Monday, February 28, 2011

UIS tops in state in computer science grad students

With an enrollment of just less than 5,000, the University of Illinois Springfield doesn’t come to mind when you think biggest in the state.

But the UIS Computer Science Department is big. It has more graduate students enrolled in its master’s program than any other public university in Illinois, including the U of I flagship university in Champaign-Urbana, which has more than eight times as many total students.

Ted Mims, chairman of the UIS department, says the master’s program is popular because the curriculum is flexible and offers students the opportunity to select classes that will help them achieve their career goals.

A graduate research seminar is the only required course in the curriculum, he said.

“We also offer a degree online,” Mims said. “When we moved online, it opened up more opportunities.”

According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, UIS had 184 students seeking a computer science master’s degree in 2009, the last year for which figures were available. Northern Illinois University had the second-most with 178.

UIS, with a total of 195 students, ranked fifth among state schools in 2009 when it comes to the number of undergraduate students majoring in computer science. UIUC topped the list with 682 undergraduate majors.

When he came to UIS 18 years ago, Mims said, it had 75 undergraduate students and 45 graduate students in computer science.

Computer science was featured in a February 28, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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University joins online education consortium

In an effort to meet the growing demand for online programs and courses, many universities are collaborating to create a network of web-based resources. For example, the New Century Learning Consortium (NCLC), which was founded at the University of Illinois Springfield, consists of 10 postsecondary schools.

Sam Houston State University (SHSU) recently announced in a press release that it is the latest member of the consortium. Partners in the NCLC develop online classes as well as share research projects, IT and peer support at the upper administration level.

"The university recognizes the need for inter-institutional cooperation," said Bill Angrove, associate vice president for SHSU Online. "We are very interested in efforts to promote degree completion and faculty exchange."

SHSU currently offers more than a dozen complete graduate programs online, such as an MBA program, executive MBA and master's degree in criminal justice leadership.

"Sam Houston State University has an outstanding online learning program," said Ray Schroeder, founder of NCLC.

According to U.S. News and World Report, enrollment in online programs has increased by 832% - to more than 2 million students - in the past nine years.

NCLC was featured in a February 25, 2011, article in U.S. News and World Report's University Directory.

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UIS baseball wins first-ever game

It took 11 innings, but the Illinois Springfield baseball team was victorious in its first game ever played in school history, as it came away with a 19-14 win over Alcorn State Friday night.

The Prairie Stars (1-0) jumped on top with six runs in three innings, but senior pitcher Ty Morris couldn’t hold ASU (0-5) back. The Braves brought the game within one after a four run third inning and in doing so chased Morris, as he allowed five runs on six hits and walked five, while fanning two in 2.1 innings.

UIS was down 10-7 going into the eighth inning and got the game back to a one run contest, but ASU added two runs in the bottom half of the same frame. In the ninth, the Prairie Stars put a five spot on the board to take a 14-12 lead, but again the ASU tied the game.

After a quiet top of the 10th, freshman pitcher Barry Amett (1-0), who was entering his second inning of work played Houdini and got out of a bases loaded two-out jam to force an 11th inning.

In the 11th, UIS made sure to put enough room between them and ASU, as the Stars put a five spot up in the inning. Amett pitched his third inning of work quickly, as he got the Braves to go down quietly.

“The biggest thing is I’m proud of the kids,” said head coach Brian Grunzke. “They (ASU) would take leads and we would come back and vice versa and our kids never gave up. We played a DI school in our first ever game and we battled until the end.”

The win was featured in a February 26, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Illinois becomes haven for Democrats on the run

Illinois, known for its wayward politicians and back-door political dealings, is in the odd position of having become the Switzerland on the Prairie as lawmakers fleeing votes in Wisconsin and Indiana take refuge in its borders.

If Illinois didn't invent political dysfunction, it's made a career of perfecting it. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat; imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan, convicted of turning his government offices into little more than divisions of his fundraising machine; and the patronage hiring and backroom dealings of the once-mighty Chicago political machine are just a few entries on the state's resume.

And now with bands of Democratic legislators streaming over Illinois' borders to avoid votes on anti-union bills and other measures supported by Republicans, some residents wonder why they had to bring their problems here. Others say it might do the state's political image a rare bit of good.

"It makes us look, for once, a little less crazy than our neighbors politically," said Chris Mooney a political science professor with the University of Illinois-Springfield and the Institute for Government and Public Affairs. "We seem like more normal politics, and that's not always the case."

Mooney's comments were featured in a February 25, 2011, article by the Associated Press.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grunzke, Stars finally ready to take the field

The time has finally arrived.

Brian Grunzke was hired in 2009 to start up the University of Illinois Springfield baseball team, which plays its inaugural game Friday against Kentucky State in Alcorn, Miss.

