Thursday, November 26, 2020

Celebrate Exonerees

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2020

Sangamon County health officials fear community COVID-19 trajectory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story appeared on WAND on November 20, 2020.

Friday, November 20, 2020

UIS sets start times for 2020 basketball

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a New Model for MOOCS

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

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

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

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

This article appeared on the website Unbound in November 2020.

A good year to give art

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

UIS adds to hall of fame

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

UIS goes remote in two-day COVID pause

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 6, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Engaged citizenship; Water diplomacy in the Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

UIS Perspectives: Bold legacy, bold future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire column online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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