Thursday, January 31, 2013

UIS men seek consistency midway through GLVC slate

Nine conference games down, nine to go.

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team hit the halfway mark of Great Lakes Valley Conference play in a road contest against Maryville at 7:30 Thursday night in St. Louis.

The Prairie Stars (5-12 overall, 3-6 in the GLVC) are tied with Quincy for fifth place in the GLVC West Division. Maryville (16-5, 6-3) is second in the division standings.

UIS has four losses in five games and want to get back on the winning side of things.

“We have to be consistent,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “Not only from game to game, but during the game for 40 minutes. It has been too up and down and too much of a roller coaster. That’s from half to half to half or media timeout to media timeout.”

The team was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 31, 2013.

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UIS softball picked 2nd in division

The University of Illinois Springfield softball team has been voted to finish second in the Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division in a preseason coaches poll after a history-making 2012 season.

The Prairie Stars received six first-place polls and earned 101 points. Drury leads with way with 10 first-place votes and 115 points.

UIS and Drury shared the GLVC West divisional title last spring. The Stars compiled a 36-22 record and finished second in the GLVC tournament title contest and reached the championship round of the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional.

Drury and UIS are followed in the poll by Missouri St. Louis (83), Quincy (73), William Jewell (73), Missouri S&T (51), Rockhurst (45), Maryville (28).

The rankings were featured by the State Journal-Register on January 31, 2013.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

UIS women halt losing streak at seven

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team got the start it was looking for Saturday.

The finish the Prairie Stars could have done without, but UIS held on for a 57-52 victory over Rockhurst to snap a seven-game losing streak.

UIS scored sparingly after the midway point of the second half in the Great Lakes Valley Conference game at The Recreation and Athletic Center. Still, the Prairie Stars (5-12 overall, 2-7 in the GLVC) put a “W” in the win column for the first time since Jan. 3 against McKendree.

“We’ve been talking about it all week how we need to start off games right,” said UIS junior forward Mallory Beck, who scored a team-high 15 points. “In the last game, we didn’t come out so strong. We’ve been pounding it in our heads all week that we wanted to come out stronger than the other team, and we did that.”

The win was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 27, 2013.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

UIS raises tuition, housing costs for next year

It will cost University of Illinois Springfield students more to attend college next year, with most of the increase in housing costs and student fees.

University of Illinois trustees voted unanimously in Chicago Thursday to raise tuition for in-state students starting school at UIS this fall by 1.7 percent, to $9,247.50 per year. That is the smallest increase since 2001-02.

Housing costs will increase at differing rates for various UIS housing options, but the hikes range from 2.9 percent to 4.2 percent in the residence halls to 9.1 percent for some newly renovated campus apartments. The cost of a double-occupancy room in Lincoln Residence Hall with a full meal plan will increase 4.9 percent, or $480, to $10,350 per year.

The increase is an average 3.5 percent as room rates are standardized for the first time for both Lincoln and Founders residence halls.

Increases in housing expenses are higher at UIS than at the Champaign-Urbana or Chicago campuses because the residence halls are still paying off debt and the meal rates haven’t been changed in two years. Significant improvements have been made beginning in 2010 to the apartment flats on the east side of the UIS campus.

Fees will go up at UIS by 6.1 percent, or $110, to $1,892 per year. That’s largely due to a student-authorized increase in a library technology charge that helps pay for such things as online journals, servers and Internet access. Fees also continue to pay for The Recreation and Athletic Center, a $16.2 million project that opened in 2007.

Student fees pay for services such as campus recreation, library and information technology, health services and others.

“This modest tuition increase, along with our continued careful fiscal management, will help to insure that the exceptional and personalized educational experience that we provide at UIS will remain accessible to students regardless of their financial circumstances,” UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said in an emailed statement.

The story was reported on January 25, 2013 in the State Journal-Register.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Time and money running out for FAFSA

The official deadline to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is not for another five months. But with depleting funds across the board, you might want to get your name in sooner rather than later.

It is a battle students across the country are fighting. Rising tuition costs and dwindling aid, not to mention a slumping economy.

"I was almost at that point where I was going to have to take a semester off or couple of semesters off so that way I can work, save up money and then be able to pay for the next year," UIS student Dan Garcia said.

