Thursday, April 2, 2020

Preparing for a Fall Without In-Person Classes

Let's give a full-throated shout-out to America's colleges and universities, their professors and staff professionals, and their students. Collectively, they pulled off a remarkable transition this spring, shifting instruction they had previously been delivering predominantly in person for most students to an almost entirely remote experience for pretty much everybody.

It may not have been seamless or pretty, and it certainly wasn't painless -- either for instructors having to deal with the anxiety of new tools or for students worrying about good internet access or where in their homes they could find a quiet place to study. But instruction continued to happen remotely, en masse.

If you'd asked most people months ago whether a higher education enterprise that many write off (often unfairly) as hidebound and change-averse was capable of a wholesale pivot in a matter of days or weeks, they'd have laughed. And yet it happened. Amazing.

So take a bow -- and a deep breath. Because now comes the hard part. You read that right, I'm afraid. Depending on how things go -- what the arc of COVID-19 is nationally or in certain regions of the country, whether physical distancing rules are still in place, etc. -- college campuses may remain off-limits to students come September. Whether that's a 5 percent likelihood, or 25 percent or 50 percent, I have no idea (I'm no Tony Fauci, and even he can't say for sure). But it's almost certainly not zero. 

Vickie S. Cook, executive director for online, professional and engaged learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, says her institution has "started planning" for the possibility that "we're going to be forced into a virtual fall."

Cook raves about her university's emergency pivot to remote instruction this spring -- but she acknowledges that "teaching remotely is really different from teaching online." Will the expectation be higher in the fall than it was this spring? "I don't see how it couldn't be," Cook said. "By fall, students and parents have the right to expect a high-quality education, in whatever modality it's delivered," she said. "If it's online, it shouldn't 'less than,' especially when there's time to address it." 

Not that it will be easy, Cook acknowledges. Faculty buy-in for virtual instruction will remain an impediment, although she and others say they believe many professors will have emerged from this spring with a better appreciation of how challenging technology-enabled instruction can be.

Cook said she is less worried about equipping Illinois Springfield's instructors with whatever technology they might use to deliver courses in the fall than preparing them to teach effectively.

"Online learning is a type of teaching that requires very specific pedagogical skills," she said. "The pedagogy is more important than the technology." And like others interviewed for this article, Cook worries that institutions forced into online instruction this fall will shortchange a virtual transition for the noncurricular elements that can make or break student success, especially for the most vulnerable students: tutoring, writing centers, career counseling and good library resources.

This article appeared in Inside Higher Ed on April 1, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

UIS hosts webinar focusing on impact COVID-19 will have on small businesses

The University of Illinois Springfield is hosting a series of free, public webinars focused on the impact COVID-19 is having on small businesses.

The Mayor of Springfield, Jim Langfelder, says small businesses are the backbone of every economy. "The question is; what's the next steps we take to really rebuild our community, because the economic engine slowed up with small businesses, and we need to do whatever we can to keep those resources viable and going," Langfelder says.

UIS Director of Economic Development, Bruce Sommer, says COVID-19 is not only putting stress on small business owners, but the city's those businesses reside in. "There's a high risk that many of these businesses may not come back," Sommer says. "It's going to impact the economy significantly. I think most directly just the tax increments that come from the sales."

Sommer is hosting the webinars to help small business owners navigate through COVID-19. "It's evaluating risks and evaluating opportunities," Sommer says. "So, what are the risks of staying closed longer? How do we evaluate that risk? How do we evaluate the risk of customer base dwindling, because they don't have income coming in," Sommer says?

The discussions will focus on the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, what programs are available for aid and how to apply.  Sommer says the university is hoping to host two webinars per week.

This story aired on WAND 17 on April 1, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

UIS grants spring athletes extra year of eligibility

The NCAA is now granting all division one and two schools the choice whether to give their spring athletes another year of eligibility due to COVID-19's effect on their careers.

In Springfield, the University of Illinois Springfield's athletic director Peyton Deterding said the division two school has already granted their spring athletes permission to come back for an extra year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg for the teams and athletes.

At the division two level, sports don't give full scholarships to everybody, they give partials. So where will the money come from when there are incoming freshman as well as extra seniors on the team?

Deterding said UIS will pay the seniors scholarships out of pocket if they decide to stay for their extra year and it won't effect the normal scholarship pool.

Head baseball coach Ryan Copeland said there are other problems like playing time and transfers for current players. But, overall, the NCAA made the right decision by the kids, he said.

This story appeared online on WICS Newschannel 20 on March 31, 2020.

Read the entire story online.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

‘Everyone just kind of disappeared’

Dan Mahony is one of about 140 students who remain on the University of Illinois Springfield campus after the school announced that the rest of the semester will be taught online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mahony couldn’t go home even if he wanted because his home is Brockham, England, which the United States banned all travel to and from last week to curb the spread of the virus. As a member of the UIS soccer team, however, he didn’t expect to go home anytime soon.

“I was prepared to be here until May and I was actually planning on playing in a summer league, so I wasn’t expecting to go home for quite awhile,” Mahony said. “It’s not too bad. It’s quite easy to stay connected with your family through group chats or video calls.”

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said students were not required to go home, but were encouraged to. She said students who needed to stay could submit a request. “That includes a lot of international students, not all, but a lot, but it also includes some domestic students – maybe from Illinois, maybe from someplace else – who for whatever reason simply don’t have another option.”

While food, health and counseling services remain open at UIS, Mahony described campus as a “ghost town.” “It’s pretty weird,” he said. “There’s no cars in the parking lot, no one’s walking around, you don’t hear music coming from anywhere, so it’s strange. I don’t know how really to describe it, it felt a bit like living in a movie how everyone just kind of disappeared.”

Mahony has spent most of his time playing video games online with friends and watching movies.

UIS soccer strength and conditioning coaches also gave the team bodyweight exercises to do at home to stay in shape. He also noted that the practice fields aren’t closing and is taking advantage of that. 

However, as classes resumed Monday, he’s trying to shift the focus back to school. He was already enrolled in one online class, as he prefers in-person classes because he thinks it’s easier to get more out of it, but he understands the reality that everyone must adjust to. “It’s hard to stay disciplined,” Mahony said. “It feels like you have a lot of free time because there’s nothing scheduled, but then really you do have to get stuff done and otherwise it will just build up.”

Some professors may not be fully confident in using technology to continue courses, but Koch said the decision to extend spring break for a week was to make sure professors were equipped and ready to implement e-learning. “Regardless of the level of digital skill of any faculty member, one thing they all have in common is that they want their students to be successful and they really want our students to successfully complete the semester,” Koch said.

One of the first things he noticed was how well UIS was communicating with students about the coronavirus.

The university sent email updates after the first case was reported in Illinois in January, despite no confirmed cases spreading to Sangamon County until mid-March. Koch said communication with students, faculty and staff has been one of the top priorities. “We are working on that literally every day making sure people know what they need to know not only about the virus itself and the spread of the virus in Sangamon County and in Illinois, but also about what decisions are being made at the campus level that affects their lives,” Koch said.

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

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Census efforts also challenged by COVID-19

Like so many other things, the regular collection of census information for the once-in-10-year national count has been made more difficult because of the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Some deadlines have changed, but because so much rides on the count – including federal reimbursements to cities – state and local officials are still working to make sure people get counted.

