Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Leadership lived: Future TV news reporter gets experience at UIS

Beatrice Bonner loves to talk and inform people. Ever since working at a radio station in high school, she’s wanted to become a TV news reporter.

Bonner is a junior communication major at the University of Illinois Springfield. This semester, she’s taking a visual storytelling class where she’s learning what it takes to put together a story.

“We come up with story ideas. It’s like being in a newsroom,” she said. “We get to pitch them to our classroom and then we go out and shoot, we interview people and then we come back into the lab and we edit.”

Bonner says she wants to be a journalist because she enjoys keeping people informed about important issues happening in their community.

“I just like being able to get information out and help people because if we didn’t have TV news or reporting, people would know nothing,” she said.

Outside of the classroom, Bonner is the vice president and a founding member of the Alpha Phi Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She also serves as membership intake coordinator.

“That means that I helped encourage these ladies to join,” she said. “I do interviews, I teach them information that they needed in order to be part of the sorority. I’m kind of like their mom.”

Bonner says she feels well prepared for her future thanks to her UIS education.

“UIS has taught me in order to be a leader you have to go and get it,” she said. “Nobody is going to sit and baby you. You have to work for it.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Good as Gold Ceremony honors over 60 local volunteers and businesses

The University of Illinois Springfield, Junior League of Springfield and the United Way of Central Illinois honored more than 60 local volunteers and businesses during the 9th annual Good as Gold Ceremony. The event was held on Monday, April 24, 2017, at the UIS Public Affairs Center.

Distinguished Volunteer Award 

Long-time Memorial Medical Center volunteer Patty Stremsterfer was honored with the 2017 Distinguished Volunteer Award.

Stremsterfer was a young wife and mother of three, when a friend encouraged her to volunteer at Memorial. Forty-four years later, she still gives four hours a week to the 6C ICU cardiac area and has logged more than 8,000 hours of volunteering. She is one of the hospital’s most committed volunteers.

“It’s just where I should be,” she said.

Stremsterfer spends time with family members or friends of patients undergoing cardiac procedures and sometimes the patients themselves. For her, it has a special importance. Both she and her husband have undergone open heart surgery, so she understands and empathizes with the people she meets.

I love people,” she said. “I’m a people person. If I can be there when a patient’s family can’t, it feels good.”

Stremsterfer also volunteers her time creating educational dolls with fabric organs, sews “angel pockets” for families suffering a perinatal loss and serves her church by hosting card parties, coordinating events and fundraisers, serving luncheons and making blankets for members of the congregation.

The 2017 Distinguished Volunteer finalists include Les Carlson, Alfred Hampton and Scott Dickerson.

UIS Star Student Award

UIS student Matt Haury was honored with the Star Student Award for his volunteer efforts in the community. Haury began working with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in December 2015 prior to the store’s relocation to 6th Street. Almost daily, Haury performs pickups, brings in donations and places items on the floor. He also leads other volunteers in helping the store with a number of tasks including assembling shelving and reorganizing the back end.

“Matt would make an effort to come in almost daily,” said Josh Gordon, manager of the ReStore. “His help allowed us to bring in more donations, as well as get those items on the floor for faster resale.”

Haury said it is the combined work of all volunteers and staff that make the ReStore successful.

UIS Star Staff Award 

Beverly Bunch, professor of public administration at the University of Illinois Springfield, was honored with the Star Staff Award for her volunteer efforts with the United Way of Central Illinois.

Bunch has served as Community Fund panel chair as well as on the Community Impact Committee of the United Way Board, the Venture Funds Committee, and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program Committee.

In her decade of service there, she has given thousands of hours of her time, including more than 250 hours in the past year alone.

“I have always been enthusiastic about United Way, and I was very excited when I had the opportunity to work with them,” said Bunch. “I really believe in their cause.”

Youth Volunteer Award

Springfield High School senior Russell Moore III was honored with the Youth Volunteer Award. Moore serves as president of several youth organizations including; the Sigma Beta Club of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., the Springfield Frontiers Youth Development Program and the American Legion Illinois State Junior Police Academy. He works as guide at the Abraham Lincoln National Historic Site, participates in Civil War reenactments and serves at the St. John’s Breadline. He has taken up collections for the Salvation Army and co-hosted a Kwanzaa celebration.

Upon graduation, Moore plans to seek a degree in computer programming and possibly join the Marine Corps Forces Reserve. He said his goal in life is to see his generation not only succeed, but be a positive example.

Heart of Gold Community Awards

Forty-one local volunteers were also honored with the Heart of Gold Award. Recipients included: Dan Babor, Gina Bausch, Lindsay Bentivegna, Jewel Bishop, Angie Black, Valerie Bolinger, Jack E. Carder, Evelyn Carder, Devin Dreesman, Randy Ginder, Pete Graham, Gwyn Gurgens, Neill Howey, Tom Hutchison, Alicia King, Kerry King, Don Klues, Matt Lamsargis, Donald Landry, Toni LaVigne, Robin Loftus, Marilyn Markus, Connie Matthews, Lynn McMenamin, Traci Moore, Robin Patton, Sonya Perkins, Roger Priestley, , Waldo Richie, Penny Roth, Sara Shaffer, Debra Singer, Dave Slaughter, Barbara Spiro, Jill Waltman, Christine Weisbaum, Evan & Courtney Westlake, Lisa Williams, Jan Wilson and Joyce Wilson.

