Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jerry Seinfeld inspires local comedy scene

“Seinfeld” the sitcom was noted for being free of sentimentality. The only time the lead character cried, as a bizarro version of himself, he was confused as to the nature of the “salty discharge.”

But watch the real Jerry Seinfeld on an episode of his current series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and you’ll see he isn’t quite the callous character he played on TV.

Bryan Rives, director of the University of Illinois Springfield Performing Arts Services, said that the decision to bring Seinfeld back to Springfield was based on research and reaching out to loyal patrons to determine what type of entertainment and events they’d like to see.

“Jerry Seinfeld and the upcoming Ron White and ‘Paw Patrol Live!’ events, along with some other great soon-to-be-announced events, are just the beginning as we listen to our audience base and work hard to ensure we remain the preferred venue for high quality national touring arts and entertainment,” Rives said.

Tim Laffey, not a stage name, is a feature-level, Springfield-based comedian who performs throughout the region. He admires how Seinfeld can take the mundane and turn it into comedy gold. 

Laffey is doing his part to get more local comedians on stage. The production company he helps run, Belly Laffs, hosts “Jokelab” on the second Thursday of the month at Capital City Bar & Grill.

“I encourage Springfield to get out and enjoy live comedy,” Laffey said. “Things are blossoming and we want everyone to be a part of it.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 17, 2018.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Women's Basketball: Stars’ Ramsey earns GLVC player of the week honors

University of Illinois Springfield senior forward Destiny Ramsey has been named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Week.

She averaged 18.5 points and 11 rebounds in two wins last week.

She also shot 59 percent from the field. Against Missouri-St. Louis, Ramsey’s shooting percentage was 67 percent.

Her 19 points and 15 rebounds against Quincy was her fourth double-double this season.

Ramsey is the first UIS player to earn the honor since Megan Bergerud in March 2014.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 16, 2018.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

$21.7M student union officially opens at UIS

As hundreds of people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday at University of Illinois Springfield’s new student union, Dominic Chiappano and his friends parked themselves in front of a large, flat-screen television on the first floor to watch the NFL playoffs. 

Before the new 52,028-square-foot building opened, the UIS senior said, there wasn’t a place on campus he and his friends wanted to hang out at. That changed Sunday.

“This place is a perfect getaway,” Chiappano said. “I’m definitely going to spend more time here.” 

After more than a year and a half of construction for the $21.7 million project, the student union at UIS is officially open for students, who return to class from winter break Tuesday.

University officials say the building will serve as a social hub for student life, foster a greater sense of community and help with recruitment efforts.

The two-story building anchors the campus’s south quad, providing campus dining services, a Starbucks coffee shop, a ballroom with seating for up to 450 people and a Student Leadership Center that houses student government, volunteer offices and workspaces for student organizations.

Fee increases approved by a student vote in 2012 and other funds are paying $13.75 million, while a fundraising campaign continues toward $8 million in private donations.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said approximately $6.25 million in private funds has been raised toward the $8 million goal.

Koch said Sunday she struggled to put into words how excited she was this day finally came, noting talks of adding a student union have been ongoing for nearly a decade. Now that the building is here, she added, she believes it will enrich the entire academic community on campus and the larger Springfield community in ways she hasn’t yet imagined.

“This is a wonderful next step in the evolution of this very young campus and is going to make a huge difference in the life of this campus,” Koch said.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 14, 2018.

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Women's Basketball: UIS pulls away from Quincy

Destiny Ramsey posted a double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds to help the University of Illinois Springfield to a 81-64 win against Quincy in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game.

UIS led 40-39 at halftime.

The Prairie Stars pulled away in the third quarter.

The Stars’ Shelbi Patterson hit five 3-pointers en route to scoring 17 points.

Jasmine Sangster tossed in 16 points.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 13, 2018.

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Men's Basketball: UIS men’s basketball survives in OT

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team led Quincy by as many 14 points in the second half, but it needed a pair of free throws in the final four seconds to force overtime and the Prairie Stars pulled out a 94-89 victory on Saturday.

UIS junior Logan Gonce forced the Great Lakes Valley Conference game into overtime. He made it 82-all two free throws with four seconds remaining.

Gilwan Nelson rang up a team-high 27 points and five 3-pointers for the Stars. Eddie Longmeyer added 22 points and 11 rebounds. Zach Steinberg had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 13, 2018.

