Tuesday, February 24, 2015

UIS baseball team tries to build on breakout 2014 season

Chris Ramirez has the University of Illinois Springfield baseball program on the move. Last year was special for the Prairie Stars.

They produced their first winning record in five years of existence, qualified for their first Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and set 12 single-season records.

In order to keep UIS headed in the right direction and better its 28-24 overall record and 18-18 conference mark, Ramirez must combine 26 newcomers with eight returning players.

“Everything we established last year we had to re-implement and re-establish going into this year with us bringing in so many new players,” Ramirez said. “That’s not a bad thing. It just made us have to work a little bit harder as a coaching staff, which is fine.”

The team was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 24, 2015.

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Taking the Million Step Challenge

Some faculty and staff at the University of Illinois Springfield are participating in a step challenge that involves walking at least 8,400 steps a day, including weekends. The challenge will last the rest of the spring 2015 semester.

Andy Egizi, an academic adviser, introduced the idea to combat the health risks associated with an office job where you are confined to a desk day in and day out.

"The idea behind it is that we get up and move and we're better off than we were just sitting here,” said Beverly Weddle, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's office Receptionist.

The story was reported by WAND-TV on February 20, 2015.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

$209 million 'significant hit' to UI's funding

The University of Illinois goes through a lot of money in a year — more than $5 billion, in fact.

But most of it is restricted to specific uses — gifts from donors for a designated building; grants for a particular research project; income from the medical clinics in Chicago. It can't be used to pay an English professor (unless it's designated for that purpose).

So when the governor talks about cutting nearly $209 million from the university's appropriation — 31.5 percent of its state funding — it is a "significant hit," says Randall Kangas, UI associate vice president for planning and budgeting.

The UI gets about $667 million in state general revenue funding, plus more than $1 billion in state-appropriated tuition income, or $1.765 billion in total. That $209 million represents a 12 percent cut to the UI's unrestricted funding, Kangas said.

"State funds really are the skeleton of the university," Kangas said.

What does $209 million buy, in university terms? Two Springfield campuses, and then some, in terms of total budget ($88.8 million) — or four if you consider just their $53 million in unrestricted funding.

At Urbana, it covers 60 percent of the campus instructional budget ($345 million), or nearly the entire budget for the huge College of Liberal Arts and Sciences ($232.4 million).

This article was published online in The News-Gazette on February 20, 2015.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Redefining Natural Beauty

Some call it sticking to your roots, and some call it cute! The way you wear your hair can dictate how society perceives you. Especially for women who are often judged solely on their looks.

That's why one group in Springfield is trying to redefine natural beauty.

"I decided to go natural my senior year of high school, " said University of Illinois student Jamie Anderson.

If you're confused, you're not alone. Confusion brought several to Black History Month exhibit at the University of Illinois in Springfield on Wednesday.

"We're basically giving people permission to touch our hair," said Anderson. She's the president of The Kinky & Curly Natural Hair Empowerment Club.

Most black women are born with curly and extremely thick hair. However, many abandon their natural roots for a straighter and longer look. "I use to do it to conform to society because that was looked at as beautiful, said student Asia Jackson.

But the challenge is affording it, because many straightening procedures and packaged hair can cost a lot of money. They can even cause health problems.

"Natural hair is beautiful," said Anderson. The group is planning on speaking at local high schools so that young women know that their beauty is not defined by the texture of their hair.

This story appeared on WAND TV online on February 18, 2015.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

State certifies UI-Springfield faculty union

A second University of Illinois campus has formed a union for tenure-system faculty, even as organizing efforts continue at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has certified the faculty union at the UI Springfield, which has 137 members and is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, union leaders said.

"This win is part of a trend in higher education where faculties are pushing back against college administrators turning university teaching into an unstable, temporary job," a statement from the union said. "Stability for educators means higher retention rates and more experience in the classroom."

The union's goals are listed as negotiating fair wages and benefits, sharing governance with the administration, and freedom from retaliation when advocating for the rights of students.

The UI's Chicago campus signed its first faculty union contract in May 2014, and the Campus Faculty Association is also pushing for a union to represent tenured and tenure-track faculty at Urbana.

The story was published in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette on February 18, 2015.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

UIS to host summer enrichment day camp program

Springfield officials have announced that the school will host a summer enrichment day camp program for students in first through sixth grades on June 22 through June 26.

The camp, titled "Camp Invention," will be held at the Founders & University Hall on the university's campus from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Camp Invention will focus on creativity and innovation, while helping build participants' teamwork, self-esteem, persistence, and goal-setting skills.

Participants will be encouraged to use their imagination in many ways that they normally don't get to, like coming up with creative solutions real-world challenges, building and taking apart different items, and exploring several kinds of technology.

Officials request that students be registered for this program by March 20. To register, visit www.campinvention.org.

For more information on this program, contact UIS Professor Bapat at (217) 206-7744.

This story was appeared on WAND Channel 17 on February 16, 2015.

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Prairie Stars beat Rockhurst 81-67

J.J. Cravatta continued his strong play by netting a career-high 27 points in the University of Illinois-Springfield's 81-67 victory over Rockhurst in Great Lakes Valley Conference play.