“We’re all looking forward to Friday,” Grunzke said. “It’s been a process and it will be a process though the whole year. The guys are excited to be part of history.”

The Prairie Stars roster features 35 players from Illinois, Wisconsin, New York and Minnesota who spent many weeks during the fall working with Grunzke. The largest group of players by far is the freshman class with 24. There are seven juniors, three seniors and one sophomore.

“I’m feeling anxious to play and see the team get out there and compete, and see where we can go from there,” said Grunzke, who was an assistant coach at Northern Iowa before UIS.

With so many players, the competition is on for playing time.

“There are still some pitching spots,” Grunzke said. “There are 10 or 11 guys that are going to throw.

“There’s still good competition going on as far as our position areas. That probably won’t be decided until three or four weeks into the season.”

UIS plays its home opener March 26 against Indianapolis in a 1 p.m. contest at Chatham Community Park, where the Stars will play for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

For an earlier look at UIS, Robert Morris plays host to the Stars at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Chamberlain Park.

The baseball season was previewed in a February 24, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Softball should be a good experience for Prairie Stars in 2011

The word that sums up the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars softball team is experience.

The squad features eight returning players, including five seniors.

“The team chemistry is some of the best we’ve ever had,” UIS coach Mat Mundell said. “That’s going to be a key factor for us. We’re seeing a little more competitive fire out of this girls than we have in past.”

The Stars had records of 14-32 overall and 6-22 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2010.

Mundell hopes for carry-over from last year. UIS kicks off the season Friday against Arkansas-Monticello in Bentonville, Ark.

The softball season was previewed in a February 24, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Wierzba, UIS learned on the job

Hired one month before the men’s college basketball season started, University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars’ coach Ben Wierzba hit the ground running last September.

He finally came up for air Sunday, one day after the Stars’ ended the season with a 78-70 win over Lewis. Wierzba’s first foray as a head coach finished with UIS compiling an 8-17 overall record and a 4-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference mark.

“I’m very appreciative of how hard these guys worked,” Wierzba said. “Me coming in three weeks into school and them not knowing me, they bought in and did what we asked.”

The Stars suffered through long stretches without a win, but they ended the season on an up note.

“It was a day-by-day process trying to get better each day, and these guys continued to do that,” Wierzba said. “As you could see at the end of the year, we were playing probably our best basketball.

“It got to a point where it got a little bit difficult, but they came to practice every day trying to get better. It paid off the last week of the season.

“Offensively, we came around from where we had been shooting the ball earlier in the year. I told the guys I thought we could shoot the ball. We just needed to relax.

“Our defense really has to make bigger strides for next year, but I thought on Saturday it was one of our better defensive games that we played.”

Wierzba reflected on the season in a February 24, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Fauser's vision for UIS women starts to take shape

When University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball coach Marne Fauser signed nine new players last offseason, she had an idea of what she wanted.

Her vision is taking shape.

The Prairie Stars got their first Great Lakes Valley Conference victory in January, then they won a road league game on Valentine’s Day. The season culminated with UIS beating Lewis 72-69 in its season finale Saturday.

The Stars finished with an 8-18 overall record and a 3-15 GLVC mark, an improvement on last year’s 3-24 and 0-17 records.

“Some of my colleagues said we would be playing better at the end of the year,” Fauser said.

A youth movement helped spark the Stars’ growth.

“The last month, we had four or five people who scored in double figures in games,” UIS freshman guard Megan Bergerud said. “We shared the ball really well.”

Two of the Stars’ top scorers were freshmen, with guard Alyssa Palmer leading the way. The only key senior on this year’s roster was Paulina Pogorzelski, who averaged 9.9 points and 7 rebounds per game.

The team was featured in a February 24, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Noble humanitarian Greg Mortenson coming to UIS

A guy who’s climbed mountains literally and figuratively to improve the world, and on top of that carries unbelievably interesting tales about how he got there and what he’s gone through, is humanitarian and New York Times bestselling author Greg Mortenson.

He speaks at Sangamon Auditorium March 3. Don’t miss it -- one such story involves being kidnapped by the Taliban. Also, learn about his nonprofit Central Asia Institute that strives to “promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Mortenson co-founded the group and founded its learning program for schoolchildren, Pennies for Peace. In coordination, they have established hundreds of schools in those two countries.

If you can’t trek the few miles to UIS (and you’ll be missing something important if you don’t or can’t), some of the details are carved out in Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Greg Mortenson
Thursday, Mar. 3, 7:30pm
Sangamon Auditorium, UIS
206-6160 or 800-207-6960

Mortenson's appearance was featured in a February 24, 2011, article in the Illinois Times.

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Brian Mackey: Artist's bold colors show mankind's struggles

The first thing you notice about Carlos Francisco Jackson’s art is the color.

