Thursday, December 3, 2020

UIS men find opponent for Thursday

After a COVID-19 outbreak within the University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball team forced the University of Illinois Springfield men to postpone its game with the Screaming Eagles for Thursday, the Prairie Stars found an opponent in the same boat.

UIS (1-0) will travel to fellow Great Lakes Valley Conference member Rockhurst, in Kansas City, Missouri, after the Hawks’ game Thursday against William Jewell was also postponed due to the coronavirus.

This article was published in The State Journal-Register on December 2, 2020.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Basketball: UIS men’s game postponed; women still on at S. Indiana

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball game at Southern Indiana on Thursday has been postponed after several members of the Screaming Eagles program have undergone COVID-19 quarantine.

No rescheduled date has been announced yet.

The women’s game is still on and will tip in Evansville, Indiana at 5:15 p.m. All Great Lakes Valley Conference games are streamed online at for free during the 2020-21 season.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on December 1, 2020.

UIS music students to stream performances this weekend

Music has a magic all its own, and audiences can benefit from its charms this weekend with live streamed events.

According to Yona Stamatis, violinist with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and an instructor and director of the University of Illinois Springfield Music Program, “Perhaps now, in the context of the current health crisis, one cannot overstate the power of music to bring comfort, joy, camaraderie and a sense of hope for the future. During this unprecedented time, the arts play a uniquely important role as both an outlet for emotional and creative expression and also as an opportunity to interact – if virtually – with others.”

“While the UIS Music Program offers a rich calendar of events every year,” said Stamatis, “in an effort to protect the health and safety of all in our community, we have changed to a virtual format for this year’s events. While the performance experience may not be precisely the same, we appreciate our ability to reach audiences on a far broader geographical spectrum. The more the merrier!” 

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on December 2, 2020.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Celebrate Exonerees

The Illinois Innocence Project, based at University of Illinois Springfield, is celebrating that four of its clients who began 2020 in prison will be home for Thanksgiving. Collectively, they spent 111 years wrongfully incarcerated. 

The four clients include a woman who was released in response to a plea for an expedited clemency petition ruling from the governor, which the project had requested due to the pandemic. One man was released early after the project advocated that he be set free due to good time credits. The project's longest-serving client went home after being imprisoned for 40 years. He was granted compassionate release in June due to being at high risk for COVID-19 complications. The fourth client had been convicted of killing his child in 2007. The infant was born prematurely and the project said the death was due to health issues. The man's conviction and sentence were vacated.

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on November 25, 2020.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Sangamon County health officials fear community COVID-19 trajectory

The University of Illinois Springfield hosted a webinar with physicians on the front lines of the pandemic.

Dr. Raj Govindaiah, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Memorial Health System, said for nine months, health care workers have lived through the stress of the pandemic.

"We shut down. We stopped doing things and people said, 'Why'd we do that, nothing happened,'" Govindaiah said. "Well, it's happening now."

Govindaiah said the recent surge of cases has hit health care systems hard.

"It's taking its toll on everyone in the community," Govindaiah said. "It's taking its toll on our hospital care, and it's taking an immense toll on the people who are providing that care."

According to Govindaiah, positivity rates in Sangamon County are at an all-time high.

"COVID-19 positive test results, you can see the percentage, it skyrocketed, reaching as high as 26 percent," Govindaiah said. "Right now, we're at 22.6 percent for the last seven days. This is all-together too high."

This story appeared on WAND on November 20, 2020.

Friday, November 20, 2020

UIS sets start times for 2020 basketball

The University of Illinois Springfield basketball teams — for now allowed to play despite Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s increased restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic — have set their game times for the games in the 2020 portion of the schedule.

Weekday men and women doubleheaders at UIS’ The Recreation and Athletic Center will begin at 4:30 p.m. with the women’s tip-off, followed by the men’s games at 7 p.m.

The season opener is set for Nov. 27 against Great Lakes Valley Conference foe Quincy. The only other home weekday game is Friday, Dec. 18 against Indianapolis, another GLVC opponent.

Four of the first six games for UIS will be at the TRAC.

No fans will be allowed at any contest due to coronavirus restrictions but all games will be live streamed through the GLVC Sports Network.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 29, 2020.

Creating a New Model for MOOCS

In 2008, massive, open, online courses burst onto the higher education landscape when two Canadian researchers launched a course on the theory of connectivism that enrolled 25 students on the campus of the University of Manitoba and another 2,300 learners worldwide online.

The scalability of MOOCs became clear three years later, when a team of professors at Stanford offered a free online course on artificial intelligence to 160,000 students across the globe. By 2012, three companies — Udacity, Coursera, and edX — were producing MOOCs, and educators began predicting that the online platforms would disrupt the future of higher education.

Fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, MOOCs are now experiencing an unprecedented boom as millions of people have signed up for these free online courses. Since mid-March, more than 20 million learners have registered for a class with Coursera, the largest MOOC platform, a 360 percent increase from the same period last year. And edX, the next largest MOOC provider, has seen an uptick of 10 million new users since the pandemic began, more than twice the amount that joined in all of 2019.

“The pandemic has been transformative for many institutions,” said Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield, who organized a MOOC in 2011. “They have awakened to online learning. It could take years to tame a mutating virus, all the while universities will have to cope with periodic campus outbreaks. Online learning will become a mainstay of learning delivery among the institutions that survive.”

This article appeared on the website Unbound in November 2020.

A good year to give art

Being home for the holidays has typically had a festive and nostalgic association, and along with that, time spent gift shopping. This year may be different given health concerns and staying at home without the usual company of friends and family or trips to shop.

But all is not lost for a season of gifting and personal touches. Area arts organizations, which have struggled in a year devoid of live music, theater and art exhibitions, have put a creative spin on pandemic presents.

Another option for visual art purchases is through the University of Illinois Springfield’s Visual Arts Gallery Silent Auction and Benefit, which launched November 16 and runs until December 3. The auction features original works donated by local and regional artists. Proceeds from the annual auction support gallery programming and exhibitions.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 18, 2020.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

UIS adds to hall of fame

Four people and a University of Illinois Springfield softball team have been selected to enter the Prairie Stars Hall of Fame, the school announced.

The 2020 class includes volleyball player Danielle Crossen, men’s soccer coach Joe Eck, men’s soccer player Jakub Piotrowski, Friend of Athletics Dr. Rich Ringeisen, and the 2012 UIS softball team.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 19, 2020.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

UIS to resume in-person instruction Thursday after two-day pause

The University of Illinois Springfield will resume in-person instruction Thursday.

UIS Interim Chancellor Karen M. Whitney made the announcement in a campus-wide letter.

The university pivoted to online classes Tuesday while other activities took a pause due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests on campus.

Whitney said the intention is “to safely finish this semester...with in-person courses through Nov. 25.”

UIS goes fully-remote when it comes back from Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30.

