Thursday, May 31, 2012

Innocence Project examines murder conviction

Vodka isn’t flammable.

That basic fact of fire could prove key in the case of William Amor, a DuPage County man serving a 45-year sentence for murder. While not committed to representing Amor, the Illinois Innocence Project based at University of Illinois Springfield has requested documents from prosecutors, who have balked.

Amor, 56, has been locked up since 1995, when his mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, perished in a fire at a Naperville condominium. After a lengthy interrogation by police, Amor confessed to dousing a newspaper with vodka, dumping an ashtray containing a lit cigarette on the sodden paper, then leaving to catch a movie. Prosecutors say that Amor, who recanted after confessing, had hoped to collect insurance money.

The Innocence Project is interested in Amor but needs more information to evaluate his case, says Erica Nichols Cook, a project attorney. The DuPage County state’s attorney’s office is refusing to turn over documents requested under the state Freedom of Information Act.

In refusing to turn over records that include investigative reports, results of polygraph examinations and expert reports, the state’s attorney’s office in April told the Innocence Project that it is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act because it is a judicial branch of government and the law applies only to legislative and executive branches. It’s an argument that’s been tried before.

Two weeks before the DuPage County state’s attorney rejected the Innocence Project’s request, a judge ruled that the Livingston County state’s attorney, who had argued that he wasn’t subject to FOIA, must turn over records in a 2001 murder case. The case is now on appeal.

The case was featured in an May 31, 2012, article in the Illinois Times.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sliders add UIS pitcher to the roster

Adding to the Springfield Slider's local flavor are pitchers Bryce Sablotny (Chatham Glenwood/Lincoln Land), who was 4-3 with a 4.42 earned run average last summer with the Sliders, J.D. Dozier (Pawnee/Benedictine Springfield), David Frank (Illinois Springfield) and Brandon Shaw (Lincoln Land) along with infielder Michael Hurwitz (Sacred Heart-Griffin/Illinois).

“My goal was to bring in guys from the outside but focus on local kids,” said Pete Romero, Sliders manager. “We want to get Steve (Torricelli, the Benedictine coach) involved so we got his kid. We had the Lincoln Land kids last year. We got one from UIS. I told (UIS coach) Mike Zandler, ‘I want your program represented.’”

Frank was featured in an Many 29, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wellness at work: Employers find healthier workers are more productive

Trent Tangen, assistant director of fitness and wellness for the department of recreation sports, said University of Illinois Springfield employees get periodic email blasts and video blogs offering health tips and healthy recipes. The university’s health services department also puts on an employee health fair that includes bone density and cholesterol screenings and eye exams.

Employees and their spouses — the university employs just over 1,000 full-time and part-time faculty and staff — also can purchase membership at the recreation center.

The biggest challenge for employees? Tangen said it’s keeping energy level up.

“If you have more energy throughout the day, your work product is going to go up,” said Tangen. “You’re going to have energy to exercise or take the kids to the park.”

Wellness programs were featured in an May 24, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Collector working to make UIS 'walking gallery' of art

Bob Vogele wants the University of Illinois Springfield to be a campus for art. To that end, Vogele and his wife, Ruth, have donated a large yellow sculpture by world-renowned artist John Henry to the university.

Henry and his crew erected the sculpture, consisting of seven sections of intertwined linear steel, just outside the teardrop drive in front of the Public Affairs Center on Tuesday while Vogele and university officials looked on.

“I’ve been working with Bob for several years now for his vision that UIS can be a campus that wherever you go, you will be exposed to museum-quality art,” said Vicki Megginson, associate chancellor of development at UIS. “We want it to become a public walking gallery.”

Henry’s “Dodger,” at 15 feet high, is one of his smaller outdoor pieces, he said. He’s currently building a 167-foot sculpture and has the pieces in place for one in excess of 300 feet.

The sculpture was featured in an May 23, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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U of I grad donates sculpture to Springfield campus

A bright piece of contemporary sculpture is catching the eyes of students and staff at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Chicago art collector and University of Illinois graduate Bob Vogele donated the angular metal piece, entitled “Dodger”.

