Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Everybody Knows Brad

By Heather Shaffer

Most students who live on the UIS campus probably know Brad Ward. He is that guy you see at almost every campus event, whether he’s rooting on the Prairie Stars at a home basketball game or attending a Housing Residents Council meeting. However, Brad is probably most well-known for his job as a resident assistant for the Two South wing of Lincoln Residence Hall.

According to Brad, he didn’t even consider becoming an RA until Emily Eskridge, a former RA in LRH, approached him and told him she thought he would be good at the job. After applying and interviewing, Brad was put on the alternate list and was later asked to fill Emily’s spot when she transferred to another university.

“Being an RA has been a blessing for me, and I truly mean that. The staff I work with is amazing, and we overcome so much together. And, honestly, you do get burnt out at times but when someone comes to your door at the end of a long day and needs someone to talk to or thanks you for something you did, big or small, it really makes the time and effort worth it,” he said.

Brad said that being an RA has brought him many opportunities and helped him learn many skills that will be useful when he is looking for a job after college. For example, he thinks the experience has sharpened his interpersonal skills as well as his skills in communication, crisis prevention, time management, community building, and programming.

As an RA, Brad also has had the opportunity to serve on the Illinois State Resident Assistant Association. He -- along with Blair Brown, Jen Davis, John Kelly, Dan Collins, and Loni Oehlwein -- serves on the executive board of the statewide organization. Brad said that while it is a lot of work to stay in touch with RA’s across the state to plan conferences and recruit new schools, it is nevertheless a great experience.

Besides being an RA, Brad is also the president of the Blue Crew, a group he calls one of the most active groups on campus. “The amount of commitment some members put in amazes me. They really don’t get the appreciation they deserve. Seeing kids come to 45 to 50 athletic events in 27 weeks of school...That’s two nights a week that they could be doing something else, but there they are, right on the front row, yelling until they have no voice, for our blue and white. Then they take a day off, get their voice back, and go out to do it the next night,” he said. Brad added that he expects the Blue Crew to be even bigger this year, with many incoming freshmen ready to “shake things up” on the sidelines.

Brad’s other activities include the Christian Student Fellowship, the executive board of the Housing Residence Council, and the Springfest Committee. He also works as a photographer for UIS Campus Relations, which allows him to attend almost every campus event.

But the largest part of Brad’s satisfaction comes from being an RA for Two South. “My residents have taught me a lot, and I am excited to get things rolling again in the fall. We have another spectacular group of kids coming in, and the campus should be excited about that,” he said.

In his spare time, Brad developed, a website dedicated to the residents of his wing. He started the site as a way for the students to get to know people around them, but the site grew and in the past two years has gotten hits from all over the world. contains information about each of the residents of Two South, along with pictures and videos about happenings on campus. “This year brought 5,653 pictures and 39 homemade videos to the UIS community, and we hope to put up higher numbers this year if time, space, and funding will allow,” said Brad.

Overall, Brad said that his favorite aspect of UIS is the amount of interaction he gets with so many people on campus, including professors. “Coming from a small town and a graduating class of 70, I knew that UIS would be a good fit for me. Being able to talk on a personal level to anyone from a building service worker to the chancellor just is not something you get at other campuses,” he said.

Brad said he first decided to attend UIS because of Raymond Barnett, whom he calls the “unsung hero of Admissions,” and, after three years, he is confident that he made the right choice. “I cannot believe that in December I will have my Bachelor’s of Business Administration, but I don’t regret one day of the journey,” he said.

Brad’s advice for incoming students -- whether they are transfer students, Capital Scholars, or commuter students -- is to get involved in as many campus activities as they can. He suggests that students should network with everyone, because in the future you never know who will be sitting on the other side of the interview table.

This summer, I am interested in learning about other people's experiences at UIS. If you’d like to share your campus experiences, please e-mail me at

Monday, June 27, 2005

Academic and Athletic Success at UIS

By Melanie Cain

During her senior year in high school in Geneseo, Jessica Lay planned to attend her local community college, where she intended to participate in athletics. However, during a high school college fair, she came across the UIS booth and after she’d talked with the counselor about a number of issues she walked away with a great interest in the university.

