Monday, April 22, 2019

Susan Koch: A pathway to opportunity for this year’s graduates

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 April 20, 2019.

Today’s UIS Perspectives column appears with finals week fast approaching, students completing end-of-semester assignments and, by last count, 1,273 students eligible to participate in the 48th University of Illinois Springfield commencement ceremonies in a few weeks. 

This will be my eighth UIS commencement and, like every faculty and staff member, I’m proud of our graduates — each of whom has worked with great determination to earn their University of Illinois degree. 

There is no greater satisfaction for me, as Chancellor, than meeting students the fall of their first semester, observing the transformative experience that UIS provides and ultimately sharing with them that special “handshake moment” on the commencement stage. 

This year, Tiffany Wentworth and I will share one of those moments — with her entire family, including her beloved grandmother, proudly witnessing her achievement. A soon-to-be graduate of the Capital Scholars Honors Program and a member of the Prairie Stars volleyball team, Wentworth has had a memorable four years at UIS. 

“When I visited campus, Coach Salinas told me I could be an impact player,” says Wentworth. “Now, a few years later, my teammates have become my family away from home and winning the conference championship this year was the ‘cherry on top’ for me.” 

Wentworth is graduating with honors as one of the first students to complete the new Exercise Science major. She has been accepted to the prestigious University of Kansas Physical Therapy and Rehabilitative Science program where she will pursue her doctorate in Physical Therapy. 

Eric Myers has followed a less traditional path. After earning bachelors and masters degrees in business and working in the health care sector, Myers realized he really wanted to be a teacher.

“I did some research, and the UIS teacher certification program appealed to me,” says Myers, “in part, because it offers an online option that would enable me to continue working and remain close to my family.” Myers is completing his student teaching this spring at Richwoods High School in Peoria and has already accepted a teaching position for next fall at Morton High School in Morton.

“I’m so excited about this new direction,” says Myers. “I learned to ‘think outside the box’ from UIS professors like Jennifer Martin, and my new employer is looking for exactly that.” 

Eight 2019 Commencement participants will be graduating with the doctorate in Public Administration. One of them is Sophia Gehlhausen-Anderson

“My mom has always been a huge inspiration to me,” says Gehlhausen-Anderson. “She is from Finland and she always loved to study — earning four masters degrees.” “Balancing work with family and my studies has been the biggest challenge,” Gehlhausen-Anderson continues. “I really appreciated the cohort model in the doctoral program. Members of my class got to know each other well and, with guidance from wonderful faculty, we all learned from everybody. I learned so much.”

The vision statement for the University of Illinois Springfield declares UIS will provide a “pathway to opportunity.” I’m confident we have fulfilled that promise for Wentworth, Myers, Podipireddy, Gehlhausen-Anderson and all the others who will participate in the 2019 commencement ceremonies.   

Read the entire article online.