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 dland2@uis.edu.

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