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 SangamonLink.org, 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 http://go.uis.edu/parhof 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 rfafo2@uis.edu.

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.