Thursday, March 26, 2020

‘Everyone just kind of disappeared’

Dan Mahony is one of about 140 students who remain on the University of Illinois Springfield campus after the school announced that the rest of the semester will be taught online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mahony couldn’t go home even if he wanted because his home is Brockham, England, which the United States banned all travel to and from last week to curb the spread of the virus. As a member of the UIS soccer team, however, he didn’t expect to go home anytime soon.

“I was prepared to be here until May and I was actually planning on playing in a summer league, so I wasn’t expecting to go home for quite awhile,” Mahony said. “It’s not too bad. It’s quite easy to stay connected with your family through group chats or video calls.”

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said students were not required to go home, but were encouraged to. She said students who needed to stay could submit a request. “That includes a lot of international students, not all, but a lot, but it also includes some domestic students – maybe from Illinois, maybe from someplace else – who for whatever reason simply don’t have another option.”

While food, health and counseling services remain open at UIS, Mahony described campus as a “ghost town.” “It’s pretty weird,” he said. “There’s no cars in the parking lot, no one’s walking around, you don’t hear music coming from anywhere, so it’s strange. I don’t know how really to describe it, it felt a bit like living in a movie how everyone just kind of disappeared.”

Mahony has spent most of his time playing video games online with friends and watching movies.

UIS soccer strength and conditioning coaches also gave the team bodyweight exercises to do at home to stay in shape. He also noted that the practice fields aren’t closing and is taking advantage of that. 

However, as classes resumed Monday, he’s trying to shift the focus back to school. He was already enrolled in one online class, as he prefers in-person classes because he thinks it’s easier to get more out of it, but he understands the reality that everyone must adjust to. “It’s hard to stay disciplined,” Mahony said. “It feels like you have a lot of free time because there’s nothing scheduled, but then really you do have to get stuff done and otherwise it will just build up.”

Some professors may not be fully confident in using technology to continue courses, but Koch said the decision to extend spring break for a week was to make sure professors were equipped and ready to implement e-learning. “Regardless of the level of digital skill of any faculty member, one thing they all have in common is that they want their students to be successful and they really want our students to successfully complete the semester,” Koch said.

One of the first things he noticed was how well UIS was communicating with students about the coronavirus.

The university sent email updates after the first case was reported in Illinois in January, despite no confirmed cases spreading to Sangamon County until mid-March. Koch said communication with students, faculty and staff has been one of the top priorities. “We are working on that literally every day making sure people know what they need to know not only about the virus itself and the spread of the virus in Sangamon County and in Illinois, but also about what decisions are being made at the campus level that affects their lives,” Koch said.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 25, 2020.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Census efforts also challenged by COVID-19

Like so many other things, the regular collection of census information for the once-in-10-year national count has been made more difficult because of the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Some deadlines have changed, but because so much rides on the count – including federal reimbursements to cities – state and local officials are still working to make sure people get counted.

“It is extremely important that everyone knows how important it is to get counted in the 2020 Census,” said Patrick Laughlin, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, which is helping promote the federal census. “Completing the census will ensure that Illinoisans get both representation and federal funding for the critical things like roads, hospitals, schools and fire stations.

At the University of Illinois Springfield, classes are being taught remotely, but many students are no longer in the campus dorms, townhouses or apartments. UIS will include those students in the count they provide to the Census Bureau, UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp said. And students are being told that even if they are off campus on the official Census Day, April 1 – they should report their residence as where they live and sleep most of the time - at school.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 24, 2020.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Women's Softball: UIS softball team’s lone senior, Bree Derhake, copes with shortened season

Initial reports that the softball season was likely going to be suspended descended on University of Illinois Springfield senior shortstop Bree Derhake amid her at-bat during practice on Thursday.

The NCAA announced that day it had indeed canceled its spring championship tournaments, and it was only the beginning as the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the United States.

UIS softball coach Shannon Guthrie summoned a team meeting after Thursday’s practice to prepare the players for the worst — and hope for the best. Derhake, the team’s lone senior, did her best to put on a brave face, but that was dispelled by the magnitude of the moment.

“I wanted to stay strong for my teammates because they’re also losing a season, but I couldn’t hold it in. I cried a lot,” Derhake said. “It was really hard, but my teammates had my back. We had an emotional talk in the locker room, and I looked at Shannon and I was like, ‘Can I just get my (Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season) championship ring from my sophomore year before we leave the school year?’