“It is extremely important that everyone knows how important it is to get counted in the 2020 Census,” said Patrick Laughlin, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, which is helping promote the federal census. “Completing the census will ensure that Illinoisans get both representation and federal funding for the critical things like roads, hospitals, schools and fire stations.

At the University of Illinois Springfield, classes are being taught remotely, but many students are no longer in the campus dorms, townhouses or apartments. UIS will include those students in the count they provide to the Census Bureau, UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp said. And students are being told that even if they are off campus on the official Census Day, April 1 – they should report their residence as where they live and sleep most of the time - at school.

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

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Women's Softball: UIS softball team’s lone senior, Bree Derhake, copes with shortened season

Initial reports that the softball season was likely going to be suspended descended on University of Illinois Springfield senior shortstop Bree Derhake amid her at-bat during practice on Thursday.

The NCAA announced that day it had indeed canceled its spring championship tournaments, and it was only the beginning as the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the United States.

UIS softball coach Shannon Guthrie summoned a team meeting after Thursday’s practice to prepare the players for the worst — and hope for the best. Derhake, the team’s lone senior, did her best to put on a brave face, but that was dispelled by the magnitude of the moment.

“I wanted to stay strong for my teammates because they’re also losing a season, but I couldn’t hold it in. I cried a lot,” Derhake said. “It was really hard, but my teammates had my back. We had an emotional talk in the locker room, and I looked at Shannon and I was like, ‘Can I just get my (Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season) championship ring from my sophomore year before we leave the school year?’

Shannon went and got my ring for me, and I’m the first person to have it on our team since we won the GLVC championship in 2018. That was a touching moment. It meant so much.”

The Great Lakes Valley Conference suspended all spring sports activities until April 6 and canceled its remaining conference tournaments the following day. That includes UIS’ baseball team and its track and field program. Both the baseball and softball teams were coming off consecutive postseasons in the NCAA Division II tournament. Even if the softball team gets to resume its season after April 6, only 12 games remain on the schedule.

“It was good to do it in person,” Guthrie said of the fateful Thursday meeting with the team. “It’s really hard. No one’s ever been through anything like this before, and there aren’t any right words or anything. We just felt the important part was to be together and make sure that we were there for Bree, our one senior. It’s really about her at that point and making sure she knows that everyone is there for her still. None of us would wish that upon anyone, to have their senior season end like that. To be honest, I think they’re handling it as well as anyone could hope. I know it’s heartbreaking.” 

If there are any positives to glean from her experience, she has received considerable support from the Springfield softball community.

Derhake also said her life isn’t going to be solely defined by softball. While she may have had a chance to return to UIS for one more season, she had already decided to pursue a doctorate degree in physical therapy starting this June at Northern Illinois University.

This article appeared in The State Journal Register on March 17, 2020.

Read the entire article online. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Springfield And Central Illinois Cancellations And Closures

New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend limiting in-person meetings and gatherings to fewer than 50 people to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus — from now through early May.

To prevent further spread of the disease, state officials are urging people to stay home as much as possible. Guidelines for proper hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces are on the CDC’s website. 

Springfield schools are closed, and organizations and businesses across the city are postponing or cancelling events.

The University of Illinois Springfield is immediately closing The Recreation and Athletic Center, Student Life Office, Diversity Center, Women's Center, Gender and Sexuality Student Services, UIS Bookstore and the Volunteer & Civic Engagement office, according to an email sent Monday.

The university will keep the Student Union and Food Studio open, but encourages people to stay 6 feet apart. The university is also encouraging students who do not live on campus to complete the semester remotely.

UIS announced last week it would extend spring break through March 22 and begin remote classes March 23.

This story appeared on NPR Illinois on March 16, 2020.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Updates In Springfield And Central Illinois

Illinois reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, in January. On Sunday afternoon, Illinois officials said the total number of cases in the state stands at 93.

There are cases in 13 counties, including in central Illinois. Saturday, Sangamon County health officials announced there are two cases in Springfield. One patient is a 71-year-old woman who is in the intensive care unit at Memorial Medical Center. The other is a Sangamon County resident who is at home.

Cases have appeared in all age ranges and the number with no connection to travel or a known COVID-19 case are increasing. “We are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases increase exponentially and in more locations across Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a written statement. “At this point, it is best to assume that the coronavirus is circulating in your community and you should take the same precautions when interacting with other people that you would when interacting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The University of Illinois Springfield is advising staff and supervisors to begin working on plans to have employees work remotely, if possible. Chancellor Susan Koch sent a message to the campus community Sunday. “I am directing all deans, directors and division heads to begin working with employees to create alternative work arrangements to allow the option to work from a remote location, if appropriate; adopt a flexible or compressed work schedule; and/or establish rotation among staff for on-site work,” Koch wrote.

UIS has extended spring break an extra week and is planning online classes to replace classroom instruction.

This article appeared on NPR Illinois on March 15, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

Friday, March 13, 2020

UIS already does online learning

Universities in Illinois and the nation are trying to get out in front of coronavirus by sending students home.

But distance learning is not a new concept at places like UIS, says spokesman Derek Schnapp.

“One third of our students right now are already totally online,” Schnapp tells WTAX News. “We are nationally known for online learning. We have a lot of classes that are what we call blended, or mixed, learning, where part of the time they meet in person and part of the time they meet online, so now they will move to totally online.”

While the university is maintaining contact with students online during this extended spring break, Schnapp says there will still be plenty of “what ifs.”

This story appeared on WTAX on March 12, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Men's Baseball: UIS ties D-II’s grand slam record

Austin Alderman hit the ninth grand slam of the still-early University of Illinois Springfield baseball season as the Prairie Stars tied an NCAA Division II record in a 13-7 win over McKendree on Wednesday at the UIS Baseball Field.

On Wednesday, Brandon Bannon hit a fifth-inning grand slam to give the Prairie Stars (10-4) eight. Alderman came to bat in the seventh inning in a tie 7-7 game and he untied it with his third bases loaded home run this season.

Two batters later, Chris Mathieu hit a two-run homer. Bobby Bernard was 3-for-4 with a run.

UIS used nine different pitchers with only starter Brayden Jensen in for more than an inning. Cameron Leff got the win.

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

Read the entire article online.

UIS Announces Classes To Be Taught Remotely Due To COVID-19 Concerns

University of Illinois Springfield students are scheduled to return from spring break next week. But they won't be coming back to the classrooms. The U of I system has announced alternative delivery for instruction.

The following message was sent on Wednesday March 11: We write today to share new policies for the University of Illinois System and its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, all designed to protect the health and welfare of our students, faculty and staff amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The proactive policies are focused squarely on doing our part to help curb the virus. Fortunately, there have been no confirmed cases among our faculty, staff and students. But such cases have been increasing in Illinois and our experts say early intervention is the best option to limit the spread.

Our policies will adopt best practices endorsed by state and national health officials by minimizing face-to-face exposure in classrooms and other types of large gatherings, and by limiting international and domestic travel.

They were developed with guidance from the leading-edge healthcare experts across our universities, who have been consulting daily with a leadership team composed of the president, the chancellors and the provosts from all three universities. We will continue to monitor the outbreak and stay in constant contact with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other universities around the state and the nation.

The new policies were carefully crafted to safeguard our students, faculty and staff without compromising the world-class education and the groundbreaking research discovery that are synonymous with the U of I System.