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UIS Students spend holiday serving community

Monday was a day of service for University of Illinois Springfield students with more than 100 spending the afternoon giving back in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

They could have done anything on their day off, but they chose to volunteer.

Their reasons were truly inspiring. Many referenced King's dedication to the community and his message of unity. They say they wouldn't want to honor his legacy any other way.

It was the task of the day for these students. They made old furniture new again at Habitat for Humanity's Restore.

Carpentry may be a new venture for some, but regardless, they showed up and it's the life work of one man who inspired them.

"Dr. King had a dream and he wanted to change the world and, after he was done, he wanted to continue to change the world and that's why I'm here. I want to continue to change the world in his light."

"He was one of many that I look up to and see as a role model for giving back." It's a small gesture which goes a long way. "It's a gesture of giving. It's a gesture of hope. You're helping those who can't do it themselves."

This is the fourth year UIS students have volunteered their time here.

"They didn't have to be here. It shows character dedication." It's a sacrifice to some, but these students don't see it that way. "Being the impact and a part of the change would make MLK proud if he was here."

Students also helped at local hospitals, the local Urban League and even made bookmarks for District 186 students.

This story aired on WCIA on January 15, 2018.

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UIS hoops: Men improve to 11-4; late 3 lifts women

The University of Illinois Springfield won a thriller as it survived a close call and edged Missouri-St. Louis 61-59 in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game on Thursday.

UIS senior Eddie Longmeyer scored a layup and connected on a free throw that put the Stars ahead 59-51 with 23 seconds remaining.

UIS won despite shooting 33.9 percent from the field.

Junior Gilwan Nelson added 13 points. Lanphier High school graduate and UIS freshman Aundrae Williams contributed four points, four rebounds and three assists.

Fellow freshman and Rochester product Collin Stallworth added six rebounds and two points.

For UIS women, Jasmine Sangster sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 38 seconds left and the University of Illinois Springfield escaped Missouri-St. Louis 69-65 on Thursday.

The Great Lakes Valley Conference game was a back-and-forth affair with UIS leading 34-28 at halftime.

Sangster not only hit the go-ahead 3-pointer. She made the second of two free throw attempts with five seconds to go and the Prairie Stars took a four-point lead. Missouri-St. Louis missed two 3-pointers in the final 21 seconds, which allowed UIS to snap a three-game losing streak.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 12, 2018.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Student Union: Commitment to Environmental Excellence

Environmental considerations were fundamental in the design of the University of Illinois Springfield Student Union.

Key elements include a green roof, energy efficiency, use of recycled and sustainable building materials, native plants for landscaping, and seeking LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating and certification system is the industry’s gold-standard for the design and construction of environmentally sustainable buildings that incorporate strategies to reduce energy and water usage, promote better indoor air quality and improve the quality of life of the building’s occupants.

Chuck Coderko is the Associate Chancellor of Administrative Affairs, Facilities and Services at UIS. He oversaw and led the university’s efforts in the design and construction of the building. He says, “A LEED certification is a highly sought-after achievement for newly constructed buildings and large renovation projects on the UIS campus. Environmentally friendly practices have huge benefits for UIS. The role higher education institutions play in environmental stewardship can have a significant impact today and in future generations. The education and habits we can pass onto the students, facility, staff and surrounding community on how to live a more sustainable life can significantly reduce the environmental impact society as a whole has on the environment.”

Coderko says that environmental benefits realized by building “green” sustainable buildings and facilities have been measured and proven to provide several tangible and non-tangible benefits to a community. Sustainable buildings help to preserve our environment and avoid the depletion of the earth’s natural resources. They also help to reduce operating costs, optimize the life cycle of the building, increase property values, improve the comfort and health of building occupants, improve workers’ attendance and productivity, minimize strain on local infrastructure and create an aesthetically pleasing environment.

The living vegetated roof is a significant design feature of the building, which will be visible from various locations.

A rainwater reclamation system will reduce storm runoff and eliminate water irrigation.

Twenty percent of the building is constructed with recycled materials.

The lighting system is highly efficient, and design features take advantage of natural and ambient light.

This story appeared in The Illinois Times on January 11, 2018.

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A building for belonging: Not just a hangout, the new UIS Student Union hopes to bring a community together

“The coolest thing is that so many students participated in big and small ways,” says John Tienken, a former University of Illinois Springfield student trustee who is now a law student at the University of Chicago. Tienken is one of those students who contributed in a big way and was a driving force behind development of the UIS Student Union.