While the university is resuming in-person classes, it is reducing non-instructional activities to only essential activities.

On-site work may continue, but employees were being encouraged to work remotely if they can do so.

The recommendations come from the university’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Team.

UIS experienced the highest number of one-day positive cases from its saliva testing on Monday.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 11, 2020.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

UIS goes remote in two-day COVID pause

The University of Illinois Springfield called a two-day pause in activities Tuesday due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests on campus.

In a message to students, faculty and staff Tuesday morning, which was also posted on the UIS website, Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney said all classes through at least Wednesday should pivot to remote-only.

“This decision was not taken lightly,” Whitney wrote. “While we hope this pause is very temporary, we must be flexible in how we approach the coming days to allow the CRRT (COVID-19 rapid response team) to make the best decisions possible to prioritize health and safety at UIS.”

UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp said that of 476 COVID-19 tests done Monday, 15 came back positive. That topped 3 percent, and was significantly higher than usual, leading to the pause in activity to allow contact tracing to help slow the spread of the virus.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 10, 2020.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Lincoln Academy of Illinois honors UIS student Kodi Smith with Student Laureate Award

Kodi Smith, a University of Illinois Springfield student, has been selected as the winner of the Student Laureate Award. The Lincoln Academy of Illinois honors one student with this prestigious award each year.

Smith said that she was surprised with she received the nomination letter. She began researching the award and knew how big it was. “It feels good to have my hard work be acknowledged by others,” said Smith. Smith of Taylorville graduated from Taylorville High School. She joined UIS to attain a bachelor’s degree in biology. She wants to become a trauma surgeon after completing her degree by attending a medical school.

Smith is a member of several student organizations including the National Society of Leadership and Success (Sigma Alpha Pi) and the pre-Health Society. The pre-Health Society is a group of students who pursue a career in the medical field. She packaged unused medical equipment several times at Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach as a volunteer. The purpose of this Mission is to send unused medical equipment to countries that are in need.

This story appeared in the Chicago Morning Star on November 5, 2020.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Engaged citizenship; Water diplomacy in the Middle East

While the University of Illinois Springfield's (UIS) Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) speaker series program is part of a distinctive curriculum for undergraduate students, it is also a venue for the UIS community to engage with the larger community. 

The series strives to introduce the public and students to diverse perspectives and encourages open discussion and participation as major components of active citizenship. 

This week, Rachel Havrelock, founder and director of the University of Illinois Chicago freshwater lab and co-creator of the Freshwater Stories digital platform, will explore water diplomacy in the Middle East, including its water history and the innovations making new forms of water use and distribution possible. 
After appraising new projects on the horizon, she will discuss their applicability or relevance to Illinois and North American waters. 

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on November 5, 2020.

UIS Studio Theatre to present ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ via livestream

As the days settle into more darkness, a little dark humor might be enlightening. “Rogues’ Gallery,” livestreamed beginning this weekend from the UIS Studio Theatre in the University of Illinois Springfield Performing Arts Center, sheds light on the “allure of bad behavior and the absurdity of being human” with “darkly humorous stories,” according to the show description.

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, the show’s director and chair of UIS’s art, music and theatre department, explained that “Rogues’ Gallery” is a lineup of 10 characters each with their own monologue. 

The characters “all feel like they have been wronged in some way and/or that their lives have been recently upended and consequently they’ve lost something or someone which/who they are trying to get back into their lives,” said Thibodeaux-Thompson. “Sound familiar? This is one of the reasons why we decided to produce this show.”

Thibodeaux-Thompson found twists and turns in planning and re-planning the production to keep cast and crew safe, and he and Tiller agree that cast and crew have worked hard to put together a fascinating show. He chose to direct the show for safety, as the production is a collection of monologues so there in some built-in social distancing and safety, but he adds “It is also a show that well reflects the diversity of struggles in today’s world.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 5, 2020.

Monday, November 2, 2020

UIS Perspectives: Bold legacy, bold future

The following is an excerpt from a column by Charles J. Schrage and Jessie Burrell, Co-chairs of University of Illinois Springfield 50th Anniversary Steering Team. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on November 1, 2020.

It’s time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University of Illinois Springfield!

With roots in Sangamon, the Bold Legacy began in 1970. At the time, the University had no permanent buildings, no traditions, and yet it possessed a bold, new vision for higher education, a public affairs mandate and a “blue memo” to build upon.

Dr. Larry Golden, professor emeritus and founding faculty member, helps connect those humble beginnings with today’s civically engaged University and student-centered educational mission. “UIS remains a university that continues to aspire to fulfill its original missions of public affairs and student centered teaching and learning. It has excellent, caring faculty who provide students the opportunity to gain a superb education and to grow and thrive as active citizens,” Golden said.

Alumna Karen Hasara exemplifies civic engagement and leadership. She is a retired member of the UI Board of Trustees, and among the founding graduates of the University. “The fall of 1970 opened new doors for so many of us at this brand new educational institution called Sangamon State University. Its vision was indeed bold,” Hasara said.

A rebirth of the University formally began on July 1, 1995. The merger of Sangamon State University with the University of Illinois System accelerated growth and innovation going into a new millennium, enabling the university’s academic excellence to be shared throughout the world.

The late 1990s saw university innovation in its truest form. Faculty utilized newly discovered technologies to harness the growing power of the internet, thereby expanding teaching and learning well beyond traditional “bricks and mortar” classrooms. UIS online classes were among the nation’s very first. Today, UIS online programs are recognized among the nation’s very, very best!

In 2001, the university welcomed its first freshman class with introduction of the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

This anniversary also provides an opportunity to look forward, and celebrate the Bright Future, and promise, which public higher education holds. The Bright Future enabled by outcomes of UIS’ Innovate Springfield business and social innovation hub; the Bright Future of our community enabled by the university’s commitments to diversity, inclusion and social justice. Enabling pursuit of the Bright Future for so many students is the Reaching Stellar fundraising campaign, with well over 100,000 private gifts already made in support of the $40 million goal.

As you likely expect, UIS is “creatively pivoting” its anniversary celebration. Every reasonable precaution is being taken to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community. We are United in Safety for your protection, and the protection of students, faculty and staff.

The 50th Anniversary souvenir issue of UIS Today magazine will be published later this month, featuring unique, historic and forward thinking content. UIS social media and the web feature nostalgic content with “flashback” historical photos and videos..

Read the entire column online.

Men's Basketball: Wendling, Stallworth take aim on GLVC Tournament

Athens High School graduate Matt Wendling had to find another outlet at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which arrived just days following the end of the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball 2019-20 season.

The senior guard recently reunited with the rest of the team for the first time since the pandemic on Oct. 15 for the first day of official practice. Players may be required to wear masks virtually at all times unless they’re on the court, but hey, it’s something.

“There’s nothing like playing five on five,” Wendling said.

