Friday, February 28, 2014

'Jersey Boys' opens seven-show run at Sangamon Auditorium

Nicolas Dromard wasn’t cast in the role of Tommy DeVito in the musical, “Jersey Boys” because of a physical or vocal resemblance to the founding member of the Four Seasons, the band on which the musical is based.

“We’re not impersonators. We’re actors playing these characters in a show. Our director was very adamant about that. We have the essence of the characters. The music is the star of the show and the book is so well written that it sells itself,” said Dromard, a Canadian singer and actor.

The book contains the dialogue and dramatic structure of the story that plays out between musical numbers. Unlike other jukebox musicals (“Mamma Mia!”, “Movin’ Out”) where a thin dramatic arc connects a string of already popular songs, the strength of “Jersey Boys” comes through the telling of a story that is both true and, at times, unbelievable.

Springfield audiences can see how the story of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers plays out when “Jersey Boys” comes to Sangamon Auditorium for seven performances starting Tuesday.

The story was featured in The State Journal-Register on February 28, 2014.

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Win puts UIS men in GLVC basketball tournament

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team defeated McKendree 78-61 Thursday at The Recreation and Athletic Center, but it still waited to learn its fate and if it qualified for the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.

The UIS players were in the locker room and coach Ben Wierzba was conducting a radio interview as they waited for the score of a conference game between Truman State and Quincy. Truman State held off Quincy for an 89-85 victory and the Prairie Stars clinched the 12th and final berth for the tourney.

“The (assistants) were relaying messages while we were in the locker room,” UIS junior forward Dylan Sparkman said. “We were excited. We are glad to make the tourney. We kind of expected it because we knew Truman was a good team, but we were ready for the news.”

UIS and Quincy finish tied in the conference with 5-13 records. The Stars won the tiebreaker due to a 106-99 road win against the Hawks in January.

The win was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 28, 2014.

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UIS baseball team's lineup strong from top to bottom

A roster dominated by upperclassmen makes experience the buzzword around the University of Illinois Springfield baseball team. And then there’s all the buzz about the squad’s new field.

“Our lineup is mostly juniors and seniors, especially one through nine,” UIS senior first baseman/outfielder Adam Unes said. “I think that definitely gives us an advantage.”

The UIS roster features 19 upperclassmen. The 13 seniors will enjoy the opportunity of playing home games on campus for the first time since the program’s inception in 2011.

Since being hired over the summer, UIS coach Chris Ramirez has transformed the team’s practice diamond into a home field with the first contest set to take place March 15.

The team was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 28, 2014.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

State agrees to some DNA testing in 1998 murder case

Lawyers for a Bloomington man convicted in 1999 of killing his daughter said Wednesday they will expand their request for DNA testing of evidence they believe will point to the child's real killer: a woman serving 55 years for killing her mother-in-law in 2012.

Barton McNeil is serving 100 years for the 1998 death of his 3-year-old daughter, Christina.

McNeil's lawyers with the University of Illinois Springfield’s Downstate Innocence Project said they will file an amended petition soon seeking to add a window screen from the victim's bedroom to the list of items they believe should undergo forensic testing.

McNeil has maintained his innocence in the 1998 death, claiming his former girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, was responsible for smothering the girl. Nowlin was convicted in 2012 of strangling her mother-in-law, Wenlan Linda Tyda, during a September 2011 dispute in Bloomington.

Defense lawyer John Hanlon asked Judge Scott Drazewski for a quick turnaround on a hearing date to finalize the initial testing.

Noting that McNeil is represented by the Innocence Project -- a group that assists people with innocence claims -- Hanlon said "we would like to keep things moving for his sake."

The story was reported by the Bloomington Pantagraph on February 27, 2014.

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Virginia's Bergerud set to wrap up solid UIS career

They say home is where the heart is, and Megan Bergerud’s desire to play basketball near home worked out well as she blossomed into the University of Illinois Springfield’s top player.

“My parents, (Dan and Sandy Bergerud), have been at every game and they’ve enjoyed watching me play, and I was glad to have them there,” she said. “It would have been a lot different if I would have chose to go farther.”

It would’ve been different for the Prairie Stars and Bergerud, who will leave as the program’s all-time leading scorer. She is a poster child for student-athletes who choose to play at the college level in their “hometown.” Her reward for sticking around was a standout career at UIS.

The 5-foot-11 junior guard/forward and four-year starter plays her final game for the Prairie Stars (7-18, 3-14) at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against visiting McKendree (8-17, 3-14) at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

“My life is changing this week, but when I look back I have to appreciate that I was given the opportunity to play at this level and have success at it,” she said.