For one thing, Jessica learned that UIS offered athletics at the NAIA level, and that, with the Capital Scholars Honors Program, the school would be accepting freshman for the very first time that fall. She contacted the women’s basketball coach and was offered a scholarship to play at UIS. Jessica said, “I ultimately decided that it would be fun to be part of a charter class in one of the colleges in the University of Illinois system and have the chance to play sports.”

Jessica wasn’t sure what to expect as she started out at UIS -- her main focus was to earn her degree and play sports at the collegiate level. She simply wanted to do her best and balance academic, social, and athletic activities. She also wanted to focus more on what she could truly gain from a class, instead of merely worrying about grades.

One aspect of UIS that Jessica found helpful throughout her studies was the ability to work and interact with professors one-on-one. She said she felt fortunate that she was able to earn a degree from a state school while still being able to work closely with faculty.

When asked what she enjoyed most about her UIS experience, Jessica quickly brought up the Capital Scholars program, especially being a member of the charter class. “I feel that since we were on our own, almost secluded in a way, we tended to socialize with the whole class throughout the entire four years,” she said. “I felt that this gave us a chance to meet and become good friends with people that we might not have gotten to know to in a larger setting. Looking back, I enjoyed the bond that the class established.”

In addition to the many relationships that Jessica built over her college tenure, she also walked away with something that will benefit her for the rest of her life: “I have the tools and knowledge to stand up for something that I believe is right,” she said. “I learned a lot about people…and I feel that becoming close to some individuals whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet in a larger setting, and getting to know them, gave me a better understanding of cultural differences.”

Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree in both Business Administration and Visual Arts and graduated in May as a member of the first-ever Capital Scholars Honors Program. As for her future plans, she is hoping for a career in either sports marketing or event planning.

Do you have a story about your experiences at UIS? If you’d like to share your thoughts, feel free to email me at

Monday, June 20, 2005

Meet the New SGA President

By Heather Shaffer

During the Student Government Association elections last semester, the UIS student body elected Samantha Drews as SGA president for 2005-2006.

Samantha, a junior Capital Scholar majoring in Political Studies, was officially signed into office at the Student Life Banquet in May.

During her freshman year, Samantha was appointed SGA representative-at-large. She said she loved being a member of student government from the beginning. “I was always impressed by the parli-pro and the efficiency then-President Jason Stuebe had in running the meetings.”

After being involved in SGA for two years, Drews said she felt it was important to run for president because she felt she could be an asset to the organization and the university as a whole. “I love the idea of logic through discussion in order to develop something greater than what currently exists, and that is what SGA is all about. We are constantly striving to improve the lives of our peers, whether they are aware of it or not,” she said.

Since taking office in May, Samantha said she has done more work than she could have believed. She noted that, as a senator, she tried to be very involved and worked hard for the committees she served on, attending conferences and participating in discussions. But now, she said, she has a lot more work to do.

“I know that I have an incredible task ahead of me. Now, instead of striving to just participate and be diligent with my committees, I will facilitate participation, create the committees, and incorporate every single entity of the student body under my jurisdiction. It is a daunting task, but I have had some incredible predecessors, who have enlightened me in so many ways,” she said.

Samantha, who ran unopposed, said she wishes she’d had an opponent because she wants people to be motivated to be part of the organization. In fact, Samantha said that her primary goal for the upcoming year is to make people aware of SGA and its purpose.

She said that this year SGA members will be doing a number of promotional activities -- including wearing t-shirts, making banners, and passing out pens, highlighters, and cups -- in order to raise awareness about the organization and its members. She said, “It is incredible the amount of power that students can have within their education and within their campus. I think it is vital that we open students’ eyes to that.”

Samantha said she is thrilled with many of the new developments at UIS. “We have a great new president of the U of I system. He has taken us under his wing like no previous president and I look forward to his leadership. We have the General Education curriculum coming into play in just one year. We are developing a spectacular Recreation Center that will help entice people to become a part of UIS,” she said.

The greatest aspect of UIS, according to Samantha, is the potential that lies within the campus. “I see so many great things coming out of this place. I have already promised myself that I will be a contributor to this campus which has already given me so much,” she said.

Samantha has always been interested in politics and in 2002, while still in high school, she worked on the Lane Evans campaign. She finds that her major in Political Studies fits perfectly with her work in student government. She said that the POS department is one of UIS’ hidden gems and added that she has learned much from the professors and coursework that she will be able to apply to a career in politics.

