Thursday, July 9, 2020

UIS offers detailed plan for students returning to campus in fall

The University of Illinois Springfield on Wednesday detailed how it hopes students might safely return to the campus for fall semester classes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 18-page plan, “Return to the Prairie,” addresses how the campus will offer “on-ground,” or in-person classes as well as blended classes, that combine face-to-face and remote instruction.

It also spells out plans for student living arrangement and on-campus activities.

Of note is that the university will go remote with all classes beginning Nov. 25 until the end of the semester, which is Dec. 12.

Face coverings that cover the nose and mouth will be required on campus when a six-foot physical distance from others is not possible. Face coverings are required in all common areas, which includes classrooms.

“It is our best intention to unite us in public health and safety, and we are committed to providing a high-quality experience regardless of the circumstances in which we may find ourselves,” said UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney. “Whether our Prairie Stars are learning via on-campus instruction or remotely, UIS is committed to and capable of providing a high-quality university experience to everyone who calls UIS home.”

Classrooms and laboratories, along with common, meeting and event spaces will be set up and organized to facilitate appropriate social distancing. They will be cleaned and disinfected daily by building service workers.

Students will be allowed to live on campus in single and double occupancy residence halls, townhouses and apartments, however, guests will not be allowed in residence halls.

Carry-out options will be encouraged at the UIS Student Union Food Studio and no self-service options available. Seating in dining areas will be arranged to encourage social distancing.

COVID-19 testing will be available to all students on campus through Campus Health Services.

The “Return to the Prairie” plan was created by two teams focused on academic planning, student affairs and community engagement.

Classes at UIS begin Aug. 24.

Monday, July 6, 2020

UIC, UIS announce pathway for undergraduates to earn nursing degree

The University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois Springfield are announcing the creation of a joint undergraduate nursing curriculum that will guarantee a spot for incoming freshmen in UIC’s nursing program.

The agreement, which begins this fall, will allow a student who is interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree to apply to the Springfield campus as a freshman. If accepted, the student would be guaranteed admission to the UIC College of Nursing BSN program on the Springfield regional campus when they achieve junior-level standing.

“It’s an opportunity for very competitive students to have this pathway guaranteed for them,” said Kevin Browne, vice provost for academic and enrollment services at UIC. “We guarantee admission to the BSN degree, which is a major threshold to enter the health care industry.”

If students are not accepted into the program as freshmen they still could apply to UIC’s BSN program as a junior or senior without the guaranteed acceptance.

The effort is designed to help increase the number of students in the program, said Cynthia Reese, director of the Springfield regional campus of the UIC College of Nursing.

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

‘This is how I can help’ / UIS interim chancellor takes reigns amid pandemic

University of Illinois Springfield interim Chancellor Karen Whitney was clear-eyed when she accepted the yearlong appointment earlier this year.

Among the challenges staring her down: an unprecedented public health crisis that has significantly altered the delivery of academic services, great social upheaval as institutions across the country confront uncomfortable truths on race and ensuring that other major university initiatives, such as the construction of the Springfield Innovation Center, don’t get lost in the shuffle.

These circumstances are exactly what attracted Whitney to the job.

“This is how I can help,” Whitney said in an interview with The State Journal-Register last week. “I’m not in science or public health. If I could, I’d go to a lab and I would make the vaccine that would keep us safe. I can’t do those things, but I know how to run a university and work with a lot of people and that’s how I’m going to help.”

She takes over for Chancellor Emeritus Susan Koch, whose retirement became official last week after nine years leading the Springfield campus.

Whitney laid out her list of goals and priorities she hopes to accomplish during her limited tenure in Springfield. At the top of this list is meeting the moment the country currently finds itself in, she said.

“So the goal is to work with the university, the faculty, the staff and students to ensure the university continues to provide high quality teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitney said. “That’s job one. Job two is to embrace this incredible moment we’re in and to continue the university’s work around anti-racism and social justice.”

Though the plan now is to welcome students back to campus this fall, Whitney acknowledged that it can change on a dime.

Whitney said the response to the pandemic and social unrest in the country are top priorities. But, this won’t distract her from the other important work to be done, she said.

Whitney said she plans to work with the university’s enrollment team to improve recruitment efforts of both graduate and undergraduate students. This includes implementing the Common Application, an admission application that allow students to apply for hundreds of schools at once verses applying for each individually.

Whitney said she would work to continue implementing the university’s strategic plan, secure a new collective bargaining agreement with university faculty and reach out to the Springfield community as Koch did.

She will also continue the push for the development of the Springfield Innovation Center, which will be the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network.

Yet even on borrowed time, Whitney said don’t expect her to be a caretaker chancellor.

“This year is going to be a very busy year, it’s going to be one with unprecedented existential threats that we will respond to,” Whitney said. “And it’s a year though, because of that, to take stock, and to advance on what we do really well, and to be clear that we always need to innovate, create and improve. So I would say, hang on, it’s gonna be a busy year.”

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 5, 2020.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Coal Valley man has murder conviction vacated thanks in part to the Illinois Innocence Project

A Coal Valley man’s 2008 murder conviction was vacated Tuesday, thanks in part to the work of the Illinois Innocence Project.

Newly discovered evidence showed that Nathaniel Onsrud was not responsible for the death of his four-month-old son. Onsrud was released from the Illinois Department of Corrections Tuesday.

Onsrud is the 15th Innocence Project client to be released or exonerated. The project, founded in 2001, is housed at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Exculpatory documents were not disclosed to defense counsel. The Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office supported the request of the Innocence Project and a Chicago law firm to vacate Onsrud’s conviction, though the State’s Attorney cautioned that charges against Onsrud have not been dismissed.