Bergerud attended Virginia High School located 34 miles west of Springfield. She set the all-time scoring record there — male or female. She accomplished a similar feat at UIS after selecting the local school over fellow NCAA Division II schools Lewis and Kentucky Wesleyan.

Bergerud was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 27, 2014.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

UIS men's basketball team controls own fate for tourney

If all the bids had been decided last weekend for the Great Lakes Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, the University of Illinois Springfield would claim the 12th and final spot in the field via a tiebreaker.

In other words, the Prairie Stars are firmly on the bubble. UIS has three remaining regular-season conference games: No. 23 Lewis tonight, No. 25 Wisconsin-Parkside on Saturday and McKendree on Feb. 27.

Seven of the 12 spots in the conference tourney already have been determined mathematically. UIS is tied with Quincy for the last spot, but the Prairie Stars win the tiebreaker due to a road victory over the Hawks in early January.

“The good thing is we control our own destiny,” UIS coach Ben Wierzba said. “Right now if we take care of business, we control it. We have to worry about ourselves.”

UIS takes an 8-15 overall record and 4-11 GLVC record into a rematch at Lewis.

The story was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 20, 2014.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

UIS students eager for gubernatorial debate

The GOP race for Illinois governor has a lot of people talking, especially students from the University of Illinois Springfield's (UIS) College Democrats and College Republicans.

Four Republican gubernatorial candidates: Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford, Bruce Rauner, and Bill Brady, will appear in another debate before the primary election come March.

"I'm really hoping that the candidates can step away from the scandals, from who can spend the most money, and really focus on how they are going to benefit the state and what they are going to do to make the state better," said Jeff Wilhite, UIS College of Republicans President.

On March 18, the primary election will be held for the GOP race. It's an election that 17-year-olds can participate in as long as they will be 18 by the November general election.

UIS junior Riley Quinlan says this new law will impact the younger vote, something the Republican party struggles with.

"I feel you have a lot more engagement in youth today in the process than you would several years ago," said Quinlan. "It's becoming more real to them. They are learning about the candidates more."

They're young voters who are focusing primarily on topics that would directly affect them.

"Obviously anything relating to higher education funding is pretty high priority for me, being able to go to school and get my education," said Marc Reiter, President of the UIS College of Democrats.

UIS student Democrats and Republicans are hoping education, the minimum wage, and the state's debt are addressed in tonight's debate.

"I'd like to know which one is going to cut the spending and make the hard choices to get the debt at least down in the state," said Wilhite.

The Citizens Club of Springfield will host the hour-long debate. It will take place in the Hoogland Center for the Arts starting at 6 p.m. on February 18, 2014.

The story was featured by WICS-TV 20 on February 18, 2014.

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UIS softball opens with two wins

Freshman third baseman Tess Lamb had three hits and three RBIs for the University of Illinois Springfield in a 9-1 season-opening win over Missouri Southern on Friday at the University of Arkansas at Monticello 8-State Softball Classic.

Lamb had a triple for one of her two hits in a 7-4 victory over Rockhurst later in the day.

Against Missouri Southern, UIS sophomore Alex Smith struck out five, walked three, gave up two hits and allowed one run in five innings.

In the second game, UIS sophomore Cheyanne Bowman threw seven innings and had six strikeouts and four walks. She allowed seven hits and four runs.

The wins were featured by The State Journal-Register on February 15, 2014.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

UIS celebrates international students with Flag Raising Ceremony

The University of Illinois Springfield recognized its international students Wednesday with a special flag raising ceremony.

Twenty-two new flags from different countries were added to the university's display. Each flag represents a current or past student and the country they’re from. The ceremony recognizes the international student base, while also teaching local students about their classmates.

"We had somebody here from Santa Lucia a few years ago but we don't have anybody now, but we had a bunch of students saying, 'Oh, I'll do that one, I'll do that one! Oh, where's this?' So they're learning a little bit about geography and things like that while they're representing, or waving the flag and celebrating the flag for a place they may have just heard about for the first time," said Sarah Jome, director of International Student Services.

UIS currently has more than 200 international students on campus. The 22 flags raised today account for countries represented within the last three school years. In total, 88 different flags now fly in the lobby of the Sangamon Auditorium.

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on February 12, 2014.

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UIS softball heads to Arkansas to open season

Shannon Ballegeer, a senior outfielder on the University of Illinois Springfield softball team, cannot stop checking the weather.