Each silkscreened image is dominated by just a handful of bold colors: pale yellow shirts here, bright red signs there.

The people are portrayed in just two shades, light and shadow. Black, brown and white (in the language of racial and ethnic categorization) are represented by shades of brown, tan and peach (in the language of the crayon box).

Jackson’s exhibit, “Mi America/My America,” is on display through March 23 in the Visual Arts Gallery at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Jackson’s subjects are taken from photographs new and old, all depicting moments in the struggle for equal rights over the past five decades. Martin Luther King is being booked into the Montgomery County Jail (“Montgomery Bus Boycott”) next to an image of the people who were among the millions who in 2006 marched in cities across America to protest proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws (“Citizenship”).

The exhibit was featured in a February 24, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Civil rights office asks UIS to evaluate Title IX compliance

After a former faculty member at University of Illinois Springfield issued a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights that the university was violating federal law, UIS has come to an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights to settle the matter.

Derek Schnapp, public relations director at UIS, told faculty members Feb. 16 through a mass e-mail that the university will review how well it applies Title IX on issues like financial aid, disciplinary action, equipment, facilities, practice times and game schedules.

Title IX is a federal law that safeguards students from discrimination based on sex. The law is most notably used to protect female athletes from discrimination on the basis of sex but the law extends to all educational programs.

Schnapp says UIS received a notice in September from the Office for Civil Rights regarding an issued complaint. “The bottom line is we’re going to work with the Office for Civil Rights and it’s a process we want to make sure we’re following properly,” he says.

The story was reported in a February 24, 2011, edition of the Illinois Times.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SHSU joins consortium to expand online course offerings

Sam Houston State University has joined a consortium with 10 other universities in a collaborative effort to improve and implement high quality, large-scale online and blended learning programs.

Sam Houston State associate vice president for SHSU Online Bill Angrove said he and others at SHSU are delighted to join the group, the New Century Learning Consortium.

The Consortium was founded at the University of Illinois Springfield.

"We are pleased to have Sam Houston State University join the New Century Learning Consortium. This award-winning university has been recognized by Princeton Review and PC Magazine as one of the "Most Wired" colleges in the nation. Founded in 1879, SHSU brings a long tradition of excellence in education to the consortium," said Shari McCurdy Smith, NCLC director and associate director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service at UIS.

The consortium plans to expand to 14 institutions by May, she said.

Consortium activities include developing a clearinghouse of online classes where there is excess capacity; shared research projects; shared IT expertise to support building infrastructure capacity; and peer support at the upper administration, dean, and faculty member levels. NCLC was founded using a grant from the Sloan Consortium, who is also funding for the expansion.

"Sam Houston State University has an outstanding online learning program, said Ray Schroeder, founder of NCLC. "We are excited that SHSU will bring their leadership and experience."

The new NCLC member was featured in a February 23, 2011, article in the Huntsville, TX Item newspaper.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Prairie Stars finish strong

After struggling through the season, the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team needed something to hang its hat on.

UIS found it in the final two games of the season. The Prairie Stars’ season came full circle Saturday as they won 78-70 in the finale against the Lewis Flyers at The Recreation and Athletic Center.
On the heels of an 85-79 win over Wisconsin-Parkside on Thursday, the victory gave UIS (8-17 overall, 4-14 in the GLVC) back-to-back victories for the first time since winning their first two games of the season.

“It was a team effort,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “Right down the line, I’m just so proud of those guys that they stayed with it. They kept competing the whole year.”

The difference is the Stars made plays — big plays — in the final two games of the season.

UIS led by as many as 11 points in the second half against Lewis. Despite playing without its leading scorer, Lewis mounted a comeback and got within 61-58 on a layup by Matt Toth with 4 minutes left.

Back-to-back three-point plays by junior forward Michael Fakuade and junior guard Jermaine Love-Roberts sparked the Stars and gave them a 69-60 lead with 2:37 left.

The win was featured in a February 20, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Freshmen lead UIS women to win

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team celebrated both Senior Day and ending the season on a high note after escaping with a 72-69 victory over the Lewis Flyers in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game Saturday.

The Prairie Stars finished 8-18 overall and 3-15 in the GLVC.

“It’s too bad that it has to end because I think we have hit our stride,” UIS coach Marne Fauser said. “I wish we could have made the conference tournament, especially for our seniors, but we played well. I’m really happy for the seniors, but I’m excited for the future.’’

A pair of freshman led the Prairie Stars: Mallory Beck scored 20 points and Alyssa Palmer added 19. After a scoreless first half, senior Paulina Pogorzelski rang up the Stars’ first nine points of the second half. She finished with 10.

A free throw by Beck put UIS ahead 68-58 with 3 minutes, 47 seconds left at The Recreation and Athletic Center. The Flyers closed the gap using an 11-2 run. The scoring flurry culminated with a layup by Kelly Monaco, and Lewis pulled within 70-69 with 47 seconds remaining.