They are: Instruction Courses at each of our three universities will immediately begin migrating to online or alternative delivery mechanisms to provide the social distancing that helps limit transmission of the virus, with a goal of completion by March 23. Classes will be held at their currently scheduled times. Online and other alternative learning methods will continue until further notice, but our expectation is that it will be temporary and students will be updated regularly via email and updates on system and university websites. Students have the option of studying remotely from home or from their campus residence after spring break. Our campuses will remain open and ready to serve students, including residence and dining halls.

Each university will provide specific guidance for their students regarding both academic and housing arrangements. Faculty and staff will continue their work on campus, including research, and human resources offices will provide guidance for work conditions that foster safety and for employees who suspect exposure or infection and must self-quarantine.

Events with more than 50 attendees that are university-sponsored or hosted by registered student organizations will be suspended indefinitely, effective Friday, March 13. Events may occur via livestream or other telecommunications, or be postponed to a future date. Please check with each university for specific guidance.

All university-sponsored international travel is prohibited, along with non-essential domestic travel until further notice. Personal international travel is strongly discouraged, and we urge caution and the exercise of good judgment for personal domestic travel. Leaders of our three universities will share further information for how these policies will be implemented to address the specific educational and safety needs of their campus communities.

Our policies are rooted in our expert scientific knowledge base and exhibit an abundance of caution to take care of each other until the COVID-19 outbreak eases.

This article appeared NPR Illinois on March 11, 2020.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Men's Tennis: Servaes named Player of the Week

University of Illinois Springfield’s Menno Servaes went 2-0 in a dual match and was named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Servaes, a sophomore, won his No. 1 singles match 6-4, 6-1 and teamed up with Tomas Martinez for a 7-5 victory at No. 1 doubles against William Woods last week.

It was Servaes’ fifth straight win at singles as he improved to 6-4 on the season. He currently has a 4-6 record in doubles.

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

Read the entire article online.

Friday, March 6, 2020

UIS will have a downtown presence

The University of Illinois Springfield is working to bring a presence to the downtown area.

An innovation center will give their students real-world experience. The discussion and planning of a downtown presence has been in the works for over a year, but university officials want input from the public before any further planning is done.

Some people are in favor of the proposal. "We need that kind of stimulation for the business of Springfield: jobs, entrepreneurship, and these folks seem to have a handle on that,” Springfield resident Jerry Jacobson said.

UIS officials said they hope with the public's input, it will soon become a reality. "If we locate within the community and in proximity with other businesses and residential, we'll bring jobs down here,” Bruce Sommer said, UIS Director of Economic Development and Innovation. “We'll be able to have these interactions with community participants that will create advanced economic growth."

Sommer said the new innovation center will focus on five strategic areas: business incubation and acceleration, technology and research commercialization, social innovation, public policy research, and workforce development and education.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on March 5, 2020..


Watch the entire story online.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Men's Basketball: UIS’ Soetan named first-team all-GLVC

Daniel Soetan, a senior guard on the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team, was named to the all-Great Lakes Valley Conference’s first-team.

Soetan was named GLVC all-defensive team last season. He averaged 18.9 points and 6.5 rebounds this season — both were fourth best in the GLVC. He was also fourth in blocks, 14th in assists and 15th in steals.

His teammate, Chase Robinson, was named to the GLVC all-freshman team. He started all 28 games and averaged 15.3 points to lead all conference freshmen.

UIS finished 14-14 overall and 7-13 in the GLVC in coach Matt Brock’s first year.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 4, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Women's Basketball: UIS’ Ladowski named all-GLVC third team

Lauren Ladowski, who averaged 14.3 points and 3.5 assists per game, was named to the Great Lakes Valley Conference third-team.

Her teammate, Malea Jackson, was selected to the GLVC all-freshman team with 9.4 points per game.

The Prairie Stars finished 9-19 overall and 4-16 in the GLVC — tied for one game above last place — in coach Casey Thousand’s first season.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 4, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Women's Track and Field: UIS’ Christy qualifies for NCAA D-II Indoor

Taryn Christy, a sophomore distance runner on the University of Illinois Springfield women’s track and field team, became the first runner in program history to be selected for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships, the school announced on Tuesday.

Christy qualified for the meet with a time of 17 minutes 2.10 seconds in the 5,000-meter run in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships on Saturday. She finished third overall. Her time has been converted to 16:54.34 and Christy will be seeded 13th in the 16-runner field.

During the indoor season, Christy finished fourth or higher in all seven races.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 3, 2020.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

U of I team helping coordinate coronavirus response

The University of Illinois System is helping to coordinate the coronavirus response with a new COVID-19 Planning and Response Team. U of I universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield, as well as regional campuses across the state, will make up the team.

“Our individual universities have standing response committees, which are effectively monitoring and developing plans for their individual institutions in light of the continued transmission of the novel coronavirus,” Killeen wrote in a Feb. 29 letter to senior leadership in the system offices and at the universities.

The team will be led by Dr. Robert A. Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

While working through this situation, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to take everyday precautions to prevent illness.

This story appeared on Fox Illinois on March 2, 2020..

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UIS seeks public input about downtown Innovation Center

The University of Illinois Springfield is seeking public input about the UIS Innovation Center and Springfield Innovation District in the downtown area.

A public session will be held at Innovate Springfield, 15 So. Old State Capitol Plaza, at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The UIS Innovation Center was named the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a system of connected university-community-industry-based hubs throughout the state. Those hubs will work together to drive innovation, economic development and workforce development across Illinois utilizing a combination of research, public-private partnerships, entrepreneurship and workforce training programs.

The goal of the UIS Innovation Center is to advance the regional economy by working with industry partners, government, civic organizations and other higher education institutions to build a robust and inclusive human capital and innovation pipeline.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to provide input and engage in small-group sessions with UIS faculty in several focus areas.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 2, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Women's Softball: UIS’ Long named GLVC’s softball Pitcher of the Week

University of Illinois Springfield pitcher Payton Long garnered Great Lakes Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week for the second time of her career on Monday.

Long, a sophomore, went 2-0 last week without allowing any runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. She gave up just six hits and three walks and struck out nine in both games combined.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 2, 2020.

Read the entire story online.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Women's Softball: UIS sweeps doubleheader against Pride

University of Illinois Springfield pushed its winning streak to four games by winning the opener 7-5 as well as the second game 11-10 in a doubleheader against Purdue Northwest.

The Prairie Stars plated six runs in the first three innings of Game 1. Payton Long got the win, going 4 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. Lindsay LaDere led the offense with two hits, two RBIs and one run. Carly Chovanec also had a couple of hits.

Chovanec, Jillian Mathis and Carolyn Franke each had a home run in Game 2 while Mathis had the game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning. Mathis finished with three RBIs while Franke had two. Bree Derhake had three hits.

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

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Men's Baseball: UIS sweeps Purdue Northwest

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball team kicked off its home stand with a three-game sweep against Purdue Northwest.

The Prairie Stars dominated Sunday’s doubleheader, defeating the Pride 8-1 in Game 1 and 17-3 in Game 2. UIS rallied to a 4-1 lead with four runs in the fourth inning and added four more runs in the sixth in the opener.

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

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Styx coming to Sangamon Auditorium

Classic rock band Styx will perform at Sangamon Auditorium this summer at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Styx draws from more than four decades of music, and the current incarnation of the band has performed together for more than a decade. They were the first group to have four triple-platinum albums in a row, “The Grand Illusion”, “Pieces of Eight”, “Cornerstone”, and “Paradise Theater”.

Styx last played in Springfield at the Illinois State Fair with Tesla in 2015.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb/ 24. 2020.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Innocence Project’s Hanlon named to governor’s task force

John Hanlon, the executive director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project, was one of 15 members named to the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science.

