Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Leadership lived: Blind student aims to educate others about disabilities

Like many other outgoing University of Illinois Springfield students, English major Raven Wilson thrives on leadership.

On campus, she is heavily involved as chair of the Student Activities Committee (SAC), sings in the gospel choir and works as a tutor at The Learning Hub.

Nothing holds her back, including her blindness.

Wilson was born with a rare degenerative disease called optic nerve coloboma. The disease caused both of her optic nerves not to fully form.

“When I was little I had some sight and could read large print, I could see color, but as I got older it lessoned and now I can only see light and shadows,” said Wilson.

In February 2016, she helped to start a student organization called AREA (Awareness Respect Education Ability), which aims to spread inclusionary attitudes about people with disabilities, often by trying to teach them how it feels to have a disability.

“At the end of the day, people who have disabilities want the same things,” said Wilson. “They have the same abilities, they just have to do it in a different way. It’s just trying to get people to understand that different doesn’t mean less abled, it doesn’t mean anything bad or negative. It just means a different way of doing things.”

Wilson says she’s grateful for all of the leadership opportunities she’s been offered at UIS, which have had a large impact on her life.

“I think being able to have these leadership opportunities has broken me out of my shell,” she said. “I feel like I’m getting a lot more about of my college experience.”

Following graduation from UIS, Wilson plans to become a writer. However, she’ll never forget her time in Springfield and the friends she’s made on campus.

“I would still choose UIS because it’s a community, it’s more than just a school,” she said. “It’s a community where people are allowed to grow and develop.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Leadership lived: Resident assistant learns life lessons at UIS

Audrey LeVault says being a resident assistant (RA) at the University of Illinois Springfield is teaching her valuable leadership skills and preparing her for a future career in social work.

“Being an RA has taught me to really have an open mind when I come into a conflict,” she said. “I can’t just assume that one person is right and one person is wrong. You really have to be willing to listen to the full story and not take sides in a situation.”

LeVault has been an RA on campus for the past two years, is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program, the Social Work Club and is on the Christian Student Fellowship leadership team.

As an RA, she goes on rounds checking on students, works at resident hall front desks and responds to lock outs, fire alarms and noise complaints. However, she says the most important part of her job is community building.

“We really just want residents to feel at home, so we put on different programs trying to get them out of their houses, so they can interact with their neighbors,” she said.

She often comes across challenging situations, where corrective action is required, but believes lessons can be learned from a second chance.

“Everybody makes mistakes and it’s being willing to work with that person when they make a mistake, so they don’t have to go through this again, that makes conflict a learning experience and not just getting someone into trouble.”

LeVault, an Edinburg, Illinois native, says she chose UIS because of the right-sized campus feel.

“I love how tiny it is, because I feel like you have so many opportunities,” she said. “There’s so many different student-lead organizations here. You have such a good chance to be involved, if you want to be involved.”

Following graduation from UIS, she plans to earn her master’s degree in social work with a focus on either school social work or children and family services.

“Overall, my experience at UIS has been great,” she said. “I’m super glad I chose UIS. If I had to do it over again, I’d still pick UIS.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

UIS communication professor elected chair of the University Senates Conference

Kathy Novak, associate professor of communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been elected to a one-year term as chair of the University Senates Conference of the University of Illinois System.

As chair, Novak serves as the official spokesperson of the USC and represents the faculty of all three University of Illinois campuses and the three individual campus senates. Through U of I President Timothy Killeen, she and the USC advise the Board of Trustees and administrative officers on matters of university-wide concerns.

The Conference also coordinates actions and facilitates communication among the campus senates, reviewing matters acted upon by each individual campus senate and further deciding whether actions taken by one senate have broader all-university relevance.

“The USC addresses many issues as they arise throughout the year, but the budget remains a primary concern regarding university salaries, health insurance and pensions,” said Novak. “Among our goals in the coming year is to continue to support the value and impact of higher education in Illinois. Along these lines, the USC will be both working on and supporting the implementation of the University of Illinois System Strategic Framework to advance the future good work of the universities within the system.”

Novak has been a member of the UIS Campus Senate since 2010, serving as an executive committee officer since 2012 and having served as senate chair in 2015-16.

She holds a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her teaching and research focuses on print journalism and photojournalism, global media and culture, advertising and consumer culture, and research methods.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Leadership lived: International student learns about other cultures at UIS

International graduation student Aman Tummala, a Management Information Systems major from India, loves to meet new people and learn about other cultures. He’s getting that opportunity at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“There’s a lot of people coming here from other countries,” said Tummala. “I find everyone over here, so I can talk with them. I help myself by learning things from them.”

Tummala is president of the Indian Student Organization and the International Artists & Music Organization and vice president of the International Student Association. He is a member of the Association of Information Systems (AIS) and is a student employee at Brookens Library.

He recently helped plan a welcome party for new international students attending UIS, in conjunction with the Office of International Student Services.

“From my end, I’ve been leading the Indian Student Organization, so there is a pressure on me in making sure the event goes well,” he said.

UIS was at the top of Tummala’s list when applying for graduate school because of the Management Information Systems program and the right-sized campus.

“The best thing about UIS is the professors, the students and the management and the infrastructure here,” he said. “The University of Illinois Springfield is the best place to study.”

Before coming to UIS, Tummala worked for major companies in India, including Google. Following graduation, he plans to return to India and start his own company.

“I would just like to thank my parents and the University of Illinois Springfield for giving me and opportunity to be a part of this university and to learn skills and just be myself,” he said.