Monday, July 31, 2017

Sangamon County Citizen survey: 19% approve of state leadership

Residents in a biennial survey on Sangamon County quality of life think even less of state elected leaders than they do of the group in Washington, D.C.

The 19 percent approval rating compared with 28 percent federal, 57 percent local and 69 percent for unelected leaders was not surprising after a two-year budget impasse, organizers of the Sangamon County Citizen Survey said Friday.

“There’s almost no confidence for state elected officials, and federal elected officials didn’t do much better,” said Matthew Case, interim director of the Survey Research Office at University of Illinois Springfield. 

The random survey of nearly 750 Sangamon County residents was released at the monthly Citizens Club of Springfield meeting at Hoogland Center for the Arts. The survey has been taken every other year since 2013. This was the first year for the leadership confidence question. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said the state budget impasse had a negative effect on Sangamon County, while 44 percent said they had been directly affected. The uncertainty of state government gridlock appeared to affect sentiment on jobs, the loss of young professionals, education, the economy and even personal well-being.

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of it was related to the state of Illinois and just the anxiety it’s caused,” John Stremsterfer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Land of Lincoln, said after release of the survey. The foundation and United Way of Central Illinois are partners in the survey with UIS.

United Way President John Kelker said the survey helps elected officials and social services set priorities intended to improve local quality of life. But he said state government dysfunction clearly weighed on responses this year.

There were bright spots in the responses. Solid majorities said Sangamon County was a good place to live, raise kids and work, while 60 percent rated the overall quality of education good to excellent.

Well over 90 percent reported having health insurance compared with 88 percent in first year of the survey in 2013.

The detailed survey is scheduled for online release Wednesday at

This article was published in The State Journal Register on July 28, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

UIS men’s basketball team looks ahead to start of season

The University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team will travel to Carbondale for an exhibition game Nov. 18 against Southern Illinois University.

“We’re looking forward playing them,” UIS coach Bill Walker said. “We almost played last year, but couldn’t work out the date. I’ve known (SIU coach Barry Hinson) for a long time and I like him.” 

It will be the second time UIS has played the Salukis. In 2011, SIU beat the Prairie Stars 79-56. 

Taking on the Salukis gives two UIS players a chance to return to their neck of the woods. Junior forward Bahari Amaya is from Harrisburg. Transfer wing Gilwan Nelson is from Mount Vernon. 

When the 2017-18 season gets underway, the Stars will be without assistant coach Joel Plummer. He has been hired as an assistant at Murray State College, a junior college in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Plummer was on staff at UIS for three years. For two of those years, he was a volunteer.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 28, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Friday, July 28, 2017

UIS program looking to bridge gap for those who may struggle academically

"My dad went to college for about two years," incoming University of Illinois Springfield freshman Jalee Braner said. "My mom never went to college and my brother went into the Navy."

Braner, a 2017 graduate of Lanphier High School, plans to become the first in her family to earn a four-year degree.

With younger siblings, Braner says she's hoping to set a positive example. "I've always been pushed to do great things and I just want to make my family happy," she said.

With dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher, Braner says the Bridge program at UIS helped her understand college will be difficult, but worth it and possible. "I feel like I was prepared," Braner said. "A lot more prepared than going anywhere else."

That's the entire goal of the Bridge program, which the students will be a part of until graduation. It's to ensure that all students, regardless of background, have the same chance at success.

"I make sure that they are transitioning into college and they know all the support services, and it provides some unity," program coordinator Dara Abina said.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on July 27, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

U of I's credit rating moves from negative to stable

S & P upgraded the University of Illinois's credit rating from "negative" to "stable." The entire U of I system is now no longer at risk of being downgraded any further.

They did receive at least one downgrade during the budget impasse, any diminishment of credit rating results in a higher cost of debt for the university.

Despite a 10 percent cut in funding, the certainty of a budget will help the university and it's students thrive.

"What it does is give in-state tuition to students in Illinois, predictability because they were getting worried,” said Dean Ron McNeil, with the University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and Management.

U of I and Illinois State University have the highest credit ratings in Illinois.

This story aired on Fox Illinois on July 25, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Monday, July 24, 2017

UIS graduate becomes member of Illinois State Board of Education

Governor Rauner has appointed a UIS graduate to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Carlinville native Susan Morrison worked as the state director for the U of I.

Before that, she served as a principal and curriculum director for the Taylorville district.

The story was reported by WICS-TV 20 on July 21, 2017.

Read the story online.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Staying hydrated at camp

Wednesday was the last day for the University of Illinois Springfield Future Stars Kids Camp.

