Monday, October 31, 2016

Staff members share UIS Sangamon Auditorium ghost stories

Is Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield haunted by a ghost named “Ruby”? The answer depends on who you ask.

According to stage foreman Joe Taylor, the ghost stories started in 1986 when a patron named “Ruby” died from natural causes inside the auditorium. Since that time, there have been several close encounters witnessed by multiple individuals.

Taylor and a co-worker were working near “the rail” at the top of the auditorium stage when they witnessed a “ball of light” or “cloud”, which moved down a stairway and entered the auditorium.

“No evilness, nothing bad ever happened,” said Taylor. “Nothing has ever happened during a show or during the day. It’s always late at night when we were ready to lock up.”

Another sighting occurred when five workers were standing on stage and one person left to turn off the light board.

“He came running up the stairs and that’s where the light actually hit him and he just stopped,” said Taylor. “He knew he ran into somebody. He kept saying he ran into a person.” “One of the other guys said, you ran into ‘Ruby’. It was a bright light and she ran right into you.”

Event Administrator Elise Robertson claims to have had a close encounter with “Ruby” when she was resting in between graduation ceremonies, before becoming a full-time employee.

“Rather than drive back to Riverton between graduation ceremonies, I went up to the (5th floor) lobby to lay down,” said Robertson. “I woke up to someone touching my ribs.”

She felt a cold wave move over her body before she felt a second hand move over her ribs.

“That was ‘Ruby’. I know it was,” said Robertson.

Taylor says his final encounter with the suspected ghost happened when The Flying Karamazov Brothers were practicing for a show inside the auditorium.

“They had a little boy. I’d say he’s four or five-years-old,” said Taylor. “The little boy was playing right there next to where she had passed away and the little kid was talking to somebody. The dad was on stage working and he asked him who he was talking to. He said ‘this lady’.”

Although there have been a number of spooky experiences witnessed inside the auditorium, “Ruby” has been keeping a lower profile lately and hasn’t been spotted in years.

“We don’t want to scare anyone away from Sangamon Auditorium,” said Robertson. “Ruby’ is not a scary ghost. She won’t harm anyone. We need something interesting here, besides all of the acts we bring in.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

History Professor Peter Shapinsky named the 2016 University Scholar at UIS

Peter Shapinsky, associate professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been named the University Scholar for 2016. The award, considered the university system’s highest faculty honor, recognizes outstanding teaching and scholarship. Only one faculty member receives the annual award at UIS.

Shapinsky is regarded as one of the foremost authorities in the fields of Medieval Japan and East Asian maritime history. A versatile, interdisciplinary scholar, and fluent in Japanese, Shapinsky is an expert on piracy in medieval Japan.

“Shapinsky exemplifies the teacher-scholar model at UIS,” said Lynn Pardie, former UIS provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “He is actively engaged in continuing scholarship to expand the breadth and depth of his work.”

Nominator and reviewers alike point to his monograph, “Lords of the Sea: Pirates, Violence, and Commerce in Late Medieval Japan” as a significant work. This work has generated a new conceptualization of pirates as Sea Lords in medieval Japanese history, drawing parallels between the ruling of land and of sea.

“Peter Shapinsky is a prolific scholar having author to date several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as book reviews, while he is currently working on five more articles, one co-edited volume and his second book manuscript,” said his nominator.

Shapinsky has also delivered papers at national conferences, as well as numerous invited lectures and presentations at national and international venues. He has an active on-going scholarly agenda that includes new interpretations of cartographic history in the East Asian maritime world.

Professor Shapinsky’s students and colleagues credit his creative, dynamic teaching and mentoring, contagious enthusiasm for his subject, and eagerness to help them succeed, with motivating them to reach their potential.

“I have always maintained that only a good scholar can be a good teacher in higher education, and all good teachers maintain a good scholarly record allowing their scholarship to inform their pedagogy and vice versa. Peter Shapinsky has excelled in both areas,” said his nominator.

He has developed a comprehensive, stimulating, and diverse history curriculum; and he teaches core and elective courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the History Department, courses that fulfill general education requirements, and courses for the Capital Scholars Honors Program. Shapinsky’s teaching utilizes both on ground and online modes of delivery, and has included a study abroad trip to Japan.

Shapinsky earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Kenyon College and a doctorate in history from the University of Michigan.

As University Scholar, Shapinsky will receive $15,000 a year for three years to support research and other scholarly activities. Faculty do not apply for this award; they are nominated by their peers. A committee of senior faculty makes the final selection.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Leadership lived: Student volunteers to help flood victims in Louisiana

University of Illinois Springfield freshman Jon Welton enjoys helping people. The Criminology and Criminal Justice major is a member of the Leadership for Life Service Organization on campus and is a private first class in the Illinois Army National Guard.