The same can be said for many alumni and members of the community contributing in big and small ways. Thus far 225 people have donated to the Student Union. One gave $2, and many donated $10, $25, $50 and $100. Two donors each contributed $1.5 million.

Collectively students, university leaders, faculty, staff and community members have rallied around building the Student Union, which UIS Chancellor Susan Koch calls the “new heart of the campus.” 

The new Student Union, opening Jan. 14, encompasses 52,000 square feet, cost $21.75 million, and is located on the south end of the Main Quad. A two-story atrium with large glass windows provides views of the Colonnade to the north. The adjacent 25,000-square-foot outdoor plaza blurs the line between inside and out.

Designed by Dewberry (Peoria) and Workshop Architects (Milwaukee), the new Student Union sits at the crossroads of the campus.

A Student Union Committee, which included students, faculty, staff and university leaders, provided extensive input.

Until now there has been no central gathering place for students at UIS, no dedicated space for student organizations, no place for students to hang out between classes. The only places to meet were the cafeteria, lobbies of academic buildings or small lounges in out-of-the-way locations.

Features of the new Student Union include a Student Leadership Center, multiple lounge areas, diverse dining options, a Starbucks, large ballroom for university and community events, and large and small meeting areas and conference rooms.

The Student Union is not just a new campus building and a nice place for students to hang out and drink coffee. It is expected to transform the student experience. Officials hope it will also provide a greater sense of belonging to the campus and university, serve as a catalyst for discussion and engagement, and connect the community with the campus.

Says Chancellor Koch, “Research shows that great student unions impact student retention and student recruitment. With increased enrollment being one of our top three UIS priorities, building a Student Union was a perfect fit. The Student Union creates a sense of place. UIS is a young campus, and this is a significant building in the development of our university.”

“Unions are places to engage with one another, meet new people, lead through organizations and work, and challenge one another to build a better campus and world community,” says Ann Comerford, executive director of the Student Union.

The new Student Union demonstrates what can be accomplished when students, university leaders, faculty and staff, and community members work together to achieve a common goal. State funds cannot be used to build student unions. It is being built through a combination of student fees collected over a period of years beginning when the building opens, along with generous donations.

The goal is to raise $8 million in private contributions. There are already commitments for more than $6.2 million.

In April 2012 students voted overwhelmingly to support the Student Union through student fees, but this did not happen automatically. The first referendum in the spring of 2010 failed.

Tienken and others delved into the issue to learn from the past referendum, get student input and encourage others to get involved, including those not part of student government but who wanted to make a difference. They held informational sessions, had a BBQ on the Quad, created posters, talked about the benefits of a student union, spread information on the referendum, created videos and developed enthusiasm and support. They learned a lot about executing a successful campaign, and their efforts paid off. In April 2012 students passed the referendum by a 4 to 1 margin to support assessing student fees to build the union.

When people look back on their university experiences, some of those memories are brighter than the academics. It is so important for students to be able to congregate with their fellow students and hang out.” former Springfield Mayor Karen Hasara was a member of the U of I Board of Trustees when the board voted in favor of the project.

Given her long involvement with the university from being a student to serving as trustee, Hasara also chose to donate to the Student Union project. She dedicated her donation to the student trustee room, which is part of the Student Leadership Center.

A gift to the community Hasara says the Student Union is not just a gift to the university, but it is also a gift to the community.

This story appeared in The Illinois Times on January 11, 2018.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

U of I president proposing another in-state tuition freeze

University of Illinois Springfield tuition for incoming freshmen would stay the same next fall, under a plan to freeze rates throughout the U of I system for a fourth consecutive year.

University of Illinois President Tim Killeen said the rates, which will go before the U of I Board of Trustees later this month for approval, encourage higher enrollment at the system’s campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

The plan calls for frozen tuition rates for all Illinois residents. And under the state’s guaranteed tuition law, incoming students from Illinois pay the same rates for each of the four years it typically takes to complete an undergraduate degree.

First-semester enrollment at the Springfield campus decreased 8.7 percent, compared to the previous year, to 4,956, according to a count taken in September.

UIS officials noted the decrease came mostly from a loss of international graduate students. UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said the steady tuition rates, coupled with an effort to raise money for scholarships, are helping to grow enrollment.

