Friday, July 31, 2015

UIS's Strawbridge-Shepherd House named to National Register of Historic Places

The National Park Service has added the 1840s-era Strawbridge-Shepherd House on the southern edge of the University of Illinois Springfield campus to the National Register of Historic Places.

The home, which was restored by the Elijah Iles House Foundation, was officially listed on June 8.

James Welt, who graduated from UIS in May with a master's degree in history, led the effort to have the house added to the registry, according to the university. He spent more than 200 hours researching and writing a proposal that was submitted to the National Park Service.

"Buildings like the Strawbridge-Shepherd House provide us a visual connection to the past that you can't get from a history book," Welt said in a news release. "Now that it is granted, I feel a bit of relief and satisfaction that the house has a level of protection."

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on July 31, 2015.

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UIS' Beaton named to NCAA committee

University of Illinois Springfield volleyball player Ashley Beaton has been named to the NCAA Division II National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The junior outside hitter is the first UIS student to serve on the committee. Members serve as liaisons between campus, conference and national levels.

The Division II SAAC Nominating Sub-Committee chooses from candidates submitted by conferences.

Beaton was nominated by the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on July 31, 2015.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New UIS Public Safety Building is another budget casualty

University of Illinois Springfield officials are concerned that contracts for its new Public Safety Building may have to be rebid, further delaying a project they say is sorely needed.

The $5.3 million project went out for bids in November, and “the bids came in and we were all ready to go,” said Chuck Coderko, director of construction for UIS. “Then the governor stopped everything and it was put on hold pending funding.”

Since Gov. Bruce Rauner’s order that the Capital Development Board hold up construction projects until a budget is hammered out, the bids received by UIS technically have expired, Coderko said.

“The bids are only good for so long,” he said. “The Capital Development Board can still ask the contractors to honor those bids, and sometimes they do. The contractors seemed eager to get this thing going.”

Money for the project was appropriated in late 2011, but delays in the design process resulted in bids being sought only last year.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on July 28, 2015.

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State Fair offers bonus to college students

Enjoying the Illinois State Fair just got easier, especially for Illinois college students. State Fair Manager Patrick Buchen announced today College Night will take place on Thursday, August 20th.

Any college student who purchases a ticket to see The Fray with Andy Grammer at the Grandstand will receive FREE admission to the fairgrounds for the night of the concert, August 20th.

To sweeten the deal for area college students, University of Illinois Springfield will offer its students a shuttle service from the university to the state fairgrounds from 5:30pm until midnight.

"As our students return for the start of the fall semester, we welcome this opportunity for them to experience the Illinois State Fair," said University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch.

For non-UIS students, Springfield Mass Transit District offers transportation to the fairgrounds for a minimal cost, and Uber also offers services in the Capital City. SMTD bus route information can be obtained at

The story was reported by The X Radio Effingham on July 27, 2015.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

UIS volleyball adds depth, talent with four recruits

Trey Salinas’ summer tour of coaching at college volleyball camps will wrap next week at Iowa State.

This is what the University of Illinois Springfield first-year volleyball coach and many of his colleagues do in the offseason. These camps allow coaches to get eyes on high school players among other things. Salinas has his recruits locked up for 2015, but has his sights on future classes.

He will welcome four new players to the team when practice starts next month. Right-side hitter Emma Burkle, middle hitter Alyssa Hasler, setter Tiffany Wentworth and libero Isabela Fonseca are all freshmen. They join 13 returning players.

“My logic around recruiting for this year and next year is in preparation for the (seven-player junior) class to go,” Salinas said. “That way the year after they leave, I’m not trying to bring in seven kids to replace that whole squad.”

This story appeared online in The State Journal-Register on July 24, 2015.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Illinois Issues magazine going all digital

The August edition of Illinois Issues will be the last print version of the 40-year-old magazine.

The change comes about a year after the publication merged with WUIS-FM 91.9, with reporters from both outlets doing radio and magazine stories.

