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.

UIS Emeritus Computer Science Professor Ted Mims inducted into Louisiana Parish Hall of Fame

Ted Mims, emeritus professor and former head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been honored with the 2019 achievement award from the Sabine Parish, Louisiana Hall of Fame.

Mims, a native of Many, Louisiana, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in March 2019.

According to the Sabine Index newspaper, Mims started his teaching career in 1969 as a junior high and high school teacher. In 1966, he took his first computer science class at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana and started to learn computer coding.

Mims later earned a master’s degree from Louisiana State University and his Ph.D. from the University of North Texas.

In 1978, Mims officially made his transition to higher education as a computer science instructor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He went on to become an assistant professor of computer science at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

In 1990, he officially moved to Springfield, Illinois to begin teaching at Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois Springfield.

At UIS, Mims grew the Computer Science Department from 70 students to 1,300 majors in 2017. He also helped the department become a National Security Agency (NSA) National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. He helped obtain federal and foundation grants to purchase cutting-edge technology and served as co-principle investigator on two National Science Foundation grants totaling $5 million.

In 2010, Mims was honored with the Spencer Faculty Service Award by the University of Illinois Springfield. The award recognizes faculty who best exemplify the ideal of the “professor-citizen” through public service and service to the academic community.

Now retired, Mims lives in Normal, Illinois where he is active in his church and enjoys spending time with his daughter and grandchildren.

UIS faculty members receive awards for teaching and service; tenure, promotions and sabbaticals announced

The University of Illinois Springfield held its annual Faculty Honors Reception on Tuesday, May 1, 2019. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Dennis Papini presided over the ceremony honoring faculty members who have been recommended for tenure and/or promotion, been awarded sabbaticals or granted emerita/emeritus status. Three major awards – the Pearson Faculty Award, the Spencer Faculty Service Award and the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award - were also presented.

The Pearson Faculty Award for outstanding teaching was presented to Layne Morsch, associate professor of chemistry. The award recognizes a faculty member whose performance exemplifies UIS’ commitment to excellence in teaching and who stands among the very best teachers on campus. Such a teacher both informs and inspires students, giving them the knowledge and values with which they may become productive and enlightened citizens. The award was established by a gift from Emmet and Mary Pearson, longtime benefactors of the campus.

Morsch came to UIS in 2008 as an expert in organic chemistry to teach students across the spectrum of science majors that require these courses.

In the subsequent 10 years, he has used pedagogical and technological innovations to transform his chemistry classes. Morsch is currently using a flipped teaching style in his organic chemistry classes where students watch 140 video lectures that he created, over the course of the academic year at home, and then class time is spent actively solving problems and engaging in discussions.

Morsch was one of two professors asked to pilot test the newly developed ChemDraw app, a chemical structure drawing software, and he also pilot tested two chemistry learning games that allow students to physically interact with three dimensional chemical structures. In 2015, Morsch was named an Apple Distinguished Educator. In this capacity he advises Apple’s education team about the use of technology in higher education and works with colleagues across the U.S. and in Canada to implement new teaching techniques using technology. Morsch also created a public iTunes U course for the two organic chemistry classes that he teaches that currently has over 19,000 subscribers.

In 2017, Morsch founded the Excellence in Teaching & Learning Fellows Program at UIS that encourages faculty to engage with high impact teaching practices. He is also the founding leader of the Community for Innovative & Engaged Learning (CIEL) where faculty at UIS can share best practices related to innovation in the classroom. Finally, Morsch has given numerous presentations at national and international conferences and invited talks at colleges and universities about his teaching innovations.

The Spencer Faculty Service Award was given to Xiaoqing Li, professor of management information systems. Honoring Robert Spencer, founding president of Sangamon State University, this award recognizes faculty who best exemplify the ideal of the “professor-citizen” through public service and service to the academic community.

During his 18 years of tenure at UIS, Li has established a record of exceptional service at all levels and he has been recognized by the Department of Management Information Systems and College of Business and Management (CBM) for his work. He is a current member of the CBM executive committee, which involves the most important decision process in the college, and he has also served on the college curriculum committee. At the university level, Li has served on the campus senate for 13 years and was the secretary on the senate executive committee in 2015-2016. He has also been a member of and chaired important university committees, such as the graduate council and tenure review committees. At the University of Illinois System level, Li has represented UIS on the University Senates Conferences (USC) on two separate occasions. While on the USC, he served on the executive committee twice and the academic affairs & research committee, hospital & health affairs committee, and finance, budget & benefits committee.