Shannon went and got my ring for me, and I’m the first person to have it on our team since we won the GLVC championship in 2018. That was a touching moment. It meant so much.”

The Great Lakes Valley Conference suspended all spring sports activities until April 6 and canceled its remaining conference tournaments the following day. That includes UIS’ baseball team and its track and field program. Both the baseball and softball teams were coming off consecutive postseasons in the NCAA Division II tournament. Even if the softball team gets to resume its season after April 6, only 12 games remain on the schedule.

“It was good to do it in person,” Guthrie said of the fateful Thursday meeting with the team. “It’s really hard. No one’s ever been through anything like this before, and there aren’t any right words or anything. We just felt the important part was to be together and make sure that we were there for Bree, our one senior. It’s really about her at that point and making sure she knows that everyone is there for her still. None of us would wish that upon anyone, to have their senior season end like that. To be honest, I think they’re handling it as well as anyone could hope. I know it’s heartbreaking.” 

If there are any positives to glean from her experience, she has received considerable support from the Springfield softball community.

Derhake also said her life isn’t going to be solely defined by softball. While she may have had a chance to return to UIS for one more season, she had already decided to pursue a doctorate degree in physical therapy starting this June at Northern Illinois University.

This article appeared in The State Journal Register on March 17, 2020.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Springfield And Central Illinois Cancellations And Closures

New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend limiting in-person meetings and gatherings to fewer than 50 people to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus — from now through early May.

To prevent further spread of the disease, state officials are urging people to stay home as much as possible. Guidelines for proper hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces are on the CDC’s website. 

Springfield schools are closed, and organizations and businesses across the city are postponing or cancelling events.

The University of Illinois Springfield is immediately closing The Recreation and Athletic Center, Student Life Office, Diversity Center, Women's Center, Gender and Sexuality Student Services, UIS Bookstore and the Volunteer & Civic Engagement office, according to an email sent Monday.

The university will keep the Student Union and Food Studio open, but encourages people to stay 6 feet apart. The university is also encouraging students who do not live on campus to complete the semester remotely.

UIS announced last week it would extend spring break through March 22 and begin remote classes March 23.

This story appeared on NPR Illinois on March 16, 2020.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Updates In Springfield And Central Illinois

Illinois reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, in January. On Sunday afternoon, Illinois officials said the total number of cases in the state stands at 93.

There are cases in 13 counties, including in central Illinois. Saturday, Sangamon County health officials announced there are two cases in Springfield. One patient is a 71-year-old woman who is in the intensive care unit at Memorial Medical Center. The other is a Sangamon County resident who is at home.

Cases have appeared in all age ranges and the number with no connection to travel or a known COVID-19 case are increasing. “We are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases increase exponentially and in more locations across Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a written statement. “At this point, it is best to assume that the coronavirus is circulating in your community and you should take the same precautions when interacting with other people that you would when interacting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The University of Illinois Springfield is advising staff and supervisors to begin working on plans to have employees work remotely, if possible. Chancellor Susan Koch sent a message to the campus community Sunday. “I am directing all deans, directors and division heads to begin working with employees to create alternative work arrangements to allow the option to work from a remote location, if appropriate; adopt a flexible or compressed work schedule; and/or establish rotation among staff for on-site work,” Koch wrote.

UIS has extended spring break an extra week and is planning online classes to replace classroom instruction.

This article appeared on NPR Illinois on March 15, 2020..

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Friday, March 13, 2020

UIS already does online learning

Universities in Illinois and the nation are trying to get out in front of coronavirus by sending students home.

But distance learning is not a new concept at places like UIS, says spokesman Derek Schnapp.

“One third of our students right now are already totally online,” Schnapp tells WTAX News. “We are nationally known for online learning. We have a lot of classes that are what we call blended, or mixed, learning, where part of the time they meet in person and part of the time they meet online, so now they will move to totally online.”

While the university is maintaining contact with students online during this extended spring break, Schnapp says there will still be plenty of “what ifs.”

This story appeared on WTAX on March 12, 2020.

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Men's Baseball: UIS ties D-II’s grand slam record

Austin Alderman hit the ninth grand slam of the still-early University of Illinois Springfield baseball season as the Prairie Stars tied an NCAA Division II record in a 13-7 win over McKendree on Wednesday at the UIS Baseball Field.