Organization Agent of Service Award

The winner of the 2017 Organization Agent of Service Award is Central Baptist Church. Led by Pastor Josh Sabo, the church has created a partnership with Graham Elementary School nearby. The church congregation is instrumental in volunteering to run the school’s library as well as the after-school program and has given 3,000 hours this year alone.

The church also holds two large events each year, involving about 75 percent of their congregation. The Graham Christmas Gift Mart benefits more than 100 children each year and more than 1,000 meals are either delivered or served at the church for their Thanksgiving meal deliveries. Both events benefit the James Project and Contact Ministries.

Business Honor Roll 

A total of 25 Sangamon County businesses were named to the Business Honor Roll sponsored by the UIS College of Business and Management and supported by The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. The honor roll recognizes businesses that have made giving back to our community a priority.

Three businesses were listed at the top of the honor roll as Golden Distinction Winners; Security Bank, Heartland Credit Union, and Bank of Springfield.

Other businesses making this year’s honor roll include Ameriprise Financial - Steven Koch; Duggins Design Center; Gem PR & Media; Terry Farmer Photography; West Central Bank; Illinois Realtors; Kerber, Eck & Breckel; Orthopedic Center of Illinois; President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - A DoubleTree by Hilton; Troxell; Brandt Consolidated Inc.; Bunn-O-Matic Corporation; Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc.; Horace Mann Companies; Illinois National Bank; Marine Bank; Memorial Health System; RSM US LLP; Springfield Electric Supply Company; United Community Bank; U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo Funding.

For more information about the awards, please visit, email or call 217/ 206-7716.

Springfield architect Paul O’Shea honored for Outstanding Advocate Leadership

The University of Illinois Foundation today announces Springfield native and long-time resident Paul O’Shea as the recipient of the 2017 William E. Winter Award for Outstanding Advocate Leadership.

The award will be presented at the UIS Celebration of Philanthropy on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at UIS. The U of I Foundation is the fundraising arm of the University of Illinois.

A licensed architect who recently retired as planning and design coordinator for the City of Springfield, O’Shea has received many awards for his community service, including the 2012 First Citizen Award from The State Journal-Register.

O’Shea has been a tireless advocate for the University of Illinois Springfield. His greatest service has been as an ambassador building relationships between Springfield and UIS.

“The university represents an asset to Springfield that is hard to describe,” O’Shea said. “It has a major impact on our region and the city. Both the university and the community benefit when we come together.”

O’Shea works behind the scenes to encourage financial support for UIS by suggesting fundraising events, helping to plan them and inviting people to attend. He has inspired many to give through his outspoken confidence in UIS and his and his wife’s giving.

He began providing financial support for UIS in 1998 and through the years has given often to many university funds, especially for athletics. In 2012, O’Shea began funding athletic scholarships, and more recently he and his wife, Lynne, have made a generous gift in support of the UIS Intercollegiate Baseball Program Field Turf Project.

The William E. Winter Award, named for the late CEO Emeritus of the 7-Up Company and a longtime member of the University of Illinois Foundation Board of Directors, celebrates individuals who play active roles in securing private support for the University of Illinois.

Past recipients of the William E. Winter Award include W. Robert Felker, Pamela McClelland, Cullom Davis, Bob Clary, Leonard Branson, Thom Serafin, Tom Marantz, Julie Kellner, Guerry Suggs and Michelle Suggs (deceased); Howard Humphrey (deceased), James Lundquist (deceased), and Clifford Greenwalt.

For more information, contact Jeff Lorber, UIS vice chancellor for advancement, at 217/206-6058 or email

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Barbara Cass wins the 2017 CAPE Award

Barbara Cass, an online program coordinator for the University of Illinois Springfield’s Business Administration Department, is the winner of the 14th annual Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award. The award was presented by Chancellor Susan J. Koch during a ceremony on April 12, 2017.

Cass joined UIS nearly 20 years ago in the Center for Teaching and Learning and Ombud’s Office. She also served as the online coordinator for the English degree program prior to moving the BBA program eleven years ago.

Her passion for online learning has been demonstrated as she assisted in developing an articulation agreement with the College of Lake County for a seamless transition from lower coursework to the UIS online BBA program. She was instrumental in the successful AACSB reaccreditation for the College of Business and Management. She serves on the steering committee for COPE-L (Community of Practice for E-Leaning), which works to share best-practices related to e-learning. She stays current on best practices by attending distance education conferences and having regular meetings with other online coordinators and COLRS (Center for Online Learning, Research and Service).

