Wednesday, September 30, 2020

UIS cross country teams band together, sail to first place in season debut

University of Illinois Springfield cross country runners Tyler Pasley, Wyatt McIntyre, Blake Jones and Cort Ross barreled toward the finish line together in the Prairie Stars’ first triangular meet of the season Friday evening.

McIntyre, Jones and Ross eased up just before the end of the 6,000-kilometer run to give Pasley, the senior, a well-deserved victory in what was UIS’ first sporting event on campus since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Nothing more could encapsulate the team’s camaraderie.

“We were working together, staying together. The first half of the race, we went at a real race-pace and then the last half we kind of treated it as a workout. It was fun working with them. I enjoy it every single day.”

The UIS men’s team dominated the competitive event in first place. 

“My goals are really team-oriented,” said Jones, a three-time state qualifier from Lincoln High School. “At first when I was a freshman, they were pretty individually-oriented. I’ve realized it’s a lot easier when you have great teammates like Wyatt, Cort and Pasley — that front group really.

It was the season opener, but only two more races remain for the rest of the fall season. UIS will also host a Great Lakes Valley Conference qualifying meet on Saturday, Oct. 10 before the conference championships on Oct. 24 in Elsah. 

“We’ve got to be ready to roll in two weeks and we are,” UIS coach Tyler Pence said. “We’re fit right now and we’re definitely ready to take that next step and go qualify for the conference championships in two weeks.”

Ditto junior Taryn Christy and the UIS women’s team. Christy finished third overall while the Stars took sixth last fall in the GLVC.

“I need to put in as many points as possible because we have the girl power to do that this season,” Christy said.

Christy kickstarted Friday’s 4,000-kilometer race in first place in 14 minutes 39.78 seconds, alongside senior teammate and runner-up Gloria Esarco (14:39.84). UIS also easily won the women’s side ahead of McKendree and Quincy.

Christy became UIS’ first female runner to qualify for the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships last fall and the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships last winter. However, she wasn’t able to compete in indoor nationals because of the COVID-19 pandemic and coped through the troublesome intermission only after some soul-searching.

“It was kind of shocking in the first 200 and 500 meters of the race, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually doing this,’” Christy said. “I love to race and I missed that feeling so much, especially when you finish the race with all of your teammates around you and everyone’s so happy and excited. All of that adrenaline, there’s nothing like it. I think we’re all super excited and grateful to be racing right now.”

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

UIS Perspectives, Robert W. Smith: Your vote makes a difference

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration, Robert Smith. The column appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 27, 2020.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, was National Voter Registration Day. At UIS, our Volunteer & Civic Engagement team spent the day encouraging the UIS community to take the important step of registering to vote for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. The importance of voting cannot be understated, and I wanted to share insights from my UIS colleagues on some key questions at the core of the 2020 presidential race.

“President Trump has gone against many of the norms and traditions of the presidency for sure. During his first term, the degree of separation that is supposed to exist between the president and the Department of Justice has diminished. Whether it be his decision to fire former FBI Director Comey, or his reaction to former Attorney General Session’s decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation, his interactions with the Department of Justice have been well documented and critically scrutinized," political science Professor Matthew Geras said.

“Voters need to make themselves aware of four major social justice issues. First, voters need to be aware of the social justice implications of COVID-19. Due to structural racism and other forms of prejudice, historically marginalized communities have been disproportionately negatively affected. What sort of protections do we want to mitigate disproportionalities in infection rates and deaths? Second, voters study the causes and effects of police brutality and killings, which disproportionately affect Black persons, indigenous persons, and persons of color. What do we want departments to do to promote fairness and justice? Third, voters should be aware of changes to LGBT workplace protections, such as the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton Country. Per Title VII, an employer cannot fire someone solely for being LGBT. How do we enact the provisions of this ruling, and what forms of workplace discrimination still need to be addressed? Fourth, as predicted by climate scientists, global climate change has led to a deadly year of storms, wildfires, and inequities in resource availability and usage. What policies do we need to create cleaner, safer energy to protect current and future generations? These four issues have long divided voters. Some will argue that these issues are not issues, and some will deny that these issues exist," explained Sean McCandless, professor in the Department of Public Administration.

