Thursday, November 14, 2019

UIS student Natalie Kerr presents her research at the international Falling Walls Lab competition in Berlin, Germany

Natalie Kerr, a senior majoring in chemistry at the University of Illinois Springfield from Washington, Illinois, recently presented her research at the international Falling Walls Lab competition in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 8, 2019.

She earned the all-expenses-paid trip after winning the Falling Walls Lab Illinois competition to earn the title of Illinois Young Innovator of the Year.

In Berlin, Kerr presented her research on “Breaking the wall of nutrient pollution,” where she proposed an environmentally friendly solution to curb the problems created by excess nitrates carried via agricultural and urban runoff.

“The people that I met throughout the whole conference were all there to better the world and support current research and innovation,” said Kerr. “My fellow competitors taught me so much. The compassion, support, and lifelong bonds that we built despite being each other’s ‘competition’ said a lot about the international and interdisciplary collaboration that is being advocated for and that is becoming more and more necessary in our world.”

The Illinois Falling Walls Lab competition was presented by the Illinois Innovation Network, a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state that aims to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development.

Kerr won the Illinois Young Innovator of the Year title against a field of 12 finalists, young researchers and entrepreneurs who represented five of the state’s public universities.

Falling Walls Lab is a fast-paced contest where competitors have just three minutes to propose and answer questions on a research-based solution to a global problem. A total of 100 students from all around the world presented at the international Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin.

Before the competition, participants got to talk with editors from the academic publishing company Springer Nature, the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD and prominent German research institutions.

Watch Kerr's presentation at the 2:55 mark
Direct Link

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

UIS Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford honored with Community Leadership Award

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and The Outlet Director Michael Phelon present UIS Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford with the award.
University of Illinois Springfield Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford was honored with the 2019 Community Leadership Award from The Outlet, a Springfield-based non-profit young men’s mentoring initiative, during their gala on Nov. 2, 2019 at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre.

According to the organization, Ford was honored with the award for her senior leadership stewarding programs and services that contribute to student development and success both inside the classroom and beyond. At UIS, she created a first-generation student credit bearing class and mentoring program called the Black Male Collegiate Society.

The Outlet is a young men’s mentoring initiative (501c3) committed to providing members with support to ease their emotional, educational, and spiritual passage from boyhood to manhood. The organization aims to help young fatherless youth ages (8-22) develop the ability and skill to be capable of making responsible life decisions, holding real and meaningful spiritual values, explore their gifts, talents and realizing their dreams and aspirations.

Monday, October 28, 2019

UIS Education Honor Society inducts eight new members during ceremony

The University of Illinois Springfield’s Alpha Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education, inducted eight new members during a ceremony on Oct. 12, 2019.

Samantha Missey, a teacher at the Sangamon County Learning Academy and former UIS Kappa Delta Pi president, was the guest speaker at the event.

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 listed by hometown:

Carlinville: Meghan Woods
Lake Villa: Teagan Ross
McLean: Kendra Peifer
Rochester: Madison Neuweg
Springfield: Christine Flynn, Haley Jackson
West Chicago: Jackie LaCour
Wheaton: Angela D’Onofrio

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 clinical associate professor of teacher education, at 217-206-7008 or

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

UIS student Katie Brethorst helps to excavate 1908 Springfield Race Riot site

University of Illinois Springfield senior history major Katie Brethorst spent her summer helping to unearth important historical artifacts from the site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, located along the 10th Street railroad tracks and Madison Street in Springfield.

Brethorst interned with Fever River Research, an archaeology company based out of Springfield, which was tasked with excavating five homes that were burned during the riot. The riot served as a catalyst for the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

On the evening of Aug. 14, 1908, a mob of white Springfield citizens became enraged when the county sheriff would not hand over a black man accused of raping a local white woman. For two days, Springfield was the scene of violence directed at the city’s black citizens, resulting in the destruction of more than 40 buildings by fire, and the lynching of two innocent black men. The black man accused of the crime was later acquitted after his accuser recanted her story.

During the excavation, Brethorst helped unearth the foundations of the forgotten homes and uncover important relics, such as rings, crosses and pieces of clothing.

“I learned about hands-on archaeology,” she said. “I learned about how you can connect an artifact that you're finding to historical documents. I learned a lot about the history of the people who lived here and I learned about the specific processes you have to go to make sure history is presentable to the public.”

Brethorst, who wants to become a museum curator, describes unearthing the artifacts as both an emotional and education experience.

“There were some days when you would find something and realize someone lost everything in this fire,” she said. “Someone had to completely uproot their life because of this one event and here I am holding the remnants 111 years later. It was just so powerful some days that I'd have to walk off and just think about it for a little bit.”