Wendling, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Carl Sandburg College, emerged as one of the team’s most reliable contributors in coach Matt Brock’s first season averaging 10.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. His scoring average ranked fifth best on the team.

“It was a good year coming in with a new system,” Wendling said. “There was a lot to learn and a lot that we can certainly improve on. But I think moving forward we’ll be even better this year. We know the foundation that coach wants and it’s just us implementing it and keeping that high standard that he loves and work as hard as we can.”

UIS last reached the GLVC Tournament in 2016 and has only qualified four times since joining the league in 2009.

“It’s going to be tough but I think we got the right guys and the right coaches to do it,” UIS senior forward Collin Stallworth said. “We just have to control what we can control.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 31, 2020.

Women's Basketball: UIS women ready to take a big leap

University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball junior transfer Katryel Clark practiced as much as she could back home in Auburn during the coronavirus pandemic.

There was nobody else around but her sister, Karlissa, from eighth grade — a basketball player to be sure, just not in the same age group.

“I didn’t really know anyone here yet ... so me and my sister went out there and got our own work in,” Clark said. “She also plays basketball, so we went out there because there’s nothing else to do — go out and shoot and get a bunch of shots up.”

Clark returned to the college level for UIS’ first day of official practice on Oct. 15 after two seasons at Lincoln Land Community College. 

Coach Casey Thousand said building a positive culture was her biggest priority last season.

“Even though the record might not have shown it, we really got a lot out of it and we’re headed in the right direction,” Thousand said.

“We did a lot of supporting each other, team bonding and really sticking together. It was a really close group coming in, so it was kind of hard for the coaches. We had to make way and make sure that we got in the group as well, but I think by the end of the year everybody was bonded and getting together. That was really what we were striving for that first year, changing the culture and changing our drive with what we’re going with and how we’re doing things.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 30, 2020. 

UIS Performing Arts Center - Sangamon Auditorium selected as best live music large venue

 The University of Illinois Springfield's Performing Arts Center was selected by Illinois Times readers as the best live large music venue in Springfield for 2020. Runners up in the process were the State Fair Grandstand, Boondocks, Hoogland Center for the Arts and the BOS Center.

Read the entire list of 2020 Best Of winners online at the Illinois Times.

Friday, October 30, 2020

UIS to offer accelerated courses over holiday break

The University of Illinois Springfield will offer 19 accelerated courses over its holiday break.

The courses will be offered in online and blended methods.They will be open to prospective and current students.

UIS will offer accelerated courses in accountancy, biology, communication, computer science, criminal justice and criminology, environmental studies, management information systems, political science, psychology, public administration, sociology and anthropology, and teacher education.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on October 29, 2020.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Inter-Institutional Sharing of Courses Online

Ray Schroeder, University of Illinois Springfield associate vice-chancellor for online learning writes that the COVID-19 pandemic, rapid deployment of remote learning, growth of MOOCs and mounting financial pressure on colleges and universities have combined to open minds on the topic of inter-institutional sharing of courses online.

Colleges and universities have a long history of collaborating in research and in areas of broad purpose, but they have been notoriously cautious about collaborating in the development and delivery of their own courses and curricula. Holding a unique university identity on the academic side has been a revered aspect of institutional pride that stands in the way of large-scale sharing.

UIS now is also a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). It has broken through the barrier to offer classes and portions of classes across institutions. UIS executive director of online professional and engaged learning and research Vickie Cook, who served on the committee arranging the guidelines for collaborations, reports that the association has developed a set of understandings that will enable future sharing.

This article appeared in Inside Higher Ed on October 28, 2020.

UIS club donates feminine hygiene products for local residents in need

Food insecurity is on the rise right now in central Illinois, but the Period Club at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) says getting access to products like tampons and pads can be just as challenging.

Kassie Mruk is president of the Period Club, which is just one chapter of a larger international movement.

Founded in 2017, the club has distributed thousands of products across different states and even countries to those who experience menstruation.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Mruk said the number of local residents who struggle to purchase these products has grown.

"They don't even have the money for food sometimes, so knowing that they don't have the money for this product — it's not right,” Mruk said, “This shouldn't be a struggle. Period poverty shouldn't be a struggle."

The Period Club has already donated to several Springfield shelters and micropantries, and plans to keep expanding.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on October 27, 2020.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Cross Country: UIS’ Blake Jones captures GLVC title

Junior Blake Jones of the University of Illinois at Springfield blitzed the field and won the Great Lakes Valley Conference Men’s Cross Country Championship by more than 10 seconds on Saturday.

Jones finished the 8,000-meter run in 24 minutes 41.30 seconds and became the school’s record-holder at the GLVC championship and first-ever to win the individual title in program history. 

As a team, UIS took third place with 69 points. Lewis won the conference championship with 51 points and Southern Indiana was second with 57.

Senior Tyler Pasley came in fourth place and freshman Cortland Ross was eighth for UIS.

UIS’ Taryn Christy took third place for the second straight season as the women’s team finished fourth in the season-ending GLVC meet.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 25, 2020.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Video series filmed at UIS being used as national training model

A video series filmed at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Child Protection Training Academy is serving as a national simulation training model for preparing child welfare workers and students for working with at-risk children and families.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for States, part of the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative and a service of the Children’s Bureau, filmed the academy’s simulation scenarios and conducted interviews at the UIS residential simulation lab and mock courtroom earlier this year.

The videos and other resources on the new “Keeping it Real” website will be used by child welfare agencies throughout the country to prepare child welfare workers and students for difficult interactions with families, as they investigate cases of suspected child abuse.

The Center for States hopes the videos will help agencies learn about the benefits, costs and considerations for implementing similar training programs in their states.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 16, 2020.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Cross Country: UIS’ Jones, Christy advance Prairie Stars to GLVC Championships

University of Illinois Springfield junior Blake Jones gradually pulled away and earned first place in 24 minutes 6.30 seconds in the 8,000-meter Great Lakes Valley Conference East Divisional men’s race on the Prairie Stars’ home course on Saturday.

Jones, a Lincoln High School graduate, won comfortably ahead of the rest of the field. Fellow UIS junior Wyatt McIntyre finished in eighth place while freshman teammate Cortland Ross was 11th place.

UIS finished in third place out of five teams to advance to the GLVC Championships on Saturday, Oct. 24 in Elsah, a small community on the Mississippi River in Jersey County. 

The Prairie Stars also finished runner-up on the women’s side with a score of 45 behind Southern Indiana’s 41.

UIS junior Taryn Christy led the team in third place while senior Gloria Esarco and freshman Sydney Huffman went fourth and fifth place, respectively.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 10, 2020.

Monday, October 12, 2020

UIS releases basketball schedules

The University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars released their basketball schedule Thursday.

