Monday, March 19, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS baseball player Michael Rothmund enjoys breaking records and mentoring teammates

Michael Rothmund grew up playing baseball and watching the Chicago Cubs on television while dreaming of playing on the collegiate level or even professionally. He’s off to a good start as the first baseman for the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars baseball team.

During the 2017 season, Rothmund set several UIS and NCAA records for homeruns. He led the entire NCAA (Division I, II and II) in home runs at 24 and broke the Division II single season homerun record averaging almost one home run per every two games played. He was also named the UIS Athletics Male Athlete of the Year and 1st-Team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference.

As a senior, Rothmund is considered an unofficial leader on the UIS baseball team. He enjoys mentoring the younger players and helping them to improve their game.

“Kids go to you and they look to you for answers and if they’re having a hard time on the field, struggling with hitting or fielding, they go to you,” he said. “It makes a real impact on my life knowing that I mean that much to some of the kids on the team.”

Rothmund, who grew up in Lombard, Illinois, is a communication major at UIS. He says he chose UIS because of the excellent baseball coaching staff and because he wanted to earn a University of Illinois degree.

“People say they want to go to big colleges and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s not my kind of style. I like getting to know my professors and getting to know my teammates and classmates and everything and having that personal connection with them.”

Rothmund is currently gaining professional experience by interning with Nicole Hager, who is the director of academic support services for UIS Athletics. As part of the internship, he helps with important paperwork and is planning a social media campaign to keep other student-athletes informed about important deadlines and resources available to them.

Following graduation from UIS, Rothmund says he’s considering a career in real estate or broadcasting. However, he’s hoping he can continue to play baseball.

“If there’s any chance I can keep playing baseball, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s been my goal since I was four or five years old and saw Major League Baseball players on TV and I just wanted to be that.”

Rothmund says he’ll look back on his college experience with fond memories and confidence that he made the right choice by attending the University of Illinois Springfield.

“It’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else,” he said.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS sophomore gives back by mentoring the next generation of leaders

Aaron Boyd came to the University of Illinois Springfield knowing he wanted to give back to his community. The sophomore is majoring in criminology and criminal justice at UIS and plans to become a police officer following graduation.

Boyd, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, is the vice president of the UIS Black Male Collegiate Society, historian for the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Upsilon Xi Chapter, a student orientation coordinator for the UIS Office of New Student Orientation and Parent Relations and an intramural referee for UIS Campus Recreation.

As part of the Black Male Collegiate Society, Boyd mentors a second grade student at Springfield Public School’s Matheny-Withrow Elementary every other Friday through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.

“We talk with the boys and see how they’re doing and check on their grades and things like that,” he said. “It’s just important to give back. It’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling seeing the smiles on kids’ faces when we come in and how they enjoy spending time with us.”

Boyd was recently picked to ask candidates a question about the environment during a UIS debate featuring Democratic candidates running in the primary race for Illinois governor.

“It was kind of nerve-racking. I was in front of a lot of important people. I was on TV,” he said, adding that the debate has given him a new interest in politics.

Boyd says he chose UIS because he had a brother who also attended the university.

“I came down here for a visit and people treated me with respect and treated my kindly, so I decided to look more into it and came down here and fell in love with the campus,” he said.

Boyd says he chose criminology and criminal justice as his major because he wants to continue to make a difference in his community as a state or local police officer.

“I just want to be there in my community, policing my own community, rather than letting somebody else police my community,” he said.

As a sophomore, Boyd has two more years at UIS before he graduates. In that time, he plans to accomplish even more and leave his mark on the university.

“I feel like when I graduate I will have made my name at UIS,” he said. “I hope to bring in the next generation of black males and help them make their names, just as I want to and have already.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Four inducted into the UIS Legislative Internship Hall of Fame during ceremony

The Samuel K. Gove Illinois Legislative Internship Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois Springfield honored four individuals who have served as legislative interns at the state capitol. Mark Denzler, Marcilene Dutton, DeShana Forney and David Joens were inducted during a ceremony at the Old State Capitol on Monday, March 12, 2018. Inductees are selected based on their contributions to Illinois and its citizens. The Hall of Fame is also recognition of the important role that public service internships play in developing public sector leadership.

Mark Denzler is vice president & chief operating officer for the Illinois Manufacturers' Association (IMA), a statewide advocacy organization representing nearly 4,000 member companies and facilities. Denzler assumed his current post in January 2006 and is responsible for all government affairs, membership and human resource activities. Prior to IMA, Denzler served in various posts including overseeing Illinois government affairs for State Farm Insurance, a Fortune 50 company headquartered in Bloomington. He served as director of government affairs for the IMA and was a legislative analyst in the General Assembly focusing on taxes, education and transportation. Denzler was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn and reappointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to Illinois Workers' Compensation Advisory Board. He serves on the Board of Directors for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois, Sangamo Club, and sits on the National Public Affairs Steering Committee for the National Association of Manufacturers. Denzler is a 2015 selection as an Edgar Fellow at the University of Illinois and a graduate of the inaugural class of the Crain's Chicago Business Leadership Academy. Denzler is a 1993 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and currently lives in Springfield with his wife and son.