Since Monday, these campers have been beating the heat by staying in the shade, drinking plenty of water and taking much need air conditioning breaks.

The UIS head softball coach Shannon Guthrie says hydration is key to staying safe in the sun.

"It's important just to stay hydrated in general. Even when they go home at night, they can drink water once they get home and before they get out here," Guthrie said. "Eat something, drink water, get a lot of sleep. That's about all you can do in this heat."

Campers left Wednesday soaked after a balloon fight and a slip and slide.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on July 19, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Danville's Michael Rothmund named Player of the Week

Danville Dans Infielder Michael Rothmund was named week 7's Player of the Week.

Rothmund hit a double, a triple and a home run during a eight game stretch. Rothmund says his team is showing continuous improvement as 2nd half of the season gets going.

Rothmund is a junior at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he plays first base for the Prairie Stars.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on July 17, 2017.

Watch the story online.

MAP grant funding returns to Illinois

With a full state budget now in place, many state programs, higher education institutions, and social services are slowly starting to see state funds.

Universities were among the hardest hit by the budget crisis. Most were forced to make budget cuts, drop programs, and some faced losing accreditation.

During the impasse, Illinois stopped funding MAP grants, which provide assistance to thousands of the state's neediest students for college, but that funding is back and students throughout Illinois are relieved.

Though students at the University of Illinois Springfield still received funding because UIS fronted that cost for students, that was only a short-term fix. "Affordability is always an issue," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. "Every year we have students who struggle paying for college." 

Roughly 800 students at UIS rely on map grants; that's about $2.5 million each academic year. That's a hefty burden shouldered by UIS when that funding was eliminated due to budget uncertainty despite being owed millions of dollars by the state.

"We fronted the MAP money for several years to make sure that regardless of what the state does, our students will be able to attend school," Chancellor Koch said.

At UIS, an individual student receives, on average, over $3,000 per year from MAP grants.

The state is paying for this year and last year's map grant funding and all previous years have been back paid.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 18, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Miller continues his red-hot golfing at Rex Spires Men's City Amateur

Daniel Miller is on a hot streak for the ages.

The 2016 Mount Zion graduate won the Drysdale Golf Tournament Collegiate Division in Springfield Thursday and opened the first round of the Rex Spires Decatur Men's City Amateur Saturday with a low score of 68. His 4-under par performance came after he bogeyed the first hole at Hickory Point Golf Course into the trees.

The University of Illinois Springfield golfer answered back quickly with a birdie on three of the next six holes – on his way to a personal best of five at the course – to get out of the front nine with a 2-under 34. He matched the score with a 34 on the back nine.

“I've hit off the fairway here before, but I was in a tree so I thought I was going to start getting screwed all day,” Miller said of the first hole. “I kind of had a round like that in my tournament in Springfield on Monday, but it was only my first hole so I wasn't too concerned.”

Things could not have been more different for Miller Saturday after a forgettable first round in Springfield Monday.

Monday was his “worst round of the summer,” with an 83 in the match play event. He was seeded last in the tournament after the round, but gradually lowered his scores before leaving Thursday with a tournament win.

Saturday was a far cry from that. Miller turned in a career-best effort at Hickory Point with his 68.

Going into his sophomore year of college, he's having the best summer of his career.

 Miller has never won the event. He tied for seventh last year and enters today's play at Red Tail Run with a two-stroke lead on three other golfers at a course that's preferable to him. But, he's keeping a level head on the heels of the second round.

This story appeared in the Herald & Review on July 15, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Miller wins Drysdale college division title

Danny Miller won a duel of Mount Zion High School graduates as he defeated Bennett Jackson 6 holes up with 5 to play in the men’s Championship Flight title match in the Drysdale Golf Tournament Collegiate Division on Thursday at Illini Country Club.

Miller is a member of the University of Illinois Springfield men’s golf team, while Jackson plays for Millikin University.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 14, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Letter: Thanks to legislators who supported state budget

The following is a letter to the editor written by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch:

"Over the past few days, Illinois state legislators came together to end a historic and deeply damaging budget impasse. 

All of public higher education, including the University of Illinois Springfield, breathed a collective sigh of relief. Though funding in the coming year represents a 10 percent reduction from the UI’s fiscal year 2015 appropriation, this budget will enable UIS to continue to deliver on its promise of an exceptional, personalized university experience for students.

In addition, continuation of the Monetary Award Program will provide financial aid that makes college possible for more than 700 students at UIS. 

Just as importantly, this state appropriation will enable UIS to continue its forward trajectory — graduating students who will contribute to their professions and their communities. 