Cravatta was 8-of-13 from the floor and a perfect 7-of-7 from the line.

The Prairie Stars are 10-13 overall and 4-11 in the GLVC.

This article was published online in MyWebTimes.com on February 16, 2015.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Man Freed After Sentence Tossed in Illinois Teen's Death

A man who spent nearly 30 years in prison for the 1984 sexual assault and slaying of a 15-year-old suburban Chicago girl left prison a free man Wednesday after a judge threw out charges against him. 

Christopher Abernathy, 48, was released after a judge agreed to a prosecutor's request to vacate his life sentence, Illinois Corrections Department spokesman Tom Shaer said. Abernathy had been sentenced to life in 1987, but DNA testing last August excluded him from the case.

"He is elated and just so happy that he's able to go home, that he's free and gets to be with his family," his attorney, Lauren Kaeseberg, said. She said Abernathy didn't make a statement as he left the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet.

Abernathy was represented by the Illinois Innocence Project based at the University of Illinois Springfield.

This story was reported by the Associated Press on February 11, 2015.

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UIS women's soccer brings in offensive players

University of Illinois Springfield women’s soccer coach Molly Grisham needs offense, so she went out and recruited several players who could potentially fill the want.

Of the six recruits who recently signed with the Prairie Stars, five are attacking players.

UIS finished next to last in goals in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. It scored 12, two more than last place Saint Joseph’s.

“There was no question we had to go get attackers,” Grisham said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re scoring goals. “The last two seasons we really worked on team defense. We had to find attackers who are going to put the ball in the back of net for us.

The story was published online in The Springfield Journal-Register on February 11, 2015.

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College Students Visit Elementary School For 'No Excuses' Program

A group of students from UIS met with kindergarten kids Wednesday. Their message? It's never too soon to start thinking about college.

This is part of a partnership that UIS has with Riverton Elementary. Wednesday was the first time disabled students from the university met with the students.

This is part of Riverton's No Excuses program. The No Excuses program is to instill in students that there is a future after high school by encouraging kids to go to college or trade school after high school.

"I think having them here our kids are honestly awestruck. They love seeing them and really, at this age, it's a great time for them to understand that no matter how you look on the outside, we're all the same on the inside and we're all capable of doing anything," said Kyleigh Covi, kindergarten teacher. 

The teachers say this is part of their College Wednesdays, where teachers and visitors engage in discussions and activities to teach students about post-secondary education.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on February 11, 2015.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

UIS softball team opens season Friday under new coach Shannon Nicholson

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last week on Groundhog Day, predicting six more weeks of winter. Yet, the college softball season will not wait for spring’s arrival.

The University of Illinois Springfield plays its first game Friday morning against Missouri Southern at the Arkansas-Monticello 8-State Classic in Bentonville, Arkansas. The Prairie Stars will take the field for the first time under new coach Shannon Nicholson.

The Chatham Glenwood High School graduate replaced Mat Mundell last July. Last season he coached UIS to a 27-25 overall record and a 17-17 Great Lakes Valley Conference mark that earned the Prairie Stars a spot in the league tournament.

"We think our defense is going to be our strong point," Nicholson said. "We feel really very strongly about our defense."

This story was published online in The State Journal-Register on February 10, 2015.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Sparkman lifts UIS with double-double

University of Illinois Springfield senior forward Dylan Sparkman was considered a game-time decision, but he started and posted a double-double in the Prairie Stars’ 89-80 win over Missouri S&T in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game Saturday.

Sparkman, who had a knee injury, scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He shot 5-for-8 from the field and 10-for-14 from the free throw line. He contributed two blocks and steal.

The win snapped UIS’ four-game losing streak.

The win was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 8, 2015.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

UIS names coach for new cross country, track programs

Mike De Witt has lots of experience in starting running programs from scratch or rebuilding them. It makes the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native a perfect fit to be the first University of Illinois Springfield cross country and track and field coach.

De Witt’s hire was announced Monday.

He has coached running since the 1970s, including well over 30 years at the college level. He spent 29 years at his alma mater, Wisconsin-Parkside. He started programs at NAIA Ave Maria University in Florida and took over at NCAA Division II Belmont Abbey in North Carolina soon after it restarted its track and field program.

He turned Wisconsin-Parkside men’s cross country into a respectable program. “The women’s team was always good, but I rebuilt the men’s cross country program at Wisconsin-Parkside,” De Witt said. “They were down to just a few guys. I took them from beating one team at the Great Lakes Valley Conference meet the first year to the third year finishing fifth or sixth.”

De Witt currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and works in the suburb of Bessemer.

De Witt was the first All-American at Wisconsin-Parkside in track. He has competed in the Olympic Trials five times in the 50 kilometer Race Walk and was on Team USA seven times, including the 1989 World Cup of Race Walking.

His first day at UIS is March 9. His salary is $42,000. UIS men’s and women’s cross country teams will take part in GLVC competition in the fall. The women’s track team will compete on a limited basis in distance events in spring 2016. The men’s track team will begin competition in distance events in spring 2017. “I will set up a meeting with kids on campus interested in running,” De Witt said. “I was a runner on the first Wisconsin-Parkside team, so I understand.”

This story was published online in The State Journal-Register on February 2, 2015.

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