She’s not alone. With their diamond covered in snow and the team stuck indoors practicing, Ballegeer and her teammates are eager to head south to begin the season.

“We are ready to get outside and play,” Ballegeer said. “That’s the reason we keep checking the weather. We’re ready to go.”

The Stars are scheduled to open the season Friday with games against Missouri Southern and Rockhurst in Bentonville, Ark. Expectations are high.

“We want to get UIS sports out there,” Ballegeer said. “We figure the way we can do that is by being successful.”

The team was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 13, 2014.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

College students take page out of LaHood’s bipartisan playbook

The following is a portion of an op-ed written by Ed Wojcicki, associate chancellor for constituent relations at UIS. It was published in the Peoria Journal Star on February 9, 2014.

"Six college student leaders have broken free from a trap that is polarizing America. That’s not enough to eradicate a great national toxin, but it’s a start.

Three of the last five years, the presidents of two student organizations — College Democrats and College Republicans — have been roommates at the University of Illinois Springfield. In day-to-day living, they have learned valuable lessons about civil conversations and common ground.

Two are from the Peoria area. It’s as if they have absorbed the attitude of Ray LaHood, the former congressman and U.S. transportation secretary who preaches that bipartisanship is part of the rich history of central Illinois, going back to Abraham Lincoln. LaHood unsuccessfully led an effort to restore civility to Congress in the late 1990s. He carried on, but the political toxicity and hyperpartisanship in the nation’s capital and in many states have only become more odorous.

Meanwhile, at UIS the unusual living arrangement began in 2009, when Democrat Matt Van Vossen of Oak Lawn and Republican Ryan Melchin of Hoffman Estates chose to be roommates in their junior year. They had been friends since they were freshmen and that was more important than their political leanings."

Read the full op-ed on the Peoria Journal Star website

For Beatles fans, it was 50 years ago Sunday

Michael Cheney is a professor of communications at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he teaches a course called, “The Beatles: Popular Music and Society.” He described the Beatles’ appearance on the “The Ed Sullivan Show” as a tipping point on how music and youth culture would evolve in this country.

Just five months before the Beatles’ American television debut, George Harrison had visited his sister in southern Illinois and was a complete unknown to everyone he met. But the groundwork was laid for a British invasion.

Capitol Records was convinced to release “Meet the Beatles!” in January 1964, despite the belief of some label executives that guitar rock was a passing fad. Then the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, arranged appearances in the U.S., including two on the Sullivan show (a third performance was filmed before the band went home). By the time the band hit American soil, the Beatles had the No. 1 hit in the land with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

“That’s how much of a culture change that when on between when George was here in late September until when they appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and almost overnight they became a phenomena,” Cheney said.

Cheney was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 9, 2014.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

UIS men hang on to beat Missouri S&T

A big exhale could be heard when the clock ran out at the end of a men’s basketball game between the University of Illinois Springfield and Missouri S&T on Thursday night.

UIS pulled off an 85-75 win in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game at The Recreation and Athletic Center. It was much-needed victory for the Prairie Stars, who improved to 7-13 overall and 3-9 in the conference.

A back-and-forth first half resulted in a 41-all tie at halftime. That set the stage for a thrilling the second half.

It was tight the whole game with neither UIS nor Missouri S&T (9-11, 4-8) blowing the game open down the stretch.

The win was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 7, 2014.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Prairie State Outdoors editor recognized for master’s thesis

Chris Young, a staff writer and photographer for The State Journal-Register, has received the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award from University of Illinois Springfield.

Young, editor of the SJ-R’s Prairie State Outdoors section and website, wrote his thesis on “Response of the Franklin Ground Squirrel to Recreational Development.” Associate professor Tih-Fen Ting was his adviser.

The award was for the 2012-13 academic year.

Two other local students also received awards for an outstanding thesis or project. Kristen Chenoweth of Jacksonville was recognized in English, and Blake Wood of Springfield was recognized in communications.

The story was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 5, 2014.

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Broadway songs at Sangamon Auditorium

Australian vocal group the Ten Tenors perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Sangamon Auditorium, on the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

Since forming in 1995, the group has had three albums on the Billboard magazine top classical crossover albums chart, including the No. 5 album “Larger Than Life” in 2004. The group performs up to 250 shows each year around the world.

The Ten Tenors have recorded albums of 20th century American standards, pop hits (including “Dancing Queen” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”) made famous by international artists, light opera, and songs from Broadway musicals.

Tickets to Saturday’s concert cost $47/$52, and are available at, or from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 206-6160 or the auditorium box office.

The story was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 6, 2014.

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