The site where Brethorst worked is now being recovered with dirt and will soon be home to railroad tracks as part of the Springfield Rail Improvement Project. However, there are still more houses to excavate under a parking lot next to the site.

“This site is nominated to become a national historic location,” she said. “Hopefully it will become a monument and we’ll be able to excavate more houses. That's the dream!”

Brethorst credits her experiences inside and outside of the classroom at the University of Illinois Springfield for helping her land an internship she’ll remember for a lifetime.

“I don't think anyone else is going to be able to say that they got to help unearth one of the biggest disasters in American history. And to me, that's what it is,” she said. “I got to help be the person to uncover it and to find the artifacts. It was absolutely amazing!”

Three to join the Samuel K. Gove Legislative Internship Hall of Fame at UIS

The Samuel K. Gove Illinois Legislative Internship Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois Springfield will honor three individuals who have served as legislative interns at the state capitol as part of the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program (ILSIP).

David Menchetti, John Nicolay and Kevin Schoeben will be inducted during a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 at the Old State Capitol. A reception will be held before the event at 5:30 p.m.

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.

Menchetti is a shareholder in Cullen, Haskins, Nicholson & Menchetti, P.C. in Chicago and concentrates his practice in the representation of injured workers throughout Illinois before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the circuit courts and the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts. He graduated from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and attained a bachelor’s degree with distinction from Stanford University. Menchetti is a former staff counsel to Illinois State Senate President Philip J. Rock and served as counsel to Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones, Jr. Active in the legal community, he is listed in “Who’s Who in American Law” and has been selected by his peers as a Leading Lawyer and Super Lawyer. He has received the President’s Award on three occasions from the Illinois Trial Lawyers and was named Lawyer of the Year for Workers’ Compensation by Best Lawyers in America. By appointment of the Governor, he has served on the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board and the Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Advisory Board. He has also been inducted into the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers.

Nicolay has been a partner of Nicolay & Dart LLC since its founding in 2005. Previously, he worked in and around the legislature directing state governmental representation at Winston & Strawn LLP and serving as general counsel to Illinois Senate President James “Pate” Philip, where his responsibilities included staffing and operations for the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior to joining the Office of the Senate President, he served in a variety of capacities as legislative liaison for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office where he helped secure passage of more than 50 pieces of legislation, including major sentencing and evidentiary reforms, as assistant state’s attorney, and practiced in the area of commercial and governmental litigation at Shefsky & Froelich, Ltd. He also served as a legislative aide to former Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, and as a special assistant to Governor James R. Thompson. Nicolay was named a Rising Star by his peers in 2008 and a Super Lawyer in the area of Government Affairs as recent as February 2019. He is past president and serves on the board of directors of The Advocacy Group, an international governmental affairs organization. He serves as the vice-chair of the Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association as well as the on the Board of Trustees of MacMurray College. Nicolay received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from MacMurray College and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law. He is admitted to practice in the Illinois Supreme Court and the United States District Court for the Northern, Central and Southern Districts of Illinois.

Schoeben began his 30-year career in state government as an ILSIP intern for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s research/appropriations staff in 1989 and remained on staff through 1999, primarily staffing several committees for state and local government appropriations for public safety, pensions, transportation and state capital programs. Thereafter, Schoeben was the legislative director for three terms under former Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes, with notable work toward the establishment of ethics reforms, the state’s rainy day fund and other fiscal and transparency reforms. He went on to become the deputy director of planning and programming for the Illinois Department of Transportation for four years under Secretaries Gary Hannig and Ann Schneider. In this position, he was responsible for initiating multi-modal and intermodal transportation programs that led to the AASHTO award for Water Transportation in 2014, and he served on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Marine System Transportation Advisory Taskforce. He served as chief financial officer at the Illinois Board of Higher Education during a challenging period for state universities and colleges, students and faculty due to the recent budgetary impasse. Schoeben joined Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s team shortly after her election in 2016. He has served as the assistant comptroller of fiscal policy since that time, a position that includes responsibilities with the development and implementation of fiscal reporting, cash management, budget, human resources and operational activities.

The Hall of Fame is hosted by the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. 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 71 individuals, among them a former governor and several former and current state and federal legislators. The names of the Hall of Fame’s members are inscribed on a plaque that hangs on the fourth floor of the Illinois Statehouse.

Tickets for the Nov. 12 event are $65 per person and may be purchased online at The deadline to register is Nov. 7, 2019. Reservations are required. For more information about the event, call 217-206-7163.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Yanhui Guo named the University Scholar at UIS

Yanhui Guo, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been named University Scholar for 2019.

