by Kenny Hansen to give UIS its first lead at 3-2. Drew Harper followed with his fourth home run of the season and the Prairie Stars were on their way to their sixth consecutive home victory.

The Prairie Stars improved to 22-15 overall.

This game was recorded in The State Journal-Register on April 19, 2017.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Innocence Project director to speak in Decatur on Wednesday

John J. Hanlon, executive director and legal director of the Illinois Innocence Project, at the University of Illinois Springfield, is slated to speak at the Macon County Criminal Justice Group meeting Wednesday.

Hanlon's primary duty with the Innocence Project is to work on cases in which it is believed there is a reasonable possibility that DNA testing could lead to a wrongfully convicted prisoner's exoneration. 

He has served as adjunct faculty for the Legal Studies and/or Criminal Justice departments at the University of Illinois Springfield since 2004.

This story appeared in the Herald and Review on April 17, 2017.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Union faculty at University of Illinois Springfield authorize strike

Professors at the University of Illinois Springfield have voted to authorize a strike.

The vote does not mean that the 168 tenured and tenure-tracked faculty will definitely be walking off the job, but it does give union leaders the ability to call a strike if a settlement can’t be reached.

“We remain hopeful that the university will show some meaningful progress at our next bargaining session,” said Kristi Barnwell, associate professor of history and vice president of University of Illinois Springfield United Faculty, the teachers’ union. “We are waiting to see where things are going and how much progress we can make before we commit to actually going on strike.”

The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations on Monday.

Professors at UIS can’t strike immediately because Illinois law has a 10-day cooling off period. The last day of class at UIS is May 6, and finals will be held the following week.

The university released a statement Friday that said, “While negotiations have been underway for some time, the university received UIS United Faculty’s first proposal on salary and wages just this Wednesday via email. It is now under review, and everyone involved is committed to reaching a fair initial contract as soon as possible.”

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on April 15, 2017.

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