"This has been a difficult decision," Randy Eccles, general manager of the radio station and publisher of Illinois Issues, wrote on his Mission Control blog at, the site of magazine and radio stories. He added that it is hardest on the staff, but they also "realize the reality of the media market."

"I still enjoy holding printed pages but find myself more frequently reading on my smartphone or laptop," Eccles said.

Declining circulation, costs associated with trying to increase print distribution, and uncertain state funding combined to push the decision to go all digital, Eccles said. He also said the good news is that some stories recently published online have been read by five times the number reached by the print magazine.

Jamey Dunn, Illinois Issues executive editor, said that as of early this year, the magazine had just under 1,000 paid subscribers. The level was nearly 6,000 back in 1994.

Dunn noted that the magazine was started by U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and others who wanted to create a "nonpartisan, in-depth venue" so people could learn about Illinois.

She and others at the magazine are very sad about the end of the print edition, she said, but she added that the online experience so far has been very encouraging.

"We realize that the way that we're going to reach more of an audience and new people is online," Dunn said. "That's where people are getting their news."

State support for the magazine through the University of Illinois Springfield was $175,000 last fiscal year, Dunn said. Eccles wrote that Illinois Issues might have faced a $120,000 deficit without the move to all digital.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on July 23, 2015.

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New UIS cross country coach Mike De Witt building everything from the ground up

Runners leaving the starting line will race along the YMCA soccer fields, between rows of corn, past an old red barn and the former home of university presidents near Lake Springfield. Then it’s back through the corn and by the soccer fields to the finish line.

That is the route competitors in the University of Illinois Springfield’s inaugural cross country race will traverse on the northeast corner of campus Sept. 11. The UIS First Meet will feature the Prairie Stars' new men’s and women’s cross country teams.

“This is Phase One,” UIS cross country coach Mike De Witt said. “That is a 2K loop. The 2K will be the core of the course. Our first meet the women will run a 4K and the men will run a 6K. The more people run on it the easier it will be to maintain.”

The course designed by De Witt will soon get a workout after the runners report to the first day of practice Aug. 17. De Witt is an expert in cross country course design. The 64-year-old native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is entering his 41st year of coaching, including 36 years at the college level.

Since he was hired in February, De Witt has been building the Stars’ course and roster.

“We had an interest meeting on campus,” he said. “I was anticipating maybe a dozen kids would show up. We had two dozen show up at the meeting and another half dozen checked in.”

De Witt was featured by The State Journal-Register on July 23, 2015.

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UIS Athletics hosts annual Backyard BBQ

The University of Illinois Springfield Athletic Department's annual Backyard BBQ will be Aug. 29 in the field west of The Recreation and Athletic Center from 5-7 p.m.

Lake Pointe Grill will provide free food. The event will feature an inflatable bounce house and activities like ladder golf, bean bag toss and water balloon toss. Attendees can take picture in a photo booth and soak athletes and coaches in a dunk tank. There will be giveaways and music.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on July 21, 2015.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

UIS basketball team gets Chicago State transfer Jesse Tesmer

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team has boosted its post play with the signing of NCAA Division I Chicago State transfer Jesse Tesmer.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior power forward is the Prairie Stars’ sixth recruit.

Tesmer played 19 games and started four last season. He averaged 8.5 minutes, .9 points and .7 rebounds.

“Jesse brings a toughness and physical presence that we can really use on our front line,” UIS coach Bill Walker said. “He has experience and fills a need for us.”

Tesmer was featured by The State Journal-Register on July 16, 2015.

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UIS women's soccer team bolsters defense ahead of 2015 season

Coach Molly Grisham’s first wave of recruits at the beginning of 2015 addressed the offensive needs of the University of Illinois Springfield women’s soccer team, the next set focuses on defense.

Freshman defender Karly Keller, freshman goalkeeper Paloma Guijarro and freshman defender/midfielder Kimberly Rickson have signed with the Prairie Stars.

“We met our attacking needs early,” Grisham said. “As we put that attacking group together with our existing group, we saw a few holes still. We wanted a third goalkeeper and Paloma was the right person at the right time. She will be a really nice addition to our goalkeeping unit. Karly was a player we saw really late in the recruiting process. I think she’ll come in and give us a little more depth on the defensive side.”