Vogele bought the sculpture in the 1970s from friend and visual artist John Henry. Henry fully restored the aging piece before installing it Tuesday in front of the UIS Public Affairs Center, where he hopes new eyes will appreciate his early work.

“It’s interesting to put things on campus, because students, young people, have a way of accepting things quicker," said Henry. "I really hope people come away with a different idea of structure, a different idea of the man-made environment.”

U of I grad Bob Vogele says he wants students to be “surrounded by art”, and encourages other collectors to donate work to the campus’ growing collection.

The story was featured by WUIS public radio on May 23, 2012.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

UIS names new women's basketball coach

Chad Oletzke is the new University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball coach following a national search.

He has 15 years of coaching experience. The 37-year-old native of Blaine, Minn., spent the previous three seasons as an assistant at NCAA Division I South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits won the Summit League tournament the past four seasons and qualified for the NCAA tourney each time.

Oletzke replaces Marne Fauser, who produced a 20-59 overall record and 7-47 Great Lakes Valley Conference record over three seasons. Her contract expired last week. Fauser was among the five finalists, according to UIS athletic director Kim Pate.

“Chad brings a championship mentality," said Pate. "He comes from a great program. He has great knowledge of the game. More than anything, he comes in with a positive and fresh outlook. He knows what it takes to build a program.”

Oletzke began his career coaching golf and boys basketball at Wabasso (Minn.) High School. He jumped to the collegiate level and served for four seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, NCAA Division II Southwest Minnesota State University, where he was a point guard in the 1990s. Oletzke moved on to a junior college in Wyoming where he was head coach. He spent five seasons at Northwest College. He was voted coach of the year after Northwest won a Wyoming Community College Athletic Conference championship and a North Sub-Region championship.

Oletzke was featured in an May 22, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Student reporters get practical experience

During this busy and historic time at the state Capitol, 15 graduate students are reporting on the developments for Illinois readers along with the Statehouse press corps.

These students are from the University of Illinois Springfield Public Affairs Reporting program, which began in 1972 and is unique in providing hands-on experience in internships each spring.

The one-year master’s program, directed by former Chicago Sun-Times state government reporter Charles Wheeler, begins with a fall semester preparing students for what will come in the second semester when they join news organizations like The State Journal-Register.

“We give them the background to be able to function at the Statehouse,” said Wheeler, whose curriculum takes students through reviewing budgets, and learning about property tax, education funding, pensions and other issues.

The students work with reporters and find out quickly how things work, or don’t work. They’re now in place to report on the outcomes of this session, with the pension and Medicaid issues in play along with the state budget.

The PAR program was featured in an May 20, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Chicago Lit: Wen Huang revisits his Chinese roots

Wenguang Huang’s The Little Red Guard unveils a story that is new and refreshing and adds a different perspective into the canon of immigrant literature. Caught between two worlds — the old and the new — the memoir sorts out an avalanche of complicated thoughts about family and accepting and appreciating one’s heritage.

While researching and writing the book, Huang began to unfold the complex layers of his relationship with his parents, which were made even more complex by the strictures of the Cultural Revolution. His father was a shy and private person who was demoted from a cultural bureau official to a warehouse manager. For a long time, Huang felt his father lived a wasted life. Huang didn’t have much of a relationship with his mother until he was older and living in Chicago.

Huang came to Illinois in 1990 and completed the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where last Saturday he delivered the commencement address. He has written commentary about China for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and Fortune magazine. He also translated The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China From the Bottom Up by Chinese dissident Liao Yiwu, whom he calls “the Studs Terkel of China,” as well as Xianhui Yang’s Woman from Shanghai.

Huang was featured in anMay 17, 2012, article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

College Report: Smith Earns GLVC, NCAA Honors

Every softball game that University of Illinois-Springfield had this year, Nokomis graduate Mandy Smith was looking to steal.

Smith, a sophomore, is a base stealer extraordinaire. She was one of three UIS players that stole over 10 bases this year and one of only two that posted more than 25 in the 58 UIS games.

One has to believe that Smith's ability to stretch a single into a double, the old fashioned way, was one of the reasons that the Great Lakes Valley Conference opposition coaches named her to the all-conference team.