Marcy Dutton serves as general counsel to the Teacher’s Retirement System of Illinois (TRS) which is a $6.4 billion pension fund providing financial security to retired public-school teachers employed in school districts outside of the City of Chicago. Prior to joining TRS, Dutton worked for eight years at the Illinois State Board of Education as its deputy general counsel although she pitched in and served as general counsel twice when called upon to do so. The majority of Dutton’s professional career has been public school and public service focused. Dutton graduated from Millikin University with degrees in political science and English. After completing the legislative internship program in 1986, she attended Louisiana State University where she earned a Juris Doctor degree. A lifelong learner, in 2010 she completed the Chief School Business Official endorsement program offered by the University of Illinois Springfield. Since 2007, she has taught school law classes at UIS on a part-time basis. Dutton and her husband live in Chatham.

DeShana Forney is senior director of government and community relations for Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, subsidiaries of WEC Energy Group. In this role, she is responsible for leading the company’s Illinois government and community relations strategy. Prior to joining Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, Forney was the associate director of governmental relations for the University of Illinois. She has more than twenty years of legislative, budgetary and management experience, which includes leading the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) as its executive director, serving as the director of public safety and house legislative liaison in the Office of the Governor, and working on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s issues development staff. In addition to her government affairs work, Forney has held numerous senior political campaign positions in races for state legislative, constitutional, Supreme Court and countywide offices, and formerly served as the Democratic Party of Illinois’ deputy executive director. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a master’s degree in political studies from the University of Illinois Springfield. She was born and raised in Springfield.

David Joens, director of the Illinois State Archives, worked on the Illinois Senate Democratic staff for seven years. A U.S. Army veteran and former newspaper reporter, he was a press secretary for Democratic members of the Senate, including the Senate’s Black Caucus. In 1996, he began work as the assistant director of the Illinois Legislative Studies Center at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he authored two “Almanac of Illinois Politics” books. In 2000, he moved to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, where he worked for four years on the policy staff. In 2004, he was picked by Secretary of State Jesse White to serve as the fifth director of the Illinois State Archives, a position he holds today. Joens has an undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University, two master’s degrees from the University of Illinois Springfield and a doctorate in Illinois history from Southern Illinois University. In 2012, he authored the book “From Slave to State Legislator: John W. E. Thomas, Illinois First African American Lawmaker.” Joens is married to Mona Martin, who is also a former legislative staff intern and who was inducted in the Samuel K. Gove Hall of Fame in 2013. They live in Springfield.

The Hall of Fame is hosted by the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. The Hall of Fame is named for the late Samuel K. Gove, founding director of the internship program and one of the founders of Illinois Issues magazine. Established in 1990, the Hall of Fame, including this year’s inductees, now numbers 68 individuals, among them a former governor and several former and current state and federal legislators. The names of the Hall’s members are inscribed on a plaque that hangs on the fourth floor of the Illinois Statehouse.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS senior resident assistant helps bring her community together

Ciara Koepke says the University of Illinois Springfield has given her the opportunity to become a leader. Koepke is now a senior resident assistant at Lincoln Residence Hall where she mentors other resident assistants, plans events and oversees front desk operations.

Koepke, a junior history major, is a member of the Leadership for Life Service Program where she helps to recruit students to the volunteer-focused first year living-learning community. She is also the vice president of the History Club on campus.

“UIS, since it is small, just gives you that opportunity to really try it out and have multiple different opportunities to become the leader you’ve always wanted to be,” said Koepke.

As a senior resident assistant, Koepke is also responsible for hosting community council meetings. The council is made up of students who live in Lincoln Residence Hall who want to make their community a better place by getting involved.

“I became a resident assistant because I wanted to be directly involved with helping people get really used to campus,” she said. “When I came to UIS, I was very bad at communicating, I didn’t know how to build a community and so Residence Life gave me the opportunity to really work on those leadership skills.”

Following graduation from UIS, Koepke plans to become a high school history teacher.

“I want to do that for a few years before getting my master’s and going and getting my doctorate eventually, so I can become a professor of history,” she said.

Koepke feels confident that the skills she’s learned as a resident assistant will help her become a better teacher when it comes to dealing with challenging situations in the classroom.

“UIS taught me that leadership is all up to you,” she said. “You have all of the skills in you, you just have to take the initiative to become the leader.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

UIS emeritus professor writes a book tracing the history of the Upper Delaware Forest

Robert McGregor, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois Springfield, has written a new book on the historical significance of the forests along the Upper Delaware Valley.

The book, published by McFarland Press, is titled “The Story of a Forest: Growth, Destruction and Renewal in the Upper Delaware Valley.”

McGregor said the book grew out of his passion for teaching environmental history at UIS coupled with his dissertation research from 35 years ago.

“The book traces the development of forests along the Upper Delaware River in New York and Pennsylvania, beginning at the close of the last glaciation,” said McGregor.

 McGregor’s book is an analysis of how the forests were first modified by Native Americans to promote hunting and limited agriculture, followed by the disappearance as Europeans clear-cut farmland and fed sawmills and tanneries.

Railroads accelerated the demand and within 30 years, industry had left barren hillsides.

The book goes on to explain the forest’ subsequent recovery nearly a century and a half later.

McGregor taught environmental history, early American history, and the history of popular culture, before he retired after 26 years of teaching at UIS, in 2012. He now lives in Corning, New York.

UIS online leader Ray Schroeder honored with the Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been honored with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who's Who. Schroeder’s name first appeared on a Who’s Who list in 1988.

The Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement recognizes individuals that have achieved greatness in their industry and excelled in their field for at least 20 years.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition of contributions to the field of online and distance education,” said Schroeder. “This award reflects the dedication of UIS to support learners who cannot come to campus. None of these contributions would be possible without the commitment of the staff, faculty and administration of UIS.”

