Thursday, April 30, 2015

UIS Alumnus Mitch Pugh leads The Post and Courier to a Pulitzer Prize

Photo courtesy of
  The Post & Courier
The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, led by UIS Alumni Mitch Pugh, was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, for its in-depth series on the alarmingly high rate of domestic violence in South Carolina.

The five-part series “Till Death Do Us Part” was praised by the Pulitzer judges as “a riveting series that probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women and put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda.”

Pugh, who is regarded as one of the journalism industry’s young innovators, was named editor of the paper in 2013.

Pugh is a graduate of Riverton High School and has an English degree from the University of Illinois Springfield.

After serving as a part-time sports reporter for The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Pugh went on to work for newspapers in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Colorado, St. Louis, Missouri and Sioux City, Iowa.

His work as an editor in Sioux City is credited with helping that paper win top industry recognition for both its print and digital products.

Pugh is married to Peri Gonulsen, daughter of legendary Sangamon State University soccer coach Aydin Gonulsen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

UIS faculty members receive awards for excellence; promotions and sabbaticals announced

The University of Illinois Springfield held its annual Faculty Honors Reception on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Chancellor Susan J. Koch and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Lynn Pardie presided over the ceremony honoring faculty members who have received tenure and/or promotion, been awarded sabbaticals, or granted emerita/emeritus status. Three major awards – the Pearson Faculty Award, the Spencer Faculty Service Award, and the Oakley Distinguished Online Teaching Award -- were also presented.

The Pearson Faculty Award for outstanding teaching was presented to Nathan Steele, associate professor of Management. The award recognizes a faculty member whose performance exemplifies our commitment to excellence in teaching and who stands among the very best teachers at the University of Illinois Springfield. Such a teacher both informs and inspires students, giving them the knowledge and values with which they may become productive and enlightened citizens. The award was established by a gift from Dr. Emmet and Mary Pearson, longtime benefactors of the campus.

Steele’s colleagues and students consider his courses rigorous and demanding, and yet student perceptions of his teaching place him among the most highly-ranked faculty in his college. He teaches a significant number of students each semester and, by all accounts, he does so beautifully – a testament to his passion for teaching as well as his expertise.

Steele is dedicated and diligent in keeping his courses current with the evolving literature as well as with best practices in his field. Colleagues who have observed Steele in the classroom describe him as gifted in oratory skills, as well as focused and intentional in course design. He uses multiple strategies to engage students of differing learning styles and preferences, and he incorporates experiential exercises to help students grasp complex topics and apply theoretical concepts to situations from their own professional experience.

“Nathan is also known as someone who genuinely cares about his students and who takes time to encourage and build confidence in those who find the material challenging,” said Provost Lynn Pardie. “Not surprisingly, many students regard him as inspirational.”

The Spencer Faculty Service Award was given to Dennis Ruez, associate professor of Environmental Studies. Honoring Robert Spencer, founding president of Sangamon State University, this award recognizes faculty who best exemplify the ideal of the “professor-citizen” through public service and service to the academic community.

Professor Ruez has made extensive and meaningful contributions at the department, college, campus, and university levels, as well as to his profession and the community. He has served as chair of the Department of Environmental Studies since 2009. At the campus level, Ruez has served on more than 10 different committees, including the Research Board, the Biosafety Committee, the Instructional Resource Management Task Force, the Campus Senate, and the Undergraduate Research Steering Team.

At the University level, Ruez made significant contributions to the University of Illinois Open Source Textbook initiative, and he currently represents the UIS campus as a member of Vice President Schook’s Faculty Advisory Committee for Research.

With regard to service to his discipline, Ruez is a subject matter expert and reviewer for multiple journals in his field, including the Journal of Paleontology, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, and Paludicola, and he is a member of the editorial board for the academic journal Geosciences.

“Dennis is also engaged in professional service and educational outreach to the broader community, delivering presentations on climate change and guest lectures on science education in the central Illinois region and serving as a subject matter expert as needed for media information requests relevant to his field,” said Provost Lynn Pardie. “He has worked with numerous organizations on environmental issues and special events for the general public.”

Roxanne Kurtz Smith, associate professor of Philosophy, was honored with the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award. The award was established by Burks Oakley II, who helped launch UIS’ online programs. The Oakley Award recognizes UIS faculty members whose performance exemplifies the institution’s commitment to excellence in online teaching.

Kurtz Smith strives to be present with her online students and to connect with them as individuals. She works to make her course structures intuitively user-friendly and to help students new to the online environment acclimate quickly and smoothly. She routinely includes an “Ask the Prof” discussion thread, with an automatic alert system so that she knows whenever a student posts to it. She uses interactive writing assignments and forums, as well as online study and review sessions – often with a conference call component -- so that her students sense her availability and responsiveness.