The task force was created by Gov. JB Pritzker in August. The group is tasked with analyzing the operations and oversight of critical Illinois State Police laboratories, ensuring they use the latest forensic technologies to solve crimes and protect the public, and make recommendations to the legislature and other stakeholders as forensic science continues to evolve.

 UIS is one of just two higher education institutions represented on the task force. “John Hanlon’s input on this task force will help to bolster the important work already being done by the Illinois Innocence Project,” UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. “The project is an important part of UIS’s commitment to providing students with real-world experiences and to serving the public good.” Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan Kelly will chair the task force.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 19, 2020.

Read the entire story online.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Springfield runner looking to complete comeback at U.S. Olympic trials marathon

Springfield native Tyler Pence will be running at the U.S. Olympic trials marathon on Feb. 29 in Atlanta alongside the fastest marathoners in the country.

The top three finishers will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Pence qualified for the Olympic trials by running 2:15:36 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December 2018.

The 26-year-old had what could have been a career-ending injury in high school, and after battling injuries during a successful college career, he thought he was done competing. But Pence said he doesn’t want to look back when he’s older and think, what if?

“A big thing for me is knowing that I’ve given it everything I have,” he said. “I don’t want to leave any regrets. You’re only young once. I want to see what I can do with it.”

Pence is in his fourth year of coaching, and his first year as head coach, for the cross country and track teams at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He encourages his athletes to chase their dreams, work hard and live a lifestyle of no excuses. It made him think about his own running.

“I think I have a lot more left in me. I needed to start practicing what I’m preaching,” Pence said. His mentality of giving 100 percent in training and racing is the result of a serious injury.

Right now, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in by far,” he said. Pence coaches himself, and he has been following an 18-week training plan for the Olympic Trials.

“My plan is to put myself in the mix and be in the front group and give 100 percent,” he said. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got on that day. I’ll leave there knowing I gave it my all.” Whatever happens in Atlanta, Pence plans to attempt to qualify for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

This article appeared in The News-Gazette on Feb. 18, 2020..

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Mike Bloomberg's 'elitist' farming comments could be the Hillary Clinton 'deplorables' moment that poses the biggest threat to his campaign

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes the stage for his first nationally televised debate with fellow Democratic presidential candidates amid new controversy over a one-minute video in which the billionaire describes farming in overly simplistic and, some say, insulting terms.

The development, many pundits believe, could pose the biggest threat to Bloomberg's nascent campaign yet, on par with Hillary Clinton's 2016 comments dismissing some Trump supporters as "deplorables"—remarks that have been described as a "political gift" to her opponent.

Even more than a recent stampede of negative headlines about Bloomberg—which include tales of sexual harassment lawsuits, insults about black people and women and criticism about allegedly racist stop-and-frisk police policies during his three terms in office—the farming remarks could prove devastating, observers say.

The reason: They provide a powerful visual Trump can use to paint Bloomberg as a condescending coastal elitist to working-class swing voters in the heartland who might otherwise reject the incumbent.

"This is very damning because it'll fit neatly into a commercial where Bloomberg will look uninformed and patronizing compared to Trump, who says he's the man of the people—the people who do the real work in the country," says Kent Redfield, political science professor emeritus at University of Illinois at Springfield, who has long studied the politics of agriculture.

The viral 58-second clip, seen more than 3.5 million times on Twitter alone since Friday, was lifted from a 2016 appearance at the University of Oxford in England in which Bloomberg, speaking to a group at the Said Business School, offered this succinct description of agriculture: "I could teach anybody—even people in this room so no offense intended—to be a farmer. It's a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn."

In a political world often driven by sound bites, the video clip could prove tough to live down.

"If you've got an hour to sit down and talk about the evolution of work and the role of technology in modern society, you could explain your way out of this," Redfield notes. "But in politics, if you're explaining, you're losing." Redfield and others say Bloomfield's remarks are of a piece with the way other presidential contenders' comments have become emblematic of alleged disdain for average voters.

This story appeared online in Newsweek on Feb. 19, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

States across U.S. still cling to outdated gay marriage bans

Following years of failed attempts under Republican control, Virginia’s newly empowered Democrats finally passed bills repealing two outdated state laws that prohibited same-sex marriage.

States have two types of bans on same-sex marriage: statutory and constitutional. Statutory bans appear in state family law, while constitutional bans are embedded in states’ constitutions. “Most of them are still on the books, though they are not enforceable,” Jason Pierceson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, told NBC News.

“Democratic control of legislatures has created opportunities to get rid of some bans,” Pierceson said. “That’s the big difference between Indiana and Virginia.”

There were two phases of same-sex marriage bans, according to Pierceson. The first one began in the 1970s, when gay couples would apply for marriage licenses and many state judges at the time ruled that these unions were not prohibited. This prompted lawmakers to explicitly outlaw same-sex marriage.

The second phase followed a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision that found denying same-sex couples the right to marry may violate the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution. That ruling prompted state and federal lawmakers to take action.

Utah was first to enact a statutory ban in response to that decision in 1995, and then a year later, Congress passed the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Several states adopted their own “mini-DOMAs” after that, according to Pierceson, and by the year 2000, he said “virtually every state,” with the exception of New Mexico, had a “statutory ban on same-sex marriage.”

These “mini-DOMAs,” he noted, banned gay marriage in family codes and state law, not the constitution.

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage federally, hundreds of state bills have been introduced that poke holes in gay marriage in various ways.

“I think in the short term marriage is fairly safe. It’s hard to see the Supreme Court overturn itself in the next couple of years,” he said, though he added that he is less confident about its long-term safety.
“The religious right, conservative movements and the Republican Party are hoping for an overturning of Obergefell with a more conservative judiciary,” Pierceson said. “The religious right has not said, ‘We lost same-sex marriage, and we are moving on,’” Pierceson said. “They are still fighting same-sex marriage, both politically and legally.”

This story appeared online on NBC News.

Read the entire story online.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Men's Baseball: UIS crushes Newman in season-opener

Chris Monroe, Kal Youngquist and Zion Pettigrew each hit home runs and combined for 11 RBIs to lead the University of Illinois Springfield baseball team to a season-opening 17-2 victory over Newman on Saturday.

UIS led 3-2 after five innings and then scored seven runs each in the seventh and eighth innings. Bobby Barnard went 3-for-4, drove in five runs and scored twice for the Prairie Stars.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 15, 2020.

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Women's Softball: Wagoner, Bryant lift UIS to sweep

Lakyn Wagoner belted a walk-off three-run home run in Game 1, and pitcher Addison Bryant threw a complete game in the nightcap as the University of Illinois Springfield softball team defeated Ferris State 7-6 and 8-2 in its season-opening games on Saturday.

Wagoner’s homer came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Carly Chovance and Bree Derhake both singled with two outs for UIS, leading to Wagoner’s heroics. In addition to throwing a complete game, Bryant also homered for UIS in Game 2.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 15, 2020.

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UIS discussion will focus on race riot site, Cahokia Mounds

The University of Illinois Springfield Lunch & Learn Series at the Student Union Ballroom on March 3 will focus on two historic archeological sites.

The discussion begins at 11:30 a.m. and will explore the unearthing of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot site and the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

UIS student Katie Brethorst, a senior history major, will discuss her experience as an intern helping to unearth important historical artifacts from the site of the race riot, located along the 10th Street railroad tracks and Madison Street in Springfield.