“Countless numbers of our students have told me how Barbara has been the key to enabling them to complete their degrees,” said one nominator. “What better testament to her contributions could there be?”

Currently Cass is assisting with the STAMATS/Slate pilot program for online lead nurturing.

“This will not only benefit her program, but will pave the way for other online programs to adopt best practices,” said one nominator.

Cass has also served in many other capacities across the university including, as an adjunct faculty assisting in facilitating the UIS Speakers Series, the Employee of the Month selection committee, as an advisor to the Provost for the University of Illinois System’s Conflict of Commitment & Interest Policy, and also as a long-time member of the CAPE selection committee.

“It is good that she is no longer on the CAPE Committee so that we can finally nominate her,” said a nominator.

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.

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 2017 CAPE Award include Lori Benedict, Vickie Cook, Sean Crawford, Mae Noll, Chris Ryan, Donna Schaub, Robin Vansacik and Ryan L. Williams.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Leadership lived: Veteran finds therapeutic relief by acting in UIS play

Shane Graham is not your typical college student. At 25, the U.S. Army veteran has found a passion for acting at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The senior communication major plays three roles in UIS Theatre’s spring production of “Almost, Maine”. He describes it as “a play about love and relationships” with some “really cartoony and quirky” elements added to the plot.

While Graham did some acting in high school, this is the first time he’s ever had to memorize lines as part of a major theatrical production.

“It’s been exciting because theatre has been just really therapeutic since getting out of the military,” he said. “It's been able to not just help me cope with issues, but it's been able to help me just kind of come to peace with myself.”

Graham served as an infantry solider for four years and completed a combat tour in southern Afghanistan.

“I got out and decided that I wanted to raise my son outside of the military,” he said. “I want to be with my wife outside of the military and I was able to explore other options.”

Graham commutes to UIS several times a week, even more now that he’s part of the play, from his home in Lincoln, Illinois, about 34 miles north of Springfield.

“Apart from living 45 minutes away, commuting and taking classes, balancing my schedule has definitely been the hardest part,” he said.

Following graduation from UIS, Graham said he would like to find a job in the public relations or advertising field. He said he’s very thankful that he decided to come to UIS.

“There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about how life would have turned out if I went to another school or stayed out of college,” he said. “I don’t think I would have made it as far or done as well if it were not for UIS.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Eleven UIS students present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Eleven students from the University of Illinois Springfield presented their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Memphis on April 6-8, 2017.

Students submitted abstracts and were selected in a competitive process by the UIS Undergraduate Research Steering Committee. They were later approved by the national conference committee. The students represent multiple programs and colleges.

Students presenting include Marquiera Harris (Social Work), Elizabeth Karras (Sociology & Anthropology), Eli Hahn (Psychology), Alex Skarr (Sociology & Anthropology and Political Science), Shyleen Frost (Biology), Gabriel Broughton (Business Administration), Ebony Forslund (Psychology), Amanda Monke (English), Turner Clark (Business Management), Allie McIntire (Psychology) and Nhan Khanh Le (Business Administration).

The 31st annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research is a program of the Council on Undergraduate Research. Around 4,000 students from around the country will present their research and creative activities.

The students were accompanied on the trip by Tiffani Saunders, UIS Sociology/Anthropology lecturer, and Keenan Dungey, associate professor of chemistry and director of the Undergraduate Research Support Program.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Leadership lived: Student finds passion for helping others at UIS

Kelsie Roberts enjoys helping others, whether she’s fixing a problem at work or volunteering with a non-profit organization on the weekend. Roberts is a junior business administration major at the University of Illinois Springfield.

On campus, she’s worked at the ID Center for the past 3 years where she creates i-cards, the official identification for University of Illinois students. She helps students replace lost or stolen cards, takes passport photos and mails i-cards to students who live off campus.

“I’ve learned a lot from working here,” she said. “I love interacting with students and getting a chance to talk to them. I’ve learned a lot about organizational skills and how to handle problems when they arise.”

Roberts is also a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program, the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) leadership team, a founding member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society.

As part of CSF, she helps plans service projects both on and off campus. She has volunteered at the St. John's Breadline, Kumler Outreach Ministries, the Salvation Army, Northside's Children Library, the Springfield Zoo, Habitat for Humanity and the Refuge Ranch.

“I love how UIS provides many different opportunities to serve here on campus,” she said. “I love getting the opportunity to help people and just give back with being a servant.”

Roberts, a Pawnee, Illinois native, decided to attend UIS because it was close to home and affordable.

“UIS has given me so many great opportunities to be involved,” she said. “What I’ve gotten out of that and the people I’ve met. It’s been great.”

Following graduation from UIS, Roberts plans to earn an MBA and pursue a career in the business finance field.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

UIS Education Honor Society inducts 11 new members

The Alpha Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education, at the University of Illinois Springfield inducted seven new members during a ceremony on April 3, 2017.

Kim Thomas, the Illinois State Board of Education’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, was the guest speaker at the event. She is a math teacher at Woodruff Career and Technical Academy in Peoria, Illinois.

