Thursday, February 25, 2016

UIS teaming with IDOT, Secretary of State's Office for child safety seat checks

The University of Illinois Springfield is teaming up with the Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Traffic Safety and the Illinois Secretary of State's Office to host a free child safety seat check on March 4.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages four through 14, and that nearly 80 percent of child safety seats are installed improperly. Parents and guardians are encouraged to attend this event, which is being held on the UIS campus from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Certified child passenger safety seat technicians will be on hand to ensure that safety seats are properly installed, and to educate attendees on proper installation procedures. Anyone unable to attend this event can call (217) 557-5190 to make a future appointment.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, email Stacey Gilmore at

The story was reported by WAND-TV on February 23, 2016.

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UIS men could earn GLVC tournament berth with win at McKendree

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team’s main objective Thursday night is to win.

Nine of the 12 berths to the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship Tournament which starts Sunday are decided. Three spots are up for grabs on the final night of league play.

Coach Bill Walker is confident the Prairie Stars will qualify for the GLVC tourney if they beat McKendree in a regular-season finale at Lebanon Thursday night at 7:30. UIS (11-16) and McKendree (12-13) both own 5-12 conference records in the GLVC East. They are both also 2-7 in divisional play inside the East.

McKendree edged UIS 86-84 in Springfield on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.

If the Stars lose Thursday night, their fate will be decided by other teams. Divisional records and tiebreakers are expected to come into play.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 25, 2016.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Ramirez provides leadership for UIS women's golf team

University of Illinois Springfield golfer Becca Ramirez is doing what seniors are supposed to do: She has the best scoring average on the team.

The Springfield High School graduate compiled a team-best average of 80 during the fall season. She also led the Prairie Stars with four top-10 finishes. She was runner-up at the Quincy University Fall Classic.

“I relaxed a lot more this fall,” Ramirez said. “I’m kind of hard on myself in general, but I felt a lot more confident.”

UIS opens its spring season Sunday in the Start 2 Finish Classic in Lake Wales, Florida.

Ramirez had a scoring average of 82.91, No. 2 on the team, as a junior. She noticed an improvement in her approach shots to the green, which was key to shaving strokes last fall.

“I have more confidence in my iron game,” Ramirez said. “My goal for the spring is to stay under 80.”

Her lowest round last fall was 78. Ramirez shot a career-low 73 at UIS her freshman year. She shot a 75 in the first round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship in 2015.

Ramirez was featured by The State Journal-Register on February 20, 2016.

Read the story online.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The issue of climate change has risen to prominence in the past decade

The debate over climate change has gone from a back burner issue a decade ago to a major topic in this year's presidential race.

It's part four of our eight-part series on issues of the 2016 election.

The next President and Congress will be responsible for carrying out agreements made at last year's Paris summit. Depending on who wins, the U.S. may or may not live up to its commitments. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) said at a rally he would make reducing the effects of climate change a top priority.

"We have a moral responsibility to make sure the planet we leave for all of our kids and grandchildren is habitable and healthy,” Sanders said.

University of Illinois-Springfield biology professor Jim Bonacum said more politicians are understanding the seriousness of the issue.

"People are responding much more to the urgency of this,” Bonacum said.

He said people can’t ignore the problem any longer.

"If the average global temperature goes beyond an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, that may be the tipping point,” Bonacum said. “If that happens, we're expecting truly catastrophic changes."

15 of the top 16 warmest years have occurred since 2000. 2015 was the warmest year on record. Bonacum said it’s only going to get warmer.

"Even if right now we completely stop using any and all fossil fuels, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has still not worked its way up to its full heat producing ability,” he said.

The story was featured on WCIA-TV on February 18, 2016

Millison leads UIS men past Southern Indiana, 86-81

Thursday was a must-win situation with two regular-season games left on the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball schedule.

The Prairie Stars won 86-81 against Southern Indiana at The Recreation and Athletic Center and improved their chances of qualifying for the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.

“This feels good,” UIS junior Paxton Harmon said. “There’s nothing better to than start the last three games off with a win.”

