Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UIS online students build community for "mid-lifers"

Amy Reeves decided to return to school after applying for a new position at her place of employment when she was told she would need a bachelor’s degree to be considered for an interview. Madeleine Ward said she simply wanted to continue her education in a more structured manner, so she is better able to contribute to society, and now hopes to go on to law school.

Reeves lives in Carlinville while Ward resides in Chicago. The two women met through the liberal studies program at UIS and bonded over going back to school in the “third age,” the age identified as being after young and middle but before “old.”

“Madeleine and I discovered we were in that same age group. We had a project to do about verbal arts and community, and Madeleine suggested a new community of older students (50+),” Reeves said. “It sounded so unique and on target that I jumped at the chance to work on it with her. The more we talked and the more Madeleine, in particular, dove into our subject matter, the more we realized just how much we could hopefully do for others like us.”

Reeves and Ward are now using social media tools to their full advantage to create a community of “third age” students. They hope to bring together other students who are in their age range and who need a community of support and encouragement to continue and finish their education. According to the office of Institutional Research at UIS, there were 277 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students who are over the age of 50 at the university both online and on campus in fall 2009.

One of their first steps was creating a blog, found at www.midlifecoed.blogspot.com/.

They created the blog so that others might help to enhance and complement the community of third age students and add information about the difficulties or successes of their school experience. Though the blog was started for a class project, they have plans to continue posting, increase readership and provide resources to other students.

The pair are currently blogging under the pseudonyms Betty and Veronica, who are characters from the Archie comics, popular when they were pre-teens and teenagers. They said they feel the history of the Archies is a bridge from their youth to today’s mid-life coed.

“It is important that a mid-lifer who is new to blogging or new to our blog realizes that we truly understand them; we’re from the same generation and remember many of the same things that happened throughout the years,” they wrote in a paper for class.

Reeves and Ward have also set up a Twitter account (ArchiesFriends) and Facebook page to bring together older students returning to school.

“They need to know they are not alone, and instead of getting information by trial and error, we can answer each other’s questions without each having to re-invent the wheel,” Ward said. “We would love to attract more students; all are welcome to join.”

Because so many older adults who return to school take classes online, especially at UIS, the two classmates felt that an online community made the most sense.

“I just hope we can reach out to others, who are debating about attending school,” Reeves said. “It’s so much different now; my program is solely online so I can work at a different pace that if I had to attend a class two or three times a week. I didn’t know online programs were even offered until I discovered UIS’ programs. How many others are out there like me?”

If you are interested in more information, contact Ward at 312/590-6129.

Monday, January 25, 2010

UIS women's basketball player volunteers in West African hospital

Susan Coryell has known ever since she was a little girl she wanted to be a doctor, now she’s getting her chance to help others.

The UIS junior women’s basketball forward/center spent two months of her summer break volunteering in Ghana, West Africa at a military teaching hospital. She served as a nurse helping to change bandages and care for patients.

“Every day I just looked forward to going in and helping out and they got to know me,” said Coryell.

Coryell was in Ghana in July 2009, when President Barack Obama came to the country to speak about African relations and meet with Ghana’s President John Atta Mills. She was able to take pictures next to Air Force One and watched as Obama arrived in the country.

“I haven’t seen him in the United States, but I go abroad and I get to see my own president,” said Coryell.

Volunteering is nothing new for Coryell. As a member of the UIS women’s basketball team she’s involved in efforts every year to improve the local community.

“One of the attributes or foundations of NCAA Division II is service, so anytime we can give back to the community I think it’s positive,” said Marne Fauser, UIS women’s head coach.

Coryell and other members of the women’s team helped collect canned goods for UIS’ 2009 Holiday Star’s Project, which raised 3 tons of food for the Central Illinois Foodbank. Players are now launching a new partnership with the Special Olympics to help members improve their basketball skills.

“I just like being around kids. Giving back is always good,” said Coryell.

Coryell spends much of her time off the court teaching at the Cox Children's Center on campus. She hopes to one day become a pediatrician or orthopedic surgeon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

UIS archives preserving regional history in central Illinois

If you’re looking for family genealogy records from the 1800s or researching the history of your town, the historical archives and special collections section at the University of Illinois Springfield may hold your answers.

The archives, located in the basement of Brookens Library, contain more than a million historical documents from 14 counties in central Illinois. The UIS archives are part of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository system collecting marriage, birth and death records, along with various court files.

“If we’re going to study our past we have to have authentic records of what was done in the past,” said Thomas Wood, UIS archivist.

The archive also contains a complete history of the foundation of Sangamon State University and its transition into the University of Illinois system. Wood is responsible for collecting all administrative records, pictures and other documents that have long-term historical value.

“That’s really the function of archives is to document our world for the future,” said Wood.

The archive is made up of over 3,000 cubic feet of records and serves as a training ground for students studying historic preservation.

“This has helped me learn how to sort, clean and learn what the archive has, so when I go to do my research as a grad student I know where to go,” said Anne Suttles, graduate student in public history.