Smith was featured in an May 17, 2012, article in the Hillsboro Journal-News.

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First-year UIS coach Rooke adds sand, Champaign to recipe

The Energizer Bunny has spent the last few months masquerading as University of Illinois Springfield volleyball coach Noelle Rooke.

Rooke has been on the go since she was hired in March to oversee a program that hasn’t had a winning record since 2007. She experienced a “whirlwind” spring season that introduced the Prairie Stars to an entirely new way of doing things.

“I couldn’t imagine coming in over the summer and the first day being with them would have been the first day of the preseason,” Rooke said. “Give or take we had four weeks together, so that behooved us. I was happy to have it but wish I had more time.”

Rooke, who came from NCAA Division I Mercer, crammed as much as she could into those weeks. She also implemented offensive and defensive systems.

Week One started player evaluations and ended with UIS playing in a tournament at Lincoln Land. More training took place the second week, and tryouts were held.

Rooke was featured in an May 15, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Colleges create campus ties for online students

Most schools still do little more than invite their online students to graduation ceremonies. Some will even broadcast those sessions on websites, for those who can't attend.

But there are those that have taken some extra steps.

 It's actually nothing new at the University of Illinois at Springfield, which has been offering an online graduate brunch for a decade. It brings in about 300 students and family members each year, with students coming from all over the country to take part, said Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service.

 "They crave the opportunity to meet their professors and shake hands with other students," Schroeder said.

Schroeder was featured in an May 13, 2012, article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Twins 'start together, end together' at UIS graduation

It was only fitting that Elizabeth and Margaret Wright of Taylorville both donned caps and gowns for the University of Illinois Springfield’s commencement Saturday.

Despite graduating last semester, Margaret waited for Saturday’s ceremony so she could share the moment with her twin sister.

After all, Elizabeth and Margaret, both 22, had lived together for three years, graduated with degrees in communications and were nearly inseparable during their time at UIS.

“Start together, end together,” Margaret said.

UIS celebrated its 41st commencement Saturday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. Of the 1,316 students eligible to graduate, 768 participated in the ceremony. That was the most since 2000, said Derek Schnapp, a spokesman for the university.

Wenguang Huang, a Chicago-based journalist, writer and translator who graduated from the university’s Public Affairs Reporting program in 1991, was the commencement speaker.

Huang’s recently published memoir, "The Little Red Guard,” chronicles his life growing up in China. He also contributes regularly to Fortune, the New York Times, the Asian Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications.

Commencement was featured in an May 13, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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Double the excitement at UIS graduation

Hundreds of students participated in this year's University of Illinois Springfield graduation ceremony. But four graduates from two families had twice as many reasons to celebrate the class of 2012.

While most in the class of 2012 have had four years to bond, some of them have had a little longer.

“We’ve been together grade school, junior high, high school, now college and now we’re both going to be going our separate ways,” said graduate Margaret Wright.

Wright and her identical twin Elizabeth are both communication majors.

“We could do homework together and kind of bounce ideas off each other for papers and topics. It was great,” said Elizabeth.

The twins graduating in the same class is not much of a stretch, a mother and daughter duo was also surprised to see it happen to them.

“It’s one thing to watch your child graduate, but to be able to experience it with her is just going to be a totally different experience,” said Lisa Daykin. Her daughter Allysa also graduated during the ceremony.

Commencement was featured by WICS-TV in an May 12, 2012, report.

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Chancellor Koch offers advice to college graduates

College seniors are finishing up finals and looking forward to donning their cap and gown. Walking across the stage to accept their diploma represents their first steps into the real world. So how do they make sure they take the right path and gain success?

A love of learning is what drove Susan Koch to become an educator. She’s now chancellor of the University of Illinois Springfield. She says her key to success has been pushing herself beyond what she thought she was capable of, but one thing she wishes she had when first starting out is a more global awareness.

"Get out there. Take the opportunity to go to some place you haven't been before to be with people who are not like you and to learn things that are just way outside the bounds of what you are use to," said Koch.

