Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ray Schroeder testifies before Durbin forum on online learning and the military

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield recently testified before a forum called by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.

The purpose of the forum was to examine aggressive recruiting and marketing tactics practiced by some members of the for-profit college industry to target service members and veterans. Schroeder provided perspective on the positive ways public universities, such as UIS, are serving members of the military though online learning.

“I teach online every semester and most summers. I have had many students over the past decade taking classes while deployed in combat zones,” Schroeder testified. “As is the case with all of my colleagues, I accommodate students’ schedules, which can be unpredictable at times in military service.”

Schroeder noted that a number of National Guard men and women who have begun classes at UIS, while residing in central Illinois, have completed their semester while stationed abroad.

“UIS has a veteran and military coordinator who is a veteran herself,” said Schroeder. “We have a military benefits specialist in our registration and financial aid office. All of the program coordinators work closely with these specialists to assure that their students receive all of the benefits to which they are entitled.”

UIS currently offer nine master’s degree programs, eight baccalaureate degree completion programs, and a number of professional certificate programs online. This past fall semester UIS served 1,425 online degree and certificate seeking students through online programs.

“Our online programs are noted nationally for excellence in online teaching and learning, student engagement and success in degree completion,” said Schroeder.

During the forum, Senator Durbin discussed legislation he intends to introduce when he returns to Washington that will reduce incentives for for-profit colleges to target and aggressively recruit service members and veterans.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

UIS Democrat and Republican leaders live together... again!

Bipartisanship can be hard to find, but at the University of Illinois Springfield all you have to do is look under the same roof!

For the second year in a row, the chairman of the College Republicans and president of the College Democrats live in the same townhouse, but that’s not all. The secretaries of both organizations are also roommates. They live only feet away from each other in Lincoln Residence Hall.

For Zach Watkins, the Republican chairman and Sean Miller, the Democratic president it seems like fate brought them together.

“Housing magically put us both together and put Sean and I upstairs together and I think it was in the first week we found out we were both into politics and on the opposite sides,” said Watkins.

“We came home after our meetings to elect new officers and I say I’m the president of the College Democrats and he says I’m the chairman of the College Republicans. So that was an interesting night,” said Miller.

While they try and avoid talking about politics at home, they admit it comes up. That has led to a few interesting living room debates.

“Last year during the governor’s race there was a (Bill) Brady commercial that came on and I said a couple of comments and Zach had a few comments to say too, so after about 5 minutes worth of debate we were just like, ok well time to do the dishes,” said Miller.

“Politics is very polarizing, but I think something that’s caused problems in America is that the politics are so polarizing and both sides refuse to find a common ground, so living together you kind of have to do the opposite and find the common ground to move forward,” said Watkins.

The two secretaries also admit to talking politics, but they would not have any other way. They actually chose to live together after meeting at freshmen orientation.

“We talk about all sorts of things and I think it’s because we’re very passionate about what we believe and at least once a day something comes up and we’ll talk about it whether it may be something congress just legislated on or something in the Illinois community,” said Andrea Carlson, the College Republicans secretary.

“I wouldn’t want somebody who agrees with me all the time and it makes for a more interesting living arrangement. A lot of our classes even make it applicable to life, so when we talk about certain assignments sometimes it comes up,” said Michelle Tuma, the College Democrats secretary.

While it might not always be easy to live in a dorm room divided, it does have its advantages. The groups have been able to cross party lines to co-sponsor events.

“We’ve done a volleyball match. Republicans won, by the way. We did a spaghetti dinner that some of the democrats came with us,” said Watkins.

“I can just lean out my door and say ‘Hey Zach you want to do this,’ rather than having to send him an email,” said Miller.

So why is there so much bipartisanship at UIS? That’s an easy question for both parties.

“I think because of the fact that we are in Springfield and a lot of people do come here because of the political science program… you’ll probably have higher instances of that happening here,” said Carlson.

“I feel like a lot of the kids who are involved in politics here at UIS, we all get along and we’re all in model Illinois government a lot of us, so we all hang out and it’s just really nice,” said Tuma.

All four agree that professional politicians could learn a few things from their living arrangement, but doubt it would go as smoothly.

“It’s definitely a lesson that you can learn. If you see that you’re working to a common goal. All of us are working towards a common goal, which is our education. You can look past our petty differences and things that have happened in the past to forward that one goal,” said Miller.

Last year, the previous College Republican President Ryan Melchin and Democratic President Matt Van Vossen also lived together in a townhouse on campus. Watch our past coverage of their story!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

UIS welcomes new Volunteer & Civic Engagement and Disabilities Services directors

The University of Illinois Springfield is proud to introduce two new leaders on campus. Dr. Mark Dochterman is the new director of the Volunteer and Civil Engagement Center and Dr. Sarah Colby Weaver the Office of Disability Services.

Dochterman comes to UIS from Louisiana State University (LSU) where he served as director of student activities for the Honors College. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Marengo, Ill. He attended Illinois College in Jacksonville where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He earned his master’s degree in Communication Studies from Ball State University and is currently awaiting his Ph.D. confirmation in Higher Education Administration from LSU.

“My wife and I have always wanted to return to the Midwest, and while I have a very deep appreciation for my time at LSU, I have long wanted to work at a smaller school where one individual can have a broad impact. I hope to do exactly that at UIS,” said Docterman.

He hopes to capitalize on the past successes of the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center, build new initiatives, and in the process provide a clear mission for the office.

“More than any of that, I want to be a part of making UIS be a place where students develop an understanding that as educated citizens they have a responsibility to balance the actions they take for their own advancement with service to the greater communities and society that structurally and functionally allows for such individual advancement,” he said.

Weaver comes to UIS from Auburn University where she served as Director of Disability Services. She has previously held Director of Disability Services positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Missouri-Columbia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from West Virginia University. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

“I’m happy to be here and excited about being a part of the UIS team,” said Weaver. “My goal as it’s been everywhere as the Director of Disability Services is to make this program for students with disabilities one of the best in the country. It takes commitment from the administration and it’s apparent to me that they are committed and with their support and the resources needed we will succeed to make this goal possible.”

Weaver brings her 20 years of experience at three different institutions to her new role at UIS and looks forward to working with everyone to best serve students with disabilities.

“The campus is smaller, which is very appealing to me and its part of the University of Illinois system which is a great University,” said Weaver.