On Wednesday, Brandon Bannon hit a fifth-inning grand slam to give the Prairie Stars (10-4) eight. Alderman came to bat in the seventh inning in a tie 7-7 game and he untied it with his third bases loaded home run this season.

Two batters later, Chris Mathieu hit a two-run homer. Bobby Bernard was 3-for-4 with a run.

UIS used nine different pitchers with only starter Brayden Jensen in for more than an inning. Cameron Leff got the win.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 11, 2020.

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UIS Announces Classes To Be Taught Remotely Due To COVID-19 Concerns

University of Illinois Springfield students are scheduled to return from spring break next week. But they won't be coming back to the classrooms. The U of I system has announced alternative delivery for instruction.

The following message was sent on Wednesday March 11: We write today to share new policies for the University of Illinois System and its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, all designed to protect the health and welfare of our students, faculty and staff amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The proactive policies are focused squarely on doing our part to help curb the virus. Fortunately, there have been no confirmed cases among our faculty, staff and students. But such cases have been increasing in Illinois and our experts say early intervention is the best option to limit the spread.

Our policies will adopt best practices endorsed by state and national health officials by minimizing face-to-face exposure in classrooms and other types of large gatherings, and by limiting international and domestic travel.

They were developed with guidance from the leading-edge healthcare experts across our universities, who have been consulting daily with a leadership team composed of the president, the chancellors and the provosts from all three universities. We will continue to monitor the outbreak and stay in constant contact with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other universities around the state and the nation.

The new policies were carefully crafted to safeguard our students, faculty and staff without compromising the world-class education and the groundbreaking research discovery that are synonymous with the U of I System.

They are: Instruction Courses at each of our three universities will immediately begin migrating to online or alternative delivery mechanisms to provide the social distancing that helps limit transmission of the virus, with a goal of completion by March 23. Classes will be held at their currently scheduled times. Online and other alternative learning methods will continue until further notice, but our expectation is that it will be temporary and students will be updated regularly via email and updates on system and university websites. Students have the option of studying remotely from home or from their campus residence after spring break. Our campuses will remain open and ready to serve students, including residence and dining halls.

Each university will provide specific guidance for their students regarding both academic and housing arrangements. Faculty and staff will continue their work on campus, including research, and human resources offices will provide guidance for work conditions that foster safety and for employees who suspect exposure or infection and must self-quarantine.

Events with more than 50 attendees that are university-sponsored or hosted by registered student organizations will be suspended indefinitely, effective Friday, March 13. Events may occur via livestream or other telecommunications, or be postponed to a future date. Please check with each university for specific guidance.

All university-sponsored international travel is prohibited, along with non-essential domestic travel until further notice. Personal international travel is strongly discouraged, and we urge caution and the exercise of good judgment for personal domestic travel. Leaders of our three universities will share further information for how these policies will be implemented to address the specific educational and safety needs of their campus communities.

Our policies are rooted in our expert scientific knowledge base and exhibit an abundance of caution to take care of each other until the COVID-19 outbreak eases.

This article appeared NPR Illinois on March 11, 2020.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Men's Tennis: Servaes named Player of the Week

University of Illinois Springfield’s Menno Servaes went 2-0 in a dual match and was named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Servaes, a sophomore, won his No. 1 singles match 6-4, 6-1 and teamed up with Tomas Martinez for a 7-5 victory at No. 1 doubles against William Woods last week.

It was Servaes’ fifth straight win at singles as he improved to 6-4 on the season. He currently has a 4-6 record in doubles.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 10, 2020.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

UIS will have a downtown presence

The University of Illinois Springfield is working to bring a presence to the downtown area.

An innovation center will give their students real-world experience. The discussion and planning of a downtown presence has been in the works for over a year, but university officials want input from the public before any further planning is done.

Some people are in favor of the proposal. "We need that kind of stimulation for the business of Springfield: jobs, entrepreneurship, and these folks seem to have a handle on that,” Springfield resident Jerry Jacobson said.

UIS officials said they hope with the public's input, it will soon become a reality. "If we locate within the community and in proximity with other businesses and residential, we'll bring jobs down here,” Bruce Sommer said, UIS Director of Economic Development and Innovation. “We'll be able to have these interactions with community participants that will create advanced economic growth."

Sommer said the new innovation center will focus on five strategic areas: business incubation and acceleration, technology and research commercialization, social innovation, public policy research, and workforce development and education.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on March 5, 2020..