Because of her interest in Hispanic culture and the Spanish language, Samantha is leaning toward a career in labor relations for South and Central American countries. After graduating from UIS, she hopes to attend graduate school or work for the Peace Corps.

Samantha is originally from Moline, Illinois, and came to UIS after she was offered an academic and athletic scholarship to play tennis for UIS Women’s Tennis Coach Dominic Giacomini. “I was unsure of UIS – a small school that I had barely even heard of. I came down to visit with my doubles partner and something told me I should enroll,” she said, adding that she absolutely loves UIS and couldn’t be happier with her decision.

“I must say that the people make the place. I have made some of the most amazing friends that I could have ever hoped for, not to mention the incredible things this campus has done for me academically and politically,” she said.

This summer, I am interested in learning about other people's experiences at UIS. If you’d like to share your campus experiences, please e-mail me at

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Growing Professionally and Personally at UIS

Andrew Hollingsead came into his freshman year in college hoping to pick up a little political experience and make a few friends. Instead, he became a member of a statewide board charged with overseeing a world-class institution of higher education with a $3.4 billion budget, became one of the top young people in his political party in Illinois, and worked under a group of highly regarded lobbyists.


Andrew believes that UIS creates an atmosphere where motivated students can grow, both personally and professionally.

Andrew said that he decided to come to UIS as a Capital Scholar because the program was something new and he thought it could help him carve out an identity for himself after high school.

As a Capital Scholar, Andrew says, “We had a good time every day, but we also developed the research, writing, and critical thinking skills that will put us at an advantage in graduate or professional schools and into our respective careers.”

During his sophomore year, Andrew decided to run for UIS’ student spot on the U of I Board of Trustees. He won and, after serving a year on the Board, was reelected for the following year.
Andrew said he first decided to run for the position primarily because he believed it could be used as an instrument for progress. “UIS is a tremendous campus that is part of the proud U of I tradition. With that, the sky is the limit, and I was excited by the opportunity to shape a small piece of our legacy,” he said.

During his two terms as a student trustee, Andrew enjoyed being able to meet with biologists from Chicago, engineers from Urbana, political leaders from Springfield, alumni leaders in business, and everyone in between.

“Whether it was discussing tuition issues, debt capacity, or building a new recreation center, there was never a dull conversation or a lack of something new to learn,” he said.
His tenure on the BOT has given Andrew a greater appreciation for the value of higher education.

“That really connected one night when I was driving home from Chicago after working with other Board members on the recent presidential search,” he remembers. “When I was a baby, my parents had to struggle to buy diapers for me. But because of their hard work and the power of public higher education, here I was, at age 22, able to meet with leaders in business, law, and education to select the sixteenth University of Illinois president,” he said.

Andrew also thinks the relationship UIS has with state politics is phenomenal and that aspect of the campus clearly stands out and makes UIS an ideal place to build a career in politics. He has used his own experience as a tool to heighten his political knowledge by taking advantage of the opportunities available to UIS students, including serving an Applied Study internship with the Illinois Banker’s Association during spring 2005. He said this experience allowed him to enhance his contacts in the Capitol while gaining practical experience with legislators, lobbyists, and many other players in state politics.

“Most importantly,” he said, “UIS gave me access to the people I needed to meet to start a career in politics, and in this field, that’s half the battle.”

For the fall semester, Andrew was chosen for an internship with the Illinois House Republican Legislative Staff. As an intern, he will be assigned to a legislative committee, where he will conduct research on proposed legislation and advise the legislators on his findings.

Between classes and his work with the Board of Trustees, Andrew was able to build close relationships and grow as a person alongside many people who seemed much like a family to him. “The family-like atmosphere and close relationships I’ve developed with other students, faculty, staff, and administrators at UIS has made my college experience more than I could have hoped for.”

This summer, I am interested in learning about other people's experiences at UIS. If you’d like to share your campus experiences, please e-mail me at

Friday, June 10, 2005

Learning Great Business Practices from UIS

By Heather Shaffer

Senior Capital Scholar Derek Koch has had many positive experiences while taking business and economic courses at UIS.

Derek decided to come to UIS because of the small class sizes and great housing options. He also liked the fact that UIS has the prestige of the University of Illinois name while still offering a small school environment and quiet atmosphere.