Guijarro, a Waukegan High School graduate, played for the Chicago Magic and North Central United. Keller was a member of the Waunakee (Wisconsin) High School state championship team in 2014. Rickson is a Peotone High School product. She helped Windy City Pride Soccer Club reach the U.S. Club National Finals.

The students were featured by The State Journal-Register on July 16, 2015.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

How 21-year-old Springfield twins are making serious cash building video games

A part-time job in college can go a long way towards paying off loans and having some cash on the weekend. For two University of Illinois at Springfield twins, their part-time jobs means developing video games. And it pays a whole lot better than bar tending.

Matthew and Nathan Dean, 21-year-old brothers from Springfield, are creating games on an interactive gaming platform called Roblox, which help kids and teens learn the art of coding and game development.

The two first started playing games on Roblox in 2009, but quickly began building games on their own. They've created a game called Trade Hangout, where people in Roblox can socialize online and haggle over virtual items than can be bought with Roblox currency called Robux.

Matthew and Nathan performed so well on the site that Roblox offered them internships at its San Mateo, CA headquarters, where the twins have worked the past two summers.

"Roblox is not only a great place to make games, but to learn to program in general," Nathan said. "A lot of kids have gone on from Roblox to pursue computer science in high school and study it in college, and have a career in software development. It's a place to have fun, but you’re also learning skills that are really valuable in the future."

This story appeared online on on July 13, 2015.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New UIS women's basketball coach getting to know players

Basketball season doesn’t kick off until November, but this weekend is a big date for the University of Illinois Springfield women’s team.

Nine returning players and three recruits are getting together on campus for bonding time, which includes getting on the court and connecting with new coach Mark Kost. “They’re going to bond and play some pickup basketball on their own,” he said. “The thing that encouraged me the most is they’ve organized it on their own. It makes you feel good as a coach that they took the initiative to do that.”

Kost cannot provide any basketball instruction due to NCAA rules, but he can hang out with the players and spend time getting to know them. He’s looking forward to having them all together in the same room for the first time.

“We’re in the process of developing trust,” he said. “I’m excited and I believe they are excited about a fresh start. That’s what we’ve been focusing on all summer with our phone conversations and text conversations.”

This story appeared online in The State Journal-Register on July 14, 2015.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Japanese students get science lesson at UIS

It was the first time in a boat for 11 Japanese high school students studying aquatic ecology at the University of Illinois Springfield last week.

This week, their studies would show them why it may not be a good idea to swallow the water should they fall out of the boat.

The students and two teachers from Ashikaga Boys High School in Ashikaga, Japan, are at UIS for a Science Academy Program funded by the Japanese government. During the weeklong trip, which began Thursday, the students are learning sampling techniques, fundamental water analysis and basic molecular biology and how it relates to conservation.

Ashikaga has been Springfield’s sister city since 1990, and UIS is hosting a group of science students from the same 600-student high school for the third year.

This story appeared online in The State Journal Register on July 13, 2015.

Read the entire story online.

Watch the WICS Newschannel 20 version of the story.

Monday, July 13, 2015

My memories of Sangamon State

In the summer of 1970 a small storefront office opened on Washington Street. People began showing up to register for higher education classes.

This was something new; a public university was coming to Springfield. Like all government projects it was behind schedule. A campus of several one-story metal buildings was nearing completion by the lake, but until it was done, there were storefront offices and classes in the First Methodist Church.

I was one of those charter students. We were a motley crew....people of all ages and backgrounds. Old ladies, young community college graduates, people who had dropped out, flunked out or previously couldn’t afford much college. There were anti-war peaceniks and ex-Marines who had seen hard duty in Vietnam.

We were there to take a chance on a brand new adventure. We all shared two characteristics: we were local and we had all been someplace else before Sangamon.

This was due to the nature of the university. It had no housing, hadn’t reached beyond central Illinois to attract students and instruction started at the junior year as an intended capstone to the new community colleges in the state.