The award, considered the university system’s highest faculty honor, recognizes outstanding teaching and scholarship. Only one faculty member receives the annual award at UIS.

Guo’s research focuses on computer vision, machine learning, deep learning, computer-aided detection/diagnosis and big data analytics.

He has successfully contributed to the development of a new set theory called neutrosophic set in computer vision and image processing. His reputation, as an important scholar within his field, continues to grow. In recognition of his accomplishments, Guo was made an honorary member and Head of the U.S. branch of the Neutrosophic Science International Association.

Since coming to UIS, Guo has published 39 peer-reviewed journal articles, nine peer-reviewed conference papers, and co-edited one book. The impact of his research is evidenced by the numerous citations he has received. According to Google Scholar, he has 2109 citations, a number that grows steadily.

In 2018, he received the Innovator of the Year award at the Illinois Capital Innovation Competition. The award stemmed from his work on computer-aided micro-classifications in the detection of breast cancer.

He also received the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Excellence Award for scholarship in 2018.

Nominators call Guo’s research “inherently collaborative,” for teaming up with researchers from different universities and countries. In collaboration with researchers from the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine, Guo was awarded a $10,000 grant under the Caryl Towsley Moy, Ph.D. Endowed Fund for Collaborative Research.

At UIS, Guo has taught five courses including on-campus and online, core and elective. He has developed and taught CSC 570 Digital Image Processing, CSC 562 Data Visualization and CSC 501 Graduate Program Practicum. Of special importance is Guo’s expertise in artificial intelligence and his ability to develop innovative courses at the forefront of data science, which provides excellent career opportunities for students.

“It is remarkable that Dr. Guo shares his enthusiasm and knowledge of the discipline with his students in order to support their intellectual endeavors and enhance their learning,” said one University Scholar award nominator. “He has collaborated with students on several research projects, leading to one peer-reviewed journal article and two peer-reviewed conference papers published with students.

Guo earned his doctorate in computer science from Utah State University in 2010. He served as an assistant professor at St. Thomas University in Florida prior to joining the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois Springfield in 2015.

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

UIS student Natalie Kerr wins the first Falling Walls Lab Illinois competition

Natalie Kerr, a senior majoring in chemistry at the University of Illinois Springfield, recently won the first Falling Walls Lab Illinois competition to earn the title of Illinois Young Innovator of the Year. Kerr also won an all-expenses-paid trip to Berlin, Germany, to compete at the Falling Walls Lab global finale on Nov. 8. Di’Quan Ishmon, a sophomore in mechatronics engineering at Northern Illinois University, was the competition’s runner-up.

Falling Walls Lab was presented by the Illinois Innovation Network, a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state that aims to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development.

“I was very pleasantly surprised and really excited, and I’m very honored," Kerr said. "I’m very grateful that I have people like Dr. Keenan Dungey, my research professor at UIS, who encouraged me to apply for this because otherwise I might not ever leave the lab. I’m also grateful that Falling Walls has this competition for ideas like mine that have reached the breakthrough stage but maybe aren’t quite ready for the market. This project does have the potential to impact the whole world, so I’m looking forward to introducing it to the people who can make it or break it. And I’m thankful for UIS, because the small campus has allowed me to design my own research project and take it in the direction that I was passionate about.”

Kerr earned the top prize with her presentation “Breaking down the wall of nutrient pollution,” where she proposed a solution to the way agricultural runoff harms wetland environments. A panel of judges made up of leaders from Illinois’ public universities selected Kerr’s presentation out of a field of 12 young researchers and entrepreneurs who represented five of the state’s public universities.

“I am so happy for Natalie, who I know will represent the University of Illinois System, the IIN and the entire state very well at the Falling Walls Lab global finale,” said Ed Seidel, University of Illinois System vice president for economic development and innovation, whose office is responsible for development of the IIN and Discovery Partners Institute. “Natalie’s idea could truly be a game-changer in protecting wetland environments. It was thrilling to hear the variety of interesting solutions to large-scale problems that all of these students presented at today’s event.”

The competition, which solicited applications from early-career researchers, entrepreneurs, and students affiliated with all of Illinois’ public universities, had entrants from UIS, Northern Illinois University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“All 12 of our state finalists at Falling Walls Lab Illinois did an incredible job,” said Kyle Harfst, U of I System associate vice president for economic development and innovation, who led execution of the event. “They each presented very interesting concepts and showed the wealth of knowledge and innovation that exists throughout our state.”