Before you vote this year, commit yourself to consuming a healthy diet of balanced and factual news. Democracy works best when you do.”

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider this Election Day. No matter who you vote for, my colleagues and I cannot emphasize enough how much your vote matters at the local, state and federal levels. And in 2020, your vote makes a difference more than ever in determining the future of this country and the institution of Democracy.

Go vote!

Friday, September 25, 2020

UIS, UIUC create mobile recording studio

As part of a faculty collaboration between the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the universities created the Hip-Hop Xpress, a school bus that serves as a mobile recording studio.

Hip-hop artists in the capital city are invited to visit the bus to write original music using instrumental tracks that were created by Champaign producers.

Officials said when the Hip-Hop Xpress is finished, they plan to have it travel across the state to different communities and classrooms to teach about African-American history and cultural innovations spurred on by hip-hop.

The outside of the bus displays its name and the names of various artists. The inside of the bus is empty, except for its use of transporting non-permanent recording equipment.

The bus was partially funded by a University of Illinois System Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities grant worth $150,000.

UIS Instructor of Sociology and African American Studies Tiffani Saunders, along with UIUC faculty members Adam Kruse, Malaika McKee, and William Patterson, played a significant role in the creation of the Hip-Hop Xpress.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 24, 2020.

Monday, September 21, 2020

UIS professor will be ‘invested’ in virtual ceremony Thursday

Graham Peck will be formally invested as the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield on Thursday at 2 p.m.

The ceremony, which can be viewed on Zoom, was originally scheduled for March 19.

During the ceremony, Peck will receive a medallion that symbolizes his position as a distinguished professor. He will be entitled to wear the medallion at special university ceremonies, like commencement.

Peck will present a lecture, “Abraham Lincoln and the Making of an Antislavery Nation,” at the ceremony.

Peck is the author of the 2017 book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom” (University of Illinois Press). His scholarship focuses on antebellum American political history, and particularly on Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas and the origins of the Civil War.

A ceremony of investiture is held when an endowed chair or distinguished professor is installed. The ceremony, modeled after knighthood ceremonies, began in early English universities.

There are five other Distinguished Chairs and Professorships at UIS, including Michael Burlingame, the Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies. A renowned scholar, Burlingame has published a dozen books on the life and times of Lincoln, including the award-winning two-volume biography, “Abraham Lincoln: A Life.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 19, 2020..

UIS student picked for Illinois Board of Higher Education

A senior from the University of Illinois Springfield now represents her peers on the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Mackenzi Matthews participated in her first meeting as a member on Tuesday.

Now, the political science major hopes to bring a collective student voice to the table. Matthews wants to help board members understand the struggles students face around financial aid and access to resources.

"It's really important to me to be able to show them everything that goes into getting the education to go into the workforce because there's so many steps to get there, and it varies for people," Matthews said.

She also wants to help students gain more access to internships.

"It's important to make sure that internships are paid because they want to talk about inclusivity and diversity," Matthews added. "But if you don't pay the people that are going to come in, that really limits the field you can draw from because many students need to work to get through college."

Matthews previously served on the board's student advisory committee and is the current parliamentarian for the UIS Student Government Association.

"We should really take a look at universities and why they're so expensive to begin with, and figure out how we got here. From there, we can figure out if there's any way to cut costs and try to take it from students having to scrap around for money to try to pay for it, to making it affordable to begin with."

Mackenzi plans on pursuing a master's degree after graduation this spring. And if you were wondering, she hopes to have a career in politics one day.

This story aired on WGEM on September, 28, 2020.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

UIS helps parents help e-learners

“This is the most exciting year to be in education!”

When Kara McElwrath of University of Illinois Springfield said that, you could imagine students, parents, and teachers saying, that’s one word for it!

But McElwrath told parents during a webinar Monday everybody needs to know that everybody is anxious about it – and the parents’ job is not only to guide them through remote learning, but also to keep students assured that they are doing okay and that the e-learning is new and a little uneasy for everyone.

One of her analogies: even though kernels don’t pop at the same time, you still get a bowl of popcorn when you’re done — so don’t compare your kids to other kids.

