Monday, September 29, 2014

UIS Student Union fundraising set to kick off

The University of Illinois Springfield is kicking off its Student Union fundraising campaign Tuesday with a free carnival-themed event on campus.

The event, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. by the Colonnade, features T-shirt giveaways, games with prizes, and carnival treats such as funnel cakes, kettle corn, corn dogs and lemon shake-ups.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch and Student Government Association president Joe McGee will speak, and attendees will be able to “tour” the planned building through large posters of floor plans.

Early donors to the campaign, which hopes to raise $8 million, also will be announced.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on September 29, 2014.

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Harrisburg's Amaya commits to UIS men's basketball team

Bahari Amaya, a key reserve on the Harrisburg High School Class 2A state championship team in 2013, has committed to play basketball at the University of Illinois Springfield starting in the 2015-16 season.

Amaya, a 6-foot-5 senior wing, took his only official visit to UIS. The early signing period for basketball begins Nov. 12.

“When I went on the official visit I felt at home,” he said. “It seems like a really cool place. It seemed like a good fit.”

As a sophomore, Amaya was the leading scorer and rebounder in Harrisburg’s 53-43 win over St. Joseph-Ogden in the state semifinals with 13 points and six rebounds. He had four points, two assists and a rebound in the fourth quarter of a 50-44 victory over South Holland Seton Academy in the title game. He averaged 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds that year.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on September 26, 2014.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

UIC College of Nursing to offer bachelor's degree program at UIS

Nursing students will be able to earn a University of Illinois at Chicago bachelor’s degree on the Springfield campus of the U of I beginning next August.

The University of Illinois Springfield is joining with UIC and Memorial Health System to offer the degree that they say will meet a growing demand for highly trained nurses. 

“As Springfield’s medical district grows, there is a demand for highly qualified nurses in the area,” UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. “This partnership will bring one of the top-ranked schools for nursing in the country to Springfield while helping to further boost undergraduate enrollment at UIS.” 

The program can be completed in four years of full-time study and is in two phases. Two years of pre-nursing and general education courses at UIS would be followed by two years of professional nursing courses taught by UIC College of Nursing faculty at UIS. 

Admission to the professional phase is highly competitive and requires recommendation by the UIC College of Nursing’s admissions committee after the first two years of coursework. 

The bachelor’s degree program will be supported by $1.25 million in scholarships made available to UIS students by Memorial Health System. Memorial also will contribute $750,000 over three years to help support the program and get it up and running, said Ed Curtis, president and CEO of Memorial Health System.

The story was reported in The State Journal Register on September 24, 2014.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Prairie Stars open with challenge

The University of Illinois Springfield women’s basketball team kicks off the season Nov. 14 against Hillsdale at the Great Lakes Valley Conference/Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The Prairie Stars will have three road games under their belt before the home opener Nov. 22 against Southwest Baptist at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

UIS plays exhibition games at NCAA Division I University of Illinois-Chicago Nov. 30 and Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 21.

The GLVC schedule begins for the Stars on Jan. 2 at home against Missouri-St. Louis.

The final conference game is Feb. 26 against McKendree in Lebanon.

The article appeared in The State Journal Register on September 23, 2014.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Learning English to get degrees

International student enrollment is up 115 percent over last year at the University Illinois Springfield. 

One of the main attractions to students from other countries is that UIS offers an intensive English as a second language program over eight weeks, that if passed, allows international students the chance to earn a degree from an American university.

Because of the program more international students are calling UIS home. 

"It's also helped create more exchange as the level of the culture, because of the level of traditions You can also be walking on campus and hear people speaking different languages, like you are in Times Square which is really an interesting thing on campus," said Driss El-Akrich, Interim Director, UIS Intensive English Program.

Yawen Li could have studied anywhere in the world, but she chose the United States. "Young people like America because they think this country is so amazing. People in China now really want to go to America," said Li, student from China. 

Students spend 22 hours a week in class studying the language and using it. "Actually we learn a lot, a lot of things, vocabulary, grammar and writing too," said Yionis Al-Ghandi, student from Saudi Arabia. 

There are 52 students in the program.  Next term, even more students are expected to come to the U.S. to take part in the program.

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on September 22, 2014.

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UIS' Walker fulfills lifelong ambition by becoming head basketball coach

Bill Walker can celebrate his 50th birthday knowing he achieved a lifelong goal earlier in 2014. 

After being an assistant coach for half his life, the Missouri native was hired to lead the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball program six months ago. “I felt like as a guy who had some really good and high-profile assistant jobs — and if I really wanted to dig into coaching — I needed to be a head coach while I still have the intersection of experience and energy, which to me is right now,” 

Walker said. “It’s been fun. It’s been different since assistant coaches make suggestions and head coaches make decisions. I’m making decisions now instead of suggestions.” 