The Society inducts individuals who have exhibited the ideals of scholarship, integrity in service, and commitment to excellence in teaching and its allied professions. Selection as a member of Kappa Delta Pi is based on high academic achievement, a commitment to education as a career, and a professional attitude that assures steady growth in the profession.

Students inducted at this year’s ceremony include:

Carmi: Sean Courty
Decatur: Kyleen Streckfuss
Girard: Jordan Emery
Kewanee: Paul Van Wassenhove
Springfield: Katherine Lounsberry, Lyndsey Staff
Worden: Shelby Steinmeyer

Kappa Delta Pi was established in 1911 to recognize and promote excellence in education. Through its programs, services, and strategic partnerships, the honor society supports the professional growth and teaching practices of educators throughout all phases and levels of their careers. The organization currently has more than 600 chapters and an active membership of nearly 40,000 worldwide.

For more information, contact Ronda Mitchell, chapter advisor and UIS assistant professor of Teacher Education, at 217/206-7008 or

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

UIS historical document editor wins research award

Ed Bradley, a University of Illinois Springfield employee and assistant editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, has been awarded the 2017 Kate Broocks Bates Award for Historical Research from the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA).

Bradley received the $4,000 award on Friday, March 3, 2017, at the TSHA’s annual meeting in Houston.

The Bates Award is given annually for a significant piece of historical research dealing with Texas history prior to 1900. Bradley was chosen for his book, “We Never Retreat: Filibustering Expeditions into Spanish Texas, 1812-1822”, which thoroughly recounts the targeted invasion of land in Spanish Texas by private military forces.

Bradley’s book examines the motives of American participants, as well as the extent to which the U.S. government was either involved in or tolerated the expeditions. 

“We Never Retreat” makes a major contribution placing the expeditions within the context of the Mexican War of Independence and international relations between the United States and Spain.

“I am very grateful and honored to receive this award from the Texas State Historical Association,” said Bradley.

The book was published by Texas A&M University Press and is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other websites.

For more information, contact Ed Bradley at

Leadership lived: UIS graduate student works to finish his education following a military deployment

Like most graduate students, Francisco Solano planned to finish his MBA at the University of Illinois Springfield in two years. However, his plans were changed by a military deployment.

A year and a half into his education, while in the middle of a Graduate Public Service (GPSI) internship with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Solano got the opportunity to deploy for a year with the U.S. Army.

“That interrupted my internship as well as my studies,” he said.

A few months before returning to the United States from deployment, Solano reached out to the GPSI Program to discuss how he could finish his education at UIS.

“I contacted the GPSI office and told them that I was still interested in pursuing the internship and completing the program,” he said. “They were nice enough to allow me to come back and finish the program.”

For 43 years, the UIS Graduate Public Service Internship Program has been helping graduate students receive real world experience working in state government.

“(UIS and IDOT) did go out of their way to make everything work so that I could return in time and so that both of our timelines would work,” said Solano.

Solano commissioned as an active duty solider in the U.S. Army in 2010. Upon starting graduate school, he left active duty and joined the Illinois Army National Guard where he currently holds the rank of captain.

Reflecting on his experience at UIS, Solano is glad he made the choice to come to Springfield.

“What I like the best about UIS specifically is that they have the resources of a large university, but they give the attention of a smaller university. The student to professor ratio is excellent,” he said.

Although deploying in a middle of his internship wasn’t his original plan, he’s happy with the way that things have worked out.

“It wasn’t my initial plan, but everything just kept falling in place,” he said. “I’ve kept with it and it’s worked out great for me.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

UIS Professor Karen Swan to receive award from the National University Technology Network

Karen Swan, the James J. Stukel Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield, is being honored by the National University Technology Network (NUTN) with their 2017 Distinguished Service Award. The award is the highest honor given by the organization.

Swan was selected for the award due to her commitment to higher education and for the work she’s done with online learning.

“Your energy, leadership and vision are to be commended. It is for your past and present successes that you are being recognized,” said Justin Louder, NUTN advisory board chair and associate vice provost at Texas Tech University.

Swan is recognized as a leading researcher in the nation when it comes to the effectiveness of online teaching and learning.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Connecticut, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Keene State College and master’s and doctorate degrees in instructional technology from Teachers College, Columbia University.

The award will be presented during the 35th annual NUTN conference in San Antonio, Texas on October 11-12, 2017.

Founded in 1982, NUTN is a consortium of higher education institutions. It provides a networking and professional development arena for the advancement of online and blended learning. NUTN members represent a widely diverse group of innovative leaders in the advancement of teaching and learning.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Leadership lived: Student helps plan Alternative Spring Break trip

For the past three years, University of Illinois Springfield psychology major Hailey Hawkins has spent her spring break volunteering with the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) student organization. However, this year was a little different. As president of ASB, she helped select the destination and organize the trip.

“It’s definitely different than how most college students spend spring break, but it’s a great experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she said.