The Prairie Stars will play 22 games starting on November 27th with a home game against Quincy. The conference-only schedule will split home and road contest with 11 each. UIS will play each conference team at least once. No fans are allowed at the games this season. The regular season will conclude on February 27th with a home contest against Missour S&T.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on October 10, 2020.

Basking in cross country glory: UIS’ Gloria Esarco surges on women’s team while Blake Jones leads men’s side

University of Illinois Springfield senior Gloria Esarco never tried cross country until setting foot on campus.

Although she flourished in track and field where she garnered an offer from the Prairie Stars, she could only participate on the high school volleyball team during the fall in Wisconsin.

She has enjoyed every bit of the new opportunity, so much that she will gladly accept an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic and compete in cross country for a fifth season.

“Personally it’s something I didn’t expect to happen but I take it day by day and I’m excited to have this bonus season in cross country and to be able to get back at it next year and really excel even more,” Esarco said. “In a way, it’s a blessing in disguise and you kind of just have to take it one day at a time.”

Esarco has recently emerged as the Stars’ No. 2 runner on the women’s cross country program and certainly impressed UIS coach Tyler Pence this weekend.

Esarco and Co. finished second place in the 6,000-meter Great Lakes Valley Conference East Divisional women’s race on the UIS course Saturday with a score of 45 behind Southern Indiana’s 41.

The UIS men’s team will also compete in the GLVC meet later this month after taking third place in Saturday’s 8,000-meter competition. Lewis won Saturday’s event with a score of 40, followed by Southern Indiana (47), UIS (68), Indy (71) and Missouri St. Louis (155).

UIS junior and Lincoln High School graduate Blake Jones earned first place in 24 minutes 6.30 seconds and won comfortably ahead of the rest of the field.

“He’s incredibly fit right now,” Pence said of Jones. “He’s one of the top runners in this conference, so he definitely had high expectations coming into the season and I think in two weeks he’ll definitely be a favorite to win the conference championship.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 10, 2020.

Petersburg’s Davis named Illinois Ms. Agriculture USA Queen

Jennifer Davis of Petersburg was recently named the 2021 Illinois Ms. Agriculture USA Queen.

Davis is a senior at the University of Illinois Springfield majoring in environmental studies with a minor in biology.

Davis will be competing at the National Miss Agriculture USA Competition to be held in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in June 2021.

Miss Agriculture USA is a national nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting positive aspects of agriculture featuring queens of all ages who celebrate and educate about all the diverse aspects of agriculture.

Davis’ agricultural interests include animal science and nutrition, water quality issues, renewable energy, pollinator gardens and biotechnology. Davis also has conducted research on Asian carp.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on October 11, 2020.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS educates public on International Wrongful Conviction Day

Oct. 2 is International Wrongful Conviction Day, and the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield is raising awareness for the causes of wrongful conviction.

The Executive Director of the Illinois Innocence Project at UIS, John Hanlon, said members of the organization created a flag display on the campus quad to make a statement.

"It has a very kind of in your face, symbolic representation," Hanlon said.

The flags are more than pieces of fabric. Hanlon said they represent the lives of people who have been wrongfully imprisoned.

According to Hanlon, the black flags represent the 2,662 people who have been exonerated in the United States since 1989, while the blue flags represent the 336 people who have been exonerated in Illinois.

"The flags represent those people, who are breathing, living and moving, and who had to spend years in a box," Hanlon said.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, the people these flags represent collectively lost nearly 24,000 years of lives.

"We have more people in prison than any other country in the world," Hanlon said. "That's 2.2 million plus. If 4 percent of those people are innocent, that's a lot of people."

A student employee for the Innocence Project at UIS, Taryn Christy, said there are many causes behind wrongful imprisonment.

"I believe somewhere around 70 percent of wrongful incarcerations include some form of eyewitness misidentifications," Christy said. "False confessions are one of the biggest causes of wrongful incarceration. People always think, I would never confess to something I didn't do, but all kinds of circumstances lead people to falsely confess."

This story aired on WAND on October 2, 2020..

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

UIS cross country teams band together, sail to first place in season debut

University of Illinois Springfield cross country runners Tyler Pasley, Wyatt McIntyre, Blake Jones and Cort Ross barreled toward the finish line together in the Prairie Stars’ first triangular meet of the season Friday evening.

McIntyre, Jones and Ross eased up just before the end of the 6,000-kilometer run to give Pasley, the senior, a well-deserved victory in what was UIS’ first sporting event on campus since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Nothing more could encapsulate the team’s camaraderie.

“We were working together, staying together. The first half of the race, we went at a real race-pace and then the last half we kind of treated it as a workout. It was fun working with them. I enjoy it every single day.”

The UIS men’s team dominated the competitive event in first place. 

“My goals are really team-oriented,” said Jones, a three-time state qualifier from Lincoln High School. “At first when I was a freshman, they were pretty individually-oriented. I’ve realized it’s a lot easier when you have great teammates like Wyatt, Cort and Pasley — that front group really.

It was the season opener, but only two more races remain for the rest of the fall season. UIS will also host a Great Lakes Valley Conference qualifying meet on Saturday, Oct. 10 before the conference championships on Oct. 24 in Elsah. 

“We’ve got to be ready to roll in two weeks and we are,” UIS coach Tyler Pence said. “We’re fit right now and we’re definitely ready to take that next step and go qualify for the conference championships in two weeks.”

Ditto junior Taryn Christy and the UIS women’s team. Christy finished third overall while the Stars took sixth last fall in the GLVC.

“I need to put in as many points as possible because we have the girl power to do that this season,” Christy said.

Christy kickstarted Friday’s 4,000-kilometer race in first place in 14 minutes 39.78 seconds, alongside senior teammate and runner-up Gloria Esarco (14:39.84). UIS also easily won the women’s side ahead of McKendree and Quincy.

Christy became UIS’ first female runner to qualify for the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships last fall and the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships last winter. However, she wasn’t able to compete in indoor nationals because of the COVID-19 pandemic and coped through the troublesome intermission only after some soul-searching.

“It was kind of shocking in the first 200 and 500 meters of the race, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually doing this,’” Christy said. “I love to race and I missed that feeling so much, especially when you finish the race with all of your teammates around you and everyone’s so happy and excited. All of that adrenaline, there’s nothing like it. I think we’re all super excited and grateful to be racing right now.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 25, 2020.

UIS Perspectives, Robert W. Smith: Your vote makes a difference

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration, Robert Smith. The column appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 27, 2020.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, was National Voter Registration Day. At UIS, our Volunteer & Civic Engagement team spent the day encouraging the UIS community to take the important step of registering to vote for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. The importance of voting cannot be understated, and I wanted to share insights from my UIS colleagues on some key questions at the core of the 2020 presidential race.