Among the archives more interesting documents is an original copy of a survey conducted by Abraham Lincoln in the 1800s, which features his signature.

“This isn’t his actual hand writing. It’s a record copy that was made at the same time of the survey he made,” said Wood. “Documents that were in his hand are so valuable those have been sent to the vault at the Illinois state archives”.

The UIS archive is primarily used by people in the community who are researching their family tree, but not all the requests staff get are local.

“We also get a lot of reference use from all over the country and even other countries. We’ve had people from Europe and Russia using our oral history,” said Wood.

All archives/special collections’ materials are open to the public unless restricted by law or contractual agreement with a donor. The material must be used in the archives reading room, but photocopying and scanning are available.

For more information on the UIS archives visit: http://www.uis.edu/archives/

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

UIS jumps on Google Wave for online learning tool

The University of Illinois Springfield is riding a new wave of online education.

UIS is one of the first universities in the nation to begin using Google Wave - an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration - for online learning and teaching, beginning in October 2009.

“We’re really excited to be working with Google Wave here at UIS,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. “One of the wonderful features of this new product is that it combines the Web 2.0 technologies that we have been accustomed to using on an individual basis. It molds all of these into a kind of an email or wiki format. And it enables students and others to use Web 2.0 technologies in a collaborative fashion.”

Wave was developed to answer the question: “what would email look like if we were to invent it today?”, Schroeder said. The product was released to developers in May and to the public as a beta in October.

“Email was invented nearly 40 years ago. As we developed technology over time, email was created to emulate snail mail and IM, or instant messaging, was more to emulate telephone conversations,” Schroeder said.

A wave, on the other hand, can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly-formatted text, photos, videos, maps and more. In developing Wave, Google looked at “the way in which we can use technologies as they exist today rather than as analogs for technologies developed years ago,” Schroeder said.

And the new technology allows for many opportunities within the online classroom. Wave enables students to connect not only with each other in the classroom, but with people all around the world, Schroeder said.

“The technology allows for all kinds of collaborations,” he said. “You can drag and drop documents right into a wave rather than as attachments. You can come up with final product that can be saved and shared with a broader group.”

Other features of Google Wave include the ability to embed web pages, bring up live weather forecasts, look at maps and instantly change those maps to satellite views, Schroeder said. There is also a feature that will translate between different languages.

One of UIS’ efforts in testing the online teaching capabilities includes a collaboration outside of the classroom between students at UIS in the “Internet in American Life” course taught by Schroeder and Burks Oakley and students in energy studies at the Institute of Technology in Sligo, Ireland. The students are discussing the impact of the Internet on the perception of energy sustainability in Europe and the United States.

“Wave provides an opportunity to collaborate with people in other countries, and in our case, we collaborated with people in Ireland,” Schroeder said. “It’s phenomenal - our students meeting in a wave.”

COLRS also has several upcoming projects regarding Wave, including multiple national presentations, online workshops through the Sloan Consortium and training sessions for UIS faculty on using Wave. Two training sessions have already been conducted on campus.

“UIS is really out in the forefront of this,” Schroeder said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to use this technology to reach beyond our campus and our online program. It breaks down institutional and geographical boundaries.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Holden article published in Energy Law Journal

An article by University of Illinois Springfield Professor of Political Science Dr. Matthew Holden, Jr. was recently published in the international Energy Law Journal.

The article “Energy Policy and the Obama Administration: Some Choices and Challenges” talks about the struggles the new Administration is facing.

Dr. Holden is the first Wepner Distinguished Professor in Political Science at UIS and is a nationally recognized expert on public administration, politics and law, urban politics and racial and ethnic relations.

Energy Law Journal is published twice a year, it has over 2,900 subscribers in the United States and 22 foreign countries, including Canada, England, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Austria, France, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Scotland, Singapore, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Turkey.

You can read the article in the December 2, 2009, edition or online at: http://www.felj.org/docs/elj302/16energy-policy-and-the-obama-administration091019.pdf

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MIS online graduate student competes for Essence Magazine wedding package

Jasmine Harris, a 25-year-old online graduate student in Management Information Systems at UIS, is competing for a complete wedding package in the pages of Essence Magazine.

Harris lives in Manasas Park, VA and works at Lockheed Martin, where she met her future husband during an employee happy hour. She decided to enroll in the MIS program online because of its reputation.

“The course selection of the MIS program, the flexibility of the online courses, accreditation, along with the affordability of the tuition attracted me to the online program at UIS,” said Harris.

Her future husband, Gabriel Sheffield, submitted a letter to Essence explaining why he would like to propose to her, which led to the couple being named one of four finalists. The actual proposal came on December 17, 2009, and was video taped by Essence and posted online. Sheffield’s proposal letter was published in the February edition of the magazine.

“We hope that the glimpse into our proposal can allow the world to, if only for a few moments, feel the power of love,” said Harris.