Falling Walls Lab is a fast-paced contest where competitors have just three minutes to propose a research-based solution to a global problem. The winners of the 91 Falling Walls Lab satellite contests will be entered into the Falling Walls Lab Finale on November 8 – the eve of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. All finalists receive a scholarship, which allows them to participate in the Falling Walls conference in Berlin.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

UIS Associate Professor Hinda Seif spends summer examining the role of museums in civic life in Washington, D.C.

Seif learning about the work of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative.
As part of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Sociology/Anthropology and Women/Gender Studies Hinda Seif spent the month of July exploring museums and curated cultural collections around Washington, D.C.

During the NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers, Seif lived and worked at Georgetown University and the Smithsonian Institution with 24 colleagues from across the nation.

“We grappled with questions such as: what is the role of museums in building robust civic culture in the United States today?” said Seif. “We also discussed how museums can better serve groups that historically have been objectified by museum practices yet marginalized in their leadership, and the opportunities, challenges, and potential pitfalls of integrating digital resources into museums.”

Seif was selected for the NEH Summer Institute because of her research, writings and teaching on women artists of Mexican ancestry in Chicago, which includes their relationships to the city's museums.

Seif with other faculty at the National Museum of American Indian.
The NEH group toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture and met with interim director Spencer Crew. They also discussed the social and economic value of humanities education with NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede and toured the Cultural Resources Center for the National Museum of the American Indian, where they learned how staff care for one of the world’s most expansive collections of Native objects.

“The institute helped me think more deeply about the ‘decolonization’ of Chicago's museums, and I am sharing some of my new Smithsonian contacts with Chicago artists,” said Seif.

“Our discussions on how to make museum decisions based on the cultures and interests of young visitors are highly relevant to my teaching. I plan to bring what I learned to the classroom at UIS, including information from special exhibits on women's suffrage, student activism related to the history of slavery at Georgetown University, and discussions about native peoples,” she added.

Monday, August 19, 2019

UIS faculty help to organize workshop on Urban Sustainability focused on water, energy and climate change

Two faculty members from the University of Illinois Springfield recently helped to organize a National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop on Urban Sustainability, with a focus on water, energy and climate change, as part of the University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability (CURES).

During the one-and-a-half-day workshop in Chicago, more than 130 stakeholders from across the country, representing municipalities, private industry, non-profit organizations, utilities, universities and national laboratories came together to establish the foundation for a new multi-disciplinary multi-stakeholder research network that can deliver actionable research-based, cost-effective solutions to the challenges that urban communities of many sizes face.

The workshop was designed to include a broad set of stakeholders so that issues and potential solutions would be discussed from not only from scientific, engineering, and policy perspectives, but from government, city planning, business, non-profit, economic, and other arts, humanities and social science perspectives.

At the workshop, participants identified critical gaps in the implementation of solutions for sustainability challenges in energy, water and climate in a range of different types of urban systems – urban, suburban, rural – and across city sizes – small, medium and large.

UIS faculty members Anne-Marie Hanson, assistant professor of environmental studies, and Carolee Rigsbee, assistant professor of management, were part of the workshop organizing committee that helped to plan the event. Hanson was the moderator for a panel of social science, arts and humanities scholars speakers. Among the panelists was Devin Hunter, UIS assistant professor of history, who explained how retelling of history can inform community perspectives on climate change issues.

“An important message repeated at the workshop is that we have 11 years to address climate change related causes and be better prepared for its disastrous effects. Doing so is shockingly urgent- we need to act and change behaviors now,” said Rigsbee.

The workshop produced a series of projects aimed to generate and implement solutions to help address/prevent impending energy, water, and other climate change impacts in Illinois and more generally across the Midwest. CURES is now planning to apply for major funding to help move many of the identified projects forward. In the meantime, several attendees are continuing to collaborate to detail the project requirements and next steps.

Other UIS faculty members to attended the workshop include Keenan Dungey, associate vice chancellor for research and institutional effectiveness; Kamau Kemayo, associate professor and chair of African-American studies; and David Szabo, chemistry lab manager.

Learn more about the workshop and its outcomes

Monday, July 08, 2019

Jason Piscia named the new director of the UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program

Jason Piscia, digital managing editor of The State Journal-Register, has been named the new director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s renowned Public Affairs Reporting master’s degree program. He will replace longtime director Charles N. Wheeler III, who is retiring after leading the program for 26 years.

“I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to lead the program that jumpstarted my career,” said Piscia, a 1998 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program. “PAR means a great deal to me personally. I’m looking forward to building onto the program’s rich history by guiding students toward fulfilling careers in journalism.”