Welton recently traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a group of 25 other UIS students to help clean up homes that were damaged by flooding. The students stripped homes down to the studs, so they could dry out, and removed personal belongings damaged by the flood.

“Basically you take everything out and it gives them a better chance of being able to rebuild, rather than having to completely destroy everything,” said Welton.

Welton and the group of UIS volunteers were able to meet the homeowner they were helping, which he calls a gratifying experience.

“He was very grateful that we were there,” said Welton. “He even bought us lunch one day. You’re carrying out this guy’s life pretty much.”

The students worked as a team to clean and clear the house of debris during the three day trip.

“They all came together as a group and really toughed it out,” said Welton. “I feel like that’s part of being a leader, is even when it got hard they kept going.”

Following graduation, Welton plans to become a police officer. He says his experiences at UIS are helping to prepare him for the job.

“I believe in Criminal Justice, specifically with the job I want to do as a patrol officer, helping people is everything. That is your job. I’m getting to practice those skills,” he said.

Monday, October 24, 2016

UIS professor named School Counselor Advocate of the Year

University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor James Klein, has been named the 2016 School Counselor Advocate of the Year by the Illinois School Counselor Association.

The award is given out annually in appreciation for outstanding work to counselors-in-training, students, as well professional counselors.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to have been recognized and greatly value the opportunity to contribute to such meaningful and important work,” said Klein.

Klein is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development Counseling. He also coordinates the School Counseling Concentration. His current research is focused on the role of compassion in learning and leadership.

The Illinois School Counselor Association provides leadership, advocacy and collaboration for Illinois professional school counselors to ensure the success of students in their academic, college, career and social/emotional development.

The ISCA serves approximately 900 school counselors across the state of Illinois.

Friday, October 21, 2016

UIS honors alumni for achievement and service

The University of Illinois Springfield honored the significant contributions of Darrel Burnett and Cheryl Peck during the university’s annual Alumni Gala on Friday, October 21, 2016, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

The Alumni Achievement Award for outstanding success and national or international distinction in one’s business, profession or life’s work was presented to Darrel Burnett, of Milton, Wisconsin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication in 1978.

Burnett is founder and Chief Executive Officer of KSI International, Inc., which specializes in Life Changing Technologies with an emphasis on new product development and the development of international markets.

Burnett attended the University on a broadcast scholarship. He served as the first sportscaster at WSSR (now WUIS) and the first “play by play” radio announcer for the Prairie Stars soccer team.

After graduating in 1978, he embarked on a career in broadcasting. He hosted nationally syndicated radio shows from New York City, provided play-by-play for the Indianapolis Colts, and reported on Super Bowls, the World Series, NBA Basketball Championships, U.S. Olympic Trials, NCAA championships and many other events. He spent four years as a pit reporter for the Indianapolis 500, and has remained closely connected to the broadcasting field for nearly 40 years as he continues to narrate documentaries and serve as a frequent host and guest on television and radio shows.

In 1999, Burnett was recruited by the Hoffman Corporation, a construction management firm, to start an operating division in Illinois. In just six years, the division became a $500m enterprise and helped Hoffman earn a top 50 U.S. ranking by Engineering News Record. In 2002, Burnett co-founded Revere Hoffman, specializing in housing for senior citizens; and in 2005, he became Corporate Director for the Mid-Northern Group, a real estate company based in Rockford, IL. In 2009, as president of a water technology company, he helped develop a patented water technology. This led to the founding of KSI International in 2011.

Darrel Burnett serves on the Board of Advisors for the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation and has helped raise more than $1m for numerous community organizations. He has also served on multiple boards of directors and is an elder for Chapel on the Hill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

The Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary commitment, dedication and service to the advancement of the University of Illinois was awarded to Cheryl Peck, of Springfield, Illinois. She earned a bachelor’s degree in literature in 1986 and a master’s degree in English in 1989.

An all-out advocate for her alma mater, Peck participates in many University events. She served in volunteer leadership roles on the planning and coordinating committee of the UIS Alumni SAGE Society in its formative years, and helped to build the University's archive of oral histories. Peck also served on the Friends of Brookens Library Board.

In 2011, Peck donated $500,000 to establish the Judith E. Everson Professorship in English, the first from a graduate honoring a former professor. With the gift, Peck paid tribute to the faculty member who profoundly influenced her career and her overall educational experience as a “mid-life student” at UIS (then Sangamon State), which she characterized as setting her on “a path of lifelong discovery in books and writing.”

She has also been a longtime annual donor to Brookens Library, WUIS and other campus units, and is a member of the University of Illinois Foundation Presidents Council.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Leadership lived: UIS volleyball player represents student-athletes on a national level

University of Illinois Springfield volleyball player Ashley Beaton, a senior psychology major, represents NCAA Division II athletes on a national level as the student representative for the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).