“Our client maintained from day one he had nothing to do with the tragic death of his infant son,” said Innocence Project Chicago Legal Director Lauren Kaeseberg. “For the past 13 years, Nathaniel has fought to clear his name and has been through the unimaginable ordeal of losing his baby and then being wrongfully convicted of murdering him.”

This article was published in The State Journal-Register on June 24, 2020.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

UIS soccer relieved and excited for upcoming season

A reduced season beats nothing.

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s and women’s soccer teams applauded the upcoming schedule for the 2020 regular season, which were released this past week.

Although shortened by four games without any nonconference matchups per the NCAA Division II Presidents Council decision in May downsizing sports events across the board due to COVID-19, they will still get to compete against every team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference as usual.

The postseason, including the GLVC tournament, also remains the same for the moment.

“I was so excited when I found out we’re still going to have all of our conference games,” said UIS women’s soccer player Emma Little. “I’m content with whatever soccer I can play. Hopefully there’s a good turnout at those high level games at home.”

Both teams begin the soccer season on Sept. 6 at University of Missouri-St. Louis and each will play seven home games at Kiwanis Stadium.

“I was pretty sure we were going to have a season, so I’m not really shocked,” said UIS men’s soccer player Lorenzo Bacchetta. “I’m happy it’s confirmed and that for sure we’re going to have 14 games.”

“I’m just delighted that we’re going to have the opportunity to be able to compete again,” UIS men’s coach Adam Hall said. “They shortened the season by four games, but the conference games are much heavier at the start of the season if you look at the traditional top eight teams in the conference. We play the majority of those teams in the first half of the season, so we have a really difficult start. If we get out of there, we’ll be set up nicely.”

“My first reaction was relief because it meant that we get some sort of season,” UIS women’s coach Erin Egolf said. “There was worry that the season would be canceled or pushed to next semester. Having any game is preferable to none at all. We got a pretty good deal to play 14 games. I’m excited for our players and just ready to get going.

A couple of exhibition matches will likely be in the offing. The upcoming schedule will regardless present unique challenges ahead.

There may be less preparation time but also less room for error.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 22, 2020.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ben Paoletti joins Downtown Springfield Inc.

Ben Paoletti has been hired as a program coordinator for Downtown Springfield Inc., the first time in the organization’s history there have been three full-time staff members.

Paoletti graduated in May from the University of Illinois Springfield and served as the Student Government Association President. He recently completed an internship as a grant writer with the Downtown Heritage Foundation and also worked as a government affairs intern for Illinois Policy Institute.

This story appeared in the Springfield Business Journal on June 17, 2020.

Fall semester at UIS will be mixture of in-person, online classes

On-campus educational activities will resume this fall at the University of Illinois system’s three universities in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield with a hybrid mixture of in-person and online classes.

The announcement was made in a letter Thursday from system president Tim Killeen. It was also signed by Barb Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs, and the system’s chancellors.

Plans to restore in-person instruction were developed through weeks of exhaustive review that brought together literally hundreds of key stakeholders and considered every available option, from a full return to traditional instruction to remaining fully online, Killeen noted.

The decision assumes that Illinois stays on track to meet Phase 4 requirements established by Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan that allow reopening of classrooms.

Currently, UIS starts classes Aug. 24.

“UIS is still going to be providing details of our unique campus-based plan within the next couple of weeks, including starting dates and calendars for the fall semester,” said Derek Schnapp, a spokesman for UIS.

The plan, Killeen said in the letter, is “a thoughtful, science-based approach that will bring our universities back to life, with a campus experience that will look somewhat different.”

In-person courses and classroom schedules will be adjusted appropriately to ensure physical distancing and safer traffic flow.

There will be accommodations made “where possible” for students and faculty in vulnerable and at-risk groups, and for students who cannot come to campus due to travel restrictions or other considerations.

Campus classrooms will be cleaned and disinfected daily. High-touch surfaces, including door handles and elevator buttons, will be disinfected multiple times daily.

All students will be provided reusable, washable masks which will be required in all classrooms. Hand sanitizer will be widely available in all buildings.

Outside visitors to the campus will be asked to follow physical distancing and wear masks in public places. The size of gatherings on campus will be based on standards under the state reopening guidelines in force.

Schnapp said there a “very limited” number of workers on campus. Remote work, he added, “remains appropriate for employees who can complete the essential functions of their job or effectively perform their job duties while working remotely to the satisfaction of their supervisors.”

A system-wide coordination committee assisted steering committees and planning teams at each of the three universities.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

UIS moves next star party online

Virtual star parties continue at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The next star party will be broadcast live on Zoom (rain or shine) from 8:30-9:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 27. Originally scheduled to be held in-person, UIS decided to hold it online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The link for the Zoom event will be posted at and @UISObservatory on Twitter. Three other star parties are planned but at this point, those are set to be in-person.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 16, 2020..

Monday, June 15, 2020

Susan Koch: Grateful for the opportunities

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 13, 2020.

Shortly after becoming Chancellor of the University of Illinois Springfield in 2011, I had lunch at a favorite Chinese restaurant near the UIS campus. When the traditional fortune cookie arrived, the slip of paper inside offered the following prophecy: “You will be fortunate in the opportunities presented to you.”

That slip of paper has been taped to the screen of my computer ever since — reminding me daily to pursue every opportunity (and embrace every responsibility) that would best serve the interests of UIS and the public good of our community and our state.

As I compose this 90th UIS Perspectives column, the last before my retirement at the end of June, I find myself reflecting on the many ways that prophecy has been realized during the past nine years. Thanks in part to the many students, faculty, staff, community leaders, donors and alums who have contributed in so many ways, we can be proud of the opportunities we have made real ... together.