Hawkins and a group of 25 UIS student spent their spring break helping with eco-restoration projects along the Florida Panhandle Gulf Coast. They helped with an oyster relief project where they bagged oysters to put back into the Gulf of Mexico, in an effort to prevent coastal erosion. They also shoveled rocks and cleaned roofs for non-profit organizations.

“I’ve had a different experience all three years during spring break, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Hawkins. “I get to meet new people. I really love volunteering and helping others.”

In past years, Hawkins has helped feed the homeless in New York City during Alternative Spring Break and helped with ecological sustainability projects in Biloxi, Mississippi.

On campus, Hawkins is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has played on the UIS women’s soccer team for the past three years.

“I absolutely love being on the soccer team,” she said. “It’s definitely challenging. It keeps me very busy, but I love the team aspect of it and traveling. I love being pushed and just showing all of the hard work coming together in the end.”

Following graduation from UIS, Hawkins wants to apply to the Peace Corps. She knows the experiences she’s had at UIS will help her in the future.

“I’m very glad that I decided to come to UIS,” she said. “I’ve loved the campus and the experience ever since I’ve been here. The fit has just felt so right and there’s been so many opportunities for me here on campus.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Leadership lived: Student finds passion for music and research at UIS

The University of Illinois Springfield is helping Alex Skarr grow his academic and musical talents. The senior political science and sociology/anthropology major is a member of the UIS Choir and sings without accompaniment in the acapella group.

“Being a part of the choir, I consider myself to be one of the leaders in the section. I come from a very good music program in high school and being part of the choir here has really led me to develop my leadership abilities, particularly in the acapella group,” he said.

Skarr is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program, the research society (a student group on campus that promotes research) and works for the Undergraduate Research Support Program where he helps plan and run the Student Technology, Arts & Research Symposium (STARS) and the U of I Undergraduate Research Day at the Illinois State Capitol.

He has been working closely with a former UIS faculty member on a sociology research project about social movements. Later this year, he’ll present his research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research at the University of Memphis and at the Midwest Sociological Society annual conference.

“I think that’s the great thing about UIS, the small campus we have where faculty really care about their students and they really want students to succeed,” he said.

Following graduation from UIS, Skarr would like to work with high school students teaching music. Ultimately, he’d like to become a college sociology professor.

“I really found sociology here at UIS,” he said. “I came in as just a political science major, but I really found sociology was something I really liked.”

Skarr is grateful for all of the opportunities he’s had at UIS and feels well prepared for his future academic career.

“(UIS) just gives you so many opportunities to be a leader, if you want to be a leader. There’s so many opportunities to get out there and do what you like, find something you’re passionate about and become a leader in that,” he said.

Monday, March 06, 2017

UIS students win awards and offices at Model Illinois Government simulation

Several University of Illinois Springfield students were honored during the annual Model Illinois Government (MIG) simulation at the Illinois State Capitol this weekend.

Two UIS students were elected to statewide office within the Model Illinois Government organization. Caitlin Osborn of Edwardsville will serve as treasurer and Donnie Lewis of Decatur will serve as comptroller.

Three students were named to leadership spots within the house and senate. Keith Williams II of Chicago was named assistant majority leader in the senate, David Wilson of Illinois City was named minority whip in the senate and Cole Moriarty of Algonquin was named majority whip in the house.

Payton Raso of North Liberty, Iowa was named the Outstanding First Year Delegate. Austin Mehmet of Springfield and Nathan Hoffman of Springfield reached the finals of the Moot Court competition.

Each year, students from more than 20 colleges and universities around the state gather at the Illinois State Capitol to serve as legislators, staffers, lobbyists, journalists, and officials of the executive branch. Through committee actions, a regular legislative session and a veto session, participants learn the legislative process by doing it.

MIG members get started in the fall term preparing legislation, polishing up parliamentary skills, and organizing the membership into a delegation for the spring conference.

For more information, contact Kenneth Owen, UIS assistant professor of history at 217/206-7439 or

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Leadership lived: UIS opens doors for future teacher Oscar Mercado

The University of Illinois Springfield is preparing future math teacher Oscar Mercado to be a leader in the classroom. Mercado is majoring in mathematical sciences with a minor in secondary education and Spanish.

At UIS, he is the president of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), colony president of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc., treasurer for Multicultural Male Society and a mentor for the Hispanic-Latino Mentorship Program.

“As president of OLAS, I’ve learned how to establish myself in a manner that’s very professional and be able to not only represent myself, but also my people, the Latinos on campus,” he said.

OLAS aims to bringing awareness to issues that are happening within our society and provide cultural awareness on campus.

Mercado, a Palatine, Illinois native, says he chose UIS “because they wanted me to come here”. He says admissions counselor Aaron Boettcher went out of his way to help him succeed.

“He made sure that I felt welcome,” he said. “Regardless of what I needed, he would be there for me and he would do whatever I needed to ensure that I continue my higher education here at UIS.”

Following graduation from UIS, Mercado wants to teach at a “school of need” where he can encourage other students to earn a college education.

