Monday, October 21, 2013

Leadership lived: Business student learns skills for the real world


Paige Heiser is busy! The senior University of Illinois Springfield business administration major not only juggles class, but involvement in multiple student organizations, while holding a job on campus.

“I like to be involved on campus because you make new connections and meet new people that maybe you wouldn’t have in your own classes, so it’s kind of a way for me to network and meet other people,” she said.

Heiser is a senator on the Student Government Association representing the College of Business and Management, serves as the acoustic performance coordinator for the Student Activities Committee, and helps with the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

However, she’s been most involved with the Alternative Spring Break group during her four years on the UIS campus. Each year, students volunteer their spring break time, traveling across the country, to help others.

“I went from being a member, to the vice president, to the president, and now this year I am the event coordinator,” said Heiser.

The group is planning a trip to Washington, D.C. in March 2014 to help the homeless. They’ve previously helped restore the Everglades in Florida, cleaned up the Mississippi River in Memphis, and helped hurricane victims in New Orleans.

“I’m in charge of planning the itinerary for the entire week and helping coordinate fundraisers for us to be able to help afford the trip,” she said.

Heiser also keeps busy as a student worker in the UIS Campus Relations Office where she’s been helping to program new digital signs on campus.

“I make the content and some of the signage that goes on there,” she said.

It’s experience that she’ll be able to use in the real world.

 “It’s been beneficial to me because it’s kind of what I want to do. I want to go into the marketing field, so I’m gaining that experience,” said Heiser.

Overall, she’s learned many lessons about leadership from the right-sized supportive community at UIS.

“UIS has taught me to be a leader in the first place and to put myself out there and try and make change for what I think is right,” said Heiser.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Leadership lived: Professor helps expand computer science curriculum

As an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Springfield, Lucas Vespa is always adjusting to the world’s changing technological and cyber security needs.

Vespa realized the need for a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Security to train students to protect our country’s virtual infrastructure. He took charge writing the degree plan and taking it to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

“I think that this new degree is going to be not only a popular one, but one that’s going to serve our state and our country,” said Vespa.

Vespa is an active teacher-scholar, having published eight papers in research journals. Much of his research is conducted with undergraduate students.

“I get really excited about working with students and being able to give them the opportunity to actually write and publish in real computer science conferences and journals,” he said.

His next project includes working with another student on high-end graphic processing units to find ways to make them perform better.

“I went into my higher degrees in order to become a teacher. That was my main goal and so being at a place that’s so teaching orientated, yet values scholarship like this is really important to me,” said Vespa.

The bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Security is expected to be offered at UIS starting in the fall of 2014.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Leadership lived: UIS student may be youngest elected official in Illinois

At the age of 22, Melissa Sanchez decided it was time for a change. Algonquin Township trustees decided to increase property taxes, while giving themselves a raise. She decided to run for office in an effort to keep that from happening.

After a competitive campaign, she was elected as a trustee in February 2013. In the process she became one of the youngest, if not the youngest, elected official in Illinois.

“People don’t really expect me, a college student still, to be an elected official,” said Sanchez. “I saw a problem and I wanted to fix it, so I just followed my heart.”

The senior political science major at the University of Illinois Springfield used what she was taught in the classroom as a motivating force to help her succeed.

“If you want something done, you should try and change it yourself,” she said.

At UIS, Sanchez is secretary of the College Republicans, and a member of the Pre-Law Society, Catholic Student Organization, and the Organization of Latin American Students.

“I love the opportunities that UIS gives me,” said Sanchez. “I’ve had some great experiences with internships and working on campus.”

Following graduation from UIS, Sanchez plans to enter law school and continue her political ambitions by possibly seeking higher offices.

“People have their eye on me and I hope that I don’t disappoint,” she said.

Sanchez has seen many students, such as herself, succeed and grow at UIS. Out of the many leadership lessons she’s learned, there’s one she believes is most important.

“No matter how small or insignificant you think you are, you make a difference,” she said.