“President Trump has gone against many of the norms and traditions of the presidency for sure. During his first term, the degree of separation that is supposed to exist between the president and the Department of Justice has diminished. Whether it be his decision to fire former FBI Director Comey, or his reaction to former Attorney General Session’s decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation, his interactions with the Department of Justice have been well documented and critically scrutinized," political science Professor Matthew Geras said.

“Voters need to make themselves aware of four major social justice issues. First, voters need to be aware of the social justice implications of COVID-19. Due to structural racism and other forms of prejudice, historically marginalized communities have been disproportionately negatively affected. What sort of protections do we want to mitigate disproportionalities in infection rates and deaths? Second, voters study the causes and effects of police brutality and killings, which disproportionately affect Black persons, indigenous persons, and persons of color. What do we want departments to do to promote fairness and justice? Third, voters should be aware of changes to LGBT workplace protections, such as the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton Country. Per Title VII, an employer cannot fire someone solely for being LGBT. How do we enact the provisions of this ruling, and what forms of workplace discrimination still need to be addressed? Fourth, as predicted by climate scientists, global climate change has led to a deadly year of storms, wildfires, and inequities in resource availability and usage. What policies do we need to create cleaner, safer energy to protect current and future generations? These four issues have long divided voters. Some will argue that these issues are not issues, and some will deny that these issues exist," explained Sean McCandless, professor in the Department of Public Administration.

Before you vote this year, commit yourself to consuming a healthy diet of balanced and factual news. Democracy works best when you do.”

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider this Election Day. No matter who you vote for, my colleagues and I cannot emphasize enough how much your vote matters at the local, state and federal levels. And in 2020, your vote makes a difference more than ever in determining the future of this country and the institution of Democracy.

Go vote!

Friday, September 25, 2020

UIS, UIUC create mobile recording studio

As part of a faculty collaboration between the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the universities created the Hip-Hop Xpress, a school bus that serves as a mobile recording studio.

Hip-hop artists in the capital city are invited to visit the bus to write original music using instrumental tracks that were created by Champaign producers.

Officials said when the Hip-Hop Xpress is finished, they plan to have it travel across the state to different communities and classrooms to teach about African-American history and cultural innovations spurred on by hip-hop.

The outside of the bus displays its name and the names of various artists. The inside of the bus is empty, except for its use of transporting non-permanent recording equipment.

The bus was partially funded by a University of Illinois System Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities grant worth $150,000.

UIS Instructor of Sociology and African American Studies Tiffani Saunders, along with UIUC faculty members Adam Kruse, Malaika McKee, and William Patterson, played a significant role in the creation of the Hip-Hop Xpress.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 24, 2020.

Monday, September 21, 2020

UIS professor will be ‘invested’ in virtual ceremony Thursday

Graham Peck will be formally invested as the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield on Thursday at 2 p.m.

The ceremony, which can be viewed on Zoom, was originally scheduled for March 19.

During the ceremony, Peck will receive a medallion that symbolizes his position as a distinguished professor. He will be entitled to wear the medallion at special university ceremonies, like commencement.

Peck will present a lecture, “Abraham Lincoln and the Making of an Antislavery Nation,” at the ceremony.

Peck is the author of the 2017 book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom” (University of Illinois Press). His scholarship focuses on antebellum American political history, and particularly on Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas and the origins of the Civil War.

A ceremony of investiture is held when an endowed chair or distinguished professor is installed. The ceremony, modeled after knighthood ceremonies, began in early English universities.

There are five other Distinguished Chairs and Professorships at UIS, including Michael Burlingame, the Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies. A renowned scholar, Burlingame has published a dozen books on the life and times of Lincoln, including the award-winning two-volume biography, “Abraham Lincoln: A Life.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 19, 2020..

UIS student picked for Illinois Board of Higher Education

A senior from the University of Illinois Springfield now represents her peers on the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Mackenzi Matthews participated in her first meeting as a member on Tuesday.

Now, the political science major hopes to bring a collective student voice to the table. Matthews wants to help board members understand the struggles students face around financial aid and access to resources.

"It's really important to me to be able to show them everything that goes into getting the education to go into the workforce because there's so many steps to get there, and it varies for people," Matthews said.

She also wants to help students gain more access to internships.

"It's important to make sure that internships are paid because they want to talk about inclusivity and diversity," Matthews added. "But if you don't pay the people that are going to come in, that really limits the field you can draw from because many students need to work to get through college."

Matthews previously served on the board's student advisory committee and is the current parliamentarian for the UIS Student Government Association.

"We should really take a look at universities and why they're so expensive to begin with, and figure out how we got here. From there, we can figure out if there's any way to cut costs and try to take it from students having to scrap around for money to try to pay for it, to making it affordable to begin with."

Mackenzi plans on pursuing a master's degree after graduation this spring. And if you were wondering, she hopes to have a career in politics one day.

This story aired on WGEM on September, 28, 2020.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

UIS helps parents help e-learners

“This is the most exciting year to be in education!”

When Kara McElwrath of University of Illinois Springfield said that, you could imagine students, parents, and teachers saying, that’s one word for it!

But McElwrath told parents during a webinar Monday everybody needs to know that everybody is anxious about it – and the parents’ job is not only to guide them through remote learning, but also to keep students assured that they are doing okay and that the e-learning is new and a little uneasy for everyone.

One of her analogies: even though kernels don’t pop at the same time, you still get a bowl of popcorn when you’re done — so don’t compare your kids to other kids.

This story aired on WTAX on September 15, 2020.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Report ranks UIS as top public regional university in Illinois

The University of Illinois Springfield was ranked the top public regional university in Illinois by U.S. News & World Report.

The university was also ranked as the fourth best public university in the Midwest and the fifth best in the Midwest regional category for students with the least amount of debt.

“We here at UIS are thrilled with the news that we have retained the No. 1 spot for public regional university in Illinois,” said UIS Associate Provost of Enrollment Management Natalie Herring. “What this means for our right-sized community, is that we are doing a good job challenging high-achieving students and supporting future stars of great potential.”

UIS officials said the university has been ranked among the top 15 best public regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report since 2006.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 14, 2020.

UIS girl's golf begins season

The University of Illinois Springfield women's golf team tee'd off for the first time this season at the UIndy Fall Invitational. This is the first Prairie Star sporting event since March.

UIS will be led by Senior Jennifer Queller who has the third best career scoring mark in school history at 79.85. We caught up with Queller last week to see how prepared her team is for today's tournament.

"All of us kind of come from warm states and we also come from different states all over and some are international," Queller said. "We've all just been working as best we could over the summer from what was allowed in each of our states to kind of get ready for the fall. I'm pretty excited for this first tournament with all of us."

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 14, 2020.

Monday, September 14, 2020

UIS renovates observatory deck as virtual star parties continue

A new deck will welcome visitors when Star Parties resume in person at the University of Illinois Springfield Observatory.

