Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Susan Koch: Celebrating UIS graduates

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 May 7, 2018.

This UIS Perspectives column makes its appearance at the start of the 2018 college commencement season. An estimated 2 million college degrees will be awarded across the U.S. during the next few weeks and I could not be more proud of the nearly 1,000 University of Illinois Springfield graduates who will be sharing the Bank of Springfield Convention Center stage with me on May 12. 

Among the many smiling grads whose hands I’ll be shaking is Rochester native Krissy Finley

Krissy is majoring in accountancy and is also a top competitor on the Prairie Stars cross country and track teams.

“I chose UIS because of the opportunity to compete with the new cross country program,” says Krissy. “But I’ve also been grateful for professors who really care about me and who want me to learn and retain knowledge.” 

Krissy completed an internship at Horace Mann this year and won’t have much down time after completing her degree. She is already working part-time for Horace Mann’s Planning and Expense Team and has accepted a full-time accounting position there that starts after graduation. She plans to start her master’s degree next fall. 

Tonda Chasteen, a biology major from Lewistown, became interested in UIS when she attended a high school science program near her hometown — at the UIS Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon Nature Preserve

“The Necessary Steps Mentoring Program for first generation students helped me make a successful transition from high school to college, and doing research with Professor Layne Morsch in chemistry was also a huge opportunity,” says Tonda. Tonda presented her research with Dr. Morsch at the American Chemical Society conference in San Francisco last year and is completing her student teaching this spring at Havana High School with science teacher Craig Bals. 

“Commencement will be important for me and my family because I will be the first in my family to get a four-year degree,” Tonda says. 

Tonda will return to Havana High School next fall as a full-time science teacher. 

Commencement is most certainly a special rite of passage for graduates and their families, but it’s also meaningful for faculty who have invested deeply in the success of their students. Ben Walsh, associate professor of management, and Adriana Crocker, professor of political science, are among the many UIS faculty who’ll be participating in commencement ceremonies next weekend. 

“Seeing commencement as a faculty member fills me with immense pride,” says Dr. Walsh. “I love it when families cheer for their graduate. It is so impactful, rewarding and significant.” 

“As faculty, we try to provide students with what they need for the real world, including other perspectives and frames of reference — not just Illinois,” says Dr. Crocker. “I tell my students commencement is not the end. It’s the beginning.” 

The mission of the University of Illinois is to “transform lives and serve society.” Thanks to the work of outstanding faculty and staff — people like Ben Walsh and Adriana Crocker — I am supremely confident that Krissy, Tonda, Manushe and Vincent have, indeed, been transformed by their UIS experience. I’m also confident they, like thousands of their fellow 2018 UI graduates at all three University of Illinois campuses, will serve society in important ways across Illinois and across the world for many years to come. Congratulations, graduates — we’re proud of you!