William Iseminger, archaeologist, author and retired assistant site manager of the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, will discuss the prehistoric mysteries of the largest, most complex archaeological site north of Mexico, considered America’s first city.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 17, 2020.

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Two UIS athletes earn GLVC player of the week awards

Daniel Soetan, a senior guard for the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team, was named the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday.

The Prairie Stars won both games last week: an 87-74 win against former UIS coach Bill Walker and Missouri S&T on Feb. 13 and then an 82-79 win over Maryville on Saturday.

In those wins, Soetan averaged 30.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals and he shot 57.6 percent (19 of 33), knocked down 58.3 of his 3-point attempts (7 of 12) and was 88.2 percent of his free throws (15 for 17).

University of Illinois Springfield softball player Lakyn Wagoner was named Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday for the second time in her career.

In the Prairie Stars’ first week of action, Wagoner went 7 for 13 with three doubles and a walk-off, three-run home run in the season-opening 7-6 win over Ferris State. Her batting average through four games is .538, she has a 1.000 slugging percentage and knocked in 10 runs, scored four times and stole a pair of bases. She also became the Prairie Stars’ career doubles leader on Sunday.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 17, 2020.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Women's Basketball: Rosner lifts UIS to GLVC win

Katelyn Rosner went 3-for-3 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 20 points to lead the University of Illinois Springfield past Maryville 85-80 on Saturday in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game on senior night at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

UIS, which shot 48.1 percent from the floor, made a season-high 10 3-pointers on 10 of 18 shooting and put four players in double figures.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 15, 2020..

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Men's Basketball: Matt Wendling hits winner for UIS

Matt Wendling drilled a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation and the University of Illinois Springfield mens basketball team celebrated senior night with an 82-79 victory over Maryville on Saturday in Great Lakes Valley Conference play at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

Wendling’s game-winner was one of 15 3-pointers made by the Prairie Stars. UIS senior Daniel Soetan tied the game at 77-apiece when he converted a 3-point play with 1 minute 54 seconds left. That set up Wendling’s shot after Soetan grabbed an offensive rebound and UIS called a timeout on its last possession.

UIS concludes its home season with a game against Southern Indiana on Thursday.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 15, 2020.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Women's Softball: Lakyn Wagoner, among Division II National Player of the Year watch list

Fifty student-athletes from across the country have been selected to the “Watch List” for the 2020 Schutt Sports / NFCA Division II National Player and Pitcher of the Year award.

The Top 25 finalists for the 2020 Schutt Sports / NFCA Division II National Player and Pitcher of the Year awards will be announced on April 23. The top 10 finalists will be announced on May 12 and the winners will be recognized on May 28 following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Lakyn Wagoner, University of Illinois at Springfield, Junior, Outfield.

This complete story and list can be found online at nfca.org.

Women's Basketball: Stars rally past Missouri S&T

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to knock off Missouri S&T 83-76 in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game on Thursday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

UIS trailed by as much as 14 points in the second quarter and fell behind 40-29 at halftime.

UIS turned things around in the fourth quarter, outscoring Missouri S&T 35-20 in the period.

The Prairie Stars shot 10 of 14 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the final 10 minutes. Jasmine Sangster and Makenna Fee had 15 points apiece for UIS. Malea Jackson and Lauren Ladowski each had 12 points while Katelyn Rosner and Tehya Fortune added 10 apiece.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 13, 2020.

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Men's Basketball: UIS men’s basketball tops former coach Bill Walker, Missouri S&T

University of Illinois Springfield senior guard Daniel Soetan recorded 33 points and sabotaged Missouri S&T coach Bill Walker’s return to the Recreation and Athletic Center in the Stars’ 87-74 Great Lakes Valley Conference men’s basketball victory on Thursday.

Walker previously coached at UIS before he was let go following the end of last season, going 59-80 over five seasons in blue and gold.

UIS, which won the fourth of its last seven games, shot 52.7 percent from the floor, spearheaded by Soetan. He went 10 of 16 from the floor and 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

Matt Wendling chipped in 15 points with a couple of treys while Chase Robinson and Keymonta Johnson added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

UIS pulled ahead 23-13 midway through the first half and led comfortably ahead by double digits through most of the second half.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 13, 2020.

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How Online Education Helps Career Changers in the Automation Age

The mention of artificial intelligence (AI) elicits varying reactions. We have seen sensational headlines for years about its potential, typically propagating two extreme outcomes: a doomsday in which AI turns against humanity or a utopian future where the hardships and drudgery of the pre-automation days are distant memories.

With the growing adoption of AI across the globe, we can see that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The McKinsey Global Institute recently found that a whopping 16 million to 54 million workers in the United States may need to switch occupations by 2030, learning new skills or increasing their level of education in order to find work.

The National Center of Educational Statistics (NCES) said that between 2001 and 2015, there was a 35 percent increase in college students between ages 25 and 34, and that between 2015 and 2026, enrollment in that age group was projected to increase another 11 percent.

These days, distance-based learning is more widely accepted and offers several unique advantages. Online education gives students the freedom to fit their school work around their existing obligations.

We asked Vickie Cook, executive director of online professional and engaged learning at the University of Illinois Springfield, to help us weigh the pros and cons of pursuing online learning later on in life.

“What I’ve seen is that more and more students who are older are coming back and getting advanced degrees, certificates, or taking a course, “Cook said. “A lot of these students are caregivers for parents, as well as having children of their own, so the online option is really convenient,” she said, adding that she believes there is “more acceptance by employers today for students who have been in the workforce for a while and want to go back to school.”

This story appeared on Online Education.

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Central IL Rep. wants to ban mechanical restraints, add new DCFS child investigators

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is facing backlash from the Governor and children's rights advocates after a child was shackled in a transport vehicle Monday.

Gov. JB Pritzker says he is furious another child was subject to hard restraints, as DCFS banned the practice last fall. DCFS Spokesman Jassen Strokosch says the agency has fired the contract employee responsible for the incident. The group has also terminated their contract with the transport company, Jim Stewart Transportation.

Rep. Sue Scherer filed a bill in November to make it illegal to use mechanical restraints on children in foster care. That was just days after DCFS officials admitted two teenagers were put in handcuffs and shackled at their ankles during a transport. She says these situations have to stop.

The downstate Democrat is also trying to help add staff for the department.

House Bill 3959 would add criminal justice as an accepted degree for child protective investigator applicants. Currently, DCFS looks for applicants with a bachelor's degree in a human services area such as law enforcement, early childhood development, etc.

Dr. Betsy Goulet runs the Child Advocacy Studies Program - or CAST - at the University of Illinois Springfield. The program has helped over 750 graduates become new investigators over the last four years.

Goulet says this bill is great for students interested in investigation and child protection. "We have seen a wide range of people coming to this work. It's very important that the pool is a little bit broader, that there's more people interested in this because it's so hard," said Goulet. "It's a very complex job."

She hopes DCFS will look to her criminal justice students from the CAST program to fill some of their vacancies. "These are students who understand mandated reporting," said Goulet. "They understand what an investigation entails, what happens when a child discloses, who usually responds and more important than anything it's all trauma-informed."

This story appeared on WGEM TV on February 12, 2020.

Watch the entire story online.

What's wrong with roses? Springfield author explores the dark side of valentines

Roses are an enduring Valentine's gift.

Aphrodite was the goddess of love in Greek mythology. According to some stories, the falling of her blood led to the first red rose.