Garcia did not have to do that because he filed his FAFSA before the money ran out.

UIS Admissions Counselor Brett Angelico urges students to file a FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible.

"In recent years it has run out in I want to say mid-March and every year we see that it runs out a little quicker and quicker," Angelico said.

That is because there is less money and more people seeking help. Angelico said many students worry about filing tax returns before they fill out the FAFSA paperwork. But that is really not necessary.

"You can always file a FAFSA with last year's tax information. Just make sure that when you complete your taxes for this year that you go back and re-enter the information into your FAFSA form," Angelico said.

The FAFSA story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on January 23, 2013.

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Innocence Project helps battered wife seek freedom

Peggy Jo Jackson and Richard Harshbarger were both convicted of first degree murder and concealing a homicide, for which they each received a life sentence. While Harshbarger died in 2006, Peggy Jo Jackson remains in prison in Lincoln. But the investigators at the Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois-Springfield, believe Peggy Jo is innocent, and they’re trying to free her.

“The state’s whole case rests on the testimony of Debra Gatons, Jackson’s sister in law, who is an unreliable, contradictory witness and had concealed the murder weapon in Pana,” says Erica Nichols Cook, a staff attorney for the Illinois Innocence Project. “I believe she’s innocent of the murder of Will Jackson because our review and investigation contradicts the state’s evidence at trial, especially in light of what we now know about victims of domestic violence.”

Peggy Jo, now 57, has served 25 years of her sentence so far. With help from the Illinois Innocence Project, Peggy Jo is trying to gain her freedom through a clemency petition submitted to Gov. Pat Quinn. Her petition and numerous accompanying letters of support from her family, her therapist, prison workers and others offer explanations for the circumstantial evidence presented against her at trial, and they detail the horrid abuse Peggy Jo endured for years.

The Jackson case was featured by the Illinois Times on January 24, 2013.

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Prairie Stars' Gupton excels on, off basketball court

Kyle Gupton is busy enough as it is attending the University of Illinois Springfield and playing for the men’s basketball team.

Yet the 6-foot-2 senior starting guard will add to an already hectic schedule next week when he begins an internship at Laketown Elementary School. Gupton is taking on the opportunity for the good of children.

“Two years ago, we started working with Laketown before and after the season,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “We help with reading or whatever they need. We want to be role models. Kyle has been great with those kids.”

Gupton is majoring in social work. He carries a 3.6 grade-point average and is on the athletic director’s honor roll. He began working with youths three years ago in his hometown of Ypsilanti, Mich., located between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

“I will work with individual kids and help them a little bit outside of the school, too,” Gupton said. “I’m going to start off doing two or hree days a week. As soon as basketball season ends, I’ll be able to go five days.”

Gupton was featured on January 24, 2013 by the State Journal-Register.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

UIS students pass out fire prevention pamphlets

University of Illinois Springfield students used their day out of school to benefit the community.

"It's very important to have civic engagement and we are the future so it's good to have our names out there," UIS freshman Robyn Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield and 39 other students walked around east Springfield, passing out information on fire safety.

"If something happens, they know what to do so it doesn't go too bad," Crutchfield said.

The American Red Cross said one of the areas most affected by house fires is the east side of Springfield.

"We actually passed a burned down house a few blocks back and it was very sad," UIS senior Gretchen Addis said.

 The students walked between Ash Street and Martin Luther King Drive, hoping the door tags would make someone think about changing their smoke detector's batteries.

The story was featured by WICS-TV 20 on January 21, 2013.

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Students volunteer by promoting fire safety

Fire safety was on the minds of college students this holiday. They hit the streets with Red Cross to help raise awareness.

The Red Cross hopes to prevent more tragedies from happening. It's one reason the organization teamed up with students from UIS. Together, they passed out door hangers. They include all kinds of fire safety tips.

About 50 students took part, all of them dividing up into smaller groups. They targeted neighborhoods on the east side of town, where firefighters and the Red Cross say fires appear to be more common.

UIS students volunteer every year as a part of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A man well-known for his commitment and service to community.

The students were featured by WCIA-TV 3 on January 21, 2013.