Piscia, who lives in Springfield, has worked at The State Journal-Register (SJ-R) for 21 years, starting work there immediately after earning his master’s degree from UIS. He began as a reporter covering crime, city government, state government, business and higher education. In 2005, he was promoted to digital editor, in charge of managing the newspaper’s website. In 2015, he was named digital managing editor, second in command in the newsroom, directing coverage for both the SJ-R digital and print editions.

“We are excited to have Jason Piscia on board to lead this signature graduate program at the University of Illinois Springfield,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch. “Public Affairs Reporting grads from UIS include a host of award-winning journalists and, with Jason’s leadership, I’m confident the PAR program’s outstanding reputation will continue to grow.”

Piscia says one of the main reasons he wanted to lead the Public Affairs Reporting Program is to help better train reporters in today’s new media landscape.

“I’ve been on the front lines as newsrooms have weathered numerous changes and challenges,” he said. “One thing hasn’t changed, however. Journalism needs solidly trained reporters who can fairly and accurately report the big stories in a way that will connect with readers and viewers to help them understand the world around them.”

In his role at the SJ-R, Piscia has helped to mentor and ultimately hire several Public Affairs Reporting Program alumni.

“I know first-hand the value this program has to news organizations, especially those in Illinois,” he said. “On their first day of employment, PAR graduates are ready to contribute hard-hitting work that makes a difference.”

The PAR Program was founded in 1972 by the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon. PAR is a one-year, professionally oriented master’s degree program designed to prepare its graduates to become working reporters covering public affairs. The program has two main components, instructional classes and a six-month internship working as a full-time reporter for a news organization at the Illinois State Capitol.

Hundreds of PAR alumni work at newspapers, television and radio stations across the United States and around the world. The program boasts two Pulitzer prize-winning journalists: Kathy Best, director of the Howard Center at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and Deborah Singer Peterson, who retired from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Piscia, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Illinois State University, is expected to officially start as director of the PAR Program Aug. 5.

Friday, June 21, 2019

UIS and SIU Medicine faculty collaborate on innovative heart disease research

Faculty from the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine have been awarded a grant from the Caryl Towsley Moy, Ph.D., Endowed Fund for Collaborative Research to conduct innovative heart disease research.

Julio A. Copello, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology at SIU School of Medicine, and Stephen R. Johnson, Ph.D., UIS associate professor of chemistry, are investigating the ability of small proteins found in animal toxins, such as that of the scorpion, to modify the activity of calcium ion channels. Understanding the structure and function of these proteins may assist in developing therapeutics for heart disease, resulting in decreased mortality and health care costs.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. Certain heart diseases (e.g., ischemia, arrhythmia, polymorphic ventricular tachycardia) are due to the abnormal function of calcium ion channels of the muscle tissue.

Richard Moy, M.D. (1931-2013), founding dean of the SIU School of Medicine, and his sons Philip and Eric Moy created the $250,000 endowed fund at UIS in honor of their wife and mother, former professor Caryl Moy (1932-2010). The fund supports faculty from UIS and the SIU School of Medicine to perform team-based research. Caryl Moy taught for 21 years at UIS (then Sangamon State University) beginning in 1970. She also served as a clinical professor at the SIU School of Medicine.

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

UIS Assistant Professor Jennifer Martin to be honored for her article on Transgender bathroom access

University of Illinois Springfield Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Jennifer Martin will be honored with the Paula Silver Case Award from the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership for her co-authored work titled “The Bathroom Case: Creating a Supportive School Environment for Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Students” during a November conference in New Orleans.

The journal article examines the nuances of accommodating transgender student needs, while examining the legal requirements for schools, and the practical implications of those requirements.

Martin and co-author Jane Beese, an associate professor at Youngstown State University, found that Title IX regulations have long permitted school districts to segregate male and female students in separate but comparable toilet, shower, and locker room facilities, but the legal issue presented by transgender students is how to gain access to facilities that match their gender identity.

The Paula Silver Case Award was instituted by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) in 1999 to memorialize the life and work of Paula Silver, a UCEA associate director and president-elect who made significant contributions to the program through excellence in scholarship, advocacy of women, and an inspired understanding of praxis. A sterling silver bowl is presented annually to the author(s) of the most outstanding case published during the last volume of the UCEA Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership.

Martin started teaching at the University of Illinois Springfield in fall 2018. She holds a doctorate in education from Oakland University and two master’s degrees in English and liberal studies from Eastern Michigan University.

The award-winning article was first published in September 2017 by the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership and can be read online.

Monday, June 10, 2019

UIS professor co-edits new book on the use of tax increment financing in economic development

Kenneth Kriz, a distinguished professor of public administration at the University of Illinois Springfield, has co-edited a new book titled “Tax Increment Financing and Economic Development.” The book brings together leading experts to examine the evolving nature of tax increment financing (TIF), the most widely used tool of local economic and community development.

Originally designed as an innovative approach to the redevelopment of blighted areas, TIF has become a more general-purpose tool of economic and community development.

“The book examines the theoretical and legal bases for the use of TIF and presents new empirical evidence of how it is used by local governments throughout the United States,” said Kriz. “It highlights important issues that must be addressed by local government officials and community groups as they examine proposals to use TIF and also presents a framework for evaluating its success in improving community economic and social conditions.”

Contributors to the book offer case studies of the uses, structures, and impacts of TIF projects alongside more general discussions on the theoretical, financial, and legal bases for the use of TIF. They also explore its effect on overlapping jurisdictions such as cities, counties, and school districts. Some of the case studies capture TIF at its best—redeveloping areas that would likely never develop without substantial incentives. Other cases highlight questionable uses, especially where it has been used in new ways that those who developed the tool never envisioned.

Originally published in 2001, an updated second edition of “Tax Increment Financing and Economic Development” will be available for purchase in July 2019 in both hardcover and paperback from the State University of New York (SUNY) Press.

According to the publisher, the updated book is “clear, comprehensive, and timely.” “This new edition features the latest research and thinking on TIF, including the political, legal, and even ethical issues surrounding its use.”

Kriz is a frequent presenter at public economics, public budgeting and financial management conferences and has published more than 40 journal articles and book chapters along with a textbook on quantitative research methods in public administration. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Denver and a doctorate in public affairs from Indiana University.

The book is co-authored by Craig Johnson, an associate professor of public finance and policy analysis at Indiana University.

For more information, contact Kriz at 217/206-6572 or

Monday, June 03, 2019

Jessie Decker named the new director of marketing at the University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield has named Jessie Decker the new director of marketing in the Office of the Chancellor.

Decker comes to UIS from the Illinois Department of Transportation where she served as Bureau Chief of Communications Services. Prior to that appointment, Decker worked as a communications and digital editor at Memorial Health System in Springfield. She has also worked in marketing and public relations roles for the Orthopedic Center of Illinois and The Hope Institute for Children and Families.

“Jessie brings with her more than 10 years of strong experience developing effective creative messaging that connects with diverse audiences,” said Kelsea Gurski, UIS associate chancellor for public affairs. “Her exemplary marketing and project management skills, paired with a keen understanding of the importance of protecting and extending a brand, will serve UIS very well, and we’re thrilled she has joined our team.”

As director of marketing, Decker will provide leadership and direction in managing the university’s brand, recruitment and enrollment efforts, reputation and visibility. She will also oversee the university’s overall marketing plan including the development and production of paid advertising, web content and publications.

“My student experience at UIS opened new doors to grow my career and to be a stronger leader in the community,” said Decker. “I look forward to helping more people discover how the university can impact their lives like it did mine.”

Decker earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2006 and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Illinois Springfield in 2012.

She is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Morgan County Historic Society’s Underground Railroad Committee. She is also a past president of the Association of Women in Communications, Springfield Chapter, and was named to the Springfield Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” list in 2012.

Decker succeeds Michelle Green who retired on May 31 after serving almost 18 years as the university’s director of marketing.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Leadership lived: Internship helps student get hands on experience in the accounting field

Ashlee Knapik is learning hands on at the University of Illinois Springfield. She recently completed an internship at accounting firm Eck, Schafer and Punke in Springfield before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy and business administration on May 11.

Knapik will be returning to UIS in Fall Semester 2019 as a student in the MBA Program. She will also be working for the Illinois Auditor General’s Office as part of the UIS Graduate Public Service Internship Program.

During her internship with Eck, Schafer and Punke, she was able to help with an onsite audit and helped in the preparation of tax returns.

“I've learned a lot obviously about that, but I've also just learning a lot about, you know, how to work in a firm like this and how to be more professional to as well,” she said.

On campus, Knapik has been active as a member of the Tri Sigma Sorority. She also studied abroad for a semester at the University of Hull in England.

“While I was over there I got the opportunity to visit 11 different countries, so that was a lot of fun,” she said. “My favorites were Iceland and Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.”

The Decatur native says she chose UIS because “it was close enough to home, but it was also far away enough from home that I could have my own space.”

Knapik is thankful for the opportunities she’s had at UIS and the friends she’s made.

“I'm very glad I came to UIS,” she said. “I feel like I would not have had many opportunities if I went to another school. I like the close-knit of UIS and the ability to connect with a bunch of different people. I like UIS so much that I'm coming back in the fall.”

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Leadership lived: UIS online student presents her research on the Illinois teacher shortage at the state capitol

Jen Brooks leads a busy life working a full-time job, while raising two children. That’s why she decided the University of Illinois Springfield’s online Teacher Education Program was the perfect choice to help her complete the state’s requirements to become a teacher.

Brooks, who is completing her secondary education licensure, recently presented her research on the Illinois teacher shortage to lawmakers at the state capitol as part of the sixth annual Illinois Innovation Network Undergraduate Research Day.

“I'm started off at the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and how that decision impacted the current teacher shortage now,” she said. “What I discovered was that as a result of integration, as the black schools were absorbed into the white schools to integrate, 38,000 African American teachers lost their job. We still have a huge gap today.”

Brooks, who lives in Bloomington, Illinois, says she learned about the UIS online Teacher Education Program from another teacher who had completed the program.

“I was at a different school online and she's like ‘no, no don't do that.’ You have to come to UIS. Their program is awesome,” she said. “They'll help you with placement and everything.”

Brooks, who was inducted into the UIS Kappa Delta Pi Educational Honor Society, has been observing an elementary school classroom this semester and will start student teaching next semester.

“What makes it special is how student-centered UIS is,” she said. “I've been to other schools where it's more ‘I'm the professor this is how we do it,’ but I do not get that here. It's student-led, so you take control of your learning.”

Following completion of her licensure requirements, Brooks hopes to teach at an elementary school in the Bloomington-area.

“I also want to continue my research, so I feel like I'm going to be more of a teacher-researcher, than just a teacher,” she said. “In the future, I'd like to become a professor, get into higher education, but definitely education is in my future.”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Leadership lived: Recent UIS graduate helps lead women’s empowerment event for middle school girls

Heba Qazi says it’s important for young women to feel empowered and know what they can accomplish with a college education.

Qazi, who graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield on May 11 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, recently helped to organize “The Future is Female” event on campus. As a member of the Tri Sigma Sorority, she worked with Springfield District 186 to bring hundreds of girls to campus for a day of empowerment.

“I think it's really important to teach women when they're younger about the importance of college and what they can do throughout high school to ensure that they have a really successful future and I think that starts with women empowering other women,” she said.

Preparing for the event was a major task, as members of the sorority spent the academic year raising funds and creating community partnerships to support the event.

“We've fundraised a couple of thousand dollars,” she said. “It involved a lot of coordination with the middle schools, getting every middle school to come in and contribute to it.”

On campus, Qazi served as treasurer for the Student Government Association, vice chair for the Student Organization Funding Association (SOFA) and as a research assistant for the Department of Accountancy.

“I decided to come to UIS because I felt like there was a lot of room for opportunity and growth,” she said. “I felt that I could develop really good relationships with faculty and I have here at UIS.”

Now that she’s earned her UIS degree, the Bartlett, Illinois native plans to attend law school.

“I am very glad that I came to UIS,” she said. “I feel like I have been awarded a lot of opportunities that would not be possible anywhere else. I think that I've been able to leave a mark in some way and I feel like that's very important.”

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Leadership lived: Accounting internship helps prepare student for his future career as a CPA

Senior accountancy major Jon O'Daniel says he’s being well prepared for his future career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) following graduation from the University of Illinois Springfield.

O’Daniel recently completed an internship at accounting firm Eck, Schafer & Punke LLP in Springfield where he learned about tax preparation and audits.

“I would say I have learned a great deal, mostly dealing with clients and the procedures that an accountant needs to go through to work with taxes,” he said.

At UIS, O’Daniel is the president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Kappa Beta Colony. He helps lead volunteer efforts for the fraternity and fundraising activities. He is also the senator for the College of Business and Management on the Student Government Association.

“I believe UIS has taught me a lot about leadership, but the most important of all is probably talking with your peers and really getting to know the problems around you, so that way you can better understand where everyone is coming from,” he said.

O’Daniel, a native of the Southern Illinois town of McLeansboro, says he plans to continue his education at UIS following graduation by earning a master’s degree in accountancy.

“I am glad I chose UIS because of all of the great connections I made,” he said. “I don't believe I would have made these types of connections at other universities. Just the small community feel, the way I was able to bond with other students and even my professors - lifelong friendships and connections that I don't believe I would have gotten at other places.”

Monday, May 06, 2019

UIS honors alumnus Matthew Wallace with the Alumni Humanitarian Award

The University of Illinois Springfield honored alumnus Matthew Wallace, a native of Trilla, Illinois, with the Alumni Humanitarian Award during a ceremony on May 2, 2019 in the Student Union Ballroom. The award recognizes alumni for their significant contributions of leadership or service to improve the lives of others and the welfare of humanity.

Wallace and his wife, Heather, moved to Myanmar in 2008 to live and work full time on poverty alleviation and job creation. He has leveraged his education into enterprise development, and was part of the conceptual design of Opportunities NOW, where he serves as executive director. Opportunities NOW is an entrepreneurship development system in Myanmar that seeks to reduce poverty by providing business training and mentoring in various stages of business startup.

Wallace was a member of the inaugural class (first four-year class) of the UIS Capitol Scholars Honors Program. He says he came to UIS because of an interest in politics, but he became disillusioned by what was happening in state politics at the time and started taking classes that focused on international politics instead. As he did classwork on Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, he became deeply interested in poverty alleviation.

That’s when Myanmar (formerly called Burma) caught his attention. “No one was talking about Myanmar,” he said. “It’s a hard country to get to and hard to get work in, but it had far and away the worst context for poverty at the time. That’s what made me want to go there.”

Upon moving to Myanmar, Wallace began consulting with local companies on their supply-chain management and marketing. It didn’t faze him that he didn’t have much of a background in business. “Compared to the people in Myanmar,” he said, “I had a lot more capacity to learn about how a business could lower costs and raise profits and deciding what products would work well.”

Consulting gave him an idea of how he could work on alleviating the poverty he saw around him. By 2010, Wallace and friend Ryan Russell had plans in place for a business called Opportunities NOW, which would include an entrepreneurship school and a source of loans for graduates. “We were especially interested in helping young people between the ages of 17 and 30,” Wallace said. “In Myanmar, people in their 20s are called the lost or forgotten generation because they have no opportunity to get jobs. Their schools have been a wreck, and there’s no real sense of them having any kind of value for society. We wanted to give them a voice.”

During the next two years, Wallace and his wife returned to the United States, so Matt could earn his master’s degree in International Commerce from the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy. His business partner spent the time raising capital for the business.

In 2012, Opportunities NOW launched. “In the first year, we started eight to ten businesses,” Wallace said. Since then, they have trained more than 500 students, invested in more than 250 businesses, and have expanded to a second location.

Opportunities NOW is an entrepreneurship development system in Myanmar that seeks to reduce poverty by providing business training and mentoring in various stages of business startup. Opportunities NOW not only provides the educational framework to help a business grow, but also provides the capital that students need to succeed with their business through the ONOW Social Launch Fund.

For more information on the award, contact Chuck Schrage, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, at 217/206-6058 or

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Leadership lived: Future elementary school teacher gains valuable experience in and out of the classroom at UIS

Growing up in small town Taylorville, Illinois, Kelsey Marucco was inspired by her fourth grade teacher. That inspiration turned into a passion for helping others, which led her to major in education and psychology at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Marucco, who is now a senior at UIS, is only a few steps away from becoming an elementary school teacher. She is currently doing preclinical observation at Edinburg Elementary School in Edinburg, Illinois and will soon start student teaching next semester.

“I've been observing a fourth and fifth grade classroom here for the past few weeks and I've learned a lot about classroom management, a little bit about lesson planning and how to conduct a classroom during lessons,” she said. “There's a lot of in class parts that we do at UIS, but being here at the elementary school kind of gets me hands on in the classroom.”

Marucco says she chose the University of Illinois Springfield because of the quality of the Teacher Education Department.

“I like how a lot of the teachers in our classes are teachers themselves, so we go in the evening when they're done with school and you're talking to someone who has experience, so they're really helpful and give you a lot of advice,” she said.

On campus, Marucco is heavily involved as a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program and the Tri Sigma Sorority. She also works for UIS Campus Recreation and at the Cox Children’s Center on campus. She is a member of the Kappa Delta Phi educational honor society, the Psi Chi honor society and recently served as the public relations and social media chair for Dance Marathon, a UIS fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network.

“Before coming to college, I was more shy and kept to myself, but UIS helped me become a bigger leader and get me out there more and gave me a lot of opportunities in that aspect as well,” she said.

Following graduation from UIS, Marucco would like to work at a smaller elementary school in central Illinois and possibly coach an athletic team.

“I would love, just like this school, to stay at a small school so I can be more personable to my students. I hope to work and coach kids one day too alongside teaching,” she said.

She’s glad she made the decision to come to UIS and get involved on campus.

“I'm really glad I went to UIS because it kept me close to home, so I could stay with my family here and there, but I do live on campus. Being on campus allowed me to go out and do these opportunities day-to-day and keep myself really busy,” she said.