She also utilizes informal and formal approaches to provide effective feedback and monitor student performance. She seeks student feedback regarding various components of her courses and makes a point to integrate suggestions.

“It is important to her to inspire students to find ways to embrace philosophy, to apply it so that they experience its value in their own lives. Based on student comments, she is successful in these endeavors,” said Provost Lynn Pardie.

Recommended for tenure and promotion to associate professor were Josiah Alamu, Public Health; Gwen Jordan, Legal Studies; and Michael Murphy, Women & Gender Studies. Atul Agarwal, Management Information Systems, was recommended for promotion to full professor.

Receiving the designation of emerita/emeritus faculty were Barbara Burkhardt, Dyanne Ferk, Shahram Heshmat, Sharron LaFollette, William Miller, Anthony Sisneros, Chung-Hsien Sung, and Pinky Wassenberg.

Sabbatical leaves were granted to Atul Agarwal, Svet Braynov, James Grubbs, William Kline, Elizabeth Kosmetatou, Michael Murphy, Rosina Neginsky, Elizabeth Ribarsky, Dennis Ruez, and Pamela Salela.

All promotion, tenure, sabbatical leave, and emerita/emeritus status recommendations are subject to approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leadership lived: Transfer student chooses UIS to learn about state government


Nathan Piper transferred to the University of Illinois Springfield his junior year to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science. Now, as a graduate political science major, he’s serving in several leadership roles on campus.

Piper is the traditions co-coordinator for the Student Activities Committee. In that role, he helps to plan Springfest and Homecoming. During Springfest, students face off in a variety of fun competitions, such as a scavenger hunt and tug-of-war.

“We put in a lot of work,” said Piper. “We’re in the office two or three days a week for two or three hours a day. We’re planning constantly.”

He was also recently re-elected to his second term as Senate President of the state-wide Model Illinois Government student organization and elected secretary of the UIS College Democrats.

“I’ve loved the experience with Model Illinois Government. It’s taught me how politics works in the State of Illinois,” said Piper.

“My first year I was a state senator from the North end of Chicago and I simulated and role played for that position.”

Piper says he choose UIS because of the many opportunities to get involved in politics.

“I would love to work in state government,” he said. “I came here because I’m in the state capitol. State government is my passion.”

Whether it’s planning a Springfest activity or helping run Model Illinois Government, Piper says he’s learned many lessons thanks to his involvement.

“Leadership is about getting involved,” he said. “It’s about doing what you love. That’s what leadership is about. Finding your passion and jumping in.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jim Korte wins the 2015 CAPE Award

Jim Korte, dean of students at the University of Illinois Springfield, is the winner of the 12th annual Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award. The award was presented by Chancellor Susan J. Koch during a ceremony on April 23, 2015.

Korte has worked at UIS for 34 years, starting as director of housing and residential life in 1981, where he helped develop the campus first housing policies and procedures.

In 2002, he moved to Student Affairs, and currently serves as dean of students. In that role, he’s responsible for student advocacy and discipline. He also plays an integral role in recruiting, hiring, and training new students affairs staff members.

“Korte brings to all of his efforts at UIS warm collegiality, historical knowledge, reasonableness, caring, and a balanced perspective between the needs of students and the needs of the University,” said his nominator. “Jim Korte is an effective problem solver and works well with students, because he listens actively and finds solutions.”

Korte serves on a wide range of campus committees, search committees, and student life committees and serves as a mentor to student leaders. As the dean of students, he often helps students facing difficult situations.

“My greatest accomplishments are when I’ve assisted a student in resolving a problem, getting an answer to a difficult question and occasionally knowing that we’ve truly aided them in completing their degree or making a difficult decision,” said Korte.

Korte is a member of the Association of Student Judicial Affairs, a Boy Scout leader, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Educators Credit Union. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University Chicago in 1975 and his master’s degree in education in guidance and counseling from Loyola in 1978.

The CAPE Award recognizes U of I academic professionals for their efforts in three general categories: work projects, professional development and affiliations, and contributions to their units. The winner receives $500 in cash for personal use, and another $500 is given to the winner’s department.

All academic professionals are eligible to receive the CAPE Award; nominations are reviewed by campus committees and candidates' names are forwarded to the chancellor, who makes the final selections.

Others nominated for the 2015 CAPE Award include Lori Benedict, James Burgdorf, Kimberly Craig, Clarice Ford, Kimberly Gonzalez-Beeson, Janelle Gurnsey, Brian Hodges, Matthew Panich, Kerry Poynter, Matthew Roberts, Donna Schaub, Carly Shank, Van Vieregge and Lisa Whelpley.

UIS Alumna Kathy Best helps lead The Seattle Times to another Pulitzer Prize

The Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best has worked for some of the best newspapers in the country.