Walker, 49, became a first-time head coach in late April when UIS hired him as a replacement for the fired Ben Wierzba. Walker had long prepared for the opportunity to be a head coach. He was a college assistant for 25 years, including 11 in NCAA Division I, and an NBA scout with New Orleans. He was an assistant at Drake last season. Previously he had been at Texas A&M and Minnesota. 

This story was reported by The State Journal Register on September 22, 2014. 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Illinois Innocence Project receives quarter-million dollar grant

The University of Illinois in Springfield gets a quarter of a million dollars for a special project.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Justice in the form of a grant, and will help fund the Illinois Innocence Project based at UIS. The group investigates credible claims of innocence and works to remedy wrongful convictions.

They receive over 300 requests a year for assistance. The grant will allow legal and student staff to continue working on potential cases.

"We are dependent upon grants and private contributions and whatever to help the university can provide for us in order to fund the project. So this is going to help in terms of funding legal staff to take the cases," said Larry Golden, founding director of Illinois Innocence Project.

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on September 17, 2014.

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UIS Athletics to hold first Hall of Fame induction on Oct. 11

The University of Illinois Springfield Department of Athletics will induct its inaugural hall of fame class of four individuals and one team Oct. 11 on the UIS campus.

The class includes former men’s soccer coach and athletic director Aydin Gonulsen (1976-2002), UIS supporter Harold Christofilakos, former tennis player Carla Jimenez Mills (1998-2000), former men’s soccer player Elias Shehadi (1976-1979) and 1986 NAIA national champion men’s soccer team.

The induction ceremony will take place in the Studio Theater at the Public Affairs Center at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

A pre-ceremony reception will be held 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Food Emporium of the PAC and costs $25 for hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine as well as light refreshments during intermission of the ceremony. Children 15 and under are free. Reception tickets will not be sold at the door.

A banner honoring the Hall of Fame inductees will hang in The Recreation and Athletic Center.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on September 18, 2014.

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More transfers boost UIS men's basketball roster

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball roster has grown in size with the additions of Davi Austin, Colin Blaydes, Xavier Todd and Vince Walker.

Austin transferred from Lewis and Clark Community College. The 6-foot-1 junior guard was the Trailblazers’ leading scorer last season. He averaged 15.4 points per game. He also averaged a team-high 2.9 steals per game and 2.6 assists per game.

Another transfer is 6-4 junior forward Colin Blaydes. He averaged 4 points and 3.8 rebounds for Kishwaukee College last season.

Guard Vince Walker, Bill Walker’s son, is the squad’s sole freshman. Vince averaged a team-leading 12.5 points per game for Ankeny (Iowa) High School before he slipped on ice and broke his left ankle in February. It was repaired surgically and he is currently taking part in pre-season workouts.

The roster also includes 5-10 sophomore guard and Chicago native Xavier Todd.

UIS will have six new players, including junior guard JJ Cravatta and junior forward Sammie Elem, when practice begins Oct. 15.

“I wanted to upgrade the talent, which I think these recruits have helped try to start that process,” Walker said.

The team was featured by The State Journal-Register on September 18, 2014.

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Prairie Stars men’s basketball will debut at Vanderbilt

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team opens the 2014-15 season with an exhibition Nov. 6 against NCAA Division I Vanderbilt University at its historic Memorial Gymnasium where the benches are situated on the baseline and the elevated court sits above the scorer’s table, press row and many of the fans.

UIS also plays a road exhibition against Division I Green Bay Nov. 15 at 3 p.m.

A game time has yet to be announced for the Prairie Stars’ game against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee.

UIS returns eight players from last season’s 10-18 team that placed sixth out of eight teams in the Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division with a 5-13 record. First-year coach Bill Walker has added six new players to the roster.

The team was featured by The State Journal-Register on September 18, 2014.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UIS grows in student diversity

Students from across the world are coming to the University of Illinois Springfield in record numbers.

The number of international students increased 115 percent over last fall, to 827, making it one of the university's fastest growing populations.

The majority of international students come from either India or China.

Rishika Naha is the vice president of the Indian Student Association on campus.  She says new students need help transitioning.

"We have to adapt to new things, from the food to dressing to behavior, body language, etiquette and everything," Naha said.

Naha said American schools have become a magnet because her country places a high value on an American degree.

This story was featured on WCIA on Monday, September 15th.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Susan Koch: Examples of excellence showcased in honors program

The following is a portion of a guest column written by UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. It was published on September 15, 2014 in The State Journal-Register.

"A front-page headline a few days ago in Springfield’s The State Journal-Register announced a record enrollment at the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois.

That’s great news for both the campus and for the larger Springfield community —where UIS students live, work, volunteer and contribute to the local economy.