The new deck, constructed of composite decking material that meets fire code regulations and reduces maintenance costs, replaces a wooden structure that was more than 40 years old. Usable floor space was maximized by relocating the entrance to the deck and moving benches closer to the walls. Other improvements include dimmable, red LED strip lighting and additional space added around the 14-inch telescope.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Star Parties can only be experienced through livestream online. They will continue every Friday in September and October from 8-9 p.m.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 11, 2020.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The march goes on: This moment in civil rights history: Reflections from Springfielders on demonstrations in D.C.

Tiffani Saunders was a teenager when she joined her family members for the 30th anniversary March on Washington in 1993. A Maryland resident at the time, she said she was lucky her family was active in matters of social justice and civil rights. "What I was able to do was translate those (historical) black and white images into color, in real time, in the modern era when I was 13." Saunders said that and other activist events her parents took her to were formative experiences. She's now an anthropologist and professor at University of Illinois Springfield where she teaches African American studies.

The most recent march in D.C. is happening as cities around the country continue with demonstrations, as has been the case for months. In cities such as Portland and Chicago, police have attacked and arrested protesters. Conduct of federal agents and police has been unlawful at times, according to civil rights groups such as the ACLU. Demonstration is part of our cultural fabric. "We've seen in the past, action by taking to the streets has led to profound change," said Saunders. The majority of those calling for racial justice out in the streets have not engaged in violent activity. But that doesn't mean everyone is comfortable by their relentless presence in the public eye.

This article appeared in the Illinois Times on September 10, 2020.

UIS Webinar Aims To Help Parents Cope With Remote Learning

Parents who are still struggling with online instruction for their children may find help in a webinar scheduled for next week through the University of Illinois Springfield.

The online event is designed to serve as an introduction to techniques that parents can use to help their children navigate remote learning. 

This story appeared on WMAY on September 9, 2020.

UIS Enrollment Drop "Better Than Expected"

Despite a global health threat and concerns of students taking a gap year, enrollment on the University of Illinois Springfield campus saw only a slight decline. That gives hope the school might be able to weather the disruption brought on by the pandemic.

After the first ten days of the fall semester, officials announced the number of students taking classes dropped three percent from a year ago.

“So actually we were bracing for a lower enrollment, so that’s why I can tell you it was better than expected," said Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney. "So financially we are in a stronger position that we anticipated.”

Whitney said COVID-19 testing on the campus for all students, faculty and staff appears to be working and she has confidence about completing the semester as planned. In addition, new classes will be offered starting in October and during the traditional winter break.

The drop might have been larger, except for a six percent increase in online class enrollment. That does not include hybrid and remote classes. Whitney said more students are using that option during the pandemic. Students in 46 states and nine foreign countries have signed up.

This story appeared on NPR Illinois on September 9, 2020.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Mulan, a Most Adaptable Heroine: There’s a Version for Every Era

When rumors of a live-action, nonmusical version of “Mulan” began to trickle out a few years ago, many hard-core fans of the 1998 Disney original groused. No big musical numbers and soaring ballads? No Mushu, the wisecracking dragon, or Li Shang, the movie’s clearly conflicted love interest? No “Reflection”? Many felt that the filmmakers were being unfaithful to the Mulan legend — or at least to Disney’s own version of it.

But Mulan has always been the most adaptable of heroines. Long before fans criticized Disney for taking liberties with their beloved animated heroine, poets, writers, playwrights and filmmakers had been creating scores of wildly different versions of the legendary woman warrior. In some, she’s a hardened army general; in others, she has magical powers; in yet others, she’s a crack shot with a bow. In one animated version, she’s a bug.

After the original poem, subsequent versions of the Mulan story added plotlines and details to flesh out the tale. In the 16th-century play “The Heroine Mulan Goes to War in Her Father’s Place,” she has bound feet. “At the time, women in the upper classes would bind their feet, and the playwright wanted to make sure Mulan was seen as the ideal icon of femininity,” said Lan Dong, author of “Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States” and an English professor at the University of Illinois Springfield. “She had to be perfect.”

In the 1695 novel “The Romance of Sui and Tang Dynasties,” Mulan meets a fellow female warrior who becomes her sworn sister; in the end, Mulan takes her own life when the Khan summons her to be his concubine. “Many versions emphasize her virtue,” Professor Dong said. “Even after all those years and everything she’s put herself through, she kept herself untouched.”

This story appeared in The New York Times on September 3, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

COVID-19 and college: UIS on-campus students and faculty are getting tested weekly

The University of Illinois is aiming to have its saliva tests used throughout the nation and world. The so-called Shield tests provide rapid results and were developed by researchers in Urbana-Champaign at UIUC. "Direct saliva testing can address bottlenecks of time, cost and supplies," said Martin Burke in a release. "Our test also has unique features that enable fast and frequent testing on a large scale, and we are now working together with many partners to make our testing method broadly available as soon as possible." Burke is a chemistry professor at UIUC and helped develop the tests, which are under FDA emergency authorization.

The tests are being used at all three U of I campuses, including in Springfield. The aim at UIS is to test weekly those who learn, live and work on campus. Testing, combined with contact tracing, provides a picture of where outbreaks are occurring and how to mitigate further spread. Interim UIS chancellor Karen Whitney has repeatedly described the coming school year as a roller coaster, and it's already proven to be true.

"The lab is slammed in Urbana, and we've had bumps in the road," Whitney said during an Aug. 27 UIS virtual meeting about COVID-19.

"UIS is not closing unless the governor or the system head directs me to. The question gets into how will we operate," Whitney told Illinois Times. Students and faculty who become ill will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Pauses in on-campus activity and a temporary shift to online learning for all are included as potential mitigation efforts. Meanwhile, about 80% of students are learning purely online according to Whitney. Those who attend in-person classes must wear masks and keep a distance from others.

In-person learning is a privilege, said Whitney. There could be discipline for faculty and students who don't abide by rules. So far though, "I'm impressed with how conscientious people have been, how thoughtful they've been," Whitney said. "I'm very optimistic."

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on September 3, 2020.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

UIS celebrates its 50th anniversary

The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this academic year.

UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney said the university began as an upstart campus in a temporary building. Now, it is ranked as the No. 1 public regional university in the state by U.S. News & World Report.

On June 10, 1969, former Illinois Gov. Richard Ogilvie signed legislation to create Sangamon State University (SSU), which later became UIS.

SSU was considered an "upper-level" three-year university. It offered junior, senior, and graduate courses.

Then, on Sept. 28, 1970, university staff began teaching 811 students in temporary classrooms at First United Methodist Church in Springfield due to construction delays.

The first day of classes on UIS' present campus was held on Oct. 5, 1970.

The university recently hung billboards in the capital city with its 50th anniversary logo and tagline: "Bold Legacy. Bright Future."

UIS also plans to celebrate the milestone on social media.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 2, 2020.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Thoughts on Creating an Inclusive Environment in Online Classes

The following article was written by Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor or Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield.