The modern story of rose production also comes with a dark side. In Kenya, conditions for workers, the majority of them women, have long been a concern of human-rights activists. Sexual harassment, underpayment and overwork are reported as common problems.

Megan Styles, a Springfield native and professor at University of Illinois Springfield, explores the ethics, ecology and economy of rose production in her book recently released by University of Washington Press, Roses from Kenya.

In addition to an exploration of controversial labor practices, the book is also about a lake and the confluence of wildlife, commerce, power and politics surrounding it.

Styles became interested in the issue while a graduate student at the University of Washington where she was working toward her doctorate and came upon the topic, which combined her interests in Eastern Africa, ecology and ethnography.

"I literally Googled Kenya, environment and agriculture. And I came up with all of these really sensational articles in the BBC News and mainly the U.K. newspapers about Kenyan flower farming and the horrible labor conditions." She realized there was potential for a lesser-explored area of research on the environmental impacts of the industry.

In the U.S. market, many flowers sold come from South America. Styles suggests consumers ask questions about their origins if they harbor concerns about the ethical implications of the flowers they buy. As her book points out, consumer activism has been a key to bettering conditions and shining a spotlight on the practices in Kenya.

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

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State releases $500M for statewide technology innovation network, about $15M for UIS innovation center

Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday touted statewide benefits he said will result from a $500 million state investment in 15 hubs of a University of Illinois-led research institute network.

Officials at the University of Illinois Springfield said the announcement was “great news” that gets the Springfield campus “one step closer to realizing our vision for a downtown innovation center.” 

The Springfield campus is slated to receive about $15 million from that $500 million for construction of the center, which will include an expanded Innovate Springfield, a social innovation and business incubator.

“We look forward to the release of a portion of those funds relatively soon so we can move forward on the design phase of our plan in Springfield,” said UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp.

The university will also seek additional funds from the state capital construction program as part of a larger downtown innovation district that is expected to be shared with Southern Illinois University. 

Pritzker, a Democrat, announced at a Chicago news conference on the site of one of the future developments that the state would release the funding, which was originally approved under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and reauthorized in last year’s state operating budget.

“Today’s announcement is so exciting. It will fast-track construction planning and we hope to break ground for DPI in a few months,” said UI President Timothy Killeen.

The IIN is a network of DPI and another 14 regional hubs which will receive portions of the other $270 million in state funding. Those hubs include partnerships with all of the state’s public universities, which will each create specific programs and facilities that fall in line with the IIN’s and DPI’s innovation, workforce development and economic growth goals. The stated goal of the program is to train the state’s workforce for in-demand technology jobs.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 12, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Georgetown student will share story of slave ancestors at UIS

Mélisande Short-Colomb started her freshman year at Georgetown University in the fall of 2017. But Short-Colomb’s college path isn’t an ordinary one.

While doing ancestry work, Short-Colomb found that two of her of her maternal ancestors were owned and sold by a Catholic order of priests in Washington, D.C. They were sold in 1838 to keep Georgetown financially afloat. The university gave Short-Colomb “legacy status” and she enrolled as a 63-year-old.

Short-Colomb will speak at the University of Illinois Springfield as part of its Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Speaker Series at Brookens Auditorium on Feb. 24.

As a freshman, Short-Colomb joined other activist students in documenting the university’s slavery history, grappling with the question of reparations, organizing and voting for a restitution fee and debating how to best use the fees. Over the past several years, Georgetown has taken several steps to make amends for its participation in the slave trade, including creating a Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. Georgetown also issued a formal apology for its slave trading.

The Jesuits of the Maryland Province sold 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana for what would be about $3.3 million today. Short-Colomb’s ancestors were 16 and 17 years old at the time. “It’s bold for us to have her,” said Justin Rose, director of diversity and inclusion at UIS. “I think it will be a great, sobering discussion.”

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

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Chancellor of University of Illinois Springfield Retiring

The leader of the University of Illinois Springfield plans to retire this year.

Chancellor Susan Koch announced Friday that she will retire on June 30, leaving the post she was appointed to in 2011.

She also served as vice president of the University of Illinois system.

Koch said working with the university's faculty, staff and students for nine years was “a privilege." “I love the university and the community my husband Dennis and I have called home for nearly a decade, and I am so proud of everything this young university has achieved," Koch said in a statement.

System President Tim Killeen said Koch's work will affect students for years. “Susan’s leadership and persistence have enriched UIS’s academic excellence, provided new opportunities for students, expanded and beautified the campus and laid the groundwork to do even more,” Killeen said.

Plans about the search for Koch's replacement have not been released yet.

This story appeared in U.S. News & World Report on February 8, 2020.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Men's Basketball: Stars named NCAA Division II Team of the Week

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team notched back-to-back victories over ranked opponents and on Tuesday earned NCAA Division II Team of the Week honors by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

The Prairie Stars upset No. 8 Bellarmine 77-75 on Thursday thanks to a game-winning 3-pointer by Jesus Castillo with 0.7 seconds remaining at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

UIS then took down No. 22 Indianapolis 89-86 in overtime at home on Saturday.

Daniel Soetan leads the Stars with 17.9 points per game, followed by Chase Robinson (14.9), Keymonta Johnson (13.9) and Castillo (11.5).

UIS, led by first-year head coach Matt Brock, is tied for 10th place in the GLVC standings with Quincy and Lewis and is one game out of the eighth and final spot for the GLVC tournament, which the Stars last appeared in 2016.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on February 4, 2020.

Read the entire story online.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The University of Illinois Springfield opens the Sangamon Experience

The University of Illinois Springfield has held a grand opening for the Sangamon Experience.

The experience is a new on-campus exhibition which will tell the history of the Sangamon Region of central Illinois.

Chancellor Susan J. Koch was present at the ceremony as she welcomed about more than 300 people to the exhibit.

The exhibit was held on the lower level of the Public Affairs Center. The exhibition is a multifaceted initiative that includes space of about 5,300-square-foot. The exhibition includes multimedia and interactive exhibits, historical maps, and photographs and a small theater. The exhibition will also include an interpretive text which was developed by teams of UIS students, faculty and community partners.

An anonymous, major gift to the University of Illinois Springfield helped made this possible.

This story appeared in the Chicago Morning Star on February 2, 2020.

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Former UIS baseball player John Sechen signs with Rockies

One of the top players in University of Illinois Springfield baseball history has earned his shot at the professional level. John Sechen signed a free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies organizations on Thursday.

Sechen was a member of the UIS baseball program from 2016-19, and was a three-time all-GLVC selection. He is the school’s career leader with 156 runs, a .485 on-base percentage, nine triples, 115 walks, 40 stolen bases, and 37 hit-by-pitches.

In 2018 and 2019, UIS won one GLVC regular season championship, advanced to two GLVC Tournaments, including being finalist in 2019, hosted two NCAA Regional Tournaments, and advanced to last year’s NCAA Division II Super Regional.

Sechen is the third Prairie Stars player to sign with a MLB affiliate over the last two years, including Andrew Dean being selected 18th in the 2019 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on January 31, 2020.

Watch the story online.

Men's Basketball: Johnson lifts UIS past No. 22 Indy

Keymonta Johnson made two free throws with 7.1 seconds remaining in overtime, and the University of Illinois Springfield’s men’s basketball team defeated its second straight NCAA Division II ranked opponent with an 89-86 win over Indianapolis in a Great Lakes Valley Conference mens basketball game on Saturday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

On Thursday, UIS beat No. 8 Bellarmine 77-75 at TRAC. Indianapolis, ranked No. 22, led 86-85 when Johnson made his two free throws to give the Prairie Stars the lead.