This story aired on WTAX on September 15, 2020.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Report ranks UIS as top public regional university in Illinois

The University of Illinois Springfield was ranked the top public regional university in Illinois by U.S. News & World Report.

The university was also ranked as the fourth best public university in the Midwest and the fifth best in the Midwest regional category for students with the least amount of debt.

“We here at UIS are thrilled with the news that we have retained the No. 1 spot for public regional university in Illinois,” said UIS Associate Provost of Enrollment Management Natalie Herring. “What this means for our right-sized community, is that we are doing a good job challenging high-achieving students and supporting future stars of great potential.”

UIS officials said the university has been ranked among the top 15 best public regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report since 2006.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 14, 2020.

UIS girl's golf begins season

The University of Illinois Springfield women's golf team tee'd off for the first time this season at the UIndy Fall Invitational. This is the first Prairie Star sporting event since March.

UIS will be led by Senior Jennifer Queller who has the third best career scoring mark in school history at 79.85. We caught up with Queller last week to see how prepared her team is for today's tournament.

"All of us kind of come from warm states and we also come from different states all over and some are international," Queller said. "We've all just been working as best we could over the summer from what was allowed in each of our states to kind of get ready for the fall. I'm pretty excited for this first tournament with all of us."

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 14, 2020.

Monday, September 14, 2020

UIS renovates observatory deck as virtual star parties continue

A new deck will welcome visitors when Star Parties resume in person at the University of Illinois Springfield Observatory.

The new deck, constructed of composite decking material that meets fire code regulations and reduces maintenance costs, replaces a wooden structure that was more than 40 years old. Usable floor space was maximized by relocating the entrance to the deck and moving benches closer to the walls. Other improvements include dimmable, red LED strip lighting and additional space added around the 14-inch telescope.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Star Parties can only be experienced through livestream online. They will continue every Friday in September and October from 8-9 p.m.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The march goes on: This moment in civil rights history: Reflections from Springfielders on demonstrations in D.C.

Tiffani Saunders was a teenager when she joined her family members for the 30th anniversary March on Washington in 1993. A Maryland resident at the time, she said she was lucky her family was active in matters of social justice and civil rights. "What I was able to do was translate those (historical) black and white images into color, in real time, in the modern era when I was 13." Saunders said that and other activist events her parents took her to were formative experiences. She's now an anthropologist and professor at University of Illinois Springfield where she teaches African American studies.

The most recent march in D.C. is happening as cities around the country continue with demonstrations, as has been the case for months. In cities such as Portland and Chicago, police have attacked and arrested protesters. Conduct of federal agents and police has been unlawful at times, according to civil rights groups such as the ACLU. Demonstration is part of our cultural fabric. "We've seen in the past, action by taking to the streets has led to profound change," said Saunders. The majority of those calling for racial justice out in the streets have not engaged in violent activity. But that doesn't mean everyone is comfortable by their relentless presence in the public eye.

This article appeared in the Illinois Times on September 10, 2020.

UIS Webinar Aims To Help Parents Cope With Remote Learning

Parents who are still struggling with online instruction for their children may find help in a webinar scheduled for next week through the University of Illinois Springfield.

The online event is designed to serve as an introduction to techniques that parents can use to help their children navigate remote learning. 

This story appeared on WMAY on September 9, 2020.

UIS Enrollment Drop "Better Than Expected"

Despite a global health threat and concerns of students taking a gap year, enrollment on the University of Illinois Springfield campus saw only a slight decline. That gives hope the school might be able to weather the disruption brought on by the pandemic.

After the first ten days of the fall semester, officials announced the number of students taking classes dropped three percent from a year ago.

“So actually we were bracing for a lower enrollment, so that’s why I can tell you it was better than expected," said Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney. "So financially we are in a stronger position that we anticipated.”

Whitney said COVID-19 testing on the campus for all students, faculty and staff appears to be working and she has confidence about completing the semester as planned. In addition, new classes will be offered starting in October and during the traditional winter break.

The drop might have been larger, except for a six percent increase in online class enrollment. That does not include hybrid and remote classes. Whitney said more students are using that option during the pandemic. Students in 46 states and nine foreign countries have signed up.