Who’s Who calls Schroeder an “accomplished listee” who has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. According to Marquis, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

Schroeder is a nationally recognized leader in the field of online learning and is the current director of the Center for Online Leadership at the University Continuing and Professional Education Association (UPCEA). He regularly presents his research at national conferences and has written numerous publications about online and technology-enhanced learning. He is also the author of the popular blogs “Online Learning Update” and “Educational Technology”.

In 2016, Schroeder was honored with the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Hall of Fame Award and the Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education by the Univeristy of Wisconsin.

He was the inaugural recipient of the Sloan Consortium's highest Individual award - the A. Frank Mayadas Leadership Award in 2010. Schroeder was an inaugural Sloan Consortium Fellow and was named the 2012 Innovation Fellow for Digital Learning by the UPCEA. In 2011, he received the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award.

Schroeder was a Sloan Consortium Distinguished Scholar in Online Learning 2002-2003, recipient of the 2002 Sloan-C award for the “Most Outstanding Achievement in ALN by an Individual,” University of Southern Maine “Visiting Scholar in Online Learning” 2006-2009, and co-founder of the New Century Learning Consortium.

Monday, March 05, 2018

UIS students win the outstanding large delegation award at the Model Illinois Government simulation

University of Illinois Springfield students were honored with the outstanding large delegation award during the annual Model Illinois Government (MIG) simulation at the Illinois State Capitol on March 2-4, 2018.

Four UIS students were elected to statewide office within the Model Illinois Government organization. Payton Raso was elected speaker of the house, Chloe Compton president of the senate, Cale Bergschneider comptroller and Collin Cisco treasurer.

Six students were named to caucus leadership spots within the house and senate. Payton Raso was named majority leader in the house (Democrats), Noah Danner was named assistant minority leader in the house (Republicans), Conor McKenzie was named majority whip in the house (Democrats), and Joseph Partain was named minority whip in the house (Republicans), Chloe Compton was named majority leader in the senate (Democrats) and Cale Bergschneider majority whip in the senate (Democrats).

UIS students honored with individual awards include Payton Raso (outstanding member of the house), Chloe Compton (outstanding member of the senate), Joseph Partain (outstanding first year delegate in the house) and Collin Cisco (outstanding OMB analyst). UIS alum Garrie Allen won the award for outstanding staff member.

Outgoing UIS leadership on the MIG executive board includes Zachary Sullivan, who served as president of the senate; Caitlin Osborn, who served as treasurer; and Donnie Lewis, who served as comptroller.

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, MIG faculty advisor and UIS assistant professor of history, at 217/206-7439 or

Thursday, March 01, 2018

UIS students, who are leaders in fighting hunger, to share their knowledge at a national summit

Five University of Illinois Springfield students, who are campus leaders in the fight against hunger, will be featured during the 2018 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit (UFWH) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign March 15-17, 2018.

Daniel Rodriguez, Rachel Mau and Katie Simpson will be featured during a Leaders Forum panel at the Presidents United to Solve Hunger Conference (PUSH.) The panel is titled, “Students Fighting Hunger through Collaborative Partnerships.”

Daniel Rodriguez, a pre-nursing major from Joliet, serves as the UIS Community Garden coordinator. He oversees the planting, care and maintenance of the garden, coordinates volunteers and helps educate the public about the importance of gardens.

The UIS Community Garden’s mission is to provide fresh, organic, chemical free produce to anyone in need, and eventually the Student Union. “I love what I do,” said Rodriguez. “It is a proactive activity that teaches, not only me, but everyone else about plants and how to maintain them in hopes they will create a garden of their own.”

Rachel Mau, from Algonquin, is majoring in pre-nursing and serves as the student director of the UIS Cares food pantry, to ensure UIS students always have enough food to eat. The UIS Cares food pantry is directly partnered with the Central Illinois Foodbank and receives donations from faculty and staff bins placed in campus buildings. Mau helps coordinate those donations, creates the marketing and advertising campaigns, and works in the pantry during operating hours.

“UIS Cares has had such a positive impact on this campus because it helps the community realize how many students may need some extra support to ensure the best outcome in their college careers and it builds a stronger community by helping one another,” said Mau.

Katie Simpson, a psychology major from Joliet, serves as the Leadership for Life Sustainability Committee Chair and is directing a project that partners the Cox Children’s Center and UIS Green Fee Committee to establish a teaching garden on campus.

“I think making our campus a more sustainable place is incredibly important,” said Simpson. “I think that the best time to start education on living more sustainably is at a young age. When a person is being raised being conscientious of environmental issues, they are more likely to keep them in mind as they get older.”

Jacqualine Simone Jarju, a graduate student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will present her research, “The Culture of Food,” as part of the PUSH conference, and Assistant Professor of Public Health, Brian Chen will speak on using comprehensive systematic reviews to alleviate food insecurity and chronic disease.

The UFWH Summit will also include a poster presentation on Food Waste Management: Food insecurity as a socioeconomic paradigm, by UIS Public Health graduate student Christopher Vemagiri Marbaniang from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

According to a Hunger on Campus report, 22% of U.S. college students report having the lowest levels of food insecurity. For more information on the 14th annual UFWH Summit or PUSH Leaders Forum, visit

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

UIS Vice Chancellor Clarice Ford honored at Illinois State Treasurer’s Black History Month celebration

Clarice Ford, Ph.D., University of Illinois Springfield vice chancellor for student affairs, was named the 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Commitment in Education award by the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office.

Ford was honored during a Black History Month Celebration held in the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.

