Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Office of International Student Services brings students together

By Courtney Westlake

At this year’s International Festival, Rick Lane noticed that during downtime, members of the Students of African Descent group and the Indian group began to dance together and enjoy each other’s cultures.

That is exactly the environment Lane is working to create, with help from many others on campus, as the director of the Office of International Student Services at UIS.

Organizing the International Festival, held annually, is just one of the responsibilities of the office. Its primary duty is to assist international students with immigration issues, whether they are arriving as new students or maintaining their legal status, and the benefits of that status, in the United States, Lane said.

“We also do programming with the students and for the students, like the International Festival,” he said. “We assist them with tax workshops and cultural adaptation. I am also one of two advisers (along with Dana Atwell) for the International Student Association, so we do welcome parties and other activities to help them interact with each other and get to know the campus and Springfield.”

The Office of International Student Services works closely with numerous other offices on campus, including the Diversity Center, Housing, Student Life and the Admissions office. In fact, a new counselor recently started in the admissions office who is dedicated solely to international students.

“We know how important it is for international students to get a quick response when they’re trying to figure things out from many miles and many hours away,” Lane said. “We wanted someone who could understand their unique needs and questions and respond promptly to those, and dedicate himself to that.”

The Office of International Student Services is located in the Human Resources Building, in the same space as the Office of International Programs led by Jonathan GoldbergBelle. The student services office also includes office manager Sherri Boner, graduate assistant Jolene Vollmer and student worker Reid Johnson. A future goal for both offices is to rename the space the “International Center” to bring all programs together.

The international studentson the UIS campus, including U.S. lawful permanent residents and all non-immigrant visa categories, number around 500, Lane said, which is close to 10 percent of the campus population. The majority come to study at UIS from India, most of those in computer science. The office and the international recruiting task force, which is chaired by Lane, have plans to expand recruiting efforts to parts of Asia, as well as recruit students in a variety of majors and programs.

“We have many students from India, Korea, Japan, China, but we also have students from western Europe, Africa and the Americas – North, Central and South,” Lane said. “We are now going to be concentrating on Asia; that area of the world is sending the most students to the United States, and we would like to grow our international population very quickly. While we certainly want to continue welcoming students from India in computer science, we have a goal of diversifying to other parts of the world as well as what majors they are pursuing outside of computer science.”

While it’s the law to have such a department on campus to provide services regarding forms and legal status, Lane believes the office provides much more than that to the international students who come to UIS.

“I believe that interaction between international students and American students is crucial not only for education of those international students but for - dare I say it? - world peace,” he said. “I don't think there is anything that does as much to help foster good understanding of who were are as Americans, and understanding of the rest of the world, as having international students and American students interacting. They couldn't do that if we weren't here to help that happen; they need someone to be their advocate, their liaison.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Computer Science grad student wins 2nd in international contest

By Courtney Westlake

Tejesh Morla
, a graduate student in Computer Science, recently won second place in the General Students category of the MySQL and GlassFish Contest sponsored by SUN MicroSystems. The contest challenged participants to create a web application using MySQL and Glassfish along with Java, Morla said.

"It's a global contest; anyone can participate," he said. "I found out about it because of an email sent by Dr. Ted Mims (computer science department chair)."

Morla's winning project was a basic web application that responds to customers' needs to register on a site to place and view orders, as well as administrators' needs to view and list all registered customers. He then created an in-depth blog entry that detailed the steps he took to develop his application and how he used MySQL and GlassFish in the process.

Morla says the project took a lot of time and research.

"It was a tough task," he said. "At one point, I thought I would never make it. I had problem where mySQL stuff was not syncing with the Java."

The contest began on September 2, and October 22 was the deadline to submit a project, Morla said. He found out he won 2nd place while he was on Thanksgiving break vacationing in Las Vegas.

"One of my friends always says there should be something in your resume which would tell the difference from others, so I thought I should participate in that to get some experience," he said. "I am very excited and can't believe that I happened to win."

