Thursday, May 29, 2008

Student named finalist in photography contest

By Courtney Westlake

When Sue Huskins was involved in an accident at work that left her without the use of her right hand in 1999, she was forced to quit her job at a print shop. She took that opportunity to go to college, first receiving her associates degree from Richland Community College in Decatur and now working toward her bachelors at UIS.

"That's where I found photography, and I love it; it's my passion," she said.

At UIS, Huskins is majoring in visual arts with a focus on photography, which she studies under professor of communication Michael Duvall. It was after one of Duvall's classes that Huskins noticed a brochure for the 28th Annual Student Photography Contest.

And from among the more than 4,000 students who entered this year's contest, Huskins was selected as a finalist in the competition, and her photo titled "Repetition in Glass" will be published in the "Best of College Photography Annual 2008."

"I just happened to find the flyer for the competition in Professor Duvall's lab and just thought I'd try; it doesn't hurt to try," she said. "I was very surprised. I was hoping to be at least maybe recognized a little bit, but I never dreamed I'd make it in the top five percent."

Huskins captured her "Repetition in Glass" photograph while on a trip to Chicago.

"My friend and I went on bus trip to Chicago, but instead of going to the art museum we were supposed to go to, we spent the whole day downtown looking for shots that we liked. We drug each other all around the town," she said. "I like reflections, I like using the camera to get odd angles. And I like to get every day items that people see but pass by and don't really recognize."

Because her accident left her without the use of her dominant hand, Huskins must hold her camera differently than most people to capture her images.

"Since the shutter release button is located on the right side of the camera, I cannot use it in the normal position. When using a camera, I turn it upside down, resting it on the top of my bad hand," Huskins said. "Doing it this way, it leaves my left hand free to manually focus and set the shutter speed and the aperture. It also puts the shutter release button on the left side on the bottom where it is easily accessible with my left thumb."

Huskins said she decided to come to UIS because of its close proximity to Decatur and due to all of the positive things she had heard about and read about UIS. Eventually, she said, she'd like to continue her education and pursue a master's degree.

"I'd like to do freelance photography but also maybe teach photography in a community college setting," she said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UIS graduates nearly 1,300

Nearly 1,300 students received degrees at UIS' 37th commencement ceremony on May 10.

See a printable list of graduates' names and degrees


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New exhibit presents work by Liz Murphy Thomas

identity: conceptual/perceptual representations, an exhibit of photographs by Liz Murphy Thomas, will be on display at the Robert Morris Gallery in downtown Springfield from May 20 through July 11.

Thomas is assistant professor of Visual Arts at UIS, where her teaching focuses on digital media and graphic design.

identity includes work from several series of Thomas' photographs, all dealing with "perceptual and conceptual identities." She describes the focus of her work as looking at "how we create, categorize, and perceive identity."

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 22. The reception and admission to the gallery are free.

The Robert Morris Gallery is located at 607 East Adams; summer hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, contact Shelley LaMantia at 793-4245 or Liz Murphy Thomas at 206-7547.

Read more about the Visual Arts Department at UIS and about Liz Murphy Thomas.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mexico Diez shares knowledge gained on trip

By Courtney Westlake

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today, a group of UIS students has found.

The Mexico Diez, a group of 10 students and two faculty members, left for Mexico the week before spring break in March and spent about 10 days in San Cristobal and Chiapas, as well as some southern, rural areas, after first undergoing training with Witness for Peace, said Julian Borjas, a junior who participated in the trip.

The group, part of the political studies class called Mexico & Globalization taught by Dr. Heather Dell and Veronica Espina, was studying how workers are actually affected by different trade agreements and economic policies put forth by the United States.

“We were looking at economic effects from neo-liberal trade policies, which are the official economic foreign policies that that U.S. backs through trade organizations and through trade agreements like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) that kind of privatize government lands and publicly-owned lands so that corporations can use the resources,” Borjas said.

The students met with families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life to learn about their experiences and perspectives regarding these policies and also stayed with three Mexican families during part of their time there.

“We talked with them about what their lives are like and what their concerns are,” said Bob Skorczewski, one of the ten students on the trip. “I had a little background in some of these political and economic issues from my time here at UIS, but the actual real world application of these policies and how they affect people is something you don't really get in a classroom environment.”

“Actually going there and communicating with the people in Mexico was very eye-opening, and you can see how these things affect them and their families,” he continued. “There are just so many things happening there that we weren't ever wanting for something to do and to learn.”

Borjas said the trip reinforced many of the ideas he had before taking the class.

“There is a lot of militarization; there are military installments in every town,” he said. “The people that are known to protest the government, the Zapatistas, are really feeling a lot of pressure. A lot of the towns are being persuaded to become more favorable to the government.”