“I am glad that I chose UIS,” he said. “It’s opened up a lot of different opportunities for me and a lot of doors. I’ve gotten to meet incredible people and really establish myself not only as a student, but as a leader.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

UIS English Professor Meagan Cass wins award for her story collection

Meagan Cass, assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, has won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for her story collection "ActivAmerica”. Her work will be published by the University of North Texas Press in November 2017.

“I’m thrilled to join the UNT press community,” said Cass. “The fact that Claire Vaye Watkins was the prize judge makes this even more meaningful as she is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers.”

Drawing from fairy tales, ghost stories, and science-fiction, the stories in “ActivAmerica” explore how we confront (and exert) power, re-imagine ourselves, and form communities on soccer fields and hidden lakes, in overgrown backyards and across ping-pong tables. A group of girls start an illicit hockey league in a conservative suburb. A recently separated woman must run a mile a day in order to maintain her new corporate health insurance. Children impacted by environmental disaster create a “mutant soccer team.” Throughout the collection, athletic risk comes with unexpected, often unsettling results.

At UIS, Cass is a co-curator of the Shelterbelt Reading Series and edits Shelterbelt Books with her colleague Adam Clay. She also serves as an assistant editor for Sundress Publications. She is the author of the chapbook "Range of Motion" (Magic Helicopter Press), and her short fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, DIAGRAM, Joyland, and Puerto del Sol, among other places.

Her work has previously been honored in SmokeLong Quarterly’s 10th anniversary “best of” print anthology in 2013 and on Dan Chaon’s Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of the Year list in 2012.

Cass holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Leadership lived: Resident assistant helps fellow students feel welcome

As a resident assistant (RA) at the University of Illinois Springfield, liberal studies major Benita Ekwonwa has learned many lessons about leadership. Every day she successfully juggles a full academic schedule and her duties as an RA.

“Being an RA really helps you to learn how to time manage and also communication skills because you have to learn to talk to your residents and they are from different backgrounds, they are different people who have different interests,” she said.

As an RA, she’s often on call 24 hours a day and responds to resident lock outs, fire alarms and noise complaints. However, she says the best part of her job is planning community engagement events which helps her to get to know residents better. She recently hosted a “Warm Up Wednesday” event where she fixed hot chocolate and tea for her fellow students.

“I think a big important part of being an RA is getting to know your residents, knowing their interests, dislikes, just knowing that they can come to you for anything,” she said. “I think it’s really important.”

On campus, Ekwonwa is president of the Catholic Student Association, a member of the African Student Association and the Afrobeat Dance Crew. She is also a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

“I really like the small campus feel, just knowing that you can go talk to professors and they know who you are,” she said. “Being more than just a number was really important to me. Also, it was pretty inexpensive and being from the suburbs it’s not too far from home.”

Following graduation from UIS, Ekwonwa plans to attend medical school and plans to become a family physician. She feels well prepared by her UIS education.

“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met different people. I think I’m growing every day and I think it’s just a great experience being at UIS,” she said.

Monday, February 20, 2017

UIS student newspaper staff wins awards from the Illinois College Press Association

The Journal, the student newspaper at the University of Illinois Springfield, won five awards in an annual Illinois College Press Association (ICPA) competition judged by professional journalists throughout the state. Awards were presented at the annual ICPA convention, held Feb. 17 and 18 in Chicago.

Entries from Spring Semester 2016 and Fall Semester 2016 were recognized.

Erica Thomas of Springfield, Journal photographer, won first-place for a sports photo she took of two players in action during a UIS men’s soccer game.

Alex Camp of Chicago, former Journal columnist and assistant editor for sports, won second-place for a spring 2016 column describing his concerns about returning to Chicago after earning his bachelor’s degree. Camp, now a graduate student in the UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program, received an honorable mention for a headline he wrote in fall 2016: “Hell freezes over: Cubs win the pennant.”`

Others receiving honorable mention include Megan Swett of O’Fallon, Illinois, Journal editor-in-chief, for the fall 2016 article, “Celebrating Queertober: AroAce student discusses her identity, her relationships, and the LGBT+ community,” and Jeff Burnett of Loves Park, Illinois, for a story about the Sangamon County Drug Court, which was published in the fall 2016 Journal magazine, Beyond. Burnett is now a graduate student in the Public Affairs Reporting Program.

The ICPA membership is comprised of more than 30 college newspapers from throughout the state. Among the schools competing in the division of non-dailies with enrollments of more than 4,000 were DePaul, Columbia College, University of Chicago, SIU-Edwardsville, Bradley, Loyola and the School of the Art Institute.

For more information, contact Debra Landis, UIS Student Publications Adviser at 217/206-7717 or

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Leadership lived: Non-traditional student finds success at UIS


Daniel Owusu-Bempah says his road to a college education hasn’t always been an easy one, but the University of Illinois Springfield liberal studies major is now only a few months away from graduation.