Koch's advice was featured in an May 11, 2012, report by WICS-TV.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Area colleges: UIS men's basketball adds three players

John Wood Community College transfer Regan Bruenger, Glenbard South High School senior Dusko Despot and Downers Grove South High School senior Jamall Millison have signed with the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball program.

Bruenger, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard, averaged 15 points and shot 47 percent from the field for John Wood, which was ranked No. 2 in National Junior College Athletic Association Division II top 25 poll last season. The two-year starter was named to the Mid-West Athletic Conference and the all-Region 24 first teams.

Despot, a 6-5, 200-pound forward, averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds for Glenbard South High School as a senior. He was twice named to an all-area team and Metro Suburban all-conference team.

The 6-2, 190-pound Millison was a three-year starter at Downers Grove South High School, averaging 14 points, five assists and five rebounds last season as the team’s most valuable player.

The players were featured in an May 10, 2012, article in the State Journal-Register.

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UIS commencement speaker and former student portrays life in The Little Red Guard

The following book review was written by Mary Bohlen and published in an May 10, 2012, edition of the Illinois Times.

"I thought I knew the story of Wenguang Huang, who will be the commencement speaker at the University of Illinois Springfield May 12. After all, I’ve known Wen for 21 years, first as my student at UIS and later as a dear family friend. He met my extended family, picked apples in my husband’s orchard and even flew from Chicago to Boston for my son’s wedding.

I was wrong.

Sure, I knew he had grown up in China during the Cultural Revolution, was involved in student protests at the time of Tiananmen and had embraced democracy after a short time in the United States. Not until I read his just-published and captivating memoir did I realize the extent of his journey.

Most of all, I did not know he had been the keeper of his grandmother’s coffin, a fact that stands at the center of The Little Red Guard."

Read the full review online

Springfield history in old newspaper photos

It’s like a long forgotten, 80-year-old scrapbook of our city. It shows a bustling downtown crowded with men wearing fedoras and women in fur coats, a family brewery preparing for the onslaught of business after Prohibition, a swimming hole packed on a busy summer day, and many more scenes of daily life in Springfield between 1929 and 1935.

It’s not a literal scrapbook, but an exhibition of black and white photos developed from glass plates taken by Illinois State Journal photographers and neglected for decades.

Rich Saal, photographer for the State Journal-Register (which was formed when the city‘s two newspapers, the Journal and the Register, combined), organized the exhibition. In 2004, while preparing a different exhibition to celebrate the paper’s 175th anniversary, Saal started reviewing its old photos.

“I was blown away at how good and how descriptive they were. I felt like I was there looking at life in the 1930s,” he says. After studying those photos, “I wanted to study the period and know more about it, and get a better idea of what these pictures meant.” So, he went to the University of Illinois Springfield and got his master’s degree in history.

The project was featured in an May 10, 2012, article in the Illinois Times.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Emiquon science lecture set Sunday at Field Station

The next installment of the Emiquon Partners Science Lecture Series will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 13. This presentation is titled "Not Just Pretty Flowers: Restoration in the Age of Global Change."

Amy McEuen is an associate professor in the Biology Department at University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) where she teaches courses in ecology, environmental biology, and statistics.

She holds a PhD in terrestrial ecology and a master of science degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Michigan. Her expertise is in conservation biology, focusing on plant communities. She and her students have been studying the tallgrass prairie restoration that began at Emiquon in 2007.

The event was featured in an May 9, 2012, edition of  the Canton Daily Ledger.

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Softball: Stars' Gray, Smith make second team

University of Illinois Springfield junior second baseman Sarah Gray and sophomore right fielder Mandy Smith have been named to the All-Midwest Region second team by Daktronics.

Gray ranked eighth in NCAA Division II and led the Great Lakes Valley Conference with 47 stolen bases in 53 attempts. She was first in runs scored with 51 and doubles with 16. She hit .305 and had 22 RBIs, three home runs and two triples.

Smith had 14 RBIs, five doubles and a triple en route to a .312 batting average. Her 29 stolen bases ranked sixth in the GLVC and No. 32 in Division II. She scored 28 runs.

Gray and Smith are the first UIS softball players to receive all-region honors from Daktronics.