I am deeply grateful to the Illinois legislators who voted to support ending the impasse. On behalf of the entire UIS community, my sincere thanks to state Reps. Sue Scherer and Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, along with Sen. Andy Manar, our area legislators who voted to support the bill. We know this is a step in the right direction to restore long-term stability for higher education in our state. 

UIS is a vital resource in Sangamon County, with a total economic impact each year of about $176.8 million. With continued support from the state, the university will remain a vital resource for many years to come. 

My sincere thanks, again, to the legislators who understand that supporting higher education is essential for the future of our state."

This letter appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 11, 2017.

Read the letter online.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Susan Koch: Cox Children’s Center a campus and community asset

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on July 8, 2017.

Every week in the United States, an estimated 15 million children younger than age five spend significant time in child care while their parents work or attend school. 

Finding high-quality and affordable child care is an ongoing challenge for working parents. At the same time, child care often presents a barrier to attending college for the approximately one in four college students who have dependent children. 

Since 1970, when the first classes were held at the new campus, the University of Illinois at Springfield has offered full-time on-campus child care at the Cox Children’s Center — a resource much valued by UIS students, faculty, staff, alumni and community clients who utilize the Center. 

According to Stacey Gilmore, Director of the Center since 2003, the primary mission of Cox Children’s Center is “to provide high quality early education and care in a safe, secure nurturing environment.” 

The Center also serves as a laboratory and practicum site for UIS students with professional aspirations for careers in early childhood education. 

Enrollment at Cox each year is typically 50-55 children starting as young as six weeks old. A program for school-aged children increases enrollment to about 70 children during the summer months. 

The Center is proud to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), considered the mark of high quality for early childhood programs. It is the only day care within 50 miles of Springfield that is accredited for infant care. The Center has also received the Gold Circle Quality Designation, the highest rating possible, from ExcelRate Illinois, the state’s new quality rating and improvement system for early learning providers. 

“The thing I like best is how much they have developed from a learning perspective; Cox is really a school where the children are constantly learning and developing skills that will prepare them for kindergarten.” Riaz Tejani is a professor in Legal Studies at UIS whose children, 4 and 6 years old, have been enrolled at Cox for the past two years since the family’s arrival in Springfield. “We enrolled our children at Cox partly on the advice of faculty colleagues who extolled the Center’s caring Director and teachers as well as the exclusive accreditation ratings,” he says. “The campus location has been a huge asset, providing our children access to many UIS resources like children’s programming at the Sangamon Auditorium performing arts center, the campus/community garden, and even the colonnade fountain — which doubles as a splash pad during summer months.” 

Though serving UIS students, faculty and staff is the Center’s first priority, community clients are also served on a space-available basis. UIS alum Nichole Dorsey, whose son is 2½, is one of those community clients. “I am so grateful I can go to work with ease knowing my son is experiencing great care,” says Nichole, who worked at the Center for two years when she was an undergraduate. “I honestly felt like I had won the lottery when a spot became available at Cox for him.” 

Read the entire column online.

Friday, July 7, 2017

U of I takes cuts, still relieved with budget deal

Now that Illinois has a budget, the University of Illinois is breathing a sigh of relief despite being faced with major cuts.

Under the new budget, universities throughout the state received a 10 percent cut from the last budget in 2015, that's nearly $6 million for the University of Illinois' three campuses combined. They are also not receiving any late payments owed from 2016, which totaled more than $450 million. Still, they are happy to be able to move forward and plan for the future especially when it comes to filling positions.

"Now that we have some certainty, we know what we will be able to do," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. "We will take a very careful look at those empty positions and think about what can we most strategically move forward in hire, and yet, because of the cuts we will certainly leave some of those positions empty as well."

Also under the new budget, MAP grants are fully funded again, which UIS says, is very important for their campus.

In 2016, more than 700 students received MAP grants, totaling about $2.5 million.

UI happy to get back to work, even if new budget cuts its appropration 10%

Ordinarily, a $60 million funding cut wouldn't be terribly good news.

But Thursday's approval of a budget deal in Springfield prompted a collective sigh of relief across the University of Illinois, where faculty departures were escalating and several major construction projects shut down July 1 — including the massive reconstruction of Green Street in front of the Illini Union.

"This was a very important day for us. We're very pleased with the vote and the fact that we now have a budget," UI President Tim Killeen said immediately after legislators narrowly overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the $36 billion spending plan, which includes a $5 billion income tax increase.

"This feels to me a little bit like hands have been untied and we can move forward with our plans," Killeen said.

The story was reported by the Champaign News-Gazette on July 7, 2017.

Read the story online.