At age 24, Owusu-Bempah considers himself to be a non-traditional student. He is a father and works an off campus job in the alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation field.

“One thing my parents taught me was that you just have to keep going in life, whatever life throws at you,” he said.

On campus, he is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the Black Male Collegiate Society. He started his own photography business and often takes pictures of campus events along with portraits of friends and family.

“What UIS has taught me about leadership is there is time for everything,” he said. “There’s time to take charge and learn skills that will benefit you in the future, while you’re here on campus, and leadership overall here is just an opportunity to grow as an individual.”

Following graduation from UIS, Owusu-Bempah hopes to enter the law enforcement field.

“I want to go into law enforcement because I want to be the change I want to see,” he said. “I just have a passion and it runs in my family as well. My grandfather was the head police chief back in Ghana, West Africa.”

Owusu-Bempah will leave UIS feeling well prepared for his future.

“My experience here at UIS has been nothing but a blessing,” he said. “I grew as an individual both socially and educationally. Nothing but positive growth.”

Outstanding Master's Thesis Award presented to former online student from California

The University of Illinois Springfield Research Board has awarded Amelia Owre with the UIS Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for the 2015-2016 academic year. The award was presented during a ceremony on February 6, 2017, on campus.

Owre, a former online student from California, graduated from UIS in May 2015 with a master’s degree in environmental sciences. Her thesis was entitled “The Impact of Sea Level Rise on Carbon Storage and Sequestration in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.” Her thesis chair was Shipeng Sun, UIS assistant professor of environmental studies.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Owre attended the U.S. Naval Academy and majored in Oceanography with an emphasis on meteorology and climate science. Following graduation, she became a Naval helicopter pilot and flew three different variants of the H-60 Seahawk.

“After my first overseas deployment, I began searching for graduate programs that both related to my bachelor’s degree and would be flexible enough to fit with my military schedule,” she said. “When I found the online ENS program at UIS I knew it would be a great fit.”

Owre is now out of the military and is the director of training for a drone training company, after spending her last years of active duty as a military drone flight instructor.

“Though not working directly in the environmental field, I have been able to leverage many of the things I learned here in my current job,” she said. “We are presently building classes that cover topics like aerial mapping, multispectral imaging and LiDAR, all things I was introduced to at UIS.”

The following students received their departments’ Outstanding Thesis or Project Award for 2015-16 and were nominated for the UIS Outstanding Master’s Thesis/Project competition:

English & Modern Languages 
Keith Huddleston of Springfield, Illinois
“Beautiful Bastards: Linguistic Power and Socio-Political Advancement in The Tempest, King John, and King Lear.”
Thesis Chair: Ethan Lewis

Michael Taylor of Rochester, Illinois
“Pornography, Violence, and Weirdos: American Comic Book Censorship in the 20th Century.” Thesis Chair: Kenneth Owen

Political Science 
Nathan Tarr of Springfield, Illinois
“Deradicalization of Egypt and Turkey’s Islamist Parties in Foreign Policy towards the United States and Israel during their Rise to Power.”
Thesis Chair: Sibel Oktay

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Leadership lived: Women’s basketball player serves as a role model


Destiny Ramsey of Bloomington, Illinois never dreamed she would be a role model, but as a NCAA Division II basketball player at the University of Illinois Springfield she is for many children in central Illinois.

As a student-athlete, she regularly visits elementary and junior high schools where she speaks about her basketball career and spreads positive messages about not using drugs or alcohol.

“It feels good to know they look up to me and that I’m held to a high standard by these little kids, who are like ‘I want to be you when I grow up.’ I was just like you were,” she said.

A business administration major at UIS, Ramsey is one of the key players on the Prairie Stars women’s basketball team. She’s also academically strong in the classroom.

“It feels good to know that I’m a student-athlete and I’m held to a high standard on both the academic side and on the court,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey started playing basketball when she was in elementary school.

“My dad just asked me to try all of the sports that I could possibly try and whatever I like the most, stick with it,” she said. “I was a gymnast, I was a cheerleader, basketball was the last thing I tried and that’s the one that stuck with me the longest.”

Ramsey said she chose UIS because of the great basketball facilities, coaching staff and the academic opportunities on campus.

“I love the atmosphere here, so it kind of motivated me to want to come here more. The gym is really nice, the people are great. I went from a junior college to here and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made,” she said.

She hasn’t decided what she wants to do following graduation, but she knows that she wants to continue to make a difference in the world.

“One of my goals in life is to change lives and I’ve already tried to do that in every aspect of the word,” she said. “I love interacting with people, so I’m thinking whatever I do, as long as it’s working with people, I’ll be happy doing it.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

Three journalists to be inducted into the UIS Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame

Three journalists whose range of experiences includes coverage of major national and international events, public health and environmental dangers, politics and local history, are the newest inductees into the Bill Miller Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The inductees, who will be honored March 6, include Kansas City Star reporter Scott Canon, Chicago Tribune investigative reporter Michael Hawthorne and former State Journal-Register editor and reporter Mike Kienzler. The three are all graduates of the UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program.