The players were featured in an May 9, 2012, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Little Red Guard' author Wen Huang has come to terms with his father, and with China

Wenguang Huang, whose book traces his path from schoolboy communist to Chicago resident, notes the tiny contradictions and fissures of party loyalty, but also paints a rare portrait of the every day family eccentricities of China in the 1970s.

A couple of months ago, as strong early notices for "The Little Red Guard" began coming in from Publishers Weekly and, Huang packed unpublished proofs of the memoir and flew to China. He brought a copy to his father's grave. He thought his father would have been horrified at its mentions of family secrets and fights.

Huang is 47. He has a Charlie Brown head, the smile of a Halloween pumpkin and the cheerful, ingratiating manner of a guy who makes friends easily. He came to Chicago via the University of Illinois at Springfield, where he studied journalism in the early '90s. He worked in the state legislature's research division, and today — though for the past two decades he has been writing commentary about China for The New York Times, Fortune magazine and the Christian Science Monitor — Huang still keeps a marketing job at Aon.

Huang was featured in an May 8, 2012, article in the Chicago Tribune.

Read the full interview online

Special Report: The Illinois Innocence Project

The mission statement is simple. Free innocent people from prison. Making that happen can take years of investigation and lots of legal maneuvering.

But, the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield has freed several who were wrongfully convicted. So, how do they do it?

WICS-TV 20's Andrew Hansen has more in an May 7, 2012 special report: "Guilty, until proven innocent."

Watch the story online

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chinese writer, SSU grad, to speak at UIS graduation

Wenguang Huang, a Chicago-based journalist, writer and translator, says he owes a lot to Springfield, the first place in America he landed after he left China in 1990.

He’s going to return some hospitality by speaking at the University of Illinois Springfield commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. May 12 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

Huang grew up in northern China and obtained his bachelor’s degree in English literature and master’s degree in journalism from Fudan University in Shanghai. He participated in the student pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and shortly thereafter left his home for Springfield.

“I wasn’t a student leader, just a participant,” he said. “But many felt it was becoming oppressive in China.

Huang was featured in an May 7, 2012, article in The State Journal-Register.

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WUIS to emphasize news programming starting in July

WUIS 91.9 FM, the National Public Radio outlet at the University of Illinois Springfield, is switching weekday programming largely to news and information from classical music beginning July 2.

New weekday shows will include “Talk of the Nation,” which station officials say is the program most requested by WUIS listeners. “Talk of the Nation,” hosted by veteran NPR journalist Neal Conan, will air from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Other additions include “On Point,” a two-hour discussion and call-in show; “Here & Now,” the latest news and expanded conversation on the day’s events; and a new local program, “Illinois Central,” which will focus on the region, particularly the arts and news. WUIS general manager Bill Wheelhouse and news director Sean Crawford will co-host “Illinois Central.”

The changes were reported in an May 5, 2012, article in The State Journal-Register.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Changes on the horizon for WUIS

Change doesn’t have to be painful. At least that’s what WUIS general manager Bill Wheelhouse is hoping will be the case this summer, when the venerable radio station plans to shift from its longtime classical music-based programming to focus instead on news and talk.

“I like to call it ‘civilized talk,’ a public radio version of talk, as opposed to a shout-fest,” says Wheelhouse, quick to point out that Limbaugh-esque ranting will not be on WUIS’s agenda. “‘Informed talk’ would be another way to describe it,” he quips.

The de-emphasis on classical music at the station should come as no surprise, following on the heels of Karl Scroggin’s retirement at the end of March. Since 1984, Scroggin had been hosting “Classics” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. “In this day and age, it’s not possible to find a replacement for someone like Karl,” Wheelhouse explains.

A firm was hired to survey the WUIS audience and later several listener focus groups were assembled to ensure the direction was best for the future of the station. The result of all this research clearly pointed in the direction of the news and talk format, which will also allow the station to do more timely coverage in the event of breaking news at the Capitol during the daytime. These changes will begin at 9 a.m. on the first Monday in July with the WUIS debut of “On Point,” a National Public Radio production from Boston.

The changes were featured by the Illinois Times in an May 3, 2012, report.

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