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Men's Basketball: UIS’ Soetan named first-team all-GLVC

Daniel Soetan, a senior guard on the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball team, was named to the all-Great Lakes Valley Conference’s first-team.

Soetan was named GLVC all-defensive team last season. He averaged 18.9 points and 6.5 rebounds this season — both were fourth best in the GLVC. He was also fourth in blocks, 14th in assists and 15th in steals.

His teammate, Chase Robinson, was named to the GLVC all-freshman team. He started all 28 games and averaged 15.3 points to lead all conference freshmen.

UIS finished 14-14 overall and 7-13 in the GLVC in coach Matt Brock’s first year.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 4, 2020.

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Women's Basketball: UIS’ Ladowski named all-GLVC third team

Lauren Ladowski, who averaged 14.3 points and 3.5 assists per game, was named to the Great Lakes Valley Conference third-team.

Her teammate, Malea Jackson, was selected to the GLVC all-freshman team with 9.4 points per game.

The Prairie Stars finished 9-19 overall and 4-16 in the GLVC — tied for one game above last place — in coach Casey Thousand’s first season.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 4, 2020.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Women's Track and Field: UIS’ Christy qualifies for NCAA D-II Indoor

Taryn Christy, a sophomore distance runner on the University of Illinois Springfield women’s track and field team, became the first runner in program history to be selected for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships, the school announced on Tuesday.

Christy qualified for the meet with a time of 17 minutes 2.10 seconds in the 5,000-meter run in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships on Saturday. She finished third overall. Her time has been converted to 16:54.34 and Christy will be seeded 13th in the 16-runner field.

During the indoor season, Christy finished fourth or higher in all seven races.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 3, 2020.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

U of I team helping coordinate coronavirus response

The University of Illinois System is helping to coordinate the coronavirus response with a new COVID-19 Planning and Response Team. U of I universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield, as well as regional campuses across the state, will make up the team.

“Our individual universities have standing response committees, which are effectively monitoring and developing plans for their individual institutions in light of the continued transmission of the novel coronavirus,” Killeen wrote in a Feb. 29 letter to senior leadership in the system offices and at the universities.

The team will be led by Dr. Robert A. Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

While working through this situation, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to take everyday precautions to prevent illness.

This story appeared on Fox Illinois on March 2, 2020..

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UIS seeks public input about downtown Innovation Center

The University of Illinois Springfield is seeking public input about the UIS Innovation Center and Springfield Innovation District in the downtown area.

A public session will be held at Innovate Springfield, 15 So. Old State Capitol Plaza, at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The UIS Innovation Center was named the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a system of connected university-community-industry-based hubs throughout the state. Those hubs will work together to drive innovation, economic development and workforce development across Illinois utilizing a combination of research, public-private partnerships, entrepreneurship and workforce training programs.

The goal of the UIS Innovation Center is to advance the regional economy by working with industry partners, government, civic organizations and other higher education institutions to build a robust and inclusive human capital and innovation pipeline.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to provide input and engage in small-group sessions with UIS faculty in several focus areas.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 2, 2020.

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Women's Softball: UIS’ Long named GLVC’s softball Pitcher of the Week

University of Illinois Springfield pitcher Payton Long garnered Great Lakes Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week for the second time of her career on Monday.

Long, a sophomore, went 2-0 last week without allowing any runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. She gave up just six hits and three walks and struck out nine in both games combined.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 2, 2020.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Women's Softball: UIS sweeps doubleheader against Pride

University of Illinois Springfield pushed its winning streak to four games by winning the opener 7-5 as well as the second game 11-10 in a doubleheader against Purdue Northwest.

The Prairie Stars plated six runs in the first three innings of Game 1. Payton Long got the win, going 4 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. Lindsay LaDere led the offense with two hits, two RBIs and one run. Carly Chovanec also had a couple of hits.

Chovanec, Jillian Mathis and Carolyn Franke each had a home run in Game 2 while Mathis had the game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning. Mathis finished with three RBIs while Franke had two. Bree Derhake had three hits.

This story appeared in The State-Journal Register on March 1, 2020.

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Men's Baseball: UIS sweeps Purdue Northwest

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball team kicked off its home stand with a three-game sweep against Purdue Northwest.

The Prairie Stars dominated Sunday’s doubleheader, defeating the Pride 8-1 in Game 1 and 17-3 in Game 2. UIS rallied to a 4-1 lead with four runs in the fourth inning and added four more runs in the sixth in the opener.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 1, 2020.

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