UIS junior Cristina Nevins sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left.

The win was featured in a February 20, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

More employers, more jobseekers attend collegiate career fair

The 400 people who crowded into the first hour of the Springfield Collegiate Career Fair Thursday were a sign of how many people still are trying to find work, organizers of the event said.

The significant difference this year was the mix of employers at the Springfield Collegiate Career Fair — fewer from the public sector, more from the private — and the fact that the nearly 90 organizations were looking to hire.

“There’s just more energy this year,” said Rachel Hasenyager, employer relations coordinator at UIS.

Hasenyager said more retail and financial-services companies signed up this year, while there were fewer government agencies. UIS, Lincoln Land Community College, Robert Morris University and Benedictine University sponsor the event, which is in its 13th year.

While exchanging information at tables spread through much of the first floor of the Public Affairs Center, both employers and would-be employees described a still difficult and highly competitive job market.

But employers said they are, indeed, hiring again, and applicants said it seems worth getting out there.

“I’ve been here 11 years, and I’ve never seen it like this,” said Tammy Craig, director of the UIS Career Development Center.

Craig said the job market never really recovered after 2001, when the economy was hit by the terrorism attacks on Sept. 11. The last two to three years have been even harder because of the recession, she added.

The event was featured in a February 18, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS men finally find chemistry for victory

With less than 48 hours remaining in the season, the University of Illinois Springfield played one of its best stretches of basketball Thursday night against the Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers in a Great Lakes Valley Conference men’s game.

The Stars were unstoppable early, then held on for an 85-79 victory at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

“Different guys stepped up,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to preach the whole time. It’s a team. It’s all 10 guys in the locker room. To see them get rewarded is joyful. They deserved the reward they got tonight.”

UIS dominated the first half and was ahead 43-31 at halftime, but the Rangers rallied in the second half. A pair of free throws by Parkside junior Leneal Harris, who rang up 29 points, cut the Stars’ lead to 74-73 with two minutes to go.

Steffen Spink’s 3-pointer gave UIS a four-point cushion with 1½ minutes remaining. Chigozie Umeadi stretched the Stars’ lead to 79-74 with 37.6 seconds left on the clock.

Jermaine Love-Roberts and Brandon Farmer helped sealed the win by making their free throws in the final seconds.

UIS led from start to finish. It took a total team effort to secure the victory.

The win was featured in a February 18, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS coaches support Stars

If you attend a men's or women’s basketball game at the University of Illinois Springfield, you’ll most likely see several of the school’s other coaches and their families.

Volleyball coach Angie Riggle, women’s golf coach Nichole Inkel, baseball coach Brian Grunzke, softball coach Mat Mundell and men’s golf coach Frank Marsaglia are regulars at basketball games.

Kudos to the coaches for supporting the basketball teams and taking an interest in a sport other their own.

Reporter Marcia Martinez mentioned the coaches in a State Journal-Register blog post on February 18, 2011.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Area Colleges: UIS hosts pink game

The University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars play the Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers today at 5:30 p.m. at The Recreation and Athletic Center in the “Pack the TRAC Pink” game.

Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the Great Lakes Valley Conference to help raise awareness for breast cancer.

The Stars (7-17 overall, 2-14 in the GLVC) have won two of their last three games with victories against Oakland City and St. Joseph’s. Wisconsin-Parkside is 19-5 and 13-3 and received votes in this week’s USA Today/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 women’s poll.

UIS concludes the season Saturday against Lewis.

The game was previewed in a February 17, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Grocery stores becoming a social hot spot

In the competitive grocery industry, today's stores have expanded far beyond being places where people run in for a quick gallon of milk or to fill the weekly shopping list. In some ways, they have come full circle to the general stores of old: They're community gathering spaces that enlarge the idea of one-stop shopping.

WiFi encourages people to linger with their laptops. Flat-panel televisions lure locals to watch the news or a basketball game. Fireplaces and comfortable chairs invite book clubs to meet. Restaurants offer gourmet meals. The store is also considering having ballroom dancing and a reunion event for couples who met there.

Elizabeth Ribarsky, who teaches interpersonal communications at the University of Illinois in Springfield, said singles making connections in grocery stores is not a new phenomenon. But, she said, it is becoming increasingly popular because people feel safe approaching each other there.

"There is a lot of opportunity to open conversations without things that you would think of as a pickup line," said Ribarsky, who teaches a class about dating. It is called the " 'me, too' phenomenon," she said.

A woman might pick up a steak, she said, and a man might comment: "I like that same kind of steak," or "You like that? Me, too.' "

Ribarsky's comments were featured in a February 17, 2011, article in the Washington Post.