I’m pleased, most assuredly, with our continued growth, but it is equally gratifying to know that the reputation of UIS across the region continues to advance. Achieving excellence has been a consistent strategic goal for the faculty and staff at UIS and one of the best examples of that excellence is the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

Established in 2001 when the UIS campus first admitted freshmen, the Cap Scholars program welcomes about 120 highly qualified and motivated students each year who have been selected to participate in a unique and challenging residential college experience.

At the heart of the Cap Scholars program is an understanding that the problems facing today’s world are complex and solutions often require the application of knowledge from many different areas of study. For that reason, the program is centered on an engaging interdisciplinary curriculum where exceptional UIS faculty challenge students to investigate, debate and think critically about the complexities of today’s society.

The development of leadership skills—what Honors Program Director Mark Klingshirn calls 'finding their inner leader' —is also a major emphasis of the honors experience. An Honors Global Awareness requirement encourages participants to gain an appreciation of cultures other than their own and enables students to study abroad and learn other languages."

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UIS hosts "War on Poverty" forum

It’s been 50 years since the “War on Poverty” was launched. Around 15% of Illinois residents currently live in poverty, the same percentage of a half century ago. Universities, non-profits, and other organizations are teaming up to draw attention to the unrelenting problem. The University of Illinois Springfield is hosting a series of poverty-related events in the coming year. The first was a “poverty simulation.”

The poverty simulation allows participants to maneuver their way through a world that nearly 2 million Illinois residents face 24/7. A family of four earning less than $24,000 a year is considered to be in poverty. And it's more of a problem among minorities and women. A half century after the national “War on Poverty” was declared, Christine Westerlund says there's still a long way to go.

“The war has not yet been won, but you know - the thing is what we need to do is bring awareness to the next generation that there (are) still issues that needs to be addressed - inequality that needs to be in conversation ... This is really what this is, is heightening awareness about poverty,” said Westerlund.

This event is the first part of a 'War on Poverty' forum being held at UIS - a film and panel discussion will follow in October and November.

The series was spotlighted by WUIS Public Radio on September 15, 2014.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

UIS women's soccer team moves to 2-0

The UIS women's soccer team moves to 2-0 after their home opener on Tuesday at Kiwanis Stadium. 

Kim Tokarski scored off a corner kick one minute into the second half to give the University of Illinois Springfield women’s soccer team a 1-0 victory over Judson.

Tokarski and Nikki Auble combined for the winning score in the home opener. Auble’s corner kick set up a scramble in front of the net. Paige Polonus made nine saves for the Prairie Stars.

The win was featured in The State Journal Register.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Record enrollment at UIS again tops 5,000 students

Enrollment at the University of Illinois Springfield is at a record high this fall after topping 5,000 students for the fifth consecutive year.

The official fall census taken on the 10th day of classes shows 5,431 students enrolled at UIS compared to 5,137 last year. The previous highest enrollment was 5,174 students in 2010.

“One of our highest priorities has been growing our enrollment, and we are pleased with this fall’s census,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch. She said growth is one of the university’s three strategic priorities.

“We’ve been very deliberate about pushing our reputation out there, both locally and throughout Illinois,” she said. “I think word of mouth has a lot to do with it. We have more alumni out there who have good things to say about the university and their experience.”

The story was featured in The State Journal-Register on September 9, 2014.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

U of I Board expected to OK more need based financial aid

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees is expected to approve more need-based financial aid than it does now by adopting a more flexible funding formula.

The university’s institutional aid is the money it gets mostly from student tuition that flows into need-based financial aid for students who cannot afford to pay full tuition.

The institutional aid has exceeded the amount that the university gets in either state or federal financial aid since the 2013 academic year. The most recent data available show that, in 2015, the university’s institutional-based financial aid is budgeted at $83.9 million, while state Monetary Award Program funding is estimated at $61.3 million and federal Pell Grant funding at $72.7 million.

That would mean a total of $217.9 million in fiscal year 2014 would be awarded to 26,000 undergraduate students on the university’s three campuses.

The amount of institutional need-based financial aid for fiscal year 2015 is estimated at $45 million at UI-UC, $38.5 million at UIC and $250,000 at UIS.

The article was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times on September 9.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Coombes' goal gives UIS men's soccer win

Freshman defender Jack Coombes scored his second goal in as many games on Sunday to give the University of Illinois Springfield men's soccer team a 2-1 overtime victory over Montana State-Billings.

The score was tied 1-1 at halftime, and neither team scored in the second half .

Given a corner kick in the 102nd minute of play, the Prairie Stars took advantage as Ismael Serratos found Coombes for the game winner.

The Prairie Stars (2-0) took and early lead with Chukwuka Iwe converted a penalty kick at 20:32 into the first half. But the Yellow Jackets responded with a penalty kick of their own, with Thorge Jess scoring to tie it at the 31:48 mark.