Oldfield publishes new book

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, and Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III, a colleague from the University of Vermont, are co-authors of Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class, recently published by State University of New York Press.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scannell addresses Global Management Conference

Nancy Scannell, associate professor of Finance in the Department of Business Administration, was the invited keynote speaker at the International Association of the Scientific Knowledge's Global Management Conference, held in October in Portugal. Scannell spoke on "The Fate of Poison Pills for the Next Generation of Corporate Takeovers in a Poisoned Financial System."

Following the conference, she met with Lisbon Fulbright officers and a group of local students who were interested to hear about UIS and academic life in the U.S. This international student recruitment initiative was coordinated by Rick Lane, UIS director of International Student Services, and Lori Giordano, UIS associate director of Admissions.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Professor finds expression through poetry

By Courtney Westlake

While writing may not be the most lucrative of careers, Dr. Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor of English, has found that writers, and especially poets, are constantly aware of what is going on around them, what is going on inside of them and are able to record it, which is a unique and interesting way of life.

“I don’t know how many of us will make a living at it, but it is a great life,” Perkins said. “Poetry I like because it distills and intensifies the emotions. One of the reasons we write is to explore both what we know and what others know and to try to come to the truth of the moment. I like exploring the terrains of the spirit and terrains of the outer world. I like the distillation and the intensity of poetry."

Perkins has written for as long as she can remember. In fact, she still has a copy of a book from her childhood that contains the scribbles of the words she used to “write” and then she would “read” her stories to her mother.

“There is not a time in my life when my family can remember me not writing,” she said. “As I grew up, I found genres - creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. I choose a genre by what I have to say; I like to have a grab-bag of genres.”

Perkins began her undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky before moving to Illinois to finish her bachelor degree at Illinois State University. She also earned her master’s and doctorate degrees at ISU and earned a Specialist in College Teaching from Murray State University in western Kentucky. While teaching English and directing the Writing Center at Eureka College, Perkins heard about a “wonderful job that would just be in creative writing and children’s literature” at UIS, she said, and started here in 2000.

“There are a lot of things to like about UIS,” she mused. “In the English department, we’ve had the online degree program, the Capital Scholars program and now there is a shift to having freshmen, which I adore. I like the energy of all of that.”

Perkins is teaching a class this fall in fiction writing, a graduate seminar in fiction writing and an online course in children’s literature.

“In my online children's lit class, I have students in Tokyo, Sweden and an island off Galveston - I have students literally all over the country, so that class is a great deal of fun,” she said. “I’m also teaching fiction writing, which is splendid. It’s compiled of people who have never written fiction before and those who are graduate students who have written a lot.”

Perkins will be taking a sabbatical during the spring semester to complete the third book in her poetry trilogy about NYX, the primal Greek goddess Night. Each of the three books focuses on a specific aspect of the goddess’ being. The first book, called NYX: Mother of Light, is about the “joys of being alive and celebrating the fact that we’re human, and it’s full of resolution,” and the second book, NYX: Daughter of Chaos, is full of poems of “things not resolved,” Perkins said.

The third book of the trilogy is called NYX: Sister of Erebus and speaks about the journey that Perkins has gone through recently with her mother who had Alzheimer's disease. Erebus is the mythological region of darkness where souls must journey from this world on their way to the underworld.

“I’ve been working on this book since 2001, and my mother passed away a year ago in September,” Perkins said. “I want to take and shape the poems I have into the stages of Alzheimer’s so people can know they’re not alone if they must also make this journey.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Perkins is also continuing to work on a project she laughingly calls her “life project”: a book on the early settlers of Woodford County, Illinois, which is about 90 percent complete, she noted.

Though Perkins is so busy that she is barely finding enough time to submit her poetry for publication and readings, she is still doing her best to make time for what she loves. She has been invited to be the featured poet in three different states, and she feels honored at the opportunities.

“It feels really nice that people are inviting me to be a featured poet and that people are giving me feedback about my poetry, saying ‘I like that, I understand it, and it’s what I’m going through right now’,” she said. “I’m doing all the things I like to do; it’s great."

To listen to Perkins read two of her recent poems, watch the video below: