Monday, December 21, 2009

UIS alumnus to have work featured in Springfield art gallery

A mixed-media exhibition by Josh Hester, a former graduate student in the University of Illinois Springfield Communication Department, will have his work featured during a six-week run at the Robert Morris University Art Gallery starting in January.

The “Witness: Mathare,” exhibit features photography and film of the people and story of the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

“It's considered one of the oldest slums in all of Africa,” Hester, a multimedia specialist for Memorial Health System, said.

Hester was part of a team from Hope Evangelical Free Church in Springfield that traveled to Nairobi in September. The church partners with Bright Hope, a Christian development organization that serves people in the world living on less than a dollar a day. Hester took an estimated 4,000 photos and shot five hours of video to document the trip.

"Mathare is a place of extremes," Hester said. "While I encountered extreme and unimaginable poverty, pain, disease and death, I also encountered tremendous joy, love, faith and hope. More so than you could ever imagine would exist in such a place."

A reception will be held from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, at the Robert Morris University Art Gallery located at 607 E. Adams St., Springfield. A $5 donation is suggested but not required. All proceeds will benefit Mathare Community Outreach’s schools and feeding program. Hope Church and Bright Hope have also partnered to organize a 5K run, Run for Hungry Children, to aid Mathare Community Outreach.

"It's easy for us to see Africa as this far-off place and so their problems are not our problems," Hester said. "But this isn't true. The world’s much smaller than we think it is. And we don't realize the impact we can have."

The exhibit will run from Jan. 5 through Feb. 19. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The exhibit features 33 photos and 45 minutes of video on a continuous loop.

For more information about the exhibit, call (217) 522-8977.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Perkins reads poetry as co-Featured Poet in New Hampshire

Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor of English, was the co-Featured Poet at the Poetry Corner in Nashua, New Hamshire, on December 11. The other co-Feature Poet for the evening was David “Doc” Cote, who has been hosting this poetry venue for over twenty years.

This reading was Perkins' fourth Featured Poetry Reading since completing her Spring 2009 Sabbatical to research, write and revise her poetry for her third NYX book, NYX: Sister of Erebus: A Memoir in Poetry.

“The public readings help the editing process by allowing me as the writer to actually hear how the work resonates with a real audience," Perkins said. "After four readings and because of the listeners’ facial and verbal feedback, I know that many of the poems are ready for publication, and I have begun to submit those poems. ”

Perkins publishes and reads her creative works under her first two names: nancy genevieve.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Karen Swan researches educational technology as Distinguished Professor

Dr. Karen Swan admits that she became an education teacher “by default.”

Swan was a single mother when she got a grant from the government to return to school.

“There were only certain things you could do, and one of them was education, so that’s what I did,” she said.

Swan, a professor in the Teacher Leadership program at UIS, now serves as the James J. Stukel Distinguished Professor in Educational Leadership. Her investiture ceremony took place in the fall. She has been at UIS for about a year, after coming from Kent State University in Ohio, where she was an endowed chair for research on educational technology.

Swan’s family moved to Chicago, but she was still commuting to Ohio when she heard about the opportunity to fill the professorship at UIS.

“It’s a perfect fit; I truly love it,” she said. “It’s specifically for online learning, which I couldn’t do very much of at Kent, and it’s kind of my hobby. I can teach again, which I love, and the people are fabulous. I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity.”

The Stukel Professorship was created by the University of Illinois Foundation to honor James Stukel, the 15th president of the University of Illinois system. The professorship includes support for research and grant work and was created for a candidate who possesses expertise in and scholarly accomplishments relating to online teaching and learning issues.

Swan became interested in the field of technology within education while completing her graduate assistantship.

“I had a graduate assistantship teaching gifted kids. The only thing they insisted on was that we use computers, and that was the beginning of computers,” she said.

“I'm an old hippie, and at the time, I thought they were the devil,” she laughed, “but I did it anyway because it kept me going in school. I took a computer class, and it changed my life. I suddenly started understanding math, which I never understood before, and it turned out I was a good programmer. And the rest is history.”

At UIS, Swan teaches a course on educational research tools and a capstone course for the Master’s in Teacher Leadership program, as well as a technology course occasionally. Being a part of UIS’ online teaching and learning has been exciting, she said.

“UIS is known throughout the online learning community as being one of the best schools in country,” she said. “Little UIS in the cornfields is really far ahead of almost any other place I've known. It's amazing.”

Online learning has been shown to be just as engaging as face-to-face learning, Swan said, and new trends continue to emerge in online learning, including using social media in online courses.

“Online learning is growing still by leaps and bounds; we thought it would flatten out, but it hasn't yet,” she said. “Blended learning – the combination of face-to-face and online learning - is growing even faster.”

“Ray Schroeder (director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service) just gave me a Google Wave account, and we’re thinking Wave might replace the learning management platforms we have now,” she added. “There are all sorts of trends outside of educational computing involving social networking which I think are going to become part of mainstream educational technology. People are now trying to figure out how to use it.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

UIS alum publishes first book

Laura Bynum, a graduate of UIS with her bachelor's degree in communication, has published her first novel, called Veracity. It will be sold in Barnes & Noble, Borders and other bookstores across the country beginning in January 2010.

In 2006, Bynum won the Rupert Hughes Literary Writing Award at the Maui Writer’s Conference and was picked up by Simon & Schuster. According to her Web site, her Literary Agent is Dan Conaway and her Books to Film Agent is Sylvie Rabineau of Rabineau, Wachter, Sanford & Harris.

Bynum lives with her husband and three daughters in Virginia and is currently writing her second novel and first full-length screenplay.

She will be holding a book signing for her new book in Springfield at Borders on January 5.

UIS students build positive relationships while mentoring at Harvard Park Elementary

A group of UIS students pulled out board games of all kinds in the Harvard Park Elementary School gymnasium on Friday morning and quickly paired up with their “Littles” to play.

The group is part of the mentoring program that UIS has in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region that takes UIS volunteers to several elementary schools in the area once a week to interact with some of the children at the schools.

The program is mutually beneficial for both the elementary-aged students and the UIS students, said Harvard Park Principal Kim Leverette. She said she hopes that the relationships built with college-aged students will inspire the students at Harvard Park to continue their education.

“For many of our students, their background and the homes that they come from, that dream isn’t instilled in them of pursuing higher education,” Leverette said. “So this viewpoint is very instrumental in our kids turning their attitudes around and turning their grades around.”

“It may inspire UIS students to be education majors as well,” she added. “So while it impacts our students, it also greatly impacts students from UIS as well.”

Mark Frakes, a sophomore at UIS, enjoys playing cards games like Uno with his “Little” at Harvard Park.

“He’s pretty good; he beats me a lot,” Frakes smiled.

Frakes has been mentoring for more than a year at Harvard Park through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and has been able to see firsthand how beneficial his involvement is in the life of his Little.

“This gives kids a chance to talk out some of their issues and have a positive older role model because some of these kids don’t have that sort of support system,” he said. “I like coming here to hang out with him. When he has fun, I have fun.”

“I think I’m just as excited to come here and hang out as (my Little),” agreed senior Zach Berillo with a laugh.

UIS freshman April Fountain’s Little doesn’t have a brother or “anyone his age to sit down and play with him,” she said, and he looks forward to the one-on-one time with Fountain.

“He enjoys this every Friday. I think he gets a lot out of it,” she said.

Leverette hopes the program will continue to flourish and even to grow.

“The feedback I receive from the community, from the staff, from the parents is something that we want to build on and nurture, and we want all of those great things to continue,” she said.

Friday, December 11, 2009

UIS' Diversity Center director will be keynote speaker at Martin Luther King Jr. service

Dr. Clarice Ford, director of the Diversity Center at UIS, will be the keynote speaker for The Springfield Ministerial Alliance of Springfield and Vicinity’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative March and Memorial Service on Sunday, January 17, at Union Baptist Church, in Springfield.

The 18-minute march will begin with a brief meditation at 3 p.m. on Freedom Corner in front of the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 2nd Street and Capitol Avenue, where the Illinois State Library is located. Church, the Student Gospel Choir at UIS, will sing at the statue and lead the singing along the route. The march will proceed to Union Baptist Church, where the Ministerial Alliance Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service will begin at 4 p.m. The UIS choir and the Southeast High School Gospel choir will perform there as well.