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Brian Mackey: Al Jazeera offers on-the-ground perspective

The revolution that’s roiled Egypt and may be sweeping across the Middle East has vaulted Al Jazeera English to worldwide prominence. But in the United States, odds are you can’t see it on your TV.

To find out what we might be missing, I called Kristi Barnwell, who teaches modern Middle East history at the University of Illinois Springfield. She’s been following the events in Egypt on both American cable news channels and Al Jazeera English’s Internet stream.

“Especially in the first week and a half of the revolution, American TV was really American-focused — what is this impact going to have on the United States? — and wasn’t paying as much attention to what was going on on the ground,” Barnwell said.

“For example, American news sources were focused on the Muslim Brotherhood, and if you listened to the news (in America) for the first week, you’d think that was a serious threat,” she said. “If you were listening to Al Jazeera, it was much more de-centered and focused on what was going on in Egypt.”

Asked about Al Jazeera’s bad reputation — that it’s anti-American and not objective — Barnwell said she teaches her students there’s no such thing as objectivity.

Barnwell's comments were featured in a February 17, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Quinn pushes school mergers

More than two-thirds of Illinois’ school districts should be eliminated by merging them into other districts in a quest to save the cost of paying their superintendents, Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday.

Quinn, in his budget address, called for cutting the state’s 868 school districts by 600, saying having fewer, larger districts would save taxpayers $100 million in salaries that would then go back into the classrooms.

In 2009, Community High School District 94 in West Chicago, along with its three elementary school feeder districts, commissioned a study that showed the individual districts performed better financially and academically than they would if merged.

Yet, University of Illinois Springfield Professor William H. Phillips, a leading authority on school consolidation who performed the study, said at the time it was the first of 38 studies he’s done on consolidation that showed such results.

Phillips was mentioned in a February 17, 2011, article in the Chicago Daily Herald.

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A&E Notebook: 'Menopause the Musical,' Chicano arts

‘Menopause’ comes to UIS

“Menopause The Musical,” about a certain time in a woman’s life dominated by hot flashes, night sweats and chocolate binges, comes to Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield Tuesday and Wednesday.

Four women commiserate over menopause to parodies of pop songs (“Stayin’ Alive,” “My Girl”).

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets cost $52 and are available by calling 206-6160 or (800) 207-6960; online at www.SangamonAuditorium. org; or from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the auditorium ticket office.

‘Chicana and Chicano Art’ author to speak

Artist and writer Carlos Francisco Jackson will speak today at Brookens Auditorium, University of Illinois Springfield, and display his art at the university’s Visual Arts Gallery.

Jackson is assistant professor of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California at Davis. His book “Chicana and Chicano Art: ProtestArte,” outlines the history and development of Chicana and Chicano visual arts.

He will speak at Brookens Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. today. A reception for his art exhibit, “Mi America/My America,” is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. today at the gallery. The exhibit runs through March 23.

The events were featured in a February 17, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

UIS athletic director Jehlicka to resign in August

University of Illinois Springfield Director of Athletics Rodger Jehlicka, who oversaw the athletic program’s jump from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to NCAA Division II, has submitted his resignation effective Aug. 15.

UIS hired Jehlicka, 63, in December 2005.

In a two-line resignation letter to UIS Chancellor Harry Berman dated Jan. 21, 2011, Jehlicka wrote, “Please accept this as my written notification that I will be resigning from my position as Director of Athletics at the University of Illinois-Springfield affective (sic) August 15, 2011. Thank you.”

Jehlicka was out of the office due to illness Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp referred questions relating to the reasons behind the resignation to Jehlicka.

“It would be wrong or inappropriate to speak on his behalf,” he said.

The story was published in a February 16, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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In teacher-student sex case, a double standard

Underscoring the public conversation about the arrest of a female Plainfield North High School physical education teacher seems to be the double standard virtually unavoidable in sexual crimes.

Reaction might have been different, perhaps more one of outrage, some say, had the teacher been a man and the teen a girl.

The jokes and the perception that the teen male involved falls short of victimhood is not uncommon in these scenarios, said Juanita Ortiz, an expert on crime and gender and a professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

"When boys sexually interact with older women they're viewed as lucky," she said. "When girls sexually interact with an older male it's seen as them being victimized."

But that kind of thinking is shortsighted, Ortiz said. Minors of any age are not cognitively developed enough to make important decisions about sexual interactions or able to "fully understand the consequences of such actions later in their lives."

"There should be repulsion when either an underage male or female has sexual contact with an adult," Ortiz said.

Ortiz's comments were featured in a February 16, 2011, article in the Chicago Tribune.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

UIS women pick up first league win on the road

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team earned its first-ever Great Lakes Valley Conference road victory, beating St. Joseph’s 78-57 Monday at Richard F. Scharf Alumni Fieldhouse.

Senior Paulina Pogorzelski scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Prairie Stars (7-17 overall, 2-14 in the GLVC), whose other conference victory this season came at home against Rockhurst. UIS went winless in the GLVC last season as a first-year member.

Pogorzelski scored 10 points in the first half as UIS shot 57 percent from the field.

The next action for UIS will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday when it welcomes Wisconsin-Parkside to The Recreation and Athletic Center for the Prairie Stars’ Pink Zone Game. UIS will wear pink jerseys for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The win was featured in a February 15, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

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Hot debate on global warming

Springfield High School chemistry teacher Don Goff has been following the global warming debate for several years, and says “it really comes down to the fact that there’s no conclusive evidence.”

University of Illinois Springfield professor Jim Bonacum disagrees, pointing to phenomena at home and abroad.

Bonacum, an associate professor of genetics at UIS, says Earth’s climate is “definitely changing,” and he’s been trained to present Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” program.

Bonacum, who holds a doctorate in biology from Yale University, offers evidence from around the world, and right here at home.

“As the oceans warm up, they hold more moisture. More moisture leads to more violent storms. The flooding in Australia, increased typhoons in the Pacific, and even the snow we (in central Illinois) recently encountered are all products of those storms.” Bonacum describes the situation as a car rolling down a hill toward a brick wall.

“We have three choices. We can step on the gas, do nothing, or step on the brakes.”

Bonacum's comments were featured in a February 15, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register. UIS alumna Laurie O’Brien, now a teacher at Glenwood High School is also quoted.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Visiting professor talks ethics of robots

To those unfamiliar with artificial intelligence, the video footage shown in class Wednesday appeared a little creepy.

A series of recorded images of robots taken from the various sources on the Internet were displayed in a philosophy class at Bemidji State University Wednesday. One image showed a robot with four legs and a horse-like body, trotting across rough terrain. A different image showed a robot standing on stage playing the violin. Another image was a Tyrannosaurs Rex robot walking and roaring as it swayed its head.

Keith Miller, a professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, has traveled around the United States and the world to learn more about the latest developments in artificial intelligence. What he has learned has him both excited and nervous at the same time.

Miller is a mathematician and computer programmer. He is the editor of IEEE Technology & Society magazine. He is also a Schewe professor, which means he receives funding for his research.

Miller spoke at two classes at BSU Friday and made a presentation to the public later that evening. His message was not only to get people excited about robots, it was also to tell people to think about the potential consequences robots could bring to society.

“Technology is developing at an extremely rapid rate,” Miller told a class of BSU students. “We’re not thinking enough about what that means for us humans.”

Miller was featured in a February 11, 2011, article in the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota.

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Jesse White to help kick off The Big Read in central Illinois

Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White and the Illinois State Library are joining libraries and other educational and cultural institutions throughout central Illinois participating in The Big Read in Central Illinois, a campaign in which readers join together to read, discuss, and celebrate a book and promote reading. The Big Read in Central Illinois is highlighting The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, the classic 1940 debut novel by author Carson McCullers.

The official kick-off for The Big Read in Central Illinois will be Tuesday, February 15th from 6-8:30 p.m. at the University of Illinois Springfield Studio Theatre. The evening will showcase the musical styles that inspired The Heart is a Lonely Hunter with performances by two musical groups (Prairieland Voices and the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony), an awards ceremony for the winners of the "Under the Influence: Music that Inspires Expression Contest", refreshments and information tables from the participating groups involved in The Big Read in Central Illinois.

Complete information and the entire list of events for The Big Read in Central Illinois can be found at Citizens are encouraged to attend any event, even if it is not held in their home community.

The Big Read in central Illinois was featured by Quad Cities Online on February 10, 2011.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Brothers and Sisters wanted: UIS students help out

The challenge for Yvonne Wapniarski and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region in Springfield is to find adults who fit the preferences of children and their parents, as well as volunteer qualifications.

Wapniarski says that nearly 80 percent of children waiting for a mentor in Sangamon County are African-American and many are young boys who would like an African-American Big Brother. She rarely gets African-American candidates for volunteers until Anthony Thomas-Davis, adviser for the Black Male Collegiate Society at University of Illinois Springfield, contacted her last summer.

Wapniarski told Thomas-Davis, “I was struggling to find African-American male mentors.”

Now 15 volunteers from the Black Male Collegiate Society at UIS have partnered as Big Brothers with children at Matheny-Withrow Elementary in Springfield. The group has met with children during their lunch on Fridays since Jan. 14.

Thomas-Davis, 24, lost both his mother and father as an infant and can relate to children who had a rough upbringing. He says that his Little Brother is “Like me in more ways than one.”

Mentors and children play board games, finish homework or talk about sports.