Seven other local people were also recognized during the celebration for their outstanding contributions to the state of Illinois.

Ford has been a member of the UIS community since 2008. She has served as the executive director of the UIS Diversity Center, associate dean of students and associate vice chancellor of student services.

She earned her doctorate in educational leadership and change from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California. She holds a master’s degree in religious education and theology from Lincoln Christian Seminary and a master’s degree in adult education/multi-cultural education from Antioch University. She also received her bachelor’s degree in human services from Antioch University.

Leadership lived: Student mentors freshmen in the UIS Capital Scholars Honors Program

Madison Stone says she’s glad she had a mentor to help her though her first year at the University of Illinois Springfield. Now a junior, Stone is giving back by mentoring four freshmen students in the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

“I love being a mentor,” said Stone. “I can look back on my freshman year and how hard it was to adjust to college and it’s just so nice to help them through and give them advice and show them the resources on campus that have been helpful to me.”

At UIS, Stone, a business administration major, is a shepherd and bible study leader for the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF), a member of the Society for Human Resource Management student chapter and interns at the UIS Human Resource Office.

As part of CSF, she plans events on campus and helps recruit members by staffing tables at events, such as the Involvement Expo.

“I like being a part of CSF because there are people from all stages – we have graduate students, international students – we’re all coming together for one purpose and seeing that on our campus is really cool,” she said.

A native of Chillicothe, Illinois, Stone says she chose UIS because of the right-sized supportive community. She says UIS reminded her of her hometown and she feels she’s “more than just a number here.”

“I came on a campus visit to UIS and about 15 minutes into the visit I told my mom ‘this is where I’m going to school.’ I just remember being so in love with the environment and the size of the campus,” she said.

Following graduation from UIS, she plans to pursue a master’s degree while working in the human resources field. She says she’ll never forget her time at UIS.

“My UIS experience has been the best years of my life,” she said.

Friday, February 23, 2018

UIS honors alums Kathy Best and Mary Mitchell Beaumont for achievement and service

The University of Illinois Springfield honored the significant contributions of Kathy Best and Mary Mitchell Beaumont during the university’s annual Alumni Gala on Friday, February 23, 2018, at the UIS Student Union.

The 2017 Alumni Achievement Award for outstanding success and national or international distinction in one’s business, profession or life’s work was presented to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kathy Best, who earned a master’s degree in public affairs reporting in 1990.

Best has covered news from the Statehouse to the Capitol, and from the digital domains of Seattle, Washington to the big skies of Missoula, Montana. Best grew up in a small-town Illinois newspaper family.

“Mom was editor, Dad was publisher, and my brother shot pictures,” she says. “When news happened—like on my 16th birthday when somebody set the jail on fire—everybody got up from dinner and left me sitting there.”

Best didn’t sit for long. After a false start in pre-med at Illinois, she transferred to SIU-Carbondale and graduated in 1979 at the peak of a recession. Graduate school seemed like the best bet, and her parents, who knew public affairs reporting program founder Sen. Paul Simon and Statehouse reporter Mike Lawrence, recommended the public affairs reporting program. Her degree led her to covering the Statehouse for media company Lee Enterprises and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

From there, it was a natural transition to the nation’s capital. “D.C. was a great place to work, but I missed feeling connected to a community,” Best explains. She was dating a reporter who relocated to Oregon, and on a visit, she fell in love with the state’s natural beauty. She arranged for a get acquainted cup of coffee at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at 9 a.m., left the building at 6 p.m. and was hired an hour later.

Best made her mark at the Post-Intelligencer’s rival, the Seattle Times, where she was hired as a managing editor for digital news because the editor said Best was the only person to have ever beaten him on a story. Under her watch, the Times staff won 2010 and 2015 Pulitzer Prizes for breaking digital news, and its investigative team won a 2012 Pulitzer for investigative reporting. Best became editor of the Times in 2013 and left in 2016 because she felt Seattle’s population boom had made it unlivable. Plus, the decline of legacy media meant drastic cutbacks. “I didn’t want to be the editor who dismantled the newspaper,” she says.

Best now serves as the editor of the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic in Missoula, Montana. She’s fallen in love with big sky country, but she hasn’t slowed down. “Between having a congressional candidate on the eve of the election beat up a reporter to having a million acres burn this summer,” she notes, “I do not lack for news.”

The 2017 Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary commitment, dedication and service to the advancement of the University of Illinois was awarded to Mary Mitchell Beaumont. She earned a master’s degree in communication in 1989.

Beaumont came to UIS as a non-traditional student. She moved to Springfield with her journalist husband Jim and sons Mitchell and Matthew in 1972 so that Jim could cover the Statehouse for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Before his family joined him, Jim began taking classes at UIS (then Sangamon State University) and received his master’s degree in public administration in 1974. “I went back to school to keep up with the rest of my family,” Beaumont says. “My husband had three degrees, we had two children in college, and I thought, ‘Hey, they’re going to be ahead of me.’”

Jim and Mary soon became fixtures at UIS. They frequented the library, attended art openings and auditorium events, and cheered at pep rallies and sporting events. Few things happened without them. When an event called for catering, Mary cooked. When WUIS, the UIS-related NPR affiliate, held pledge drives, she answered phones. “I’m proud to say I even judged a homecoming parade,” Beaumont says, laughing.

Beaumont was a founding steering committee member of the SAGE Society, the University’s group for alumni and friends aged 50 and better. SAGE has offered “lunch and learn” events and dinners before Sangamon Auditorium events.