So both the people who planned SSU and its first students agreed on one shared expectation: Sangamon ought to be different.

One thing that united most on campus was the mission statement which directed Sangamon to be the public affairs university for Illinois. It was logical because of the location in a town which had been the only state capital in the United States without a public university.

The institution changed me, changed all of us. At whatever point in our lives we came, late or early, after previous success or failure, it affected us all profoundly.

Though the Sangamon State name is gone, those early pioneers started an institution which continues in spirit, still growing, still educating, still a vital actor on the Springfield stage. I think all of us from the early days of the university are proud of what we started and what it has become.

This column appeared in the Illinois Times on July 9, 2015.

Read the entire column here.

New recruits spark optimism for UIS men's soccer program

University of Illinois Springfield men’s soccer coach Jesse Miech is enjoying what his incoming recruits are showing him this summer and they’re not even on campus.

Classes start next month and freshmen midfielders Andrew Mullican and Grant Bauer are still playing with their club team. “They just won regionals at the National Premier League,” Miech said. “It’s really exciting that they are still playing this summer at a competitive level.”

Mullican and Bauer are members of St. Louis Scott Gallagher under-18 Metro boys soccer team playing in the National Premier League national tournament this week in Indiana.

Other incoming recruits are enjoying summer success at the club level. Freshmen midfielders Michael Deavilla and Jeremy Hardcastle won the Missouri State Cup under-18 title in May with Lou Fusz Soccer Club coached by Marty Pike, who played for the Prairie Stars’ 1986 NAIA national championship team.

International flair Freshman forward/midfielder Ardijan Berisha last played in Germany. After graduating last year from John Jay High School in New York, he went to play for FSV Erlangen in Germany.

Miech has brought in defenders Collin Anderson and Zach Downing. Anderson is a Scott Gallagher product and graduated from Francis Howell in Missouri. Downing joined Northern Illinois for the spring semester earlier this year after two years at Parkland College. The Danville native will now play for UIS.

Junior forward Zachary Allevi was born in Bulgaria, lived in Australia and spent the last two seasons at Parkland.

Junior forward Kanye Sayon is another former Parkland player. His older brother, Eddie Sayon, also played for UIS. The family is from Liberia, but left the country due to a civil war there. Kanye graduated from Champaign Central High.

Freshman striker Niles Smith also has college experience. He graduated a semester early from Collinsville and enrolled at UIS in January.

“We’ve got some key guys returning who played a lot of minutes,” Miech said. “We’ve got some guys who we think are going to give us a lot of minutes.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2015.

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Plight of homeland leaves local Greeks aching

Harold Christofilakos said it is business as usual for his Springfield-based Spartan Valley Olive Oil.

That doesn't mean Christofilakos' heart doesn't ache watching events unfold in Greece, the homeland he left in 1955 as a 14-year-old boy.

Greece's economy remains very much on the precipice as it tries to get some of its house in order before a Thursday deadline to make a proposal to the eurozone and ahead of a Sunday meeting of the full European Council.

Reached at his office at Amco Fence Co., which he also owns, the 74-year-old entrepreneur and developer said production in the Sparta area of Greece continues unimpeded and that Spartan Oil, the store in Chateau Village that imports extra-virgin olive oil, Kalamata olives and feta cheese, among other food items, had received a recent shipment. "When you pay with dollars and euros, they take them," said Christofilakos, who is planning a trip to Greece, where he still maintains a home, with several family members later this month.

"When you see all of the older people and lines blocks long (of people waiting at ATMs), you feel sorry," he said. "My heart cries for them." 'Desperate' Greeks Aspasia Sonia Anyfantaki Lang of Springfield said Greeks — and especially the country's politicians — need to do some soul-searching.

"Greeks are a passionate people," said Lang, who came to the U.S. as a student in 1959 and then to live permanently in 1962 with her husband, George Lang. "They will live life to the fullest and pay for it later. "Now Greeks are more desperate by the hour." Lang said the eurozone had no choice but to to insist that the Greeks pay toward their loans, and she suggested a stark approach, including layoffs and pension cuts. Greek politicians kept inflating government payrolls by appointing or hiring supporters and family members and instituting a retirement age of 55, she said.

Christofilakos and experts like Ronald McNeil, dean of the College of Business and Management at the University of Illinois Springfield, believe a deal will get done to keep Greece in the eurozone because the stakes are too high to see it leave.

McNeil added that Greece "is a red light to the world, including to Illinois, that if you don't have your expenditures in check," you're courting disaster.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New recruits, opening night exhibition with Illini add intrigue to UIS men's hoops season

It has been a big week for the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball program since it signed 6-foot-7 guard/forward Richard Freeman and announced it will play the University of Illinois for the first time.

 Freeman is transferring from NCAA Division I Grambling State. UIS coach Bill Walker announced the signing Wednesday. Walker describes him as “versatile." “He’s not a traditional back-to-the-basket player,” he said. “He’s more of a slasher. On the defensive end, he can block shots and play way above the rim for us.”

Freeman, an Indianapolis native, played for Lawrence Central High School and is the Prairie Stars’ fifth recruit. Adding him to the roster gives UIS additional height in the post. Six-foot-9 freshman center Zach Steinberg signed with the Prairie Stars in April.

The recruiting class also includes 5-10 freshman point guard Logan Gonce, 6-5 freshman forward Bahari Amaya and 6-5 junior guard Paxton Harmon.

The newcomers and eight returning players will kick off the season with a bang. The Stars’ 14th season as a program will start with an exhibition game against the Illini Nov. 8 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. It is the first meeting between the schools. “It’s a huge step up in competition for us,” Walker said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be a game that doesn’t count on either team’s record, but is going to be a really good experience, especially for our in-state guys.”

This article appeared in The State Journal Register on July 8, 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Illini basketball's opponents in Springfield include UIS, Chicago State, North Florida, North Dakota State, Chattanooga

An exhibition game with the University of Illinois at Springfield, dates with two teams that reached the NCAA tournament and a pair of preliminary-round games in the Emerald Coast Classic make up the schedule when the University of Illinois men’s basketball team opens its season in November at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

Due to renovations at the State Farm Center in Champaign, the Illini announced last October that they would play their first five games of the 2015-16 season at the Convention Center. The State Farm Center is expected to be ready for Illinois’ December schedule of games.

The Illini and the NCAA Division II Prairie Stars will play Nov. 8, the first meeting between the schools. UIS finished 11-16 last season under first-year coach Bill Walker.

Illinois closes out the PCCC part of its schedule with a Nov. 23 game against Chicago State as part of the Emerald Coast Classic.

University of Illinois I FUND members and Illinois basketball season ticket holders have the first opportunity to purchase five-game ticket packages for the Springfield games.

The packages, which provide a seat to each game, are priced at $250 The U of I has mailed and emailed order forms to I FUND members, and following the presale to I FUND members and season ticket holders, tickets for the Springfield games will go on sale to the public through the Prairie Capital Convention Center. The public on-sale date was not specified.

This story appeared online in The State Journal-Register on July 6, 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

College campuses to become smoke-free

A new state law goes into effect July 1st that aims to make college campuses healthier.

The smoke-free campus law requires all Illinois colleges to prohibit smoking by students or faculty.

The American Lung Association says they collaborated with lawmakers and schools for the last year to come up with the right policy.

The law gives schools and local governments the responsibility to develop their own penalties, and UIS has already begun that process.

"Very few people even on the task force knew this, but my father died from smoking," said Valerie Gebhardt from UIS. "He started smoking at the age of 12 and continued to smoke up until the time he died when he was 73. So I was very excited for this law to go into effect."

Gebhardt says implementing the program at UIS will happen in two stages. Starting July 1st students and faculty on campus will only be able to smoke in their cars.

Next year, tobacco use will be completely banned.

This story aired on WICS-TV 20 on June 30, 2015.

Watch the story online.