“It’s honestly been surreal. There’s been a lot of people I’ve gotten to network with and who have helped my leadership, personality and professionalism grow,” said Beaton.

Beaton applied for the position after being a member of the UIS Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She current serves as vice president of UIS SAAC and previously served as president. She is also a member of the UIS Intercollegiate Athletic Committee, which is part of the UIS Campus Senate and made up of student-athletes, faculty and staff.

As part of her national NCAA leadership role, Beaton has attended the NCAA Convention and has been spotlighted in several Division II videos as part of the “Make it Yours” campaign.

“I’ve went to the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis and just got overloads of information that I can take back and use in volleyball, in real life and use to apply to SAAC to make NCAA Division II even better,” said Beaton.

Beaton says she chose UIS because of the growing opportunities for student-athletes. She’s proud to be part of a thriving Prairie Stars program.

“I remember coming on campus here for the first time and I just had a feeling like, you know this feels like home, but what really drew me in was the potential that UIS had,” she said. “I heard that all of the sports teams were starting to take off.”

She has learned about leadership through her NCAA role and as a volleyball team captain.

“I would consider myself more of a lead by example type of leader,” she said. “I really try to encompass everything that our coach brings us into. I really take it and try to run with it.”

Following graduation from UIS, Beaton plans to earn a master’s degree in psychology and hopes to one day work at the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute, which researches student-athlete health and mental health.

“Coming in here I was a little bit shy, I was underdeveloped and just all of the experience I’ve had to go through has just taken me through the roof,” said Beaton. “It’s been amazing to say the least.”

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Two UIS faculty members chosen to co-teach national online courses

Two faculty members from the University of Illinois Springfield have been chosen to co-teach two online courses made up of students at 30 colleges and universities in 28 states and one Canadian province thanks to a Mellon Foundation Grant.

Ken Owen, UIS assistant professor of history, will teach a course during the spring 2017 semester titled “Divided Houses Secession and Separation” with Mary Beth Mathews, assistant professor of religion at the University of Mary Washington.

In spring 2018, Holly Kent, UIS assistant professor of history, will teach a course on “Fashion as an Agent of Social Change Since 1900” with Brenda Brown, professor of English at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

“The desired outcome is to build digital humanities literacy among students who participate in the courses,” said Vickie Cook, director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service. “The courses will be taught online using a synchronous model and will result in students working across campuses to build digital humanities web presences.”

The classes will be open to students at Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) member institutions, such as UIS. Students must be nominated by a faculty member to take part in the course, for which they will receive academic credit at their home institution.

“One outcome of this project is to provide an opportunity for students to gain strong skills in working with fellow students at distance locations,” said Cook. “These skills may assist with future employment needs where they may be assigned to virtual teams or need to coordinate projects and activities through using a variety of technological tools.”

For more information, contact Cook at 217/206-8303 or

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Leadership lived: Student lands full-time job in state government


Marc Cox still has two semesters left before he graduates from the University of Illinois Springfield, however he’s already started a full-time career in state government.

The political science and legal studies major works for the Illinois Senate Republicans in the District Planning and Member Services Division.

“I work with senators on a daily basis to help organize constituent events and services, such as town halls, youth initiatives and women’s conferences,” said Cox. “I also work with members of the communication department to help improve the messaging between the senators and the constituents they serve.”

Working in the government and legal field is nothing new for Cox. He’s completed four internships as an undergraduate student at UIS. Most recently, he interned with the Public Defender’s Office in Washington, D.C. He’s previously interned with U.S. Congressman John Shimkus, the Illinois Governor’s Office and with state legislators.

“UIS has taught me a lot about leadership, due to the unique internships that I’ve had and likely would not have had, if I didn’t go to UIS,” he said.

On campus, Cox is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program, has worked for the Illinois Innocence Project and is the former editor-and-chief of The Journal, the weekly student newspaper. He started as assistant editor for news and worked his way up to the top.

“Going into it, I really wanted to improve our online presence and also deliver more hard-hitting news stories and thanks to a wonderful staff of editors, writers and photographers, we were able to accomplish that,” he said.

Cox credits The Journal for giving him his first opportunity to supervise a staff.

“I learned leadership is really about leading by example, fostering a sense of collegiately and kindness and also motivating people to work hard,” said Cox.

Following graduation from UIS, Cox plans to attend law school. He’s thankful that he chose UIS and urges other students interested in politics to do the same.

“UIS’ ability to pair students up with internships in government and politics is extremely unique,” he said. “I think if a student is interested in politics, UIS is a really good university to go to.”