Ford was formerly the pastor of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rome, Georgia and was associate dean of Students at Berry College for five years. She earned a Ph.D. from Fielding University, Santa Barbara, California. She is a member of the NAACP, Eastern Star Miriam Chapter #47, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Charter Member of the National Military Women Memorial, has earned the Pennsylvania Black Achiever Award and is a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Diversity and Human Relations.

Winners of the 2010 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest will deliver their essays during the Memorial Service. The essay contest is sponsored each year by the Alliance and is open to area elementary, middle school and high school students.

The event is open to the public.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Liz Murphy Thomas finds connection in digital media and photography

Liz Murphy Thomas realized that she had a knack for teaching while she was an undergraduate at the University of Florida and worked as a lab monitor for the photography dark room. She began noticing more and more students approaching her with questions instead of their instructor because they liked the way she explained concepts better.

“I always knew I wanted to teach, but that was probably my first cognizant moment that I should be a teacher,” she said.

Thomas began her career as a traditional photographer and has been “amazed” to discover she’s become a portrait photographer. She is most interested in trying to document the way we as people define ourselves in this world, she said.

“Most artists know from time they're little that they want to be in art, but I was never any good at drawing,” Thomas laughed. “But I was lucky that we had a photography assignment in middle school, and I was actually good at that.”

Thomas received her BFA in photography from the University of Florida and her MFA in photography and digital imaging from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She now teaches digital imaging and digital media classes at UIS and has been traveling the world for her art and her ideas. Most recently, she has been to England twice, Seattle, Alabama, Denmark, Prague and Milan, Italy.

“When I travel, I’m either going to present at conferences about my work and the ideas and concepts behind my work or in support of the exhibition of my work,” she said. “In Milan, I was featured in a gallery there, and the show was actually about Abraham Lincoln. It was funny to go all the way to Italy to talk about Abraham Lincoln.”

When not teaching or traveling, Thomas also serves as director of the Visual Arts Gallery at UIS, which entails developing a schedule of exhibitions for the academic year. This year, there are seven exhibitions as well as the annual benefit and auction for the gallery.

“We try to develop a really broad range of exhibitions and really bring into the Springfield area things people wouldn’t have a chance to otherwise see,” Thomas said. “We try to develop events that enhance the exhibitions or maybe add more information, like lectures or brownbags, to help explain the art. This is a university gallery, so we try to make the experience as educational as possible.”

This year, the gallery is also hosting the Juried Alumni Exhibition, which is held every two years, and spring senior exhibition for senior art majors, which is held annually.

“The whole thing is organized, arranged and hung by the students,” Thomas said. “The senior show is linked to a course called ‘Professional Skills,’ which is a capstone course that all art students take.”

Having the gallery at UIS benefits both students and community members, in addition to giving students experience with arranging a gallery exhibit, Thomas said.

“Part of being an artist is learning about the promotion of your work and display of artwork,” she said. “I think it's very important for the students to have professional gallery experience as part of their education because hopefully some of them go on into the fine arts field, and if nothing else, this is their first opportunity to have a real art display.”

WUIS statehouse reporter reflects on German visit

WUIS/Illinois Public Radio statehouse reporter Amanda Vinicky is back in the United States after spending a week in Germany learning about media and culture.

Vinicky was one of 16 young journalists from the U.S. selected by the German-American Fulbright Commission to visit the country. Journalists from radio, television, newspapers and web outlets all took part in the trip.

“The whole thing was absolutely amazing,” said Vinicky.

The trip included a tour of various German media outlets where Vinicky was able to learn how stories are covered in the country. She not only got to network with German reporters, but also her American colleagues on the trip.

“It’s great to develop a network of people that are really into the media and have the same interests,” said Vinicky.

Vinicky says she was impressed by the interest that the German public shows in the news. Part of the trip included learning how media plays a role in the day to day life of Germans.

“It was interesting and inspiring to me to see so many people reading newspapers in caf├ęs,” said Vinicky.