The addition of new academic programs such as Education, Data Analytics, Exercise Science, Biochemistry, Theatre, and a BSN in Nursing (in partnership with Memorial Health System and the University of Illinois Chicago) have made our young university more attractive for prospective students and produced more graduates who are contributing to their communities in meaningful ways.

The University of Illinois System’s Distinguished Faculty Hiring Program has brought new and outstanding teacher-scholars, while more UIS faculty than ever have earned Full Professor rank — confirming their excellence and enabling them to contribute more fully to their academic disciplines and the reputation of the university. At the same time, many young professionals have chosen to advance their careers at UIS — faculty and staff who are “rising stars” both on campus and in the community.

The opening of the Student Union on January 14, 2018, was a decisive moment for the university. This award-winning $21 million building has become the heart of campus life and a valuable resource for the entire community. A sustainable building with a green roof, the Student Union project was successful thanks to determined student body leadership and the generous support of donors who understood what it would mean for the university and for the student experience.

Infrastructure, including campus beautification, is so important. It is vital for student recruitment and retention but also because it creates campus pride and a positive environment for staff, faculty and visitors. I’m especially grateful for private support from the University of Illinois Chester Endowment that enabled us to commission “The Young Lawyer,” a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln that has become a campus landmark. The fund also helped create a beautiful and much-beloved Shakespeare Garden as well as supported the purchase of two prominent works of art for the Student Union.

Before I assume my new title as Chancellor Emeritus at the end of this month, I’ll tuck that slip of paper into my pocket — inspiration, perhaps, for new opportunities to come. But I’ll always appreciate my time as Chancellor of UIS.

Friday, June 12, 2020

UIS drops standardized test scores as part of fall 2021 application

The University of Illinois Springfield will not require college bound high school seniors to submit standardized test scores as part of the application process for the fall 2021 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustee’s Executive Committee earlier this week approved a one-year moratorium on the entrance requirement because large numbers of high school students have not been able to take standardized tests, due to school closures and the unavailability of SAT or ACT tests since March.

“Test-optional is an opportunity to meet the needs of Illinois’ citizens, economy and civic landscape by facing today’s challenges using both, the tried and true and the new,” said Natalie Herring, UIS associate provost for enrollment management. “This benefits students and families by removing pressure, cost and barriers. Our diverse state deserves and requires diverse options for post-secondary education and credentials aimed at keeping Illinois talent in Illinois.”

UIS currently reviews prospective freshman applications through a holistic admissions process. For those applicants who still choose to submit test scores, those scores will be considered.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Small central Illinois communities stepping up with protests, actions

While peaceful protests were staged by two different Black Lives Matter groups in Springfield last weekend, actions also have surfaced in smaller cities and towns across central Illinois.

University of Illinois Springfield Coalition Builders will host “Breathe: Virtual Listening Tables in Response to Racism & Protests) at noon Thursday.

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

Monday, June 8, 2020

U of I makes top 15 in best public college list

The Business Journals ranked the University of Illinois as one of the top 15 public colleges in the United States.

Other central Illinois schools also made this list. The University of Illinois Springfield ranked No. 88, Illinois State University was placed at No. 128 and Eastern Illinois University ranked No. 151.

This story aired on WAND 17 on June 4, 2020.

Meet the interim chancellor for the University of Illinois Springfield

WTAX’s Dave Dahl talks with the interim chancellor for the University of Illinois Springfield, Karen Whitney.

This interview aired on WTAX on June 5, 2020..

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Former president of Clarion University named interim chancellor at UIS

Karen Whitney, president emerita of Clarion University in Pennsylvania who recently served as interim chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, was named interim chancellor at the University of Illinois Springfield Wednesday. 

Susan Koch announced on Feb. 7 that she would retire as UIS chancellor effective June 30. She had served as chancellor since 2011 and was the longest serving chancellor in the University of Illinois system. 

U of I System President Tim Killeen said Whitney will bring a wealth of relevant experience to UIS and its more than 4,200 students and more than 1,100 faculty and staff. 

“Karen has deep experience working with higher education boards, administrative leaders and faculty, building consensus around common goals,” Killeen said. “At Clarion, she led an institution that is very similar to UIS in size, scope and mission. She is an ideal choice to build upon Susan’s work, which strengthened UIS and put it on the road toward becoming a regional force for progress.” 

Whitney’s appointment is pending approval by the Board of Trustees. She is expected to begin at UIS June 8 allowing her to work alongside Koch before assuming the interim chancellor role on July 1.
“I’m thrilled and honored to come to Springfield to lead a university at this incredible moment in time,” Whitney said. “I am drawn to the mission and vision of the institution, the way UIS has positioned itself to be the capital city’s university with an emphasis on leadership development, that is, I think, an extremely import role in American society today.” 

A nationwide search for a permanent chancellor is expected to begin later this year. Whitney’s appointment is for one year or until a permanent chancellor is named. 

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

UIS star party goes virtual

The University of Illinois Springfield says it is moving one of its summer star parties online.

The next star party will be broadcasted live on Zoom (rain or shine) from 8-9 p.m. on Saturday, May 30.

John Martin, UIS associate professor of astronomy/physics, will give tips for finding Venus, the Big Dipper, and other bright stars and constellations in the late spring and early summer evening sky and answer astronomy questions submitted live. The link for the Zoom event will be posted at and @UISObservatory on Twitter.

Three other star parties are planned but at this point, those are set to be in-person. The other star parties are set for June 27, July 25, and August 11 from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on May 26, 2020.

Read the entire story online.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What does the future hold for education?

What does the future hold for education during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond?

It's a question that staff at the University of Illinois Springfield hope to shed light on.

A free public webinar is set for Friday, May 22 from noon to 1 p.m.

During the webinar, panelists will share their insight and foresight about what we can expect education will look like this fall and far beyond.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on May 20th.

Watch the story online.

Friday, May 15, 2020

UIS professors receive grant to assess pesticide risks near agricultural communities

Two University of Illinois Springfield professors have received a three year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to assess the risk of pesticide use and air dispersion in urban agricultural communities.

The study is being done in collaboration with professors at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

UIS Assistant Professor of Public Heath Egbe Egiebor and Associate Professor of Public Heath Dorine Brand will get about $168,000 from the overall $500,000 grant awarded to Tuskegee University.

The study will evaluate methods for monitoring and modeling the atmospheric spread of pesticide pollutants under different weather conditions, identify hotspots, and assess the vulnerability of affected communities as greater populations are now at the edge of agricultural land due to urban growth.

Egiebor said, "We are really excited to conduct this study. It is the first time a project like this will be facilitated in two different agro-ecological zones with different production systems." The study will be conducted in both Alabama and Illinois.

This story aired on WAND on May 14, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

UIS plans for in-person fall classes, final decision pending

Illinois state officials have yet to release a statewide plan for higher education amid the pandemic, but local schools like the University of Illinois Springfield are creating their own plans for how to move forward.

UIS officials have yet to release a concrete decision. However, the university is planning on having face-to-face instruction in the fall.

For UIS to open back up, the state would have to be in Phase 4 of Restore Illinois. If the state is not, the university is not afraid to at least start the semester online.

"As of this moment, we are planning to have in-person instruction in the fall with modifications that will ensure the health and safety of the students, faculty, and staff," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. Koch said nothing is concrete right now, but they should have a solid decision by mid-June.

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

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Men's Baseball: Jensen gets UIS baseball sportsmanship nod

Brayden Jensen, a senior pitcher for the University of Illinois Springfield baseball team, was named that team’s Great Lakes Valley Conference James R. Spalding Sportsmanship Award honoree.

Each team in the GLVC selected one player who distinguished himself through sportsmanship and “ethical behavior” throughout the coronavirus-shortened season. The honorees must also be in “good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting,” according to the GLVC press release on Monday.

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

Read the entire article online.

Tennis: UIS promotes Quevedo as next tennis coach

The University of Illinois Springfield promoted former tennis assistant coach and recent interim head coach Raul Quevedo to that program’s head coach, the university announced on Wednesday.

As an interim coach, Quevado’s men’s team was 5-2 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the season while the women’s team was 3-3 before it too was abruptly halted.

He has been an assistant since the 2017 season. In the 2018-19 season, both the men and women teams were ranked in the top-50 among NCAA Division II teams.

“I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity,” Quevedo said in a press release. “I want to thank (UIS athletic director) Peyton Deterding and the search committee for trusting in me to lead this team to success. I look forward to taking these teams to new highs and contributing to the overall success of the athletic department. UIS is a great place to study, compete, and be part of the community. I can’t wait to give student-athletes from all over the world the chance to experience what it means to be a Prairie Star.”

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

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Women's Softball: Springfield’s Derhake is UIS softball sportsmanship winner

Bree Derhake, a senior infielder on the University of Illinois Springfield softball team and a 2016 Sacred Heart-Griffin High School graduate, was named the Prairie Stars’ Great Lakes Valley Conference James R. Spalding Sportsmanship Award honoree.

Tuesday’s press release by the GLVC said the award goes to the player who “distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior.

“These individuals must also be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.”

In her shortened senior season, Derhake finished with a .362 average (21 for 58), with seven RBIs, six doubles, two triples and she was successful on all 18 of her stolen base attempts.

The Prairie Stars were 10-8 before spring sports were canceled throughout the country as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Derhake was UIS’ lone senior.

This story was published in The State Journal-Register on May 12, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

University of Illinois Springfield holds virtual commencement

It's one of the most celebrated days of many people's lives, but as COVID-19 has forced large events to be put on hold, graduation ceremonies across the country have been canceled, as well.

University of Illinois Springfield said they're still honoring their students, but now in a safer way.

"It's really impossible to replace that moment with all their families cheering, and I’m going to miss that and they're going to miss that, and that's a shame, but we have to keep everybody safe and healthy," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said.

There were no tassels and gowns, no cheering families, and no handshakes on stage. Yet, there were still tears of joy on graduation day. For the 1,179 graduates from UIS this year, it wasn't how they imagined their graduation. However, despite a global pandemic, the Class of 2020 was still honored in a special, virtual way.

The university created a virtual graduation ceremony that features faculty and students celebrating their achievements. Killeen ended the ceremony with an official naming of each college and the presentation of the degrees. Koch said the university plans to resume on-campus instruction in the fall and hold a physical graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 later in the year.

"What led us to deciding that it's important to have a face-to-face event -- even if it's much smaller, even if a much smaller number of students can come -- is that it's important to our students, and they told us that it was important," Koch said.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on May 9, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

University partners with city to cut litter

One university in Central Illinois is teaming up with a city to make sure people are keeping the earth clean.

The University of Illinois Springfield is working with CWLP in Springfield to put up bins where people can safely discard their cigarette butts. They are located near Lake Springfield.

The two-sided bins have questions on each side letting you cast your vote while cutting down pollution. “A lot of people see cigarette butts as something semi-natural. Thinking that it’s made out of tobacco products and stuff but actually there is a lot of plastic in it. It’s almost 75 percent plastic and so there’s a lot of toxins that can get into the waterways,” said Anne-Marie Hanson, UIS associate professor of environmental studies.

