Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Survival Training Leads to Book on Arctic Wilderness Exploration

Joe Wilkins once lived a double life. By day, was a quiet professor at the University of Illinois  Springfield. But when he was away from teaching, he led another, more dangerous life.

During his days in the Air Force in the 1960s, he was trained in arctic wilderness survival in Alaska.

For decades, he used that training to explore, and now document, the beauty and danger he experienced.

His new book is the culmination of those travels. It’s called “Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration.”

Wilkins, the very “Indiana Jones”-like author, is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

“Gates of the Arctic National Park” documents his explorations in Alaska between 2005 and 2017. 

And a side note: All net proceeds from the book’s sale will benefit veterans in need through the Joe Wilkins Veterans Scholarship Fund at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Graduates earn 1,898 degrees, certificates from University of Illinois at Springfield

About 50 percent of the 1,898 degrees and certificates handed out by the University of Illinois Springfield in 2016-17 were to students in Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services programs, making them the most popular programs that year, according to the latest disclosure from the U.S. Department of Education.

The agency's National Center for Education Statistics shows the public institution in Springfield conferred 836 master's degrees and 113 bachelor's degrees in Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services programs.

But the single most popular program was for a master's degree in Computer Science. Data shows the school gave out 612 master's degrees in Computer Science, followed by 224 master's degrees in Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst and 139 bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Management, General.

The university enrolled 5,428 students for 2016-17, including 2,959 in undergraduate programs and 2,469 in graduate programs.

This article appeared in the Illinois Business Daily on July 15, 2018.

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

UIS hosts summer softball camp

Parents can now sign up their kids for University of Illinois Springfield's softball camp.

The camp kicked off Wednesday for players in grades six through eight.

Sessions for kids in elementary school will start Monday, July 16.

This story aired on Fox Illinois on July 11, 2018.

Watch the story online.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Michelle Norris, U.S. Department of Justice honoree

A university class assignment led Springfield native Michelle Norris into a field of interest that has earned her honors from the U. S. Department of Justice.

Norris, a senior communication major at the University of Illinois Springfield who works full time as a student clerk for the U. S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois, was one of several U.S. Department of Justice employees recently honored with the Director’s Award during a ceremony June 15 in Washington, D.C.

Norris, 21, was honored for her work as interim coordinator for the Central Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois.

An employee of the U.S. Attorney’s Office since June 2016, Norris first got involved with the task force in March 2017, after learning of an organization that aids survivors and victims of trafficking in central Illinois through a class assignment.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Norris is a 2015 graduate of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School and plans to graduate from UIS in December. “I’m going to get my Master of Social Work. I eventually want to end up being a victim specialist, so I’ll get my master’s,” said Norris, who is the daughter of Jim and Eileen Norris, and who has three younger siblings.

In your growing-up years, did anything influence your current focus on helping people? “No. That’s what’s funny about it. My major is communication, but I started at this office. “It was a class at UIS, and our assignment was to go interview an agency or someone in an agency that you’re interested in, and for some reason, I just found Grounds of Grace, which is an organization in Springfield that did human trafficking (aids survivors and victims of trafficking in central Illinois.)

“I just first started attending the meetings. It was like two meetings. I just wanted to be a fly on the wall. I just wanted to hear from the experts. Then all of a sudden it’s like I just started taking on more tasks and more tasks, and then now I’m leading it, and I’m like, ‘Whoa. When did we get here?’ ”

“The everyday person can help out, just by knowing some of the signs and knowing there’s a hotline I can call if I ever see anything suspicious (National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1 (888) 373-7888).”

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2018.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Court simulation trains future DCFS workers

Jamie Anderon took the stand Friday morning.

“What caused you concern for the safety of these two small children?” asked an attorney seated behind a small stack of photographs.

“There were several prescription bottles found throughout the living room … on low tables in reach of the children,” Anderson said. “There were pills, and some of the bottles had various types of pills.”

At the defense table, a man and woman in T-shirts argued in whispers.

The hearing wasn’t held in a courtroom, though. It was held in studio space at the University of Illinois Springfield. As part of the school’s Child Advocacy Studies program, aspiring child welfare workers testify in mock hearings with experienced attorneys and a judge.

“We give them a chance to take what they’re learning about the law and procedures and actually put them into practice through simulation,” said Susan Evans, Executive Director of the Child Protection Training Academy at UIS.

The program also includes a simulation lab in which actors conduct home visits with two “parents,” played by standardized patients from SIU School of Medicine.

Anderson the experience was surreal. She explained her desire to pursue a career in child welfare. “I grew up in the social work environment. I was in foster care for most of my life, so that guided my focus in college of what I wanted to do,” Anderson said. “I had a good caseworker when I was younger, so she kind of helped set the focus of what I wanted to do with my life."

Every DCFS investigator in Illinois is required to take part in the training at UIS, Evans said. So far, 485 new DCFS investigators have taken part in the training.

This story aired on WAND TV on July 2, 2018.

Watch the story online.