UIS faces No. 11 Bellarmine Saturday at 3 p.m. at TRAC and plays at McKendree Thursday.

The Stars (11-15, 5-11) and the Screaming Eagles (16-10, 8-8) were locked in a battle from the start. The teams were within single digits the entire way.

With four minutes 21 seconds remaining, UIS regained the lead on Zach Steinberg’s layup. The Stars led 72-69 and never trailed again. But it was close down the stretch.

Fouled on a 3-point attempt, Southern Indiana’s Alex Stein converted three consecutive free throws and the Eagles pulled within 78-76 at the 1:49 mark.

UIS got some breathing room from senior Jamall Millison. He made six free throws in the final 1 ½ minutes. JJ Cravatta also made two foul shots.

“We had control most of the game, but there were times when they tried to chip at our lead, but we came together and held them off to get a big win,” Harmon said. “Other than the fact we couldn’t rebound, we managed to do enough to get a win. We played good defense. We just couldn’t rebound.”

Millson poured in 24 points for UIS. He had 18 in the second half. Millison was one of four UIS players who scored in double digits. Cravatta had 18 points. Steinberg contributed 15. Davi Austin rang up 14.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a team that has given up 20 offensive rebounds and won,” UIS coach Bill Walker said. “Our first-shot defense was really good and especially late we kept the ball in the hands of the guys who were able to make free throws. We just made plays when we had to.”

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 19, 2016.

Read the story online.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Downtown student housing coming this fall

Starting this fall, the University of Illinois Springfield will offer housing for graduate students who want to live downtown.

A partnership between UIS, Town and Country Bank and Bluffstone, LLC., a student housing development firm, will give graduate students a new option for off-campus housing in the downtown area. Bluffstone, LLC will build a residential complex for students called Villas Downtown Springfield, located on Third and Madison streets.

Kelly Young, director of student housing operations at Bluffstone, believes Springfield is a great place for a student residential complex.

“We know that young people want to live, work and spend money in the same area,” Young said in an interview with Illinois Times.

Since 2012, when a UIS survey revealed the desire for student housing downtown, Dr. Clarice Ford, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, and Dr. Van Vieregge, assistant vice chancellor for student services, have been advocates for the project.

Ford and Vieregge agreed that having UIS students reside downtown is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the university and the city’s downtown.

“Now, UIS residents will have a voice in the downtown area, providing an opportunity for say in new vendors that may be looking to come to here,” said Ford.

Villas Downtown Springfield will have space for 92 residents. The building will offer studio and two-bedroom apartments ranging from $750 to $1,000 per month. There will be a workout area, laundry facility, a coffee shop and a maintenance staff.

The story was reported by the Illinois Times on February 18, 2016.

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UIS men's basketball team pushing to make GLVC tournament

It’s the last full week of the Great Lakes Valley Conference men’s basketball regular season and the University of Illinois Springfield is in must-win mode.

Three games remain on the schedule for the Prairie Stars. The top four teams from both the GLVC East and GLVC West divisions and four wild-card teams qualify for the 12-team GLVC Championship Tournament starting Feb. 28.

UIS (10-15, 4-11) faces Southern Indiana (16-9, 8-7) at The Recreation and Athletic Center tonight at 7:30.

The Stars are in the mix for a wild-card berth along with six other teams. UIS has reached the GLVC tourney the previous three seasons.

“One could get us in,” UIS coach Bill Walker said. “Two definitely gets us in.”

His team plays Southern Indiana, then hosts No. 11 Bellarmine on Saturday. The Stars end the regular season Feb. 25 at McKendree.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 18, 2016.

Read the story online.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Durbin, coalition warn of financial crisis in higher education

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and other advocates for higher education in Illinois on Monday urged legislators and the governor to end the state budget stalemate that has created a financial crisis for many colleges and their students.

Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, and representatives of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education held a news conference at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Public universities and community colleges haven’t received any state funding since the start of the fiscal year, July 1, and the state hasn’t given schools money to pay for grants to help 125,000 low-income students cover the cost of tuition.