Canon was a member of the PAR class of 1982 and has worked for the Kansas City Star since 1989. He has covered the bombing of the Oklahoma federal building, the Columbine school shooting, the NATO occupation of Kosovo, the start of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and 2007 and tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka. He's also covered political campaigns, statehouses and periodically produced investigative work. As part of a science writing fellowship, he visited the Arctic Circle and Antarctica. He began his career at the Champaign News-Gazette and the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Michael Hawthorne is a member of the PAR class of 1989. As an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, he focuses on public health and environmental stories. In 2013, Hawthorne and two colleagues were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Their stories exposed a deceptive, decades-long campaign by the tobacco and chemical industries to promote the use of harmful, ineffective flame retardants in household furniture. Other stories by Hawthorne prompted new laws and health reforms at the federal and state level. Before joining the Tribune in 2004, Hawthorne wrote for the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Champaign News-Gazette and the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Mike Kienzler is a graduate of the first PAR class of 1973. He spent not quite 40 years as an editor and reporter with The State Journal-Register, the Springfield daily newspaper. He was metro editor and deputy metro editor for most of that period, with prime responsibility for the paper's election and government coverage, among other duties. Since retirement in 2013, Kienzler has been founding editor of, the online encyclopedia of the Sangamon County Historical Society. Kienzler is a member of the Illinois State Historical Society Advisory Board and a recent past board member of the Lincoln Monument Association, a support group for the Lincoln Tomb State Historic site.

An induction ceremony will be held on March 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Conservatory Room of the Inn at 835, located at 835 S. 2nd St. in Springfield. Register online at or call 217/206-7163.

The PAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is sponsored by the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership. The Hall of Fame is named in honor of Bill Miller, an award-winning journalist who served as the PAR program’s director for 19 years.

The UIS Public Affairs Reporting program is a one-year, professionally-oriented master's degree program that prepares students to become a working reporter covering public affairs in its broadest sense — informing readers, listeners and viewers about ongoing events and activities that impact on their daily lives.

For more information, contact Rob Fafoglia with the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership at 217/206-7163 or

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Leadership lived: Transfer student helps future Prairie Stars feel at home

Miranda Swope transferred to the University of Illinois Springfield from her local community college in order to continue her postsecondary education.

At UIS, she’s earning her bachelor’s degree in communication while working as a student ambassador for the Admissions Office. In that role, she gives campus tours, advises prospective students about the admissions process and helps with other tasks.

“I love getting to know prospective students, getting to know their story, how they found UIS and why they’re thinking about coming here,” said Swope.

One of the biggest parts of her job is helping with preview days, an opportunity for prospective students and their parents to visit campus and learn more about UIS.

“I do enjoy helping out with preview day,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, both the days leading up to it and the day of the event. It usually consists of making confirmation calls, making sure everyone is reminded of the day and then making preview day packets.”

On the day of the event, she checks students in, directs visitors to different locations on campus and serves as a student panelist for group discussions.

“It’s actually taught me a lot about leadership,” she said. “It’s allowed me to guide others when making an important decision in their life, so I’ve been able to be a part of that process with them. It’s been really rewarding for me.”

Swope, an Edinburg, Illinois native, says she chose UIS for many reasons.

“I felt it had a lot of opportunities for me academically, but also it was the best financially,” she said. “It allowed me to live at home and commute to school and still receive a University of Illinois education.”

Following graduation from UIS, she plans to start a career in Human Resources.

“I love my professors (at UIS), my classes are great and I feel like I’m being prepared for my future after college,” she said. “I would highly encourage other students to attend UIS.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Leadership lived: Veteran and single mom set to earn a bachelor’s degree 14 years after starting college

It has always been Ashti Dawson’s goal to earn a bachelor’s degree, but being a member of the Army National Guard and a single mother has always come first.

Now, 14 years after she took her first college class, she’s one semester away from earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Dawson grew up in Northern California and entered the foster care system when she was 9 years old. Her foster parents raised her through high school and continue to be an important part of her life today.

“They were a very strong military background family,” said Dawson. “I had no plans of getting into the military. I wanted to go directly into college, but I ended up joining the military myself.”

She served 15 years in the Army National Guard, eventually moving to Illinois before retiring from the military in 2014.

At UIS, she’s leading the newly formed Military & Veterans Club as president. Her goal is to make it easier for veterans to transfer to UIS, solve problems and hold events on campus. She is also part of the Student Veterans Affairs Committee.

“Being president of the Military & Veterans Club has really turned things around for me,” said Dawson. “I’ve been able to be more involved and have much more faculty and staff support, so it’s made my experience here so much more worth it.”

Dawson is currently completing a work study program at the Sangamon County Veterans Assistance Commission. Following graduation from UIS, she wants to continue her education and earn a master’s degree in human services.

But for now, she can’t wait to walk across the stage at UIS Commencement and finally earn her bachelor’s degree.

“I think about it every day,” she said.