As part of the experience, members of the Mexico Diez began speaking to groups around campus and the community upon returning from Mexico, sharing what they studied and what they learned while on their trip.

The students first talked to a couple of UIS classes, Skorczewski said, and then took on some speaking engagements at high schools in the area as well as community groups that helped to sponsor their trip.

Skorczewski encouraged other UIS students to sign up for the Mexico & Globalization class next spring for the chance to study this area, learn about globalization and make the trip to Mexico.

“Some of the experiences we had were very intense, but in a good way, in an eye-opening way,” he said. “I’m looking for ways now to get involved around here, or whatever community I end up living in, with the labor movement, or if it's in politics, keeping that in mind as we form public policy. There’s a hidden side to all these issues we see, and a lot of time we're concerned only with how it affects us and not other people.”

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Commencement celebrates exciting and surprising journey

By Courtney Westlake

Life has a way of surprising us.

That was the theme of the speech from student commencement speaker Denean Vreeland as she spoke to her fellow graduates, celebrating their common commitment, college career and all of the surprises along the way.

Hundreds of graduates gathered in their robes and gowns on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, May 10, to receive their hard-earned diplomas in the presence of their proud friends and families with happy tears and beaming smiles across their faces.

Years of dedication and hard work culminated into an exciting and emotional ceremony celebrated by the graduates, many members of the UIS community and people from around the country and world.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke served as the commencement keynote speaker, and UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen and University President B. Joseph White also gave remarks during the ceremony. White challenged the graduates sitting before him to be people of high integrity and professionals of high integrity.

“This is the happiest day of the academic calendar; I’m so happy to be able to share it with you,” White said. “I want to congratulate the graduates, and I want to thank all of the families and friends for all of their support and sacrifices. It’s really taken your love and support to get all of the graduates here.”

Vreeland, who received her degree in math and will be teaching the subject at Pawnee High School, said she was extremely excited to be chosen as the student speaker and could hardly believe her graduation day had finally arrived.

“It’s so exciting to be at the end,” she said right before the graduation ceremony. “This thing I have anticipated for so long is finally here. I really had a tremendous experience at UIS.”

Vreeland's speech was a surprise to her parents, who were in attendance. With the element of surprise being the focus of her presentation, she urged her audience not to equate surprise as being unprepared or naive.

“Each of us today has worked hard to reach this moment in our lives. For most of us, it has required careful planning and dedication,” she said. “Despite these carefully laid plans, though, I am certain each of us has encountered our share of surprises. Speaking from a later season of life, I can tell you there are always surprises ahead.”

Vreeland acknowledged the online learning at UIS, noting that she was rarely physically present on campus but was grateful for the opportunity to study and take classes online, while still feeling like she was an important part of the university. She encouraged her fellow students, both online and on-campus, to explore new possibilities and “not be afraid to open new doors.”

“Those areas least explored are sometimes those that hold the most wonderful surprises,” Vreeland said. “Our professors here at UIS have given us the tools we need to succeed. We have learned how to understand problems and come up with our own solutions. They have encouraged us to think critically and independently.”

And when it comes to planning for the future, Vreeland quoted a sentence from actor Steve Carell’s character in “Dan in Real Life” when he says “Maybe we should tell them this...plan to be surprised.”

“As we leave this ceremony today, no matter what your plans, I invite you to look for and embrace all of life's surprises,” Vreeland said.

Online students enjoy UIS campus before commencement

By Courtney Westlake

Beth Trimble and Susan Greene became fast friends after Trimble was searching for a "study buddy" while she completed her bachelor's degree in math online at UIS. Years of support, encouragement and friendship ensued, and the two met face-to-face for the first time in 2007 when Greene traveled from her home in Lawrenceville, Ill. to see her online friend graduate.

On Saturday, May 10, it was Trimble's turn to make the trip from her home in California to celebrate as Greene received her degree in math with a minor in teacher education from UIS.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better on my graduation than for her to be here," Greene said. "I feel like my day is complete since she is here. She has been a major support system for me, along with my husband Tony."

Dozens of students and their families, many of whom had never set foot on the UIS campus before, traveled from near and far to participate in UIS' commencement ceremony on Saturday. Before the ceremony, however, graduating online students were able to be a part of the campus in the morning during a celebratory brunch in the Public Affairs Center.

Students hailed from all over Illinois and from as far away as California, Delaware, New Jersey and Florida. The graduates, online coordinators and program faculty were all recognized during the brunch.