This story appeared on NPR Illinois on September 9, 2020.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Mulan, a Most Adaptable Heroine: There’s a Version for Every Era

When rumors of a live-action, nonmusical version of “Mulan” began to trickle out a few years ago, many hard-core fans of the 1998 Disney original groused. No big musical numbers and soaring ballads? No Mushu, the wisecracking dragon, or Li Shang, the movie’s clearly conflicted love interest? No “Reflection”? Many felt that the filmmakers were being unfaithful to the Mulan legend — or at least to Disney’s own version of it.

But Mulan has always been the most adaptable of heroines. Long before fans criticized Disney for taking liberties with their beloved animated heroine, poets, writers, playwrights and filmmakers had been creating scores of wildly different versions of the legendary woman warrior. In some, she’s a hardened army general; in others, she has magical powers; in yet others, she’s a crack shot with a bow. In one animated version, she’s a bug.

After the original poem, subsequent versions of the Mulan story added plotlines and details to flesh out the tale. In the 16th-century play “The Heroine Mulan Goes to War in Her Father’s Place,” she has bound feet. “At the time, women in the upper classes would bind their feet, and the playwright wanted to make sure Mulan was seen as the ideal icon of femininity,” said Lan Dong, author of “Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States” and an English professor at the University of Illinois Springfield. “She had to be perfect.”

In the 1695 novel “The Romance of Sui and Tang Dynasties,” Mulan meets a fellow female warrior who becomes her sworn sister; in the end, Mulan takes her own life when the Khan summons her to be his concubine. “Many versions emphasize her virtue,” Professor Dong said. “Even after all those years and everything she’s put herself through, she kept herself untouched.”

This story appeared in The New York Times on September 3, 2020..

Read the entire article online.

COVID-19 and college: UIS on-campus students and faculty are getting tested weekly

The University of Illinois is aiming to have its saliva tests used throughout the nation and world. The so-called Shield tests provide rapid results and were developed by researchers in Urbana-Champaign at UIUC. "Direct saliva testing can address bottlenecks of time, cost and supplies," said Martin Burke in a release. "Our test also has unique features that enable fast and frequent testing on a large scale, and we are now working together with many partners to make our testing method broadly available as soon as possible." Burke is a chemistry professor at UIUC and helped develop the tests, which are under FDA emergency authorization.

The tests are being used at all three U of I campuses, including in Springfield. The aim at UIS is to test weekly those who learn, live and work on campus. Testing, combined with contact tracing, provides a picture of where outbreaks are occurring and how to mitigate further spread. Interim UIS chancellor Karen Whitney has repeatedly described the coming school year as a roller coaster, and it's already proven to be true.

"The lab is slammed in Urbana, and we've had bumps in the road," Whitney said during an Aug. 27 UIS virtual meeting about COVID-19.

"UIS is not closing unless the governor or the system head directs me to. The question gets into how will we operate," Whitney told Illinois Times. Students and faculty who become ill will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Pauses in on-campus activity and a temporary shift to online learning for all are included as potential mitigation efforts. Meanwhile, about 80% of students are learning purely online according to Whitney. Those who attend in-person classes must wear masks and keep a distance from others.

In-person learning is a privilege, said Whitney. There could be discipline for faculty and students who don't abide by rules. So far though, "I'm impressed with how conscientious people have been, how thoughtful they've been," Whitney said. "I'm very optimistic."

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on September 3, 2020.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

UIS celebrates its 50th anniversary

The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this academic year.

UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney said the university began as an upstart campus in a temporary building. Now, it is ranked as the No. 1 public regional university in the state by U.S. News & World Report.

On June 10, 1969, former Illinois Gov. Richard Ogilvie signed legislation to create Sangamon State University (SSU), which later became UIS.

SSU was considered an "upper-level" three-year university. It offered junior, senior, and graduate courses.

Then, on Sept. 28, 1970, university staff began teaching 811 students in temporary classrooms at First United Methodist Church in Springfield due to construction delays.

The first day of classes on UIS' present campus was held on Oct. 5, 1970.

The university recently hung billboards in the capital city with its 50th anniversary logo and tagline: "Bold Legacy. Bright Future."

UIS also plans to celebrate the milestone on social media.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on September 2, 2020.