Black Male Collegiate Society president Justin Rose builds Legos, plays dominoes and talks about his Little Brother’s favorite sport, basketball. Rose, 21, reminds the 11-year-old that, “You have to be a student first – playing sports is a privilege.”

“It gives you something to feel good about,” Rose says. “Not just for you – for that child. It’s just going to get better,” he says. “I’m already attached to my Little Brother and it’s still early.”

The UIS volunteers were featured in a February 10, 2011, article in the Illinois Times.

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Reading council chairman to take on stack of books

Read ’em and weep?

Cynthia Wilson, chairman of the teacher education department at the University of Illinois Springfield and president-elect of the Illinois Reading Council, doesn’t see it that way.

She’s trying to read every book — other than instructional books — by every author who is speaking at the council’s 43rd annual conference in Springfield March 17-19.

Wilson made the commitment to herself, then got a rough idea of how many books that pledge will require her to read.

Jane Yolen, one of the authors, told me she just published her 300th book this fall,” Wilson said.

Of the 13 authors Wilson is attempting to read, one has published more than 50 books and others more than 30.

“How far along am I? Not far enough,” she said. “Realistically, am I going to make it? No. Can I get close? I’ll know more next week when we do a walk-through for the conference and I have all those books piled up in front of me.”

Wilson's challenge was featured in a February 10, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Book: Lincoln sought to deport freed slaves

The Great Emancipator was almost the Great Colonizer: Newly released documents show that to a greater degree than historians had previously known, President Lincoln laid the groundwork to ship freed slaves overseas to help prevent racial strife in the U.S.

Just after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Lincoln authorized plans to pursue a freedmen's settlement in present-day Belize and another in Guyana, both colonial possessions of Great Britain at the time, said Phillip W. Magness, one of the researchers who uncovered the new documents.

Michael Burlingame, chair of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said there are two ways to view Lincoln's public support for colonization.

One side holds that it shows Lincoln could not envision a biracial democracy, while the other stance — which Mr. Burlingame subscribes to — says Lincoln's public actions were "the way to sugarcoat the emancipation pill" for Northerners.

"So many people in the North said we will not accept emancipation unless it is accompanied by colonization," said Mr. Burlingame, adding that Lincoln himself had always made clear colonization would be voluntary and nobody would be forced out of the United States.

Burlingame's comments were featured in a February 9, 2011, article by the Washington Times.

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Little Rock Nine didn't realize they were making history, speaker says

The youngest of the Little Rock Nine spoke about one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Illinois Springfield on Wednesday.

Carlotta Walls LaNier said she hopes sharing her story will help educate people who might not know be aware of hers and others’ struggles in the civil rights movement.

LaNier was one of nine black children who enrolled in previously racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Then-Gov. Orval Faubus tried to prevent the teens from entering the school even though the U.S. Supreme Court had declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional.

“I have found a number of communities did not know about this time in our history, and I discovered anger from young people wanting to know why they didn’t learn” about it, LaNier said.

At the time, LaNier said, she didn’t realize how historic her decision to stay in the school would be.

“We didn’t go to school there to make history,” she said. “We went to school there to get the best education available.

“When you look back on it, I was 14 years of age,” LaNier added. Since then, “I have truly understood that we really did a monumental thing by staying. We weren’t quitters.”

LaNier appearance at UIS was featured in a February 10, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fakuade is long arm of the law for Prairie Stars

Michael Fakuade is taking his star turn in leading the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars men’s basketball team.

The 6-foot-7 junior forward has stepped into the spotlight this season after transferring from Northern Illinois University.

Fakuade ranks third in NCAA Division II in blocked shots with an average of 3.4 per game. He’s behind Philadelphia University junior center Temi Adebayo (4.1) and St Andrews senior center Marcus Connor (3.7).

“The first thing I noticed when I got here is he’s got long arms,” UIS first-year coach Ben Wierzba said. “He’s got a good build to him, but when you get on the court you notice how long his arms are.

“That’s an advantage he uses on the offensive glass and on the defensive end blocking shots. He can cover long distances in a short period. With his reach, he can get there.

“He gets off the floor really quick. If he misses a shot, he can bounce back up before somebody else, and his arms are long enough that he can get a tip or get a block.”

Fakuade was featured in a February 9, 2011, article by The State Journal-Register.

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Area Colleges: Bergerud paces UIS in women's hoops

Freshman Megan Bergerud scored 14 points to lead five University of Illinois Springfield players in double figures, and the Prairie Stars beat Oakland City 74-63 Tuesday night in a non-conference makeup game at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

Junior Bailey Beale and freshman Alyssa Palmer each added 13 points, and senior Paulina Pogorzelski and junior Cristina Nevins scored 10 apiece. Freshman Mallory Beck grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for UIS (6-16).