The win was reported by The State Journal-Register on September 7, 2014.

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Women's soccer: Prairie Stars take opener

Kim Tokarski scored the tying goal and Nikka Auble posted what proved to be the game winner on Sunday as the University of Illinois Springfield women's soccer team took a 2-1 victory over St. Francis on Sunday at Joliet Memorial Stadium.

Auble scored on a free kick from the left side at the 55th minute to make it 2-1 UIS. Tokarski had tied it with an unassisted goal from 15 yards out 22:15 into the first half.

The Prairie Stars outshot St. Francis 18-7, including 10-2 in the second half. UIS also had seven corner kicks while the Fighting Saints had none.

Paige Polonus was in goal for UIS.

The win was reported by The State Journal-Register on September 7, 2014.

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UIS volleyball team starts season with pair of wins

The University of Illinois Springfield opened the volleyball season with a bang, defeating Ohio Valley 26-19, 25-20, 26-24 in a Friday afternoon match in the UIS Invite at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

The Prairie Stars won their evening match against Urbana 25-23, 31-29, 25-21.

Ashley Beaton and senior Shelby Geers led the Stars with nine kills apiece against Ohio Valley. Geers contributed four blocks. Sophomore Nora Palermo added eight kills. JoAnna Hoffman had 18 assists, six kills and three blocks. Freshman Lexi Hall collected 14 assists. Sophomore Kayla Katarzynski recorded 22 digs.

Against Urbana, UIS junior Nikki Madoch collected 13 kills and six blocks. Beaton added 10 kills and three blocks. Hall led with 18 assists, while Hoffman had 17. Katarzynski had 16 digs for the 2-0 Stars.

The win was featured by The State Journal-Register on September 5, 2014.

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Established players, top recruits points UIS women's soccer toward improvement

College students don’t get summer reading lists, but members of the University of Illinois Springfield women’s soccer team did this summer.

Each player on the roster took time over the summer and read “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. The book suggests how to approach life and work with positive and forward thinking.

“It taught us a lot about how positive energy will drive your bus, and you want to have people who are also positive on your bus,” UIS sophomore Sam Boettjer said. “We use that to keep us on track and keep us positive on and off the field so we can be successful.”

Talk to any of the UIS women’s soccer players and they’re bound to tell you the author’s advice is working. So is the effort they put in last semester when the team met once a week for a growth and development series where they aired grievances and discussed topics such as accountability and how to communicate better with each other.

“The attitude of the team as a whole is a lot different,” UIS sophomore Nikki Auble said. “It’s a lot better. Everyone is super positive at practice. We all are willing to support each other. You didn’t see that as much last year, so we’re excited about that.”

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

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Unlikely friends part of UIS foreign/indie film series

The unofficial theme of the 2014 Fall Foreign and Independent Film Series could be “unlikely friends.”

The four-film series – which was released Wednesday with apologies for not being made available sooner – kicks off Friday at Brookens Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield.

All films begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free except where noted.

Sept. 5: Headlined by Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club” is set in the mid-1980s when AIDS was still a death sentence.

Oct. 3: Ralph Fiennes stars in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” about the unlikely friendship between a hotel concierge and a lobby boy who must deal with the theft of a priceless painting.

Nov. 7: The 2011 French film “The Intouchables” is based on the true story of a disabled millionaire and the ex-con from a poor side of town who becomes his caretaker. Subtitled in English.

Dec. 5: “Born in Chicago” is a documentary about white teenagers from the Chicago area who frequented blues clubs on the city’s south side in the early 1960s to learn how to play blues music from the best. Tickets are required for this film because of the large anticipated audience. Call 206-6160 to reserve tickets.

The series was featured by The State Journal-Register on September 3, 2014.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

UIS volleyball team hopes to start, finish strong this season

There’s lots of enthusiasm and confidence as far as the University of Illinois Springfield volleyball team is concerned.

With seven freshmen on last year’s roster, the Prairie Stars experienced growing pains. They believe that’s behind them.

“They’ve just grown exponentially,” UIS coach Noelle Rooke said. “As I say, they’ve blossomed. It’s night and day, they’ve improved so much.”

A year older and more experienced, Rooke and her players expect more this season. UIS produced an 8-21 overall record and 4-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference mark in 2013.

The team was featured by The State Journal-Register on September 2, 2014.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

UIS students volunteer during Service-A-Thon

More than 70 students participated in University of Illinois Springfield's annual Service-A-Thon.

The event always happens after the first week of classes. It brings together students for service projects around the capital city.

One of those projects, helping Habitat for Humanity with its latest project.

"It was a good chance to help out the community, meet new people, and have a good time," said Kelsie Roberts, a freshman at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Other students worked at Saint John's Bread Line cooking and serving meals. In total, students helped with four projects.

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on August 29, 2014.

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