If the couple wins the “Will You Marry Me?” contest they’ll get the following:

• A wedding consultation with renowned wedding producer and designer Diann Valentine, who will provide the winning couple with key tips on how to make their day extra special and invitations from her new collection, Wedding Paper Divas
• A wedding dress from the David Tutera by Faviana Collection -- a dress designed collaboratively by design house Faviana and celebrity wedding planner and host of WE tv's My Fair Wedding with David Tutera
• An amazing cake courtesy of one of the bakers featured on the WE tv hit show, Amazing Wedding Cakes
• $10,000 in cash for wedding day essentials

“The day a girl gets engaged is one of the most memorable occasions of her lifetime. Gabriel demonstrated his dedication and love for me by taking the time to ensure that the proposal was extraordinary and unique,” said Harris.

You can help the couple win the contest by voting online at: http://www1.essence.com/packages/willyoumarryme/vote.html

Voting is now underway and ends on February 12, 2009.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sangamon Auditorium patron donates funds for handrails

Patrons at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium no longer have to worry about taking a tumble on the steep stairs thanks to a generous gift.

Pam Reyhan has been enjoying shows at the auditorium for the past 15 years and knows how tricky the stairs can become, especially in the dark. When she was asked if she’d be willing to help finance the installation of handrails to prevent patrons from falling, the choice was simple.

“I hate to say it, but I’m getting to an age where I need them and all my friends need them,” said Reyhan.

Reyhan donated the funds to purchase and install the handrails for the 2,018 seat auditorium, which opened in February of 1981.

“I talked to the architect about why they had designed the railings the way they ultimately emerged,” said Robert Vaughn, Sangamon Auditorium director. “(The architect) said I was a lot younger then.”

Associate Chancellor of Development Vicki Megginson led the effort to secure the funding, while Facilities & Services Administration Executive Director David Barrows came up with the design.

The handrails were installed by the beginning of the 2009-10 season and the auditorium hasn’t experienced a single fall since. Vaughn says in the previous season, before the handrails, they had nine minor falls reported by patrons.

“We are very grateful for Pam’s support in doing this and helping us with the project,” said Vaughn.

Reyhan’s family has owned Sangamo Construction in Springfield for almost 100 years and she’s glad to be able to give back to the community.

“I’ve had so many complements. You have no idea the number of people who have come up to me and said we love the handrails thank you so much,” said Reyhan.

Reyhan says she also enjoys the fact that her gift to the university will be long lasting, helping others long into the future.

“It will last until they fall apart and they need new ones and I hope to god I’m not here then,” joked Reyhan.

For more information about Sangamon Auditorium visit: http://www.uis.edu/sangamonauditorium/

Monday, January 04, 2010

Martin's work featured at national astronomical meeting

The work of Dr. John Martin, professor of astronomy-physics at UIS, was the focus of a press event at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) winter meeting in Washington D.C. on January 4. Martin, along with an international team of researchers, obtained new data about the Eta Carinae star system using a Near-Infrared Coronagraphic Imager (NICI) at the Gemini Observatory's Gemini South telescope in Chile.

In April 1843, the Eta Carinae system underwent a huge 20-year outburst that, throughout some of that period, made it the sky’s second brightest stellar object. During the “Great Eruption,” astronomers estimate that about 20 times the mass of the Sun was ejected into interstellar space. Today, astronomers study this relatively nearby stellar oddity to help understand the late evolution of massive stars – a messy process involving outflows, eruptions, strong magnetic fields and powerful jets.

The result of this activity is reflected in a new image captured by Martin and his team of researchers. Gemini Observatory released the image showing previously hidden forensic secrets at the ballistic core of the Homunculus Nebula, part of the Eta Carinae system. Adaptive optics were used to remove atmospheric blurring in the image.

Martin’s team used NICI to study gas and dust features surrounding the central star where the complex structure includes an intricate network of wispy clouds, inspiring the “Butterfly Nebula” moniker. The data also uncover a feature never directly imaged before called the Little Homunculus Nebula.

"The Homunculus is an evolving corpse of a dying star, and most of what we see is the visible outer layer, like a skin, from the Great Eruption. The Little Homunuclus is under that skin," Martin said. "The Gemini images have allowed us to perform something akin to an autopsy by peeling away the obscuring, outer dusty skin and giving us a glimpse of what’s inside. In the process, we're finding things we have never imaged before and didn't expect."

Eta Carinae, located only about 7,500-8,000 light years away, consists of at least two stars at its core, the largest of which is among the most luminous and massive stars in our galaxy having a mass of at least 100 times that of the Sun. The system is visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere and very low northern latitudes.

Martin and his team hope that their new observations will soon trace the uncertain history of a minor eruption in the Eta Carinae system in the late 1890s.

The research team also includes Etienne Artigau (University of Montréal, Canada, lead author on subsequent paper and previously at Gemini South), Kris Davidson (University of Minnesota), Roberta Humphreys (University of Minnesota), Olivier Chesneau (FIZEAU, France), and Nathan Smith (University of California).