UIS’ tuition stands at $9,405 annually for full-time students, not counting other fees. Before the last tuition raise for the 2014-2015 school year, it was at $9,248.

While tuition is holding steady, students will see some fee increases, under the plan. Annual fees at UIS would increase by $200 next year to $2,426. The hike reflects the first full year of a fee to help pay for the campus’ new student union that opens later this month.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 5, 2018.

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Men's Basketball: Stallworth boosts UIS men’s basketball over McKendree

University of Illinois Springfield freshman forward and Rochester High School graduate Collin Stallworth had a big game in the Prairie Stars’ 86-72 victory against McKendree on Saturday. 

Stallworth scored in double figures for the first time and logged four blocks in the Great Lakes Valley Conference game. He hit three 3-pointers on his way to scoring 11 points. His previous career high was seven points against Lincoln Christian.

UIS freshman guard and Lanphier graduate Aundrae Williams tallied 10 points, five assists and three steals against the Bearcats.

Junior Zach Steinberg recorded 19 points and eight rebounds for the Stars.

UIS took command with the score tied at 17. The Stars rattled off a 14-3 run for a 31-20 lead.

Junior Vince Walker scored eight of his 11 points in the stretch.

UIS held a 45-36 halftime advantage.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 6, 2018.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

U. of I. plans in-state tuition freeze for 4th straight year

Hoping to stem an exodus of local students to colleges in other states, the University of Illinois plans to freeze its base tuition for incoming, in-state freshmen for a fourth consecutive year, the Tribune has learned. University President Timothy Killeen will recommend extending the tuition freeze for Illinois residents who enroll this fall, he told the Tribune in an interview Thursday.

The board of trustees is scheduled to vote on Killeen’s proposal at its meeting Jan. 18.

The fixed tuition means Illinois residents starting this fall will pay the same base rates as in-state students who enrolled every year since 2014: $12,036 a year at Urbana-Champaign, $10,584 at Chicago and $9,405 in Springfield.

The total price of attendance is significantly higher after incorporating required fees, as well as room and board. Those costs will increase for many students next year.

Students in popular programs such as engineering will continue to pay higher tuition, as well.

The move to keep a lid on base tuition for residents comes as Illinois public universities face increasing competition from public universities in neighboring states.

At the same time, state Illinoisans are leaving the state in droves, chiefly for other Midwestern public and private schools with comparable rates, generous financial aid and better overall stability in higher education, state education data show.

In 2002, 71 percent of Illinois high school graduates who attended four-year universities chose in-state schools, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. By 2015, the most recent year data were available, just 55 percent chose Illinois colleges.

If the board approves the proposal, it would mark the first time the university locked tuition rates for four straight years since 1974 to 1977.

Annual fees at the Springfield campus would increase $200, to $2,426, starting in the spring. The change incorporates a student-approved charge to help pay for a new student union. Tuition rates for non-resident freshman students and the price for the standard housing and meal plan would not change.

Despite dwindling state support and fewer students in the college pipeline, the three-school University of Illinois system is aiming grow enrollment 15 percent across the three schools by 2021. 

This story appeared in The Chicago Tribune on January 4, 2018.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

UIS basketball teams look to continue success

The University of Illinois Springfield is sitting pretty heading into the second half of the women’s basketball season.

UIS is 8-2 overall and sits atop the five-team Great Lakes Valley Conference Central Division standings with a 2-0 record.

“We’ve got off to a really good start,” UIS women’s basketball coach Mark Kost said. “We’ve just got to keep it going.”

In Florida, UIS dominated Embry-Riddle 72-54, beating a team that received votes in the NCAA Division II national poll. “We beat a very good team on their home court,” Kost said. “We were really good defensively with our pressure and our defensive pressure got us in a good flow offensively. We just played well. Our quickness and athletic ability kind of overwhelmed them.”

UIS is off to its best start in the program’s Division II era.

The UIS men’s basketball team kicks off the second half of the season against Lewis Thursday. It takes a 9-3 overall record and 1-1 conference record into the game.

“I feel like we’re about where we should be,” UIS men’s basketball coach Bill Walker said. “If I had to analyze, I wish we would have won another game or two.”

The Stars have nine victories in their last 10 games and only fell 69-64 to Southern Illinois University in an exhibition.

They’ve been getting a big boost from senior Eddie Longmeyer. He ranks No. 7 in the conference in scoring, No. 8 in rebounding and No. 4 in steals. 

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 3, 2018.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

‘Star’ dressing rooms to get spruced up at UIS’ Sangamon Auditorium

It has great acoustics and lighting, a good view of the stage from virtually all of its 2,005 seats, and performers like its intimate setting that puts them close to the audience. But there’s one thing that is not getting rave reviews at the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium.

“Let’s just say when performers come in, nobody is saying, ‘Ooh, I love this dressing room,’” said UIS Director of Performing Arts Services Bryan Rives. “That’s a comment we’re not getting.”

The university is about to begin an anonymous donor-funded project to completely renovate the two “star” dressing rooms and an attached hallway associated with Sangamon Auditorium and the adjacent 350-seat Studio Theater. The work will begin in mid-January, and Rives said it’s expected to cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

 The auditorium and the two dressing rooms were brand new 37 years ago when they were first used by Hal Holbrook as he performed “Mark Twain Tonight” to a sell-out crowd.

“When you have a Tony Bennett, or a Jerry Seinfeld, or that caliber of a performer coming to town, they are only here for a few hours. They are seeing maybe their hotel room, their dressing room and the auditorium,” Rives said. “So we really wanted to make sure the dressing room experience was world class for those performers.”

Rives said the idea for the renovation project began during a recent backstage tour he gave to an area couple who have been ongoing supporters of the auditorium and its programs. Rives said the couple had an “emotional reaction” when they saw the condition of the dressing rooms and they worried that the spaces may be how star performers are viewing the Springfield community. They offered to donate enough money to make the two main dressing rooms the appropriate “star quality,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Stewart and Rives have been talking about upgrades to the Sangamon Auditorium lobby. There is no formal plan or cost estimate in place, but Rives said a lobby renovation is something the UIS leadership supports. “When you come to events at Sangamon Auditorium, we are painfully aware right now that the lobby space is just devoid of any sort of excitement or energy,”

The scheduled opening later this month of the campus’ new Student Union will mean many of the catered events and meetings now held in the Sangamon Auditorium Lobby can be moved to the new facility, freeing up the lobby to shine as a welcome area for the auditorium, Rives said.

According to the Sangamon Auditorium website, the venue welcomes more than 75,000 attendees at 150 annual events.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 3, 2018.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Teutopolis HS grad interns at White House

Lea Thoele, a 2015 Teutopolis High School graduate, recently finished an internship where she helped organize President Donald Trump's events around the country and world.

She interned in the Office of Presidential Advance, a group tasked with making the president's events run smoothly. The office decides what the press corps has access to and where they can set up cameras. Presidential Advance staff also work with employees who travel ahead of Trump to set up events.

"I learned a lot," said Thoele, 21, a student at the University of Illinois Springfield. "We did a lot of work with advanced associates. We make sure they have everything they need."

Although she didn't formally meet Trump, Thoele said she saw him a few times at events.

"I got to see how he actually is," she said, "and not how the media portrays him or how he is on tv. 

Living in Washington, D.C. and interning on the White House campus was motivating for Thoele. She worked at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, located near the West Wing, where most White House offices are.

"I would walk up the steps and look at the White House," Thoele said. "I took a picture from that angle about 40 times.

Knowing not many people get to experience that was really humbling." Thoele plans to get back to her classwork, but she also has an upcoming internship with the Illinois Senate Republicans.

This story appeared in The Effingham Daily News on December 27, 2017.

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Local business notes: UIS Student Union set to open

The grand opening of the University of Illinois Springfield Student Union is two weeks away.

Ground was broken in May 2016 for the $21.7 million project at the center of campus.

The ribbon cutting is scheduled for 2 p.m. and an open house at 4 p.m. Jan. 14, according to the project website,

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on December 30, 2017.

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Former UIS employee accused of theft, damage on campus

A former employee at the University of Illinois Springfield has been charged in connection with last week’s damage and theft of several computers, television monitors and other electrical equipment located in two campus buildings.

Russell Horrighs, 33, of Virden, was charged Tuesday with burglary, theft and criminal damage to state supported property.

Authorities allege he damaged and took the equipment from UIS’ Public Affairs Center and Brookens Library during the overnight hours of Dec. 17.

UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp said Horrighs is a former food service employee at the university, although the last time he was employed there was in 2016.

Schnapp said UIS police investigators questioned Horrighs at the Sangamon County Jail on Saturday.

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

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