Li is known for being a helpful and supportive member of the UIS faculty who is willing to take on important leadership roles.

Li is also an active participant in his professional discipline. He has served on the editorial review board of the International Journal of Information Systems in Service Sectors for 11 years and has reviewed papers for the American Journal of Information Technology and Information, Technology & People. In the Decision Science Institute and INFORMS, Li has regularly served as a session chair for national and international conferences.

Kim Wiley, assistant professor of public administration, was honored with the Oakley Distinguished Online Teaching Award. The award was established by Burks Oakley II, who helped launch UIS’ online programs and was also in attendance at the event The Oakley Award recognizes UIS faculty members whose performance exemplifies the institution’s commitment to excellence in online teaching.

Wiley came to UIS in 2016 and is at the forefront as an innovator in her online and blended public administration courses. Her philosophy of bridging life experience with foundational and specialized coursework while emphasizing engagement and accessibility is complimented by her commitment to utilizing new technology. Wiley has incorporated a number of learning strategies into her courses that afford students the opportunity to incorporate abstract theoretical concepts and apply them to real world situations. Wiley’s teaching is student-centered, places special emphasis on communication that creates a community of inquiry, and leverages professional experiences of her students. Wiley uses a variety of teaching techniques including scaffolding, practice based assessments, video presentation assignments, blogs and Twitter.

The committee was particularly impressed by the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service’s assessment of Wiley’s teaching. According to Ray Schroeder and Vickie Cook, Wiley exceeded expectations in course design and facilitation, appropriate use of assessment, content, and teaching new technologies, and student support, while meeting accessibility expectations. Wiley has shared these insights with colleagues in a number of ways, including numerous faculty training sat UIS, one-on-one faculty consultations on assessment, participated in an online teaching panel and shared her insights into online teaching with the broader audience of the Midwest Political Science Association conference. Wiley also presented “Lost in Translation: Critical Pedagogy in the Online Classroom” and has a paper based upon this work under review.

Faculty members Elham Buxton, computer science; Brytton Bjorngaard, art, music & theatre; Shipra Gupta, business administration; Liang Kong, mathematical sciences; and Michele Miller, psychology, were recommended for tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Recommended for promotion to full professor were Hua Chen, biology; Lan Dong, English & modern languages; Richard Gilman-Opalsky, political science; and Ranjan Karri, management. Vickie Cook, educational leadership, was recommended for promotion to research full professor.

Faculty members nominated for emeritus status and recognized at the event were William Abler, human development counseling; Sara Cordell, English & modern languages; Scott Day, educational leadership; Hilary Frost, political science/global studies; Brian Kahn, teacher education; David Larson, management information systems; Linda McCown, allied health/clinical-medical laboratory science; Charles N. Wheeler III, public affairs reporting; and Cynthia Wilson, teacher education.

Sabbatical leaves have been recommended for Adriana Crocker, political science; Lan Dong, English & modern languages; Xiaoqing Li, management information systems; Jennifer Manthei, sociology/anthropology; Layne Morsch, chemistry; Sheryl Reminger, psychology; Yona Stamatis, art, music, & theatre; Nathan Steele, management; Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, art, music, & theatre; Jorge Villegas, business administration; and Yifeng Zhang, management information systems.

All promotion, tenure, sabbatical leave, and emerita/emeritus status recommendations are subject to approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Leadership lived: UIS tennis player helps fellow students off the court

Kaitlyn Thornhill came to the University of Illinois Springfield to be part of the women’s tennis team. However, she quickly discovered a second passion as she was offered a chance to tutor fellow students at The Learning Hub.

Thornhill, a junior from Alpharetta, Georgia, has been playing tennis since her parents introduced her to the sport when she was 10-years-old.

“I love the sport because it's both an individual and team sport,” she said. “Being part of the tennis team has given me a lot of value in terms of creating friendships, positions of leadership and having a team to come to every single day and experience success.”

As an accountancy major, Thornhill says she’s excelled in her coursework. Her abilities were noticed by an instructor who asked if she’d consider tutoring students at The Learning Hub.

“I tutor both traditional students and student-athletes,” she said. “When I see the light bulb go off I think that is the