They plan to leave the voting bins up indefinitely.

This story appeared on WCIA on May 12, 2020.

Watch the entire story online.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

McClaughry to lead Monmouth

llinois native and former collegiate softball standout Alexa McClaughry has been named Monmouth College’s softball head coach.

"We are pleased to have Alexa McClaughry lead our softball program into the future as our head coach,” said Roger Haynes, Monmouth’s director of athletics. “Our committee was impressed with her statistical analysis of the program and certainly in her ability to teach the game. I believe her personality and approach to the game will be a great fit for the women and the culture coach John Goddard has worked so hard to develop.”

A four-year member of the University of Illinois-Springfield softball team and a four-time All-Academic Great Lakes Valley Conference honoree, McClaughry graduated cum laude from Illinois-Springfield with a degree in mathematical sciences.

This story appeared in The Review Atlas on May 4, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

Monday, May 4, 2020

UIS gears up for virtual graduation

The coronavirus pandemic has disoriented many norms and graduations are set to be the next annual events forced to adjust.

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch’s final graduation ceremony will also be a first – a virtual commencement.

UIS’ ceremony was scheduled at the Bank of Springfield Center on May 9. It will be held on the date but at

Koch, 70, who is set to retire June 30 after nine years with UIS, took the commencement stage at the UIS Performing Arts Center with University of Illinois system President Tim Killeen Friday to record the degree conferment.

“We have this exciting video celebration that is in production and there’s a lead up to it that already has students involved,” Koch said. “I think it’s going to be absolutely just what we need since we can’t do what we want, which is having commencement with everybody together.”

Students can use #UIS20 on social media, create virtual photo frames, and short video clips and submit them at as part of the celebration.

While Koch said graduation is about the students, she acknowledged the final time she’ll take the stage. “It was going to be my last time being on the stage shaking the hand of every single student, having a moment with every student which is the highlight of my year every single year,” Koch said. She added that she feels “a little bit cheated,” like the graduating students but said the important thing is that students are still receiving their degrees and life will go on.

“That degree is going to set them on a new path and serve them well for the rest of their lives,” Koch said. “Whether we have a face to face moment together on the stage or not, they are completing their degrees and they are graduating. That’s what holds me up.” While in-person ceremonies have been canceled or postponed for dates to be determined, many colleges are holding online ceremonies and mailing diplomas.

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

Read the entire article online.

Women's Softball: UIS’ Addison Bryant makes relief appearance off the field

University of Illinois Springfield junior pitcher/utility player Addison Bryant is a bona fide multi-tasker. And, a certified nursing assistant.

Even during her season-debut with the Prairie Stars last year, Bryant squeezed in a weekly night shift around her softball schedule and coursework at Memorial Medical Center, summoning enough energy to work a handful of hours after practice.

Her softball season, of course, vanished this past March due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving her with considerable unexpected free time that made Bryant restless after she moved back home to Gillespie, where she earned The State Journal-Register’s honorary captain for the 2016 area softball team.

“I’m not really one to sit around and do nothing,” Bryant said.

That spunk prompted Bryant to volunteer at Heritage Health, a nearby nursing home in Staunton. She has virtually worked there full-time since the end of March, often committing four or five days a week from 2 p.m. until 10:30. She often wakes up in the morning, completes her routine softball workouts and then her class assignments before taking the short drive to Staunton.

“It’s not too bad,” Bryant said. “You just have to have time management and know that you have to get up and do your homework because you have to work later. I just get up and get that stuff done so I don’t have to worry about it.”

She also had full support from her parents, despite the risks. Nursing homes have turned out to be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“Being in the health care profession, there’s always things that are kind of scary with being around infectious things all of the time. What’s going around right now, it is a serious situation because we aren’t really sure about it and there’s just a lot of unknowns. And the virus can get to anyone at any time, which is scary. “But we’re doing all of the things we need to be doing. We’re wearing masks and gloves and all of that sort of stuff, and just continuing to wash our hands and use proper techniques and things to keep us safe during this time.”

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

Read the entire story online.

Friday, May 1, 2020

"Hindsight 20/20"

The University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery is proud to present “Hindsight 20/20,” a virtual exhibition showcasing the creativity and skill sets of senior visual arts majors at UIS.

As a result of the public health concerns regarding COVID-19, and in keeping with UIS policies in place to protect our students, faculty, staff and patrons, this special exhibition will take place online.

"Hindsight 20/20” features works by UIS Visual Arts graduating seniors that, together, explore how visual language can more clearly express those experiences that are difficult to communicate through words alone.

Exhibiting artists include Logan Baskett, Kelsey Cleary, Kailee Harris, Rachel Lewis, Dominic Miraldi and Merrick Wilderman.

This exhibition will feature animation, digital media, painting, screen printing and sculpture. Each of the student artists have created works that collectively strive to transport the viewer, inviting individuals to immerse themselves and recognize not only how our surroundings affect our emotions, but also how individuals impact the environment and the world around them.

These works are especially poignant in light of recent develops and the hardships many now face as a result of the global pandemic. “Hindsight 20/20” serves as a reflection and testament to the hard work of these students in the midst of these challenging times.

This article appeared in The Illinois Times on May 1, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

New executive director of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership named

The new executive director of the University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL) has been named.

Molly Lamb, of Chatham, will start in the role on Monday, June 1, pending formal approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Lamb has worked for UIS from the Illinois Department of Public Health for 11 years. She most recently served as the deputy director of IDPH’s Office of Health Protection. She started as an emergency response coordinator for the Logan County Health Department and has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Lincoln Land Community College.

UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership promotes evidence-based policy and practice in the public sector. The center’s mission is carried out through research that informs public decisions and understanding; internships, training programs, and applied problem-solving that strengthens public leadership; and journalism that educates and engages citizens in public affairs.

This story appeared on WCIA on Apirl 29, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

UIS and DCFS Partner To Reimagine Child Welfare For A Socially Distant Reality

Betsy Goulet has worked to help and protect children since the late 80s.

After a brief stint as a Child Protective Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, she went on to found such groups as the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center and advise public leaders on at-risk youth and victims of childhood violence.

She’s now a faculty member at the University of Illinois Springfield, and is promoting a training program called the Child Protection Training Academy. It’s designed to retain new DCFS investigators that often leave the position after a few years by preparing them for what they may face in a client’s home.

Goulet believes state investigators are more crucial than ever in the COVID-19 era, and the type of training the Academy provides might be able to keep department ranks strong.

“We know that calls are down nationally to the hotline. And that's attributable, I'm sure, to the fact that kids are not at school, and so they're lacking those eyes and ears. Teachers are among the highest level of reporters to the hotline and so without their observation, without their notification, children aren't being reported. But calls are still coming in and investigators are still doing in-person meetings as best they can to protect themselves and to the people that they're interacting with.”

“Right now, we are meeting almost every day as an academy team with our DCFS colleagues to figure out how to improve training, how to translate what is usually on-ground simulation training to an online environment. And so we've been teaching problem based learning, we've been coming up with some other types of in-services that we can give to the field. But I am quite impressed with how the department has adapted to what is normally not an easy task. This is reimagining child welfare in a pretty vast way.”

This story aired on NPS Illinois on April 29, 2020.

Read and listen to the entire story.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

People in the News: David Racine

David Racine, executive director of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield, recently received the annual Rail Splitter Award at the UIS Department of Public Administration’s 2020 annual Spring Rail Splitter banquet and awards ceremony.

The award honors Racine’s work in public administration at the center where he oversees the university’s public affairs organization, which includes the Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies/Survey Research Office, the Institute for Illinois Public Finance, NPR Illinois, the Graduate Public Service Internship Program, the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program, the Office of Electronic Media, Innovate Springfield, the Illinois Innocence Project and the Child Protection Training Academy.

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

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Springfield Arts Organizations Come Together With One Message

The non-profit arts organizations in Springfield have come together with one message - "The show will go on...but not without your help."

Eleven major performing arts organizations in the Springfield area are combining their communication efforts to reassure the local community that performances will resume and to provide information on how you can support local arts organizations in the interim.

A single unified message is being distributed this week to over 75,000 email addresses representing almost every performing arts ticket buyer in the region. The email includes links to each participating organization, as well as a unique link to each organization's secure online donation site.

This campaign is organized by the University of Illinois Springfield Performing Arts Center. Bryan Rives, Director of the Performing Arts Center, said "One mission of UIS is 'Leadership Lived.' We are always searching for ways to help our community. During this COVID-19 crisis, we realized our own patron email list, of over 42,000 addresses, could be used to spread the word about how to support local performing arts organizations in our area. We then reached out to The Hoogland Center for the Arts to see if they would like to partner with us on this effort. They quickly came on board, as did many others. Everyone we approached agreed to send the email to their individual mailing lists, even though it contains a fundraising appeal for other organizations in addition to their own. We are very lucky that our arts community can come together to support one another during this extremely trying time."

This story appeared on Broadway World Chicago on April 22, 2020.

Read the entire story online.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The show will not go on

Friday would have marked the debut of the production of “Twelfth Night” at the University of Illinois Springfield. Instead, there will be a virtual cast party on Zoom, said UIS associate professor of theatre Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson, who is also the play’s director.

“I suspect there will be tears,” she said. Nearly 30 people, from actors to scene designers to costume designers, were involved in some facet of the play since January.

The cast had planned to gather March 15 for its first rehearsal after spring break, but that was also nixed, so it never had a chance to re-assemble before members went their separate ways. “I still really haven’t had a chance to process it,” Thibodeaux-Thompson said.

For Claire Starling, a senior from New Berlin who was cast as Olivia, it was the first time performing in a Shakespeare play and the first time working with Thibodeaux-Thompson. “I was definitely really disappointed because it got to the point where it was actually coming together,” said Starling, an English major at UIS. “It was abrupt.”

One of the saving graces, Thibodeaux-Thompson said, is that “Twelfth Night” is scheduled at UIS next spring. Some students, may be moving on while others, like Starling, who will be doing graduate work at UIS, haven’t committed to the project. “They were a wonderful group of people. To see everyone (on Zoom) is going to be like a reunion, but I miss being in the room where it happens,” said Thibodeaux-Thompson, summoning a line from “Hamilton.”

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

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

UIS Sangamon Experience historic exhibition and Center for Lincoln Studies to be led by Anne Moseley

Anne Moseley has been selected to lead the University of Illinois Springfield’s new Sangamon Experience historic exhibition and Center for Lincoln Studies.

Moseley has joined today and started working as director of engagement and curator for Sangamon Experience and acting director for the Center for Lincoln Studies. Moseley is a UIS alumnus.

Sangamon Experience is a new on-campus exhibition space telling the history of the Sangamon Region of central Illinois. The Experience opened on Jan. 30, 2020 in the lower level of the Public Affairs Center at UIS.

The Center for Lincoln Studies is expected to open later this year. That center will give new opportunities for learning about Lincoln and the impact of his contributions. “I am excited for this opportunity to help create a new way of experiencing the local history that surrounds us here in the Sangamon Valley area,” said Moseley.