In preparing for the fall term, most colleges and universities are responding to the renewed public consciousness about equality, inclusiveness and fairness for all students.

As we reflect on American history and, in particular, the history of our institutions of higher education, we see that in so many conscious and unconscious ways we have failed in our responsibility to promote the core values we express as a society, most notably inclusion and equity. The country has been reminded that Black lives matter -- not that all lives don’t matter -- but, that despite the Civil War, despite Emancipation, despite the civil rights legislation over the years, we still are not equally united across racial, cultural and gender lines. This is abundantly clear in widely reported horrifying acts of racial violence against minorities, but is also evident in the disparity of salaries for the same work, disparity of diversity in positions of prominence and disparity in preparedness and success of youth entering higher education. Polls show that most Americans agree that we must do better. And the time to renew our commitment is today.

The opportunities to begin to make a difference are endless through the online platform, where that platform is equitably available. Not limited to students recruited to the campus, not limited to students who can relocate and come to campus, online programs reach across cultures and locations to serve students where they are. And yet, minority and low-income students do not thrive at the same rates as others in the current system. So where can we begin in developing more successful diverse and inclusive online programs?

This article appeared in Inside Higher Ed on August 26, 2020.

Former University High basketball player Destiny Ramsey hired as assistant coach at the University of Illinois Springfield

When plotting one's future, it doesn't hurt to have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't pan out.

Destiny Ramsey, to her credit, also has a Plan C, but every potential dream job she is contemplating includes coaching basketball, too.

The former University High School player's current multi-tasking situation finds her as the new assistant coach for the women's team at her alma mater, the University of Illinois Springfield, where she will also be pursuing a master's degree in business administration and a certificate in human resource management while working remotely part-time for the Chris Mizell State Farm Agency in Bloomington.

"I don't know life without being busy," said Ramsey, who hasn't pinpointed exactly what she wants to do.

Ramsey's new coaching job is on the staff of third-year UIS head coach Casey Thousand, whose program went 9-19 last season. Ramsey spent the past two seasons as a volunteer assistant working with post players at Illinois Central College, which went 57-10 with her help and reached the 2019 national tournament.

"It's an honor," Ramsey said of her new assignment.

This story appeared in the The Pantagraph on August 27, 2020..

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Karen Whitney: United in Safety as the fall semester begins

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 23, 2020.

As readers of this column are well aware, UIS Chancellor Emeritus Susan Koch, who retired June 30 following nine years of dedicated leadership, cared deeply about making the University of Illinois Springfield an inspiring place for teaching, learning, research and service. A place where leadership is lived. And a place where people want to be.

Count me in as one of those folks.

When I was asked to consider serving as the UIS interim chancellor, I did so knowing I would be leading during an unprecedented time in our history. I have worked in higher education for more than 40 years, and believe that this is very likely the most challenging time for educational institutions across the country.

Though I was quite busy and happy working with other presidents and chancellors around the country as a higher education consultant, I saw the interim position at UIS as an opportunity to make a real difference during a demanding time and keep the university moving forward to ensure the success of our students, university and community.

Chief among my top goals for my time at UIS is effectively managing our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our greatest obligation is to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. To this priority have countless numbers of administrators, faculty, staff and students dedicated themselves over the past several months.

At UIS, we say (and believe!) we are United in Safety. Like most other universities, we released a plan ( this summer outlining our safety expectations, testing protocols, teaching and learning strategies and efforts to promote and prioritize safety on campus.

We are providing masks for all students, faculty and staff and are requiring everyone to wear a face covering when on campus. We developed enhanced cleaning protocols. We moved furniture and rearranged our facilities to support physical distancing. We blanketed the campus with safety signage. We continued to build on our nationally award-winning approach to teaching and learning online; we have led the country in innovating “blended courses” that offer teaching and learning in a sensitive combination of on-campus and online formats. We worked closely with our faculty while listening to our students to provide that right offering of courses.

Recognizing that not every student will learn on campus this fall, UIS is uniquely prepared for this time of increased demand for remote learning. For 20 years, UIS has been a national leader in online learning. 

We also launched an on-campus COVID-19 testing approach using the University of Illinois’ revolutionary saliva test (, which every member of our on-campus community will undergo once a week at no cost to them. 

Every measure has been taken with the utmost care and concern for our community, and it reflects strong, steady planning, dedication and creativity. We also have experienced tremendous collaboration with community partners, which I greatly value and appreciate.

UIS, LLCC welcome back students to a different kind of school year

Raeann Sherada of Riverton is the senior lead at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Student Union welcome desk.

Sherada, a communications major, greets students, hands out TV remotes, dispenses masks for those who forget them and oversees reservations for the Student Union’s conference rooms.

One day last week, Sherada, sitting behind free standing plexiglass and wearing a UIS mask, was making signs reminding students not to move furniture.

“We’re doing our best to make sure it is safe for everyone,” Sherada said. “I think it will be OK as long as people wear face coverings and maintain their distance. We’re cleaning a lot more around here.”

Three of her classes are now online, plus one class meets in-person periodically, a notion Sherada doesn’t mind.

“I’d be OK with going all-remote, too,” Sherada said. “I’m pretty adaptable. Moving online in the spring was a difficult transition, but we all got through it. We’re more prepared for that than ever, so I think it’ll be good.”

UIS and Lincoln Land Community College began classes at full throttle Monday, but the campuses had a different buzz to them under the COVID-19 pandemic.

About three-quarters of both schools’ course offerings this semester are either online or remote.

Online courses have no scheduled class times. Students can watch a professor’s lecture at their leisure. Remote classes are face-to-face via Zoom or other web sites that meet on regular days and at regular times.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 24, 2020.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

UIS to host roundtable talk on COVID-19

The University of Illinois Springfield and the Community Health Roundtable will offer a free public webinar on “Public Health and Medical Care in Sangamon County: Six Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The webinar will take place from 12-1 p.m. today and will give a quick update about the current status of COVID-19 plans for the state and county.

Panelists for webinar include Gail O’Neill, director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health (SCDPH); Dr. John Flack, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at SIU School of Medicine; and Kenneth Kriz, UIS distinguished professor of public administration.
O`Neill will discuss the current status of COVID-19 in Sangamon County, including breakdowns by demographics and location, and how the SCDPH is responding.

This story aired on WCIA on August 21, 2020.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Spit test: U of I begins COVID-19 saliva testing

University of Illinois Springfield saliva testing for the new coronavirus is up and running as of Aug. 11. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed the so-called SHIELD test. The tests are being used at all three U of I campuses. The university system said it wants to supply the tests throughout the state and nation.

Starting Aug. 17, anyone spending time on the UIS campus as a student, faculty or staff member must be tested once per week. "We're going to do surveillance testing, not symptomatic testing," said Karen Whitney, interim UIS chancellor, during a webinar last month. The conversation was about education and COVID-19. Whitney told attendees of the coming school year, "It's gonna be a roller coaster."