The Greyhounds missed a shot on their following possession and Kaj Days grabbed the rebound and was fouled. His two free throws sealed the victory.

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

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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Black History Month in Springfield opens with candlelight vigil

February marks Black History Month, a federally recognized celebration of African American history and culture.

Events are scheduled in the Springfield area especially at the University of Illinois Springfield and Lincoln Land Community College highlighting the observance that begins Saturday.

UIS The theme of this year’s celebration is “We Are Deeply Rooted.”

UIS director of diversity and inclusion Justin Rose said the students had a significant say in forming the statement, which he said is meant to be a “simple, yet powerful” reminder that they “are the building blocks” of America. “And so we thought to turn it on its head and call it what it is, that we are deeply rooted in every phase of America and that our presence matters,” Rose said.

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

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Friday, January 31, 2020

Research from UIS raises concerns for underfunded pension systems

According to new research done by the University of Illinois Springfield's Institute for Illinois Public Finance, the state's public employee pension systems and downstate police and fire pension systems are not being adequately funded.

Distinguished Professor of Public Administration Kenneth Kriz said this is a big problem for the state. "Illinois is headed for a lot of pain, and a lot more pain than people even realize," Kriz said. "'There's not enough for them to be able to make payments they promised to workers as they retire." 

Kriz has been doing research on pensions for nearly 10 years and said the contribution levels are crucial, because there are only three levers policymakers can use to try to address pension funding shortfalls.

"You could in a lot of areas, either cut benefits or make workers contribute more for their benefits," Kriz said. "You can increase your contributions or you can get better returns out of your investments."

According to Kriz, the money for these pensions is mainly coming out of taxpayer dollars and ultimately, he said it comes down to the state raising taxes or cutting other services in order to be able to make the payments.

According to Kriz, the pension liability at the state level is estimated to be around $30 billion.

This story aired on WAND on January 30, 2020.

Watch the entire story online.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Women's Softball: UIS ranked No. 4 in GLVC preseason poll

UIS ranked No. 4 in GLVC preseason poll Coming off two straight NCAA Division II tournament berths, the University of Illinois Springfield is ranked No. 4 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference preseason coaches poll.

The Prairie Stars had 170 total points and 16 first-place votes.

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

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Men's Baseball: UIS baseball picked fifth in GLVC preseason coaches poll

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball team was picked to finish fifth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s preseason coaches poll that was released on Tuesday.

UIS, which will be led by first-year coach Ryan Copeland, received 169 points in the poll.

The Prairie Stars finished one-game back of the GLVC title and appeared in the NCAA Division II super regionals last season. UIS won the league’s regular season championship in 2018.

The Prairie Stars have had the top offense in the GLVC the past three seasons and return all-conference position players in Chris Monroe, Brandon Bannon and Ruben Markham. Cameron Zunkel and Colton Hale, all-conference pitchers from 2018, also return to the team. Pitchers Jordan Mikel and Evan Snyder are Division I transfers expected to compete for innings.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 28, 2020.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Men's Basketball: Stars’ break slide against Lindenwood

University of Illinois Springfield senior guard Daniel Soetan sparked a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer past midway with under seven minutes remaining and the Stars snapped a five-game losing streak with a 95-88 Great Lakes Valley Conference victory over Lindenwood at The Recreation and Atheltic Center.

Soetan finished with a team high 22 points, shooting 10 for 13 from the floor, along with six rebounds and six assists.

Chase Robinson and Soetan helped UIS to a 53.3 field goal percentage in the first half.

Jesus Castillo followed up Soetan’s trey in the second half with another 3-pointer and Robinson converted the old-fashioned three-point play to put the Stars ahead by double digits.

Keymonta Johnson had 19 points and nine rebounds for UIS, going 6 of 6 from the free throw line.

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

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Women's Basketball: UIS women’s basketball breaks out of slump

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team pulled ahead 26-17 by halftime after a dominant second quarter and the Prairie Stars snapped a four-game skid with a 60-48 Great Lakes Valley Conference victory over Missouri-St. Louis on Thursday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

After falling behind 12-11 early in the second frame, Katelyn Rosner delivered the go-ahead jumper with 8 minutes 26 seconds remaining and teammate Tehya Fortune went on to score eight of the team’s next 13 points for a nine-point advantage at intermission. That included a 3-pointer at the buzzer, assisted by Jasmine Sangster. A pair of Lauren Ladowski free throws expanded the Stars’ lead to 34-19 with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 23, 2020.

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UIS Prof Publishes Encyclopedia Of LGBTQ Politics

University of Illinois Springfield professor Jason Pierceson recently published an encyclopedia detailing LGBTQ politics. It includes profiles on candidates, officials and activists; a timeline of events; government documents; speeches; and court cases.

Pierceson, a political scientist, is the author or co-author of several books, including “Same-Sex Marriage in the Americas: Policy Innovation for Same-Sex Relationships,” “Courts, Liberalism and Rights: Gay Law and Politics in the United States and Canada,” “Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court” and “Sexual Minorities in Politics: An Introduction.

This story and interview aired on NPR on January 23, 2020.

Listen to the story online.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Career Expo coming to UIS this February

People in central Illinois looking for a career have a great opportunity coming up in February.

The University of Illinois Springfield and Lincoln Land Community College will host the 2020 Career Connections Expo on February 6, 2020.

Whether you're a student, alumni or a community member, you're invited to attend the free event.

The Career Connections Expo will be held at the Recreation and Athletic Center on the UIS campus from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Representatives from more than 100 organizations will be attending the expo.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on January 22, 2020

Watch the entire story online.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

UIS students to pack 30,000 meals for Martin Luther King Jr. day

As we honor Martin Luther King Junior Day, on Jan 20th, the University of Illinois Springfield students packed up 30 thousand meals.

The meals will be donated to the Kumler Food Pantry, MERCY Communities, The Salvation Army, Helping Hands of Springfield, Inner City Mission, Grace Lutheran Food Pantry, Washington Street Mission, Asbury Children’s Supper Hour, St. Paul AME Church, District 186’s Feitschans Elementary School, and the UIS Stars Food Pantry.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on January 20, 2020.

Watch the story online.

Friday, January 17, 2020

UIS, SIU make first joint remarks at DSI awards on downtown proposal

In a room filled with some of the city’s biggest movers and shakers Thursday evening, representatives from the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University said they are still “planning” but hope to share their collective space needs and programming desires for a downtown university district soon.

“We are planning,” said John Charles, SIU’s executive director for governmental and public affairs, who spoke alongside Bruce Sommer, UIS’s director of economic development and innovation, at Downtown Springfield Inc.’s 27th annual awards dinner at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre.

“But, in the coming weeks, we look forward to solidifying a business plan and sharing with you our goals for this downtown innovation district.”

“When your industry, when your businesses grow, we all benefit,” Sommer told the several hundred in the room, which included several downtown business owners.

UIS re-established its downtown presence in August 2018 when it assumed control of Innovate Springfield, a social innovation and business incubator that now houses a hub in the Illinois Innovation Network. That University of Illinois system-led initiative is meant to foster economic growth through research and innovation by connecting hubs around the state to the flagship Discovery Partners Institute, a Chicago-based research institute.