Mosely was assistant director and curator of the Lincoln Heritage Museum for seven years before serving as director and curator of the Museum.

This story appeared in The Chicago Morning Star on April 13, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Educators can adjust online classes to fit learning styles

Educators must balance many learning preferences as students adjust to online learning, which will be a good fit for some and difficult for others, District Administration reports.

Some students will struggle with change and others will have a hard time dealing with isolation.

Administrators can guide teachers to adjust their instruction to students’ individual needs and preferences. Introverted students, for example, thrive when allowed to explore thoughts and ideas but don’t like being put on the spot, while extroverts think out loud and learn well with group discussions, which can be done through online chat groups.

Even in online learning, students' learning styles still impact the effectiveness of lessons. Educators who can determine how much support and what type of resources different students need to thrive in that environment will have the most success transitioning to this format.

A paper by the University of Illinois Springfield lays out four styles of learners and how educators can adapt online curriculum accordingly.

The visual/verbal learner, for example, does best when information is presented through visual aids, textbooks and class notes. They prefer to study in quiet environments, and the online environment is particularly well-suited to them.

Similarly, the visual/nonverbal learner does best when receiving information from instructors presented in a visual format. They may be artistic and enjoy visual art and design, and they also thrive in online learning environments since graphical information can easily be conveyed through online learning.

Auditory/verbal learners, however, do best listening to an instructor and participating in group discussions. They remember things by repeating it aloud and thrive in interactive environments.

Tactile/kinesthetic learners, on the other hand, do best with hands-on activities, so online learning that includes lab sessions at a student’s home, field work they can discuss in class and simulations with 3D graphics can best serve these students if possible.

This story appeared in Education Dive on April 15, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Monday, April 13, 2020

UIS professor: Illinois’ economic recovery after COVID-19 recession depends on government, consumer sentiment, experts say

The COVID-19 recession is already expected to be deeper than the Great Recession that ended in 2009, but the recovery could be quicker. While economic recovery is expected after the COVID-recession, how fast the economy picks back up depends on several factors.

University of Illinois Springfield Professor Kenneth Kriz said there are two possible economic recoveries once the state lifts the government-imposed economic shutdown that was implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“A V-shaped recession would be an immediate bounce back, that’s what the National Association of Business Economists see,” Kriz said. “Some other forecasters have looked at a U-shape, which would be a slightly longer recovery period.”

Ultimately, Kriz said the longer the COVID-19 recession lasts, the greater the toll on state and local government revenue.

UIS professor Beverly Bunch said when the stay-at-home orders are lifted, not everything will get turned back on in a day. “Clearly the governor has asked people not to plan large events,” Bunch said. “Conferences that are being scheduled for the fall are still in limbo whether they’re going to happen or whether they’re going to go online.” She said a lot of it will also depend on the advice being given out by public health officials.

This article appeared on The Center Square on April 10, 2020.

Read the entire article online.
These are strange and unusual times as we wait out the deadly coronavirus and shelter at home.

Daksh Desai sits alone in his two-bedroom apartment on the University of Illinois Springfield campus, over 8,000 miles away from his home in India. His roommate bagged his belongings and left weeks ago.

Desai wishes he could be doing what he normally does in April — capturing moments of UIS baseball with his camera. Instead, he is playing a baseball video game.

The 24-year-old master’s student in computer science is bummed about the missed opportunities. “I was looking forward to the games and taking pictures, but now everything is so upside down,” Desai said. “This is my last semester and now only one month is remaining until my graduation. I’m not going to get my commencement and my ceremony on May 9. I just miss taking pictures of baseball and softball and every sport I’ve covered.”

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on April 11, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Friday, April 10, 2020

UIS to assist private, community colleges with online transition

The University of Illinois Springfield is stepping up to help private and community colleges transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS) has won national honors for being an online learning leader. Its officials are taking multiple steps to help these colleges, along with state agencies, move online.

Steps include creating a resource page for private and independent colleges, which will feature tips for remote teaching, how to put content online, how to teach lab classes online and how to make digital content accessible for students.These moves are happening as a result of a request from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

"COLRS staff maintains the highest quality of knowledge in delivery of online learning and is pleased to be able to share this knowledge with our colleagues across the state,” said Vickie Cook, UIS executive director of online professional and engaged learning, research and service.

UIS is offering help to state agencies, including the Department of Human Services, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Central Management Services, for free.

This article appeared on WAND 17 on April 9, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Men's Track & Field: Pasley still performing for Prairie Stars

Tyler Pasley has been pick 'em up and putting 'em down at the University of Illinois Springfield for three years. He is still performing as an all-conference Prairie Star.

Most recently Pasley competed in the 2020 Indoor track season. At the GLVC Indoor Championships, Tyler Pasley led the men's team, earning a medal in both the 3,000m and 5,000m with third-place finishes. He had a NCAA provisional time of 14:45.09 in the 5,000m, and a mark of 8:37.91 in the 3,000m.

In UIS cross country in 2018, Pasley was an all-GLVC performer, 5th at the conference meet, which was the first top-five finish for a UIS cross country runner. He was named GLVC Runner of the Week after the UIS Invitational, and was the first UIS men’s runner to win that award. He competed in six events. He scored for the team in all six events, and led the team in three competitions.

Pasley ran cross country and track for Shelbyville coach Kevin Kramer throughout high school. Pasley competed on the varsity level in cross country and track and field for Shelbyville High School for four years.

Pasley is pursuing a major in Chemistry. He is the son of Joe and Kelli Jo Pasley.