Derek has enjoyed living on-campus -- the first two years in Lincoln Residence Hall, which he described as fun yet conducive to studying and learning, and the past two years in the townhouses. He said he enjoys living in the townhouses as much as he enjoyed living in the residence hall.

Derek’s academic career at UIS has included coursework in business, management, marketing and economics. He said he enjoyed his business and economic courses because the information was useful and the professors were very knowledgeable and helpful.

During the summer of 2000, just before coming to UIS, Derek and his father began a business on eBay called PC Rejuvenator, from which they sell computer and electronic items. “I thought opening an eBay store would be a good way to start selling products, so I took the risk and got it started,” Derek said. He and his father began researching different products to sell, mostly computers and electronics, and slowly began listing the products on eBay. According to Derek, the business picked up and is still doing well.

Because of the knowledge he gained through owning his own business and through his coursework at UIS, Derek was able to obtain a summer internship at QuickDROP, a Springfield business that helps people sell things online. During his internship, Derek will help customers who bring items to the store, answering their questions, listing the items on eBay, helping ship items, and handling money for QuickDROP.

Derek found the internship through the UIS Applied Study Term Office. He said the AST staff was helpful in reviewing his resume and giving him advice and information about internship options.

Derek said that all the business classes he took at UIS will be useful during his internship, especially when he is handling money and working with customers. He also thinks that his Public Affairs Colloquia course Power and Negotiation will be useful dealing with customers and his supervisors. He added that another course he took on web design and HTML will be helpful when listing items on eBay.

He believes that his coursework at UIS has helped him improve his own eBay business. “I have learned so much in my business and economic courses that I will be able to apply to my business to help us become bigger and better.” He added, “I think my experiences at UIS will help me get a great job after I graduate.”

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Astronomy Program - So Much to Offer

By Melanie Cain

Over 50 years ago, Charles Schweighauser began working in the field of astronomy. After studying the subject in college, he was director of St. Louis' McDonnell Planetarium during the 1960s; then, in 1975, Schweighauser became this campus’ resident astronomer.

Astronomy -- the science of stars, planets, black holes, galaxies, and the universe -- holds a fascination for people of all ages. As Schweighauser says, “We are the children of stars,” meaning that all humanity somehow shares a connection to the long history of the stars.

In the spring of 1977, the first Friday night star parties were held at the campus observatory atop Brookens Library. Since then, more than 120,000 people have taken part in fall and spring star parties, which average about 200-300 visitors each time. Visitors to a star party can use three different telescopes to look at the moon, planets, deep sky objects, and constellations. Hundreds of pictures of various sky findings are mounted throughout the observatory as well.

The observatory also opens its door for special celestial events, such as eclipses and comets. In 1996, the Comet Hyakutake drew one of the biggest crowds -- over 2,000 people -- to the observatory. In 1994, the observatory played a large role in the study and viewing of a solar eclipse when program staff provided information to local and even national newspapers. They also provided live television feeds to NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN, as well as schools throughout Illinois through the Illinois Office of Education.

Although the observatory provides many excellent viewing opportunities for area residents, the astronomy program also does a great deal of research. Facilities include the main campus observatory, along with two other research observatories located in the Springfield area, and equipment includes one 8-inch and one 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, one 6-inch and one 8-inch Newtonian telescope, a 20-inch research telescope, a diffraction grating spectrograph, a hydrogenalpha filter, an objective prism, and a charge-coupled device. The program also owns another telescope with a fixed focal point that was designed for people with disabilities. Schweighauser developed the idea for this telescope himself and it was built in 1997, the first of its kind.

The main research goals of the program are to characterize what stars are doing, how they formed, and how they are evolving. Students are also working to fill in the Hertzsprung-Russel (HR) Diagram, which will help researchers understand why stars do what they do. Schweighauser and his students constantly share their research with other individuals all around the world.

The program currently offers 10 classes, such as Survey of the Universe, Astrophysics, Observational Astronomy, and Galaxies: Structure and Evolution. While UIS students cannot earn a degree in astronomy/physics, they can pursue an individualized degree that includes astronomy-physics through the individual option or liberal studies programs.

Asked what he enjoys most about working in the field of astronomy, Schweighauser simply states, “I enjoy it all!” He truly loves the public outreach of the UIS program, and he also enjoys working with students of all ages. “The past 30 years here have been the best times of my life.”

If you want to learn more about the astronomy program at UIS, visit or send an email to