Both institutions say that the project will have a greater impact if they work together along with the surrounding business community.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 16, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

UIS researcher studies government spending

A University of Illinois Springfield researcher studied state government spending from 2014 and found some promising signs if you are a concerned taxpayer.

The professor found that in 2014, the state was efficient in higher education funding.

The study took several outputs into account, including test scores out for education.

“We looked at multiple outputs,” said Arwi Kriz, UIS Institute for Illinois Public Finance research fellow. “So for higher education, we looked at four-year and two-year colleges, and then looked at enrollment and graduation rates and standardized test scores.”

Areas where the study found the state could improve in are secondary and primary education. The study found that Illinois ranks below average in those categories. However, this study focused on the year 2014, which is before the state revamped their school funding model.

The study found Illinois ranks among the best compared to other states in terms of higher education, infrastructure and housing. It is also in the top 20 when it comes to efficiency in welfare spending.

This story aired on WCIA Channel 3 on Jan. 15, 2020.

Watch the story online.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

UIS online bachelor's degree programs ranked among top 10%

The online bachelor's degree programs at the University of Illinois Springfield are receiving national attention.

U.S. News and World Report ranked the university's programs among the top 10% in the country. The programs ranked 33rd out of the 353 institutions. This is the second year the school's programs have ranked high on the list.

Right now, UIS offers 14 online bachelor's degree programs in the following areas: Business administration, Communication, Computer Science, English, Health Care, Informatics, History, Information Systems Security, Liberal Studies, Management Information Systems, Mathematical Sciences, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology and Teacher Education.

“UIS offers a unique perspective to online learning,” said Vickie Cook, executive director of UIS online, professional and engaged learning. “We believe that connecting students to exceptionally qualified faculty through strong instruction and online technologies is key to providing experiences that will serve students in their careers and in their lives. UIS faculty often share their experiences of working with great students who are developing the skills needed to be successful.”

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on Jan. 14, 2020.

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UIS receives $100,000 STEM grant

The University of Illinois Springfield will receive a five-year $100,000 National Science Foundation grant aimed at developing and implementing evidence-based programs that will support the academic success of underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

One of the goals of the grant is to increase the participation of minority students in research through the establishment of faculty-student mentoring teams. The end goal is to provide a variety of resources to ensure student academic success and to prepare the next generation of scientists.

Lucía Vázquez, associate dean of the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will serve as one of the principal investigators on the project.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 14, 2020.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Unreal Treadmill Sessions Push College Coach to Olympic Trials

Runners at the University of Illinois Springfield abide by two rules: Be a good person, and work harder than anyone else in the room.

Their coach, 26-year-old Tyler Pence, labors right alongside them, picking up trash during community service projects and logging up to 120-mile weeks in preparation for February’s Olympic Marathon Trials.

After a successful collegiate career, Pence wasn’t sure he’d continue running competitively. But when he headed back to his hometown to coach at UIS four years ago, he found himself motivated and challenged by his athletes. “I’m a big believer in practicing what you preach,” he told Runner’s World. “Here I am telling them what it takes to be good, and I wasn’t doing it at the time.”

By December 2018, his efforts paid off. In his second attempt at the distance, he ran 2:15:36 at the California International Marathon, finishing in 17th place and earning a Trials spot. At the same time, he’s led the UIS Prairie Stars from a brand-new program into contention for conference titles. The men’s cross-country team was the runner-up at the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships in October, and the women placed sixth. And two of his runners, Taryn Christy and Blake Jones, qualified for this year’s NCAA Division II Cross-Country Championships.

“When you’re around hard workers, that’s contagious,” he said. “We hold each other accountable.”

His Trials training has also included a three-week stint at altitude in Colorado Springs over winter break, and he’ll line up at the Houston Half Marathon on January 19.

He doesn’t have a specific goal in Atlanta, and knows his first experience may come with a learning curve. As he tells his athletes, “You don't become great overnight.” Eventually, he hopes to mature into one of the fastest U.S. marathoners. He has big goals for his runners, too—for example, taking the full men’s and women’s cross-country teams to nationals next year—and he sees the two pursuits as entirely complementary.

His running has served as a valuable recruiting tool for the young coach, in addition to the personal fulfillment it brings. “I won’t be able to do this forever,” he said, of the dual roles. “But I don’t want to leave my life having questions of, ‘What if I would have tried?’”

This story appeared in Runners World on January 14, 2020.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

UI trustees set to look at 5-year-old freeze on in-state tuition

Tuition for in-state freshmen hasn’t changed in five years at the University of Illinois, and trustees will decide next week whether to continue that freeze. So far, administrators aren’t saying what they will propose. But they’ve noted recently that faculty hiring hasn’t kept up with enrollment gains, partly because the tuition freeze has limited income growth.

Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson declined to say whether the freeze will be extended for a sixth year. “We’re still in discussions with the board members,” she said.

Systemwide, income from undergraduate tuition has continued to grow in the five years since the freeze was imposed in fall 2015, from $750 million in 2014-15 to $830.1 million in 2018-19, after waivers were granted to veterans, children of employees and other students, according to UI data.

Separately, fees and housing rates have also continued to climb for all students. Undergraduates provide the bulk of tuition income, as most graduate students receive tuition waivers, and in-state students make up about three-quarters of all undergraduates.

The UI system plans to hire 500 new professors in over the next five years, on top of normal retirements and faculty departures.

UI officials are considering state funding levels, enrollment and financial aid resources as well as “what other institutions are doing,” she said. Trustees meet Wednesday in Chicago, where they will also consider fees and housing rates for 2020-21.

This story appeared in The News-Gazette on Jan. 10, 2020.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Women's Basketball: Ladowski’s 18 plenty for Prairie Stars

Lauren Ladowski scored a game-best 18 points, made 6 of 9 field goals to lead the University of Illinois Springfield to a 71-46 Great Lakes Valley Conference win over William Jewell on Thursday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

Ladowski was 6 for 8 at the free-throw line, grabbed three rebounds and finished with a 26 plus-minus in just 25 minutes played. Tehya Fortune netted 14 points and had two steals for UIS while teammate Makenna Fee tallied 11 off the bench.

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

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Men's Basketball: Efficient Johnson leads UIS to win

Keymonta Johnson shot 75 percent and finished with a game-high 23 points to lead the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team to a 92-63 win over William Jewell at The Recreation and Athletic Center on Thursday.

Johnson made 8 of 12 shots and was 5 for 6 at the free-throw line. Athens High School graduate Matt Wendling added 14 points for the Prairie Stars while Daniel Soetan added 12.

Lanphier graduate Aundrae Williams added eight points for UIS while Rochester’s Collin Stallworth had two.

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

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Monday, January 6, 2020

Men's Basketball: UIS men score big upset at No. 11 Indy

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team picked up its first Great Lakes Valley Conference victory thanks to its defense.

The Prairie Stars held Indianapolis to 36.8 percent shooting from the field and upset the No. 11-ranked Greyhounds 79-69 at Nicoson Hall on Saturday.

UIS shot 45 percent itself from the floor and 44 percent from beyond the arc, sinking 14 of 32 3-point attempts.

UIS had everything clicking early, jumping out by as many as 25 points midway through the first half. Daniel Soetan had 15 of his team-high 24 points in the first half. The longball fell early as well, going eight of 18 from 3-point range in the first half. Jesus Castillo went 6 for 10 from 3-point range, scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Soetan and Keymonta Johnson each had 10 rebounds.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 4, 2020.

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