This article appeared in the Shelbyville Daily Union on April 9, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

UIS extends decision date, waives enrollment fees for some incoming students

The University of Illinois Springfield is extending the decision date for incoming fall 2020 freshman. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UIS Office of Admission has extended the decision date from May 1 to June 1 to give students more time to learn about the campus and university.

Application and enrollment fees have also been waived for freshman, transfer and graduate students for summer and fall 2020.

UIS is also waiving the essay requirement for freshman and transfer students. Virtual one-on-one appointments with UIS admission counselors and weekly Wednesday webinars are being offered.

This story aired on WAND 17 on April 9, 2020.

Read the story online.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Running Through A Pandemic

Due to the coronavirus, gyms across the state, and the country, have been closed and classes have had to go virtual. But one of the activities that has not changed is going on a run outdoors, as long as you maintain a six-foot radius from the other runners on the path.

Guests, Tyler Pence, University of Illinois Springfield cross country and track coach and Olympic marathon hopeful; Aisha Praught-Leer, a middle-distance runner for Jamaica and former Illinois State University runner.

This interview aired on the 21st Show on WILL.

Listen to the interview online.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Susan Koch: A look at the COVID-19 response at UIS

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on April 4, 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges around the world. With the number of cases accelerating across Illinois and the U.S., higher education institutions, including the University of Illinois Springfield, are making proactive decisions almost daily -- prioritizing the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors while at the same time continuing to deliver on the educational mission of the university.

How does a university prepare for such an exceptional situation? What assets are most important for successfully navigating such an emergency? How are priorities determined and decisions made?
Today’s UIS Perspectives provides a brief window into the UIS response.

As is the case with any emergency, the first critical asset is preparedness. Long before the first case of COVID-19 disease was reported in December 2019, UIS had a well-developed Emergency Response Plan. A public health epidemic is one of 15 primary hazards identified in the plan, which provides operational guidance and recognizes responsibilities and duties to be assumed in order to protect the health and safety of members of the university community and continue essential operations.

By early February, both the University of Illinois System and UIS had activated another critical asset ... people -- creating COVID-19 response teams that include decision-makers as well as communications and public health experts who have the knowledge and experience to help guide the ongoing response. With the leadership of Associate Chancellor Kelsea Gurski, UIS quickly developed a communications plan and created a COVID-19 website – an important platform to deploy messages, provide trusted information and respond to questions and concerns.

As everyone now knows, the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with each other and via frequently touched surfaces. Social distancing is an essential strategy to limit spread of the disease. Given the social distancing imperative, UIS made the decision in early March to migrate all courses from face-to-face instruction to remote teaching for the remainder of the Spring semester.

According to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford, one asset that has served students well during this challenging time is trust. “We rely on the people we trust to get things done,” she says, “and during this uncertain time students have looked to those they trust -- including Student Affairs staff -- to guide them through.” Like many others,I’ve been social distancing and working often from home – using Zoom, email and phone to continue work with colleagues. But as I turned off 11th Street a few days ago for my daily swing through campus, I heard the unmistakable sound of a bat against a ball – something I thought I wouldn’t hear for the rest of this year since spring sports have been suspended. Pulling into the baseball complex, I found two UIS student-athletes, members of the Prairie Stars baseball team, each in a separate batting cage, hitting balls. “Online classes are going fine,“one of them told me in answer to my question. “We’re going to get through this and we’re going to be back next season – better than ever.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is most certainly presenting unprecedented challenges. But I’m proud to say we’re deploying our assets effectively and, to quote two resilient young members of the UIS community, “We’re going to get through this and we’re going to be back next season – better than ever.”

Read the entire column online.

Friday, April 3, 2020

UIS Puts Its Hands-On Learning On Remote

Like many colleges, University of Illinois Springfield classes have transitioned to an online-only format to comply with the state’s efforts to combat the new coronavirus.

The transition has not been without difficulty for instructors. Some professors, by the very nature of what they teach, have run head-long into plenty of online obstacles.

Shane Harris is an associate professor of ceramics at UIS. He said teaching his ceramics course remotely is something he was a little apprehensive about. “I’ve been asked multiple times to teach online, but the reality is it’s a hands-on course,” Harris said. “You learn by making and doing and interacting, and, so, virtually it’s a lot more challenging to do that in my field.”

To keep it hands-on, Harris has had to figure out how to send physical art supplies to his students. His director told him to use department funds to pay for it. “So I ended up, with my student workers, called every single one of my students and asked them, ‘are you going to be back on campus? Can you pick up the clay? If not, then I am going to ship it to you,’” Harris said.

Harris said he’s not tech-savvy and says he never used the teaching website Blackboard before last week, but he said his students are helping him learn the ropes.

COLRS Director Vickie Cook said her department anticipated teachers quickly having to convert classes into a different medium. “Having that collapsed time to take what normally they would have several weeks to prepare, and in the middle of the semester, try to change tracks for modality is very difficult,” Cook said. Cook said the center has been helping teachers with the transition by introducing faculty to a bunch of different online teaching methods. ”And they’re doing that primarily through readings, interactive activities online that they’ve pulled together, videos that they have done or pulled together from other faculty in those same disciplines that have allowed their videos to be used,” Cook said.

Brian Chen is an assistant professor of public health at UIS. He attended the two workshops COLRS set up for faculty members to help prepare teachers for the transition. He said he learned how to connect to a VPN from his home when conducting class “[If] the faculty or instructor needs to work from home, they need to connect their office computers, then this is the knowledge they need to learn,” Chen said. He said instructors now have the choice to gather with students and interact in “real time” or to prepare course materials for students in advance. Now it’s in the students’ hands.

This story appeared on NPR Radio on April 2, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.