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Bernard Schoenburg: Miller Hall of Fame

Three accomplished journalists will be honored as new inductees into the BILL MILLER Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame at a reception in Springfield Jan. 28. And the keynote speaker there will be a fourth graduate of the program, PATTY CULHANE, who has been White House correspondent for Al Jazeera since 2009.

The hall of fame is named for the late Miller, who led the PAR master’s degree program at what is now the University of Illinois Springfield for 19 years. Program participants get training including internships with Springfield news outlets, primarily at the Statehouse.

Honorees this year are NINA BURLEIGH from the class of 1983, JIM PRATHER from the class of 1980, and JIM WEBB from the class of 1987.

The honorees were featured by the State Journal-Register on January 20, 2013.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Illinois History Symposium at UIS

The 2013 Illinois History Symposium, “Slavery and Emancipation: Global Perspectives,” will be held at the University of Illinois Springfield Feb. 28 through March 1, with additional programs and activities at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on March 2.

This year’s symposium will examine human bondage in both contemporary and historical contexts, from legalized chattel slavery in antebellum America and serfdom in tsarist Russia to human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation around the globe.

Registration for the 2013 Illinois History Symposium is open to everyone. Paid reservations in advance are required for any meals, including the SAGE luncheon on Feb. 28 and the Symposium Banquet on March 1.

For more information about the symposium, or to download a registration form, call 525-2781 or visit

PAR Hall of Fame to honor three UIS graduates

The Bill Miller Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame will honor three graduates from the University of Illinois Springfield’s Public Affairs Reporting program who have distinguished themselves in the field of journalism. Nina Burleigh, Jim Prather, and Jim Webb will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Inn at 835 in Springfield on Monday, Jan. 28.

The Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame was named in honor of Bill Miller, an award-winning journalist who served as the program’s director for 19 years.

The story was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 17, 2013.

Read the SJ-R story online

Read the full UIS press release

Thursday, January 17, 2013

UIS could see six percent spike in housing fees

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees could raise housing fees system-wide at its meeting next week.

The Springfield campus could get the worst of it -- trustees could hike fees by an average of six percent.

 "The housing fees have gone up," says UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp. "It's not really a surprise to our residents or our students that live in our housing complexes because we have done some extensive renovations in the past couple of years. That figures into those costs."

Trustees will consider the hike at next week's meeting. It will take effect this fall if approved. Trustees are also expected to discuss tuition hikes.

The story was featured by WTAX-AM radio on January 16, 2013.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

UIS online programs get high rating

The University of Illinois Springfield’s online offerings have been ranked highly on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best online education programs in the country.

In its 2013 rankings, U.S. News ranks UIS at number 83 among the 100 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs nationwide. It also ranks 16th among the Best Online Graduate Business programs.

UIS offers seven undergraduate degrees online — business administration, computer science, English, history, liberal studies, mathematics and philosophy.

“UIS online programs are exceptional because they are taught by talented faculty who work very hard to create productive communities in their online classes and because we provide strong support for online students,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch.

The rankings were featured by the State Journal-Register on January 16, 2013.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Susan Koch: UIS is national leader in online learning

The following is a portion of a guest-column written by UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. It was published in a January 13, 2013, edition of the State Journal-Register.

"A headline in The New York Times just a few days ago — “Students Rush to Web Classes” — highlights a major trend that has been growing at warp speed. Universities large and small, public, private and for-profit are increasing their online offerings via digital technologies that did not even exist a few years ago.

The Springfield campus of the University of Illinois, with our Center for Online Learning, Research and Service, is a national leader in online learning.

In addition to high-quality, on-campus academic programs, UIS offers 26 undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates entirely online, providing access to a university education to many who might not otherwise be able to attend college.

In the Fall 2012 semester, 61 percent of our students were enrolled in at least one online course, part of a worldwide trend that has now, according to a recent Sloan Consortium study, surpassed 6.7 million students online last year."

Read the full column online

At Issue: Science behind Emiquon Preserve

Michael Lemke, UIS biology professor and director of the Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon recently appeared on the WTVP-TV (PBS) Peoria program "At Issue".

Lemke discussed the scientific research taking place at Emiquon and the partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Dickson Mounds Museum.