On Aug. 10, the University of Illinois System announced a new "university-related organization" that will make the technology available nationally. The test has rapid results and costs less than nasal swabs, according to a news release. Results are ready within six hours. According to the release, "The quick turnaround time for test results is a key in curbing the virus, allowing isolation early enough to limit spread of the infection as well as narrowing down past exposure to allow more effective contact tracing. It also identifies and isolates people with asymptomatic cases who would otherwise spread the virus unknowingly."

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on Aug. 13, 2020.

Monday, August 10, 2020

UIS AD Peyton Deterding remains optimistic for upcoming school year

University of Illinois Springfield athletic director Peyton Deterding has been on the job for less than a year.

He fortunately had some time to acclimate to Springfield before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early March. His first day at UIS was Dec. 9 last year.

Spring sports, which had just begun, were canceled and little has improved since then. The Great Lakes Valley Conference in late July postponed most fall sports — except cross country — until the spring semester and the NCAA Division II Presidents Council decided Wednesday to cancel its fall championships. The council “determined that it was not feasible to hold fall championships as planned or to postpone them to the spring while prioritizing the health and well-being of student-athletes,” according to the NCAA announcement. The NCAA Division III Presidents Council also reached the same decision.

Deterding maybe hasn’t been able to explore town as much as he would’ve liked due to the quarantine, but at least he can now look forward to the return of students on Aug. 24.

“We’re excited to get our student-athletes back on campus because to be honest with you, it’s been some time,” Deterding said. “It’s been early March since we’ve had all of them back and interacting. We’ve had a few here in the early summer doing voluntary workouts. It was great to see them, but we’re excited to get the whole crew back.”

Deterding said he feels confident about their impending arrival on a small and more manageable campus and said athletic activity won’t largely begin humming along until early September.

“They will do some voluntary stuff, but ... we’ll look at what’s safe at that time,” Deterding said. “That, again, is changing daily as we all know. Safety is paramount for us. That’s no surprise, but we will get them back and cross country will be the first to embark on a true team practice, which will be in the late August time frame. But we want to get kids back on campus, acclimated to how things are operating now because there are some nuances and differences. But we feel comfortable with that. I think we have a great plan in place as far as the university’s perspective.”

Deterding said he is characteristically optimistic, despite the adversity imposed by the pandemic. He believes the postponed sports, soccer and volleyball, may start in early March and hopes basketball will begin as planned in mid-November. However, he expects the regular season for men’s and women’s basketball to be largely limited to conference-play. The GLVC has set Oct. 1 as the deadline to determine the competition start date for men’s and women’s basketball, each considered high risk by the NCAA.

“I hope so,” Deterding said of the mid-November start. “I try to remain positive. I’m generally a positive person. But I remain pretty positive that we’re going to play sport — all of our sports — during the academic calendar. That will continue to be our focus and try to do it in a safe manner and provide the opportunity to compete.”

He also stressed he wants to build a bigger presence in the area.

“I think there’s great opportunity and I say that because I’m not sure — at least in my early time here — how well known UIS is to the community,” Deterding said. “We’re in close proximity to everybody. We’re a little isolated, but we’re a valuable resource. I think that needs to be stated. Again, I think we need to get some folks out and see what we have to offer and get them out to some games and have them engage and interact.

“I know from the very first month on campus that we’re very high school sports dominated here. That allows an opportunity. There’s a passion for sport.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 8, 2020.

Star party to view Perseid Meteor Shower will go virtual

The University of Illinois Springfield Astronomy-Physics Program will broadcast a virtual star party for the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower live on Zoom from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The broadcast will be held rain or shine.

The star party was originally scheduled to be held in-person at Lincoln Memorial Garden, but will instead take place in an online format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

John Martin
, UIS associate professor of astronomy/physics, will give tips for viewing the Perseid meteors, finding bright planets, the Summer Triangle, the Big Dipper and other bright stars and constellations in summer evening sky and answer astronomy questions submitted live.

If weather permits, there will also be live views of the night sky Tuesday.

The link for the Zoom event will be posted at and @UISObservatory on Twitter.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 6, 2020.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

More paid internship opportunities for UIS students

The University of Illinois Springfield will now be able to offer more paid internships to its students.

A nearly $45,000 grant for the Illinois Cooperative Work Study Program will help increase the internship opportunities. The funds will provide for approximately 40 paid internship opportunities.

“During these challenging times, we are particularly thankful that UIS has been named as a grant recipient to administer this competitive internship program,” said Tammy Craig, director of the UIS Office of Engaged Learning. “Eligible students who might have postponed an internship over the summer due to extenuating pandemic circumstances, or were not able to participate in unpaid internships, will now have additional options to explore.”

Students will receive a wage of $12/hour for their work.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on August 3, 2020..

Monday, August 3, 2020

GLVC postpones soccer, volleyball seasons

The University of Illinois Springfield’s soccer and volleyball seasons have been postponed until the second semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Council of Presidents voted to postpone the majority of its fall sports “based on guidance from the league’s athletics directors and an extensive review of the recommended testing and safety measures developed by the NCAA Sports Science Institute,” according to the GLVC’s announcement on Monday.

Football was also postponed in the GLVC. Each of the fall sports affected — football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball — were determined high risk by the NCAA Sport Science Institute, based on a consensus by the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine COVID-19 Working Group.

Student-athletes may still train outside of the playing season beginning Sept. 7 or on the fourth day of classes for the fall term under the NCAA’s countable athletic related activities (CARA) rules.

UIS athletic director Peyton Deterding, who started his first day on Dec. 9, said student-athletes are expected to arrive on campus with the rest of the student body on Aug. 24.

“We are looking at ways to still provide meaningful opportunities for student-athletes and one of those is they come back to campus,” Deterding said. “Obviously some have been away from their sport for a little bit of time, so we’re looking for ways to continue with practices and strength and conditioning in a safe environment. If we can do it in a safe environment, it allows us to build some team camaraderie and team unity and get them back to playing sports.”

UIS’ opening soccer games were scheduled Sept. 6, after their schedules — featuring only conference games — were released in June. The UIS volleyball team was also set to open the year Sept. 3.

Cross country, however, was determined medium risk and will still be permitted to compete this fall with the GLVC meet scheduled for Oct. 24. The UIS cross country teams are slated to begin with a home meet Sept. 4 but that may change, according to Deterding.

Golf and tennis, each judged low risk, will also be allowed to compete in their non-championship segments in the fall and continue their season into the spring when their respective championship seasons begin.

Baseball and softball — considered medium risk — will be permitted to have only intrasquad competition on campus in the fall.

The GLVC said in its press release that it has established Oct. 1 as the deadline to determine the competition start date for men’s and women’s basketball, each considered high risk.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 27, 2020.