"As graduates, you represent much of all that is good and great about the university," said Chuck Schrage, vice president of alumni relations. "Your accomplishments as students, your future achievements, the way in which you live and the values by which you live will have a significant impact on UIS. It's true what many have said: alumni are the truest measure of a great university."

Online graduates from UIS live and work throughout all 50 states and many other countries internationally.

"We have a wide reach with these programs," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "I really want to congratulate you and thank you for choosing this university. We are very proud of these programs."

There was a wide mix of emotions during the brunch as the graduates met many campus community members for the first time and celebrated with their families and friends.

"I'm relieved, excited. It's been a long road," Greene said.

Both Trimble and Greene said they will always feel a connection with UIS, and especially with each other and their programs. Being teachers will also continue to keep them close, Trimble said.

"I don't think we'll ever lose that connection," Greene said.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Career Center provides students with job search resources

By Courtney Westlake and Portia Kerr-Newman (Southeast High School senior)

Graduation, not to mention summer vacation, is looming in the very near future, and many students are still unsure of their plans, either for the next few months or for a full-time career path.

From numerous web-based programs to assistance in discovering an ideal career match, the Career Development Center at UIS is packed with resources for those involved in the job search process.

The Career Development Center offers a variety of quality services that use both online and face-to-face methods of service delivery. Career counseling is a primary service at the center, but they also offer assistance for those looking at career options, gaining experience, preparing for a job search, deciding about graduate school or making a career transition.

"The Career Center helps students with being prepared for job interviews," said Tammy Craig, director of the center. "It gives students the knowledge on how to wear the proper attire, impress the employer, and give a good first impression."

Many times, students believe the Career Development Center is only on campus for resume help and job searches, but the center's primary service is to teach career development as lifelong process.

"We want to educate students in their first and second years in order to really help them understand that whole process, so they can have plenty of time to prepare for careers and to set goals, so they will be successful when they transition into workforce," Craig said.

The Career Development Center also provides workshops and events like "Dress for Success," where students modeled the do's and don'ts of dressing for an interview or putting on a reality show that was a take-off of the actual reality television show called The Career Pursuit.

One of the center's newest features is called the GOALS program. People don't always like to read or be lectured to, so the center has incorporated YouTube videos, podcasts, worksheets and more to meet individuals' needs and provide a tool that faculty can incorporate into their courses.

"The feedback we hear from students is that they may not be able to come in and devote the time they need to, so we wanted to engage students, staff and faculty to help in the career development process and to integrate that into the curriculum or extracurricular activities," Craig said. "This goes back to the justification of starting early."

Due largely in part to the growth of UIS' online population, the Career Center has adapted all of their on-campus services to some method of online delivery service, Craig said. A tool called UIS-Success, a top resource used at the center, allows students to view job postings and internships profiles and to upload resumes, and another program, called FOCUS, offers career and personality tests where students can go online and take a test to help them find their perfect career match.

And because 80 to 90 percent of open jobs aren't even posted on sites like Monster or CareerBuilder, the Career Search program serves as an international job post for employees seeking jobs at companies that might not have a known posting.

The center also offers personality assessments to help students to decide exactly what they want to do in life, and the Perfect Interview program helps those students who haven't had a lot interview experience or have interview anxiety.

In addition to the abundance of job-related resources at the Career Development Center, Craig offered several pieces of advice for graduating seniors and others currently searching for a job. Of utmost importance is to make a good first impression and prepare before the interview, she said.

"I would highly recommend that you research the company thoroughly so you know what your strengths are and how you can contribute to the company," Craig said. "The more diversified your skill sets are, the better off you are. It's really knowing the company, knowing what your skills sets are and knowing how to articulate that to a recruiter."

Craig said a major concern the Career Development Center hears from recruiters is that students need to be proactive and know what they want.

"Know yourself," Craig advised. "If you don't really know what type of career or job position you want to pursue, then how can you expect to describe that in an interview with a potential employer? If you are still undecided or don't know what you can do with your degree, come see us because there is nothing worse that to partake in an interview when the recruiter asks questions and you aren't able to articulate what you want."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Students enjoy spring break trip for Habitat

By Courtney Westlake

Students involved with Habitat for Humanity on the UIS campus took a different route in planning a spring break trip this academic year.

A group of ten students in the UIS Habitat for Humanity club, along with Beth Hoag, assistant director of student life at UIS, spent their week-long spring break in South Dakota, helping the local chapter of Habitat with various projects.

"I got involved in the Habitat club because I'm friends with Dan Bosomworth, who is the president," said Zach Berillo, a sophomore. "The club meets every Saturday, and we work on different houses in the area. We helped Dan with picking the location of our trip."

When Berillo mentioned the trip to his friends, Colin Samson decided he might like to join the group.