She notes that German newspapers are “upfront” about the angle they take when covering a story. Papers are known for being liberal, conservative or moderate.

“People know what they’re getting,” said Vinicky.

Vinicky says German reporter’s envy the United State’s when it comes to political coverage. They feel the U.S. does a better job holding public officials accountable with more hard hitting coverage.

Vinicky has been reporting for WUIS public radio for nearly 4 years out of its bureau in the state capitol press room. During that time, Vinicky has got to cover major events like the impeachment of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Journal offers students hands-on experience in journalism

The Journal
, the weekly student newspaper of the University of Illinois Springfield, is giving students “real world” experience covering the news.

The newspaper is published every Wednesday during the fall and spring semester, when classes are in session. Students also produce one summer edition following up on graduation, news and upcoming events. A special magazine edition of The Journal called “Beyond” is published once every fall and spring semester.

“We try to put the news of campus into an easy readable format for students. That’s who our audience is, so that’s who we’re trying to go after when we put out a paper every week,” said Luke Runyon, The Journal editor-in-chief.

The Journal employs a staff of about a dozen students, including two graduate assistants and has grown from an eight-page paper without full color to a paper that is typically 12 full color pages. Students are paid minimum wage to work at the newspaper reporting, serving as editors and photographers and working on layout design.

“We’re hoping to get going with a dot-com or dot-org website, so we can sell online advertising and that would provide multimedia experience,” said Debra Landis, student publications adviser.

Landis helps critique stories, photos and columns in the newspaper, but story selection and editorial decisions are left in the hands of students.

“Only by allowing students to generate their own story ideas, their own editorials, and their own photo selection can it truly be the kind of real life experiences that we want them to have,” said Landis.

Students cover public affairs events like campus senate and Student Government Association (SGA) meetings along with student life activities and events.

“It’s going to be amazing for my future career if I’m going into journalism or some kind of reporting it’s going to be invaluable experience,” said Runyon.

Landis says employers are looking for interns and young professionals who have practical work experience.

“There’s always going to be jobs for journalists. It might vary or evolve, but people are always going to want to know the news,” said Landis.

For more information on how to become involved in The Journal, contact Luke Runyon at or log onto

The Journal is distributed not only on the UIS campus, but at the Springfield Public Library and Illinois State Capitol.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

ITS multimedia education coordinator presents social media session at Museum

Munindra Khaund, Multimedia Education Coordinator for Information Technology Services at UIS, is presenting at a brownbag session at the Illinois State Museum on Wednesday, December 9.

The topic is "Building Communities of Interest with Social Media: Using Facebook." The session is geared toward organizations looking into Facebook as an outreach tool to build communities of interest.

More information on the session can be found online here. The session is free and open to public.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Students analyze first semester with Capital Scholars composition projects

Freshmen in the Capital Scholars Honors Program at UIS had a chance to look back over their first semester at both the good and the bad during a project for Capital Scholars course 111, Honors Composition.

To wrap up the class, the students completed bibliographical projects analyzing themselves and the changes they’ve seen in their personal lives since coming to college at UIS. The dozens of projects were then presented and explained to several different Capital Scholars instructors on Wednesday morning in the lobby of the Public Affairs Center.

“I thought it was a really good project because I got to reminisce back to the beginning of the semester and think back on everything and put it all into art,” said Breanna Ligaya, a freshman in biology.

Amy Spies, coordinator of Composition and Academic Support for the Capital Scholars Honor Program, said the goal of the project was to give students the opportunity to critically analyze their learning experiences for the semester.

“It required them to look at each experience with more than just how they felt at that time, but to look back and recognize what they learned and how that experience contributed to who they have become,” she said. “Some changes are good and some are not so good, which they recognized, and they’ve included the bad as well as the good in their presentations.”

Students created everything from poster boards to sculptures to collages. One student even hung notes and pictures on himself with yarn.

“It was a lot more fun than writing a paper; being able to be creative in a regular writing class was really fun,” said freshman Melissa Frost.

And according to the students, the intent of the project was a success.

“It really helped me see me as a person and how I grew,” Ligaya said.