Durbin said higher education in Illinois is at a “breaking point.”

“It embarrasses me and troubles me to think that we’ve reached a point where there are so many innocent victims,” he said.

The coalition -- a collection of business, labor and organizations representing public and private colleges and universities coming together to urge immediate action -- kicked off its push in January to raise awareness of the crisis and build pressure on policymakers for a solution.

At UIS, Chancellor Susan Koch said the state owes the university nearly $18 million. As a result of the budget impasse, UIS isn’t able to fill 25 positions and is implementing a 20 percent across-the-board spening reduction, she said.

If not for increasing enrollment and good fiscal planning, the situation would be much more bleak, Koch said.

“We’re weathering this thanks to increasing enrollment, but we’re spending less in every area,” she said.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 16, 2016.

Read the article online.

State grants for schools could be cut due to budget

Illinois has now gone eight months without a state budget.

With the lack of state dollars, college students are feeling the pressure. Financial aid programs, that are meant to help with the burden of costs, could soon be cut

"We have reached the breaking point when it comes to this budget impasse," said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).

Eight months without a budget is starting to take a toll on a couple students.

Senator Durbin met with higher education officials Monday in effort to warn people about the lack of money for student financial aid.

"Now we have to realize, that if we jeopardize higher education for these students. We could pay the price for a long, long time to come," he added.

Students fear the state could cut MAP grants, which provide $5,000 toward their education.

"We're playing with people's dreams here now. Eight months into this, people have to worry about if they can come back to school next semester; be the lawyer that sought out to be; or be the social worker they sought out to be," said University of Illinois Springfield Senior Jamie Anderson.

Even if lawmakers are able to come to agreement, the MAP grants could be lower, which isn't sitting well with students.

"I would not be the student I am today if I did not receive the MAP grant funding. Nobody can just come up with $20 to $26,000 for school," said Anderson.

Senior Dominique Wilson has received map funding each year of his college education. And he's counting on the money this year as well.

"That support for my life, for my education, my goals may not happen and may be taken away from me because of the uncertainty going on with the budget," said UIS Senior Dominique Wilson.

The story was featured on WICS-TV on February 15, 2016.

Watch the story online

UIS students discuss Black Lives Matter movement

Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner are all major figures in the Black Lives Matter movement.

And it’s her responsibility to make sure others know their story, University of Illinois at Springfield freshman Carissa Gillings told her peers Monday.

“They are representations of injustice,” Gillings said. “Normal average people whose lives were cut short.”

Gillings was one of a handful of finalists to address a crowd of more than 100 people at Brookens Auditorium at Monday’s Black Lives Matter Symposium. The event was part of a Black History Month series at UIS.

Organizers said the symposium was intended to bring to light the totality of the Black Lives Matter movement beyond sound bites. It was also designed to provide greater awareness and respect for the difficult issues facing black people in the U.S.

Students wrote essays in advance and then finalists had the opportunity to present them in creative forms such as rap, lecture, slam poetry and slides.

For the essays, students were asked, among other things, to explain what the Black Lives Matter movement means to them and explain how the movement is creating awareness.

Kerry Poynter, interim executive director of the diversity center, said the university, with the help of students, came up with the idea because they knew the social movement was on the minds of students.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 16, 2016.

Read the article online.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Fired-up UIS men end home losing streak at four

A double-technical foul in the University of Illinois Springfield’s game against Missouri S&T elevated the atmosphere Saturday at The Recreation and Athletic Center.

The drama wasn’t done there. It was a dogfight to the finish with the Prairie Stars winning 78-74 and snapping a four-game home losing streak.

“This was a must win,” UIS senior Jamall Millison said. “Everybody dialed in at practice and did their part today in the game. Even the bench was involved.”

The win was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 14, 2016.

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UIS goes to Texas for spring men's golf opener

Instead of sleeping past noon, watching endless hours of television and just lounging around during the semester break, junior Talon Supak and several of his University of Illinois of Springfield golf teammates were productive in their time away from campus.