Samantha Stahl led Oakland City (11-11) with 18 points. The game originally was scheduled for last Wednesday but was postponed due to a winter storm.

The win was featured in a February 9, 2011, article by The State Journal-Register.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spring enrollment hits new high at UIS

The University of Illinois Springfield, which topped the 5,000 mark in enrollment last fall, has fallen below that number but still has a record number of students enrolled for the spring semester.

Spring enrollment figures are typically lower than those in the fall because of transfers and students failing to return for the second semester.

UIS has 4,920 students enrolled this spring, an increase of 58 students, or 1.2 percent, over last spring.

The increase is primarily due to carryover from the big increase in fall enrollment, UIS officials said. Enrollment at UIS in fall 2010 was the largest in the institution’s 40-year history at 5,174 students, up 4.3 percent from the previous fall.

“We are pleased about this spring’s increase in enrollment and anticipate enrollment growth again next fall, as statewide recognition of the quality and affordability of education at UIS — for freshmen, transfer and graduate students — increases,” said UIS Chancellor Harry Berman.

Additionally, the number of students majoring in degree programs at UIS that are fully online increased this spring by 67 students, according to Ray Schroeder, director of UIS’ Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. The total number of students with online majors is 1,364, which is an increase of 5.2 percent over last spring.

UIS offers 16 online degree programs, both undergraduate and graduate. More than one-fourth of UIS students are online degree program students, and more than half of all students at UIS are taking at least one online class.

UIS has a total of 2,997 undergraduate students and 1,923 graduate students enrolled.

The enrollment numbers were featured in a February 8, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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UIS sets record enrollment

High unemployment and high college enrollment appear to continue to go hand-in-hand. The University of Illinois at Springfield has once again achieved record enrollment.

Enrollment for the Spring semester is recorded at 4,920 students. Last (Fall) semester's enrollment records was at 5,174, which was the highest ever in the Springfield campus' 40-year history. The Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs says the biggest increase is in non-traditional students who want to compete for better jobs.

"We see increased numbers of online students in particular. And those are individuals who are busy with family or work or other responsibilities," said Tim Barnett. "And they're trying to find a way to get an education. Many of them don't even live in the Springfield area."

UIS offers 16 online degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. More than one-fourth of the students are online degree program students, and more than half of all students at UIS are taking at least one online class.

The increase was featured by WICS-TV 20 in a February 7, 2011, report.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Colleges could profit as internet runs out of addresses

The internet is running out of numerical addresses – known as IP addresses – and that might not be so bad for colleges and universities prepared for the transition to the next web protocol, as campuses could sell their current IP addresses and help fill budget shortfalls prevalent in higher education.

Campus technologists and internet policy experts said the switch from the current IPv4 to the next generation of IP addresses – IPv6 – has been closely tracked since the mid-1990s.

Universities might be able to “avoid major growing pains” if companies, organizations, and institutions that hold the rights to hundreds of millions of unused IPv4 addresses reallocated those addresses and built “their systems with IPv6 standards,” said Raymond Schroeder, director of the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Center for Online Learning, Research, and Services.

“This certainly is a point of transition. … The success of the internet has far outstripped our visions of decades ago,” he said. “But it doesn’t have to be a point of disaster or scarcity of addresses.”

The current internet address system, IPv4, has been in place since the 1980s.

Schroeder's comments were featured in a February 2, 2011, edition of eCampus News.

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Readers: Snow heroes abound in central Illinois

The following is a letter submitted to the State Journal-Register. It was published in a February 4, 2011, edition.

"I would like to nominate Josphine Marqez as a snow hero. She is an active and very helping student at the University of Illinois in Springfield. She is one of the few students who has been prepared with a shovel and used every opportunity to help out."

"Wednesday, I went out to shovel my car, and she came out to help me. There were other students doing the same, so she shoveled out their cars before even going to her own! She helped shovel at least four cars and lent out her supplies at night when neighbors needed it as well."

"I think her helping spirit reflects the kind of model we should all have when faced with difficult conditions. It is especially inspiring for youth to show selflessness in a society that continually stresses 'me, me, me.'"

Itzi Llamas

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Series on state politics, government starts Feb. 14

"Timely Talks About Timeless Topics," a three-session educational series examining topics related to Illinois government and political figures, will begin Feb. 14.

Sponsored by the UIS Alumni SAGE Society, the Illinois State Historical Society and the UIS Chancellor's Office, the series will include an evening lecture and two lunch-time programs.

The series will begin Monday, Feb. 14, with "Ronald Reagan: The Foundations of a World Leader" at 7 p.m. at First Christian Church, 700 S. Sixth St.

Brian Sajko, founding curator of the Ronald Reagan Museum at Eureka College, will give a presentation on the core life values President Regan experienced during his years as a Eureka College student. Suggested donation is $5.

The event was featured in a February 1, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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