On Monday, she delivered the news to her team that The Seattle Times had been awarded the industry’s highest honor - the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for its coverage of the fatal landslide in Oso, Washington, which took the lives of 43 people in March 2014.

Best is quoted in the Times as saying, “This is bittersweet because 43 people lost their lives. However, I’m incredibly proud of the way The Seattle Times staff covered the tragedy. We asked hard questions and we provided information to a community that needed it.”

This is the third time Best has helped the paper earn a Pulitzer Prize- also for breaking news in 2010 and investigative reporting in 2012.

Best graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield in 1990 with a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. She has been an editor at The Seattle Times since 2007 and previously was an assistant managing editor at The Baltimore Sun, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 

Best’s 35-year journalism career began in 1980 with the Quad City Times, on the Mississippi River, along the Illinois-Iowa border. Best did two stints at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the first as a Washington, D.C. reporter, later returning to be assistant managing editor.

She was the 2013 UIS Commencement Speaker.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Leadership lived: UIS tennis player stays busy on and off the court

Faith Hook has been playing tennis since she was 13-years-old. Her love of the game brought her to the University of Illinois Springfield to play for the Prairie Stars.

“Being a part of the tennis team, it’s a lot of time management, but it’s so much fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said.

Hook is also busy off the court as a member of the Mock Trial team and Model United Nations. She volunteers with the Illinois Innocence Project and hopes to attend law school after she graduates from UIS.

“At the Innocence Project, we get cases from inmates and we’ll evaluate them, ask them for transcripts and associate back and forth,” said Hook. “I’ll come up with a case evaluation and present it during our meetings.”

Working with the Innocence Project and recently attending the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City have given her valuable hands on experience. During the conference, UIS students represented Bosnia and Herzegovina in mock debates on the United Nations floor.

“It’s just been an experience and something that will definitely help me in the long run and I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life,” she said.

The sociology and anthropology major credits UIS with helping her succeed and giving her the opportunity to be involved in so many activities.

“UIS is really good with not scheduling things over other things, so you can become involved in more than one group,” she said.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Retired UIS professor writes book on the history of racial integration in baseball's American League

Robert McGregor, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois Springfield, has written a new book on the integration of baseball entitled A Calculus of Color: The Integration of Baseball's American League.

“The book endeavors to address a familiar history in a new fashion. There are plenty of books on Major League baseball's integration (Jackie Robinson especially) and several good books on the Negro Leagues, but no book that really tries to combine the parallel stories of the two institutions,” said McGregor.

The book begins with a discussion of race in American history and next examines the experience of the Negro Leagues and why they were created. The book includes a chapter on the American League as it functioned in the late 1940s, followed by several chapters on the painfully slow process of integration.

“The American League was far more reluctant than the National League, opening opportunities to address the underlying issues,” said McGregor.

The Library Journal says McGregor “slams a home run in dealing with racism in baseball and the larger picture of American life. McGregor's book makes for a compelling read. A best sports book of 2015, and one that will stand the test of time.”

A Calculus of Color was released on March 31, 2015 and was published by McFarland, a leading independent publisher of academic and nonfiction books based in North Carolina. The book, available in soft cover, is available for purchase on the publisher’s website at

McGregor taught environmental history, early American history, and the history of popular culture, including a course on baseball before he retired after 26 years of teaching at UIS in 2012. He now lives in Corning, New York.

For more information about the book, contact McGregor at

Leadership lived: Student leads Alternative Spring Break trip

Before attending the University of Illinois Springfield, Brittani Provost says she didn’t know what being a leader meant. The Sociology and Anthropology major volunteered in high school, but didn’t fully realize the impact of her work.

“I’d been involved in different organizations, had done volunteer work and stuff, but I never really took on the idea of being a leader and what that meant,” said Provost.

At UIS, Provost is president of the Alternative Spring Break student organization. She recently led a group of 20 students on a week-long trip to Biloxi, Mississippi where they volunteered with Head Start preschoolers and students at the Boys and Girls Club. The group also participated in a coastal erosion prevention project.

“I was primarily looking for a Youth in Education trip,” said Provost. “It was something that Alternative Spring Break really hadn’t got involved in before and we kind of saw Mississippi as an area that needed help.”

At Head Start, UIS students spent time working alongside teachers in the classroom and helping with projects.

“I had the opportunity to help them learn how to read a little bit and write their names and they were on a nutrition unit, so we were working with kind of explaining things about nutrition,” she said.

On campus, Provost also oversees volunteer projects as co-director of the Leadership for Life and is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

Following graduation, she wants to work for a non-profit agency and eventually earn her master’s degree.

“Obviously, my volunteer work and all the different leadership experiences that I’ve done have definitely contributed to that kind of work,” she said.

Provost encourages other people to get involved and volunteer.

“It might not be for everyone, but it definitely has something to offer you as far as growing as a person and being able to help the community,” said Provost.