As a longtime member and past president of the Springfield Branch of the American Association of University Women, Beaumont has promoted UIS’s interests. In recognition of her leadership, AAUW Springfield Branch established a scholarship in her honor that benefits UIS female students returning to their education after an interruption. The Beaumonts later endowed the AAUW scholarship and also established the Jim and Mary Beaumont Endowed Scholarship for Public Affairs Reporting.

Beaumont also has been a champion for UIS causes dear to her heart. Jim—who died in 2013 due to an accident early in their marriage—negotiated the world from a wheelchair, with Mary as his primary caregiver. The couple advocated for accessibility on campus, as well as family-friendly restrooms. Mary also crusaded for the education and development of women as leaders.

For more information on the awards, contact Chuck Schrage, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, at 217/206-7395 or

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS student educates peers about gender and sexuality

Mel Clark admits to having “grown up a lot as a person” since enrolling at the University of Illinois Springfield. As a freshman, Clark got involved with the Gender and Sexuality Student Services Office, formerly the LGBTQA Resource Center. Now, as a senior on campus, Clark is helping to education fellow students.

Clark is a member of the InQueery peer education team and works for Gender and Sexuality Student Services helping to plan events. The InQueery team provides workshops and other activities to classes and student groups in order to combat homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism.

“Having your peers come in and talk is a little more relaxed, it’s a little less stressful, you feel like you can talk to somebody,” said Clark. “You can know that they’re not giving you crap about anything, so it’s all genuine. We share our stories and everything, so I think it’s just an easier way for people to digest it, especially if they’ve never been exposed to things like that.”

Clark, an information systems security major, chose the University of Illinois Springfield because the academic programs were recommended by a teacher. Clark grew up in Riverton, Illinois, only about 15 minutes from campus.

“I used to always go to the Sangamon Auditorium when I was a kid,” said Clark. “My grandma and I always got season tickets, so we would come through this campus a lot when I was younger.”

Clark says the University of Illinois Springfield has come to feel like a second home. Clark regularly participates in events, such as LGBTea, a weekly social on campus where LGBTQ+ students can come together, share stories, support each other and have fun.

“I mean, I have my house over in Riverton, but here is also my home,” said Clark. “It’s nice to have people you can talk to and things you can get off your chest and ask people about all kinds of issues you’re having.”

Following graduation from UIS, Clark plans to earn a master’s degree in computer science at UIS. The student hopes to one day work for the FBI and help fight cyber-crimes.

“A lot of people have said I’ve changed so much since I was a freshman,” said Clark. I used to be really shy and wouldn’t speak up about anything, but now, since I’ve been in this role, in InQueery and everything I’ve really blossomed as a person.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Leadership lived: Sophomore takes on multiple leadership roles at UIS

Nick Zambito came to the University of Illinois Springfield ready to be a leader. As a freshman, he helped start the Habitat for Humanity Club on campus and was recognized for outstanding leadership by the Capital Scholars Honors Program.

Now, as a sophomore dual majoring in criminology & criminal justice and psychology, Zambito serves as the external vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA) and a mentor for the Leadership for Life Service Program.

“I decided to come to UIS because I thought it was an amazing university with a lot of potential and room to grow and for myself to grow as a person as well,” he said.

Zambito says being an elected student leader on campus has taught him many lessons about leadership. As external vice president for the SGA, he’s responsible for making sure student’s voices are heard outside of the university, when it comes to higher education funding and other matters that are important to them.

“Being the student’s voice means a lot to me and I’m very proud to have been picked for this position and trusted to carry out the role I’ve been given,” he said. “I’m approached by students, I would say almost daily, talking about some of their concerns, their needs, and their wants.”

Zambito also went on the 2017 Alternative Spring Break volunteer trip where he helped with outdoor eco-restoration projects along the Florida Panhandle Gulf Coast. As part of Leadership for Life, in January 2018, he participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service where he took part in a community forum and volunteered.

“I wanted to get involved in Leadership for Life because of the multiple opportunities to volunteer and help the community,” he said.

The Granite City, Illinois native says he’d like to enter the law enforcement field following graduation from UIS. He hopes to specifically join a special taskforce that works to combat human sex trafficking in Illinois.

“My first semester here at UIS, I took a human identity course where it talked about the victims of human trafficking and it hit me on a personal level and taught me something I could be passionate about stopping,” he said.

Zambito credits UIS for helping him grow his leadership abilities and feels well prepared to make a difference in the world.

“I feel like UIS has taught me to go out help others, help the community and more importantly that it only takes a couple of minutes a day to make a difference.”

Friday, February 09, 2018

UIS Master's Thesis awards presented to two recent graduates from Sangamon County

Dennis Papini, UIS vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, presents the Outstanding Master's Thesis Award to Jonathon Mark Redding.
The University of Illinois Springfield Research Board has honored two former graduate students, both from Sangamon County, with awards for their master’s thesis projects for the 2016-2017 academic year. The awards were presented during a ceremony on February 8, 2018.

The Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award was presented to Jonathon Mark Redding of Springfield. Redding graduated from UIS in December 2016 with a master’s degree in history. His thesis was entitled “Benjamin Chew – Loyalist or Patriot?” His thesis chair was Kenneth Owen, UIS assistant professor of history.

Redding grew up in Chicago and says his parents instilled in him a love of books and education from an early age. Although interested in history, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Greenville University and pursued a career as a computer systems administrator. Later, he obtained an MBA from Benedictine University.

After relocating to Springfield, he decided to formalize his knowledge of history by pursuing a master’s degree in American History at UIS.