The interview aired on January 3, 2013.

Watch the program online

Friday, January 11, 2013

Want free college-level education?

More parents and high school graduates are now opting for local community college education topped off with online four-year college degrees.
For example, the University of Illinois now offers 100 different online degrees. University of Illinois at Springfield has been a leader in the game. Today, about one-third of its majors are online students and 38 percent of all credits at the campus were generated from online courses.

These online courses are offered to classes of no more than 25 students each. They are the same courses as offered on campus. Tuition is about the same as for on-campus instruction at the public institution, which can be close to $10,000 a year.

Massive open online courses are different. They are free and anyone can sign up, which means scores of thousands have done so, from around the world, for a single course offering.

Ray Schroeder is a professor of communications at U of I-Springfield and a nationally recognized expert on the topic of MOOCs. Indeed, he offered a MOOC recently on "online learning today and tomorrow." More than 2,700 students from 70 countries signed up.

If you want to try a U. of I. MOOC, you can go to and sign up free for a course on the Emancipation Proclamation that begins January 28.

UIS online was featured by the Ottawa Times on January 10, 2013.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

UIS men upset No. 10 Southern Indiana

For as bad as the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team played in its last outing against a nationally ranked opponent, the Prairie Stars were beyond impressive in a 73-71 upset of No. 10 Southern Indiana on Thursday night.

The Prairie Stars (4-8 overall, 2-2 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference) survived a thriller against the Screaming Eagles (9-2, 2-1) at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

UIS senior guard Kyle Gupton’s back-to-back 3-pointers evened the score at 69 with 1 minute 39 seconds left. Junior guard Brandon Snowden’s steal underneath Southern Indiana’s basket with 47.1 seconds remaining kept the Stars’ upset hopes alive, then freshman forward Dusko Despot nailed a 3-pointer for a 72-69 UIS lead with :13.8 left on the clock.

The contest didn’t end there. Southeast High School product Lawrence Thomas drove the lane and tossed in a layup that pulled Southern Indiana within 72-71 with 3.4 to go. UIS sophomore forward Dylan Sparkman was fouled with 1.2 seconds and converted both free throws for a two-point lead.

“They stayed together,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “We got down by six or seven and we stayed together and finished the thing out.”

The win was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 10, 2013.

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City moving to finish 11th Street land acquisition

The city of Springfield is preparing to go to court to acquire land needed to extend 11th Street south of Stevenson Drive.

Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen said the city is preparing eminent-domain proceedings against Contech Construction Products Inc. to acquire right-of-way. The rest of the land needed to complete 11th Street will be acquired by the state, Cullen said.

Construction of the short stretch from Stevenson Drive to Linconshire Boulevard would open a route from Stevenson to the University of Illinois Springfield and complete a north-south connection across the city.

The news was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 10, 2013.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New General Assembly sworn in as full plate looms

A new Illinois General Assembly was sworn in today, and after the ceremony and celebrations are over, lawmakers will face a full plate of unresolved issues in the month ahead.

Gov. Pat Quinn presided over the 59-member Senate, which is his constitutional duty, until Sen. John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, was re-elected as the chamber's president. Democrats make up 40 out of the 59 senators.

The House is across town at the University of Illinois-Springfield at an auditorium. The House elected Democratic Rep. Michael Madigan as speaker, a post he has held since 1983 with the exception of a two-year period when Republicans won control. He is Illinois’ longest serving House speaker. There are 71 Democrats out of 118 members.

Madigan challenged his newly sworn colleagues to tackle the difficult finances of the state, including the "absolutely serious nature" of the heavily indebted pension systems.

The inauguration was featured by the Chicago Tribune on January 9, 2013.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

UIS offers free online course on Emancipation Proclamation

Following on the success of its first “massive open online course” two summers ago, the University of Illinois Springfield is turning to Abraham Lincoln for its second such offering.

The spring semester MOOC, which begins Jan. 28, will explore the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation. The free, eight-week course is open to anyone worldwide who wants to join.

The course — titled “The Emancipation Proclamation: What Came Before, How It Worked, and What Followed” — takes advantage of this year’s sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

“It will also serve as a forum for participants to discuss the concept of emancipation in states and systems earlier than that of the U.S.,” said Ray Schroeder, UIS associate vice chancellor for online learning.