Supak traveled in December to Arizona for the primary purpose of playing golf. Junior Trevor Flota, a former basketball player, and freshman Andrew Good golfed in Florida. Kent Gregory, who is from McLeansboro, took advantage of the warm weather in Southern Illinois and made it out to the course.

The Prairie Stars are a day away from making their real return to playing outdoors. They kick off their spring season in Texas at the San Antonio Shootout on Monday and Tuesday. Supak is excited about the site of the tournament, TPC San Antonio, a PGA Tour stop.

“With a long break like this, a lot of the players are itching to get out and play,” he said. “Coming into the fall season, we’re not quite so anticipating the season since we’ve been playing over the summer. Coming into spring, we’re much more excited.”

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 14, 2016.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

UIS opens training center for DCFS

In Illinois, advocates for child safety and welfare have been working to find innovative approaches to lower the rate of child abuse. The University of Illinois Springfield has found one.

The first statewide simulation lab for child abuse and neglect opened last week at the University of Illinois Springfield, helping new investigators learn how to pinpoint abuse.

In an interview with Illinois Times, George Sheldon, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, discussed the drawbacks of not having experiential training prior to this program.

“One of the shortcomings of DCFS has been providing ongoing experiential training,” said Sheldon. “From my experience, 50 percent of cases involving a child who was allegedly abused get returned from administrative judges. This is due to investigators not asking the right questions.”

On Feb. 1, the University of Illinois Springfield opened the first Residential Simulation Lab (RSL) in Illinois to be used as a training site for state-certified DCFS investigators. Located on West Lake Shore Drive, at the entrance to the UIS campus, the house offers an innovative approach for investigators in training to practice real-life encounters and build their confidence before they enter the field.

In November 2015, Dr. Betsy Goulet, the child advocacy studies (CAST) coordinator at UIS and other administrators from the university held a fundraiser to promote the Residential Simulation Lab. On Feb. 3, the first group of investigators entered the lab, participating in their first simulation. In the lab, there are cameras in every room allowing participants awaiting their turn to see what is going on as each simulation takes place.

UIS chancellor Susan Koch praised the program as part of the school’s vision to “make a difference in the world.”

“That admirable ambition lies at the heart of this new program that is coming to life this year in a small, long-vacant house on the UIS campus that formerly housed the campus credit union,” Koch said.

The story was reported by the Illinois Times on February 11, 2016.

Read the article online.

Monday, February 8, 2016

UIS Chancellor says campus is doing 'okay', despite lack of state funding

Susan Koch, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield, says her campus is managing to weather the budget impasse thanks to the school’s push to recruit more students.

Koch says that decision was made five years ago, and it’s paying off now with record-high enrollment.

In a brief speech to faculty senate last week, Koch tried to reassure employees, telling them the university is doing okay, despite eight months without aid.

Asked whether that proves Governor Bruce Rauner’s point — that institutions of higher education have fat they could cut from their budgets — Koch said UIS "has been on a diet for years, and is pretty slim" already.

“I don’t think the fact that, you know, that we’re stable, necessarily feeds into the governor’s argument. I think he has the best interests of our communities in mind, and he also would understand that more college graduates is really the solution, not the problem,” Koch said.

Koch also told campus senators about a recent study showing state appropriations for higher education had gone up nationwide by an average of more than four percent.

The story was reported by NPR Illinois on February 8, 2016.

Read the article online.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Millison, Austin send UIS men past Maryville

Jamall Millison and Davi Austin each scored 15 points to lift the University of Illinois Springfield past Maryville 68-59 Thursday in a Great Lakes Valley Conference men's basketball game.

JJ Cravatta added 14 points for the Prairie Stars (9-13 overall, 3-9 in the GLVC), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

UIS won despite making just three of 20 attempts from 3-point range (15.0 percent). The Prairie Stars were 24 of 57 from the field overall (.421).

The win was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 5, 2016.

Read the article online.

Women's Basketball: Prairie Stars rally to beat Maryville

The University of Illinois Springfield outscored Maryville 17-4 over the final 6 minutes 20 seconds of play on Thursday as the Prairie Stars rallied for a 59-57 Great Lakes Valley Conference victory.

UIS, 8-12 overall and 2-10 in the GLVC, trailed the Saints 31-16 at halftime and 49-36 through three quarters. Maryville (9-10 and 3-9) still led 53-42 with 6:20 left.

But the Stars’ Meredith Marti hit two straight 3-pointers to pull UIS within 56-55 with 1:16 to go. Maryville regained the lead with :53 left, but Ashley McHenry’s layup made it 58-57 UIS with :36 remaining.

McHenry later made 1 of 2 free throws for a two-point lead with :23 left, and Maryville’s Stephanie Sherwood missed a jumper that was rebounded by the Stars’ Syerra Cunningham as time ran out.

Cunningham finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots while Marti hit 4 of 8 3-point attempts and finished with 14 points.

The win was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 5, 2016.

Read the article online. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Area Colleges: UIS soccer signs four

Four players from two states signed with the University of Illinois Springfield women’s soccer team Wednesday.

Pewaukee (Wisconsin) High School’s Courtney Johnson could help fill the void left by all-Great Lakes Valley Conference goalkeeper Paige Polonus. Johnson’s high school team was a sectional finalist and won a conference title in 2015.

UIS coach Molly Grisham has also signed Erin Bolskar and Mariah Nina Rodriguez. She expects to use them as target forwards or wide attacking players. Bolskar plays for Muskego (Wisconsin) High School, which qualified for state the last two years. Rodriguez, a four-year starter, plays for Joliet Catholic Academy.

Kara Lyn Cipolle is an attacking central midfielder from Joliet West High School. She is a four-year starter.

The players were featured by The State Journal-Regsiter on February 4, 2016.

Read the article online. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Central Illinois residents invited to 2016 Career Connections Expo

The University of Illinois Springfield is partnering with Lincoln Land Community College and ITT Technical Institute to host the 2016 Career Connections Expo on February 16.

The expo will be held at the Recreation and Athletic Center at UIS from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Officials say they hope to help attendees find job and internships, make professional connections, and explore potential career paths.

More than 100 employers are scheduled to be represented at this event. Attendees will be required to wear business casual clothing, and should bring copies of their resumes to the expo.

This event is open to students and alumni from all three institutions, and community members.

The story was reported by WAND-TV on February 3, 2016.

Read the article online.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

UIS Political Science Professor Breaks Down Iowa Caucus Results

The Iowa GOP reported a record-breaking turnout for the Monday night caucuses.

That wasn't enough to give Donald Trump the win.

NewsChannel 20's Lindsey Hess sits down with Dr. Jason Pierceson, UIS political science professor, to break down the results.

The interview was aired on WICS-TV on February 1, 2016.

Watch the interview online

A "MAP" of how higher ed and students are lost in Illinois' political battle

College campuses (and the politics behind them) are taking center stage in Springfield's festering stalemate.

Gridlock has kept money from going to higher education since July. Then, in a matter of hours on Thursday, Democratic lawmakers approved a plan that would pump $720 million dollars into the system. Republicans are calling it a "cruel hoax" that's giving students false hope, even though they, too, say they want to help higher ed. It's a scenario that demonstrates the partisan tensions, and politics, at play.

Legislators on the House higher education committee recently had the chance to meet someone.

"Good afternoon, thank you for having me. My name's Jamie Anderson, I'm a senior at the University of Illinois Springfield. I'm from Stillman Valley, Illinois which is a small town ten minutes outside of Rockford, Illinois."

Anderson says everyone in her life had told her, she'd never make it that far.

"I was a ward of the state. I was a foster child for 11 years. And I just didn't have a family to afford for me to come to college," she testified Wednesday.

She says the Monetary Award Program made it possible.

"I would not be here today if it wasn't for the MAP grant. I would not be the student leader I have become today if it was not for the MAP grant," Anderson, 22, told representatives. 

This story was featured on NPR on January 29, 2016.

Listen to the story online