“The night classes offered at UIS were a perfect match that allowed me to continue my daytime career as a computer systems administrator,” he said. “My newly acquired interest in colonial American history was a ‘happy coincidence’ stemming from a class assignment in Dr. William Siles’ Archival Management course and the arrival of Dr. Kenneth Owen on the UIS History Department faculty. Dr. Owen specializes in colonial American history and ‘converted’ me to that era.”

Courtney Cox, a Chatham native, was honored with the English and Modern Languages Department award for her master’s thesis entitled “Applications of Creative Writing Methodology: A Paired Meta-Reflection of Researcher Subjectivity in Qualitative Composition Inquiry.”

Cox graduated from UIS in May 2017 with a master’s degree in English. Her thesis chair was Stephanie Hedge, UIS assistant professor of English.

During her time pursuing her master’s degree at UIS, Cox says she discovered her passion for composition pedagogy, publishing and technical writing. While at UIS, Cox was managing editor of campus publications “Uproot” and “Alchemist Review,” as well as an executive board member of the Graduate Public Service Internship Program Association. Cox is now pursuing a Ph.D. in English Studies with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition.

The Outstanding Master’s Thesis/Project Award is funded primarily through an endowment established by Nancy and Charles Chapin, along with gifts from other donors. In addition to providing funding for the Outstanding Master’s Thesis/Project Award, Charles and Nancy Chapin have provided support for Brookens Library, the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence and scholarships.

For more information on the awards, contact Keenan Dungey, UIS associate vice chancellor of research and institutional effectiveness, at 217/206-8112 or

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Leadership lived: International student founds student organization aimed at fighting discrimination

Suparna Banerjee says she’s glad she came to the United States to earn her master’s degree in computer science at the University of Illinois Springfield. The Kolkata, India native has only been on campus for a short amount of time, but is already making a difference.

Banerjee recently founded a new student organization on campus called the Hostility Elimination Liaison Program (HELP). The program aims to address discrimination and hate against minorities based on their social and political identities.

“What we expect from HELP is that we can find a beautiful concoction of people from all over the world who can come, communicate, talk, and know each other and make this society, this community, a better place for everybody,” said Banerjee.

Banerjee says she feels empowered by faculty, staff and fellow students at UIS to speak her mind and to stand up for what she believes is right.

“UIS has given me a platform to showcase all of the things that I stand for, all of the things that I believe in,” she said. “They gave me a chance to put my foot forward and let me pursue the things that I want to do later in life.”

On campus, Banerjee also serves as an event organizer for the International Student Association and works at the Office of International Student Services. She is the traditions coordinator for the Student Activities Committee where her job is to plan one of the campuses biggest events.

“I get to plan Springfest, which is a fun thing,” she said. “It’s probably the biggest event on campus. It’s a week-long program with a lot of different activities, involving almost the entire student body, so it’s huge and I love doing that. I love planning events. I love bringing people together.”

Banerjee says she chose the University of Illinois Springfield for the high-quality academic programs and the student experience.

“I chose UIS because of the size of the community here,” she said. “It is small and it’s not overwhelming for international students and it gives you a chance to know people on a one-on-one basis.”

Banerjee is still deciding what she wants to do following graduation from UIS, but says she feels well prepared thanks to her UIS education.

“I would totally say that UIS is an amazing place for international students,” she said. “The professors here are amazing. They take very, very good care of international students.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Leadership lived: Sophomore helps new students feel welcome at UIS

As a high school student, Rosie Dawoud visited the University of Illinois Springfield and was inspired by the student ambassador who gave her a tour of campus.

Now, Dawoud is helping future UIS students discover what the university has to offer as a student ambassador for UIS Admissions. She helps check in prospective students and parents during campus preview days, speaks to them about her experiences and gives tours.

“I love preview days because you get to meet all of these people, all faces from all different places, and then later on, next year, next semester, you get to see them again on campus,” she said.

Dawoud, a legal studies major, is also involved in campus politics as the internal vice president for the Student Government Association and a senator for the campus senate. She is the secretary of the UIS College Democrats and the Legion of Ladies. She’s also the treasurer for PERIOD: The Menstrual Movement at UIS, which provides feminine products to women in need.

“UIS is special to me because there’s so many opportunities here that I wouldn’t find on another campus. I mean it’s just my sophomore year here and I’ve been involved in so much and done so much and gained all of this experience and knowledge,” she said.

A Bolingbrook, Illinois native, Dawoud says she learned about the University of Illinois Springfield from a friend who knew about the legal studies program. She was worried about leaving her family behind in the Chicago-area, but has come to call UIS home.

“I think it’s exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I came in here really worried if I was going to make friends or have a good time being so far away from my family, since I’m pretty close to my family, but I’ve had a blast here. I’ve met so many people who are going to be lifelong friends and made so many connections and networked here at UIS.”

Following graduation from UIS, Dawoud plans to attend law school and wants to become a lawyer. She says she’ll remember the leadership skills she’s learned at UIS.

“I think UIS has taught me that leadership is very important and it’s very important to learn and it’s going to help you a lot in the future,” she said.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

UIS Mock Trial Club finishes fifth at the 2018 Jayhawk Invitational

The University of Illinois Springfield Mock Trial Club recently finished in fifth place out of 28 teams during the 2018 Jayhawk Invitational hosted by the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas on January 27-28, 2018.

The group of seven UIS students defeated four nationally-ranked teams to win the fifth-place title. A total of 19 nationally-ranked teams took part in the invitational.

The UIS Mock Trial Club went 5.5-2 with a combined strength (CS) score of 21.5. CS scores are an indicator of the strength of a team's competition and serve to break ties. UIS had the highest CS score out of any ranked team in the tournament, which means UIS faced some of the toughest competition in the tournament.

UIS students who took part in the competition include Chance Austin, Andrew Jarmer, Courtney Johnson, Christopher Marbaniang, Joseph Partain, Mario Saucedo and Jayde Schlesinger. The team is coached by UIS alumnus Nathan Hoffman and attorney-coach Rex Gradeless, a UIS adjunct assistant professor.

One week earlier, the UIS Mock Trial Club participated in the Dr. Donald P. Racheter Invitational hosted at Central College in Pella, Iowa on January 20-21, 2018. At that tournament, with an overall 4-4 record and a CS score of 16, the Mock Trial Club set a new the school record for ballots won at an invitational (4), tied the school record for most overall number of ballots won (4), and received the second-highest score in team history. Additionally, freshman Joseph Partain received an individual Best Attorney award. All these records, however, were broken at the Jawhawk Invitational and the Mock Trial Club surpassed the highest score in the team’s history.

The Mock Trial Club at UIS is part of the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). AMTA serves as the governing body for intercollegiate mock trial competition. Through engaging in trial simulations in competition with teams from other institutions, students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, as well as a knowledge of legal practices and procedures.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Leadership lived: International student becomes a leader at UIS

Oluseyi Elliott calls the University of Illinois Springfield “a beautiful place for international students to feel at home.” As the elected international student senator on the Student Government Association, it’s his mission to make fellow international students feel welcome and listen to their concerns.

He routinely speaks to incoming international students, sharing advice about what he’s learned from his time studying in a foreign country.

“I let them know that UIS loves international students, the Springfield community loves international students,” he said. “I encourage them to explore, to explore leaving their comfort zone and to maximize the resources here.”

On campus, Elliott is a graduate student majoring in Management Information Systems. He is the treasurer and a live group leader for the University Bible Fellowship and is a member of the African Student Association and the Christian Student Fellowship.

Elliott, who grew up in Lagos State, Nigeria, discovered UIS online and decided to apply for admission. He says the more he learned about the school, the more he wanted to attend.

“I always tell people that (UIS) replied to me immediately and gave me my application, so I just kept on going with them and they gave me my admission first. I checked out the school and I was like okay, ‘I think I love this school.”

Elliott says one of the best things about UIS is the diverse community. He calls it a “perfect-sized” community that allows for collaboration and learning.

“UIS is diversity, so you don’t feel alone,” said Elliott. “There are Nigerians, there are Chinese, there are Indian and there are Saudi Arabians. UIS has given me the opportunity to learn new cultures, learn new languages.”

Following graduation from UIS, Elliott says he plans to start a career as an IT or business consultant. He eventually wants to start his own consulting company. Elliott says he’ll always remember his time at UIS and what he’s learned from the people he’s met in Springfield.

“My experience has been beautiful. It’s been an exciting and an adventurous one,” he said. “I’ve met new people, I’ve tried new things, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve developed. I can say at UIS I’ve grown in every area of my life and it’s been a fun time at UIS.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

UIS Theatre honored at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region III

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson (File Photo)
University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Theatre Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson was honored with the faculty service award for Illinois during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region III in Indianapolis January 9-14, 2018.

Thibodeaux-Thompson was honored for his outstanding service in providing responses/feedback to various theatre productions around the state of Illinois. Each state chair coordinates sending out faculty from their respective states to attend and respond to productions in the state. The organization (and each state chair) relies on faculty to travel throughout the state to share their expertise with students and colleagues at other institutions in the state.

UIS Theatre has been involved with KCACTF since 2002, and currently enters its mainstage productions as “associate” entries, in order to receive responses/feedback from theatre professors in the state of Illinois. In addition to the verbal response, the respondent and director nominate two students from the production as Irene Ryan Scholarship nominees.

Sherri Mitchell & Krista Massat
UIS students Sherri Mitchell and Krista Massat advanced to the semi-final round in the Irene Ryan Scholarship audition. It’s the first time UIS students have advanced to the semi-final round. They auditioned alongside 239 nominees (and their partners) in the preliminary round from the four state region (which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin). Out of the 239 nominees, Mitchell was among 48 chosen as semi-finalists. The scholarships are made possible by the generosity of the late Irene Ryan, who had a successful career as a vaudeville, radio and movie actor, prior to her popular portrayal of the lovable and feisty Granny Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

A total of 11 UIS students took part in the festival, including Beatrice Bonner, Diamond Dixon (an Irene Ryan Scholarship nominee), David Hecht, Kat Pruitt, Kim Riddle, Katie Simpson, Claire Starling (Ms. Dixon’s Ryan partner) and Aaron Thomas. Kat Pruitt participated as an assistant stage manager for the Irene Ryan preliminary and semi-final rounds of the scholarship auditions, under Irene Ryan coordinator for Region 3, UIS Associate Professor of Theatre Missy Thibodeuax-Thompson.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center's founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States.

Since Fall Semester 2017, UIS has offered a bachelor’s degree in theatre, in addition to a theatre minor. The major in theatre provides students the opportunity to gain knowledge of human cultures and to practice integrative and applied learning through challenging coursework in performance, design, technology, directing, and playwriting, as well as the opportunity to work in various productions as an actor, a director, a playwright, a stage manager, a dramaturg, a designer, a make-up artist, or as a lighting, sound, or props technician.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Leadership lived: Men’s basketball player learns lessons on and off the court

As Vince Walker puts it, first and foremost “I love basketball!” The University of Illinois Springfield junior communication major is helping lead the UIS Prairie Stars men’s basketball team during a successful start to the 2017-18 season.

On campus, Walker is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the University Bible Fellowship (UBF) and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Walker and a group of men’s basketball players recently visited HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield where they handed out toys and visited with kids who spent time in the hospital during the holidays.

“I hope that our presence there at least gave them kind of a distraction and took their mind off of the current situation,” said Walker. “As student-athletes here at UIS, we’re really fortunate, so it’s good to give back.”

Last summer, Walker also worked with children from the Springfield-area as an instructor for a UIS Basketball Summer Camp. He and other team members taught boys and girls entering 3rd through 8th grades the fundamentals of the game.

“They had a lot of enthusiasm and will to learn the game from guys like us who were kind of in their shoes and made it to the college level, so it was really fun,” he said.

As an upperclassman on the UIS men’s basketball team, Walker says he’s learned to lead by example and has helped to guide new players entering the program.

“I try to do my best to make sure I’m (leading by example), so the younger kids on the team kind of pick up on that,” said Walker “We’re not only trying to be good this year as a team, we’re trying to build a culture, so we can be good for the ensuing years.”

Walker says he’s still deciding what he wants to do following graduation from UIS. However, he’s considering following in the footsteps of his father, Bill Walker, the head coach for the UIS men’s basketball team.

“I’ve done a pretty good job setting myself up for some future things, maybe coaching, kind of like my dad,” he said.

Walker says he’s glad he chose the University of Illinois Springfield and feels he’s getting a quality education in the classroom and on the court.

“I think UIS is a great school to go to,” he said. “It’s really a welcoming environment. We’ve got some great mentors, professors, coaches, so it’s the whole package.”

Monday, January 08, 2018

UIS Associate Professor Marcel Yoder receives faculty mentor honor from NCAA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced that University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Psychology Marcel Yoder is the 2017 Dr. Dave Pariser Faculty Mentor Award recipient.

This award, named in honor of Physical Therapy Professor Dr. Dave Pariser, honors faculty members at Division II institutions for their dedicated support and mentorship of student-athletes; and who demonstrate the same commitment to Division II student-athletes' lifelong learning, competition, and well-being as Dr. Pariser.

"It is a great honor to be selected for the Dr. Dave Pariser Faculty Mentor Award," said Yoder. "Having a positive impact on the lives of all students, including student-athletes, is very important to me. College is an incredible time in our students' lives. It is full of challenges and triumphs, but nothing great happens without the help of others. We all need the encouragement, guidance, and acceptance of others to help us become the people we are meant to be. I feel that my primary purpose is to be one of the people who helps our student athletes become the people they are meant to be."

Yoder has been the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) at UIS since 2004. In his role as FAR, Yoder helps to ensure student-athlete welfare and the academic integrity and institutional control of the athletics program.

"I know that there are many faculty nation-wide who are doing terrific things with student-athletes, and I'm just one of many. I feel very lucky and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to work with the student-athletes at UIS."

Yoder was nominated by former UIS student-athlete and National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Representative, Ashley Beaton. In her nomination, Beaton referenced Yoder's energy and passion for helping student-athletes find methods of reducing stress, effective communication, and finding success in their sport and school.

"We have the best student-athletes in the nation. There is no other group I'd trade them for. They are committed to school, athletics, the community, and each other. They are shining examples of the best that college athletics has to offer. If I could chose to be the FAR at any school, I'd choose UIS because of them. It's a privilege to be able to do what I do with them."

Yoder will be recognized at the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 19th.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Leadership lived: Junior leads new student organization while boosting school spirit at UIS

University of Illinois Springfield junior elementary education major Maddie Cullick admits she’s busy. She’s leading a new student organization, while cheering for the UIS Prairie Stars and working at the Cox Children’s Center on campus.

Cullick is the president of the Legion of Ladies, a student organization founded in spring 2017 and made up of about 40 female students. The organization is focused on empowering women, community service, friendship, bonding and leadership.

As president of Legion of Ladies, Cullick schedules meetings, coordinates events and serves as a mentor to many of the younger women in the organization.

“I’ve definitely learned how to be a positive role model to the people in the organization and I think it’s definitely helped prepare me, in general, about how to make decisions and how to be a good leader.”

As part of Legion of Ladies, Cullick helped organize and collect food for the Central Illinois Foodbank during Trick or Treat for Canned Goods. The team collected 6,000 pounds of food and won second place in the competition. The group has also planned or co-sponsored numerous social events on campus.

As a UIS cheerleader, Cullick is passionate about school spirit. She has been cheering since her freshman year at UIS and has found it to be a rewarding experience.

“It’s just been a great opportunity to get involved on campus,” she said.

Cullick is also the campus relations chair on the executive board of Dance Marathon, a student volunteer organization that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program where she is a peer tutor and Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in the field of education, and Alpha Lambda Delta, a national academic honor society.

“UIS overall has taught me a lot about leadership. I’ve definitely learned how to become a leader because of UIS. I think it will definitely help me in the future, especially going into a teaching role.

Following graduation from UIS, Cullick plans to become a first grade teacher. She feels confident that the skills she’s learned at UIS will serve her well in the classroom.

“My UIS experience overall has been life changing,” she said. “I think it’s just been a very great experience and I couldn’t have hoped for anything better.”