Students may sign up for the course by visiting the UIS CourseSites website.

The course was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 8, 2013.

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UIS offering online course on Emancipation Proclamation

The University of Illinois Springfield is offering a free online course about the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation 150 years ago, declaring that slaves in rebel states were free. The online course will explore what happened in the United States before emancipation, how emancipation worked once it was proclaimed and what happened in politics, economics and society in the years afterward.

The class will be taught by political science professor Matthew Holden and legal studies assistant professor Gwen Jordan. The class begins Jan. 28.

There's no academic or continuing education credit for taking the course. Students may register online at

The course was featured by the Associate Press on January 8, 2013.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

MAP grant priorities change

Tens of thousands of students in our state depend on it to help pay for college. But whether they will able to continue to take advantage of it could change. It is the result of rising tuition fees, increased demand for financial aid and less money available to give out.

The Monetary Award Program Task Force spent six months reconstructing the way MAP grant funding will be prioritized. It is an effort to boost the education level of the general population and close the achievement gap.

Samaia Ahmad is one of tens of thousands of students statewide depending on a MAP grant to get through college. The junior at the University of Illinois Springfield works two jobs and gets $4,000 a year through MAP.

"So that's a quarter of my tuition, which is great," Ahmad said. Without that money, life would be different. “Probably two or three other jobs it would add, or less classes I would have to take instead," Ahmad said.

Ahmad was featured by WICS-TV 20 on January 3, 2013.

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Men's basketball: Dawson, Stars hold on for win

West Dawson scored 12 points and had eight rebounds to pace the University of Illinois Springfield past McKendree 69-66 Thursday in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game.

UIS’ Regan Bruenger made a layup with 2 minutes 47 seconds to play to give the Prairie Stars (3-7 overall, 1-1 GLVC) a 69-63 lead.

The Bearcats came down and John Steppe nailed a 3-pointer — capping off a 20-point performance — to pull McKenreee to within three points with 2:36 remaining.

That would be the last point, however, as each team would go scoreless from there, missing two shots each.

Steppe had a chance to tie the game, but his 3 with six seconds to play was rebounded by UIS’ Kentrell King.

Dusko Despot had 13 to lead all UIS scorers.

The win was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 4, 2013.

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Women's basketball: Beck powers Prairie Stars

Mallory Beck, a Sacred Heart-Griffin High School graduate, scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the University of Illinois Springfield to a 75-56 win over McKendree College in the Great Lakes Valley Conference opener for both teams.

Beck was 7-for-11 from the field off the bench for the Prairie Stars (4-5 overall).

Megan Bergerud added 12 points for UIS.

The win was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 4, 2013.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

UIS basketball seeks a winning start to 2013

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team is looking for a jump start to the second half of the season.

The Prairie Stars, coming off an 84-43 exhibition loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay, are hoping to end a three-game losing streak at 7:30 Thursday night when they visit McKendree in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game.

UIS’ last victory was against Robert Morris University on Nov. 27.

“We’ve just got to find a way to win, get back on track and just get that feeling of winning again,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “That’s the biggest thing. Once you do that, it can build momentum for you.”

While the UIS men’s team has one GLVC game under its belt, the UIS women open league play at 5:30 Thursday night at McKendree. The Stars last played on Dec. 15, when they lost 66-62 to Lindenwood University.

UIS junior guard Megan Bergerud is averaging a team-high 12.6 points a game. Junior forward Elizabeth Kelly averages a team-high 8.3 rebounds and is scoring 8.3 points a game.

The teams were featured by the State Journal-Register on January 3, 2013.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Caryl Moy fund to benefit UIS, SIU Med School

Research that harnesses brainpower at both the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine could benefit from a new fund honoring former UIS professor Caryl Moy.

Moy, who taught at both institutions, was born in Aurora, grew up in Naperville and lived with her husband in Leland Grove when she died in 2010 at age 78 of complications from surgery.

The Caryl Towsley Moy Ph.D. Fund for Collaborative Research will support researchers from UIS and the medical school who work as a team on a variety of topics.