"It sounded like it'd be a fun adventure - a bunch of people helping out - and it sounded like something I'd like to do," Samson said.

The first day, the group helped to tear down a house that contained some pieces that Habitat wanted to salvage, like the circuit breaker, heater, vents, sinks and lighting fixtures. Those parts are then used in some of the new houses that Habitat will build, Berillo said.

The other three days the group spent in South Dakota included building a shed for a food pantry in the local town of Sioux Falls, Berillo said.

"It was too cold to build outside - 35 degrees - so we couldn't build a house or anything, but they had us build the shed inside a warehouse," he said. "It was really good because there were a lot of volunteers there, like some local guys who volunteer about 20 hours a week, so we got to work with them and talk with them, so that was really nice."

The students enjoyed getting to know each other better and learning about Sioux Falls and the people that live there.

"I liked it a lot. We managed to complete shed that we started; we stayed there a little longer," Samson said. "I hope it's in use."

The group is already looking forward to next year's spring break Habitat for Humanity trip.

"We're probably going to pick a place a little warmer so we can enjoy it a little bit more, but I think definitely for our first trip with Habitat for Humanity, it was a really good one," Berillo said.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Campus guest discusses Creole culture

By Courtney Westlake

UIS Music hosted guest Dr. Sybil Kein, Creole scholar and composer on Friday, May 2. Kein presented a public lecture titled "Gumbo People: Celebrating and Teaching the Creole Culture of New Orleans," on Friday afternoon, which featured poetry, folklore and personal stories collected from Creole muscicians, entertainers and other historical and cultural figures.

Kein, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, is a recognized expert in Creole culture and history, as well as a musician, composer and poet. She has numerous books and CDs to her credit and recently served as a translator and dialect coach for the Screen Gems production Bolden, a film about early jazz in New Orleans.

Kein discussed where many beliefs about different races came about, and how various races were "assigned" a color at some point in time, such as black, red, yellow and white. People need to understand that many beliefs about race were invented in the beginning and are still fiction.

"The key word in all of this is 'folklore,' but it has stuck," Kein said.

Kein described her family tree dating back to her great-grandparents, with roots in the Jewish religion, France, Ireland and more. Multicultural is really the definition of Creole, Kein said.

"We have 17 million multicultural people in the United States. As Creole people in the culture and language, we are more than 55 million in the world," she said. "And one of the things I like about the news laws is that the law cannot tell you who you are. It's up to you to decide who you identify with in your ancestry. If you have that culture, that is a part of you."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Women's Center hosts annual Garden Party

By Courtney Westlake

The Women's Center held its annual Garden Party and Awards Ceremony on Thursday afternoon, May 1, at the Women's Peace and Friendship Garden at the campus pond.

The Center gave out two awards: the 11th Naomi B. Lynn Award for Contribution to Environment for Women at UIS and the 4th Women's Issues Caucus Student Activism Award.

Nominees up for the Naomi B. Lynn award were Dr. Heather Dell, associate professor of Women and Gender Studies, Amanda Page, student, and Dr. Kent Redfield, professor of Political Studies. Nominees for the student activism honor included Jimmy Brower, Amanda Looney, Katelyn Murray, Renee Rathjen and Ashley Rook.

Dell was selected as the recipient of the Naomi B. Lynn Award. She recognized that she could not have gotten the award by herself and thanked many of those who supported and encouraged her.

"Heather's work is deep in the core of human condition," said Lynn Otterson, director of the Women's Center. "Students respond well to what Heather Dell teaches, and how she teaches and mentors. The students I know never leave what they learn in Heather's class at the door."

Brower received the honor of the WIC Student Activism Award. Brower served as the chair of Queer-Straight Alliance, was involved with the Women's Issues Caucus and coordinated the Great Midwestern Wigout, among many other activism roles he held on campus.

"I think we can do great things at UIS; I'm committed to that, and I know all of you are," Brower said. "I couldn't be more honored to be one of the nominees with these five people. They're my peers, and I've worked with them so hard doing so many things over the past five years, and I owe a lot of that to all of you."

Before the awards were given, Otterson told the gathered crowd about the significance of the Peace and Friendship Garden, which was built in 1997. Many aspects of the garden, such as the chimes, bench, birdhouse and more, were added in honor of the recipients of the Naomi B. Lynn Award each year.

"This garden is a communal effort of the community; it's a wonderful thing," Otterson said. "It really does continue to grow every year."

Naomi B. Lynn, former UIS chancellor, was present during the event and commended the Women's Center for its work, as well as the efforts and dedication of the nominees.

"I wanted to congratulate each and every one of you," said Lynn. "You're our next generation; that's what it is all about, and that's why we're here."