The $250,000 endowed fund, which will generate about $10,000 a year for grants, was created with contributions from Moy’s husband of 56 years, Dr. Richard Moy, and the couple’s two adult sons, Philip and Eric Moy.

“Caryl would be delighted with the collaborative nature of this research,” said Richard Moy, 82. “She was very comfortable at both institutions, and she would be happy to create opportunities for faculty. She was very bright and a hard worker.”

The gift was featured by the State Journal-Register on December 27, 2012.

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UIS grad student offers hope for rare fish

An ancient fish that has survived for millions of years is getting a helping hand from a student at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Nathan Grider, a graduate student in biology, has been studying the alligator gar, a fish that has inhabited waterways in North America for 3.5 million years.

Distant cousins of the alligator gar are known from fossil records at least 118 million years old.

Despite the gar’s staying power, its numbers are falling, Grider said.

“In the last century, they have been showing signs they are declining,” Grider said. “They’ve been around this long, and we’d hate to lose them now.”

For his study, Grider introduced 100 alligator gar into The Nature Conservancy’s Merwin Preserve at Spunky Bottoms in September 2011. Merwin Preserve is a restored backwater wetland in Brown County.

Grider's research was featured by the State Journal-Register on December 24, 2012.

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Local children make snowflakes for Sandy Hook students

When the children who survived the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut return to school, they will be walking into a winter wonderland.

To make this happen, the parent-teacher-student association at Sandy Hook Elementary is asking school children across the nation for homemade snowflakes.

Some little ones at the UIS Cox's Children's Center are answering their call for help. The idea is to have children helping other children heal through artwork. But the director here believes it's more than just that.

"A lot of this is for the adults here who are trying to make sense of this senseless act," said Stacey Gilmore, director of the UIS Cox's Children's Center. "I think as teachers and parents and educators and siblings, we're struggling. So this is something that we thought would help."

The Cox's Center was featured by WICS-TV 20 on December 21, 2012.

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Pension reform unlikely in shortened session

Lawmakers will return to the capitol for a shortened session over the next two weeks. They'll only be in Springfield for half the time they originally scheduled.

Some are asking whether three days is enough to make progress on the biggest issue at hand: reforming the state's pension systems.

A local political expert said the fact that House and Senate leaders shortened the lame duck session indicates there's less of a chance they'll reach a deal on pension reform. There also hasn't been any sign publicly that lawmakers are close to an agreement.

"It's a big complicated problem with a lot of moving parts," UIS political science professor Chris Mooney said. "They haven't got it done up to this point, it seems unlikely they'll get it done this weekend."

The shortfall in Illinois' public employee pension systems is approaching $100 billion.

Mooney was featured by WICS-TV 20 on December 31, 2012.

Watch the story online

Violence spikes in Springfield at end of 2012

The belief in Springfield that crime is getting worse correlates with a general view among Americans that crime is increasing in the U.S., said Ryan Williams, a criminologist at University of Illinois Springfield.

In reality, he said, crime across the country has declined in the past decade. In 2010, for example, the murder rate was at its lowest point in 20 years, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, Williams said.

Despite the drop, he said, Gallup polls each year typically show about 70 percent of the population believes crime went up from the year before. Watching local TV is a major contributor to people’s increased fears, Williams said.

In the case of Springfield, he said, the type of crimes has also been a factor.

“The shootings that are routine might not necessarily be front-page news,” Williams said. “The more exciting stories give us a shake and scare us.”

Williams was featured by the State Journal-Register on January 2, 2013.

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Springfield museum celebrates Kwanzaa

The Springfield African American History Museum allowed for people to come celebrate Kwanzaa, a tradition throughout the country that dates back to 1967.

"I did my first Kwanzaa celebration in 1975, and I've done something with it ever since," said UIS Professor of African-American Studies Kamau Kemayo.

Kemayo led the group in libations. He believes some have misconceptions on why African-Americans participate.

"People think it is a religious holiday," Kemayo said. "It's a cultural and spiritual holiday. It's about community, it's about the people. It's about the individuals, it's about their characters."

Kemayo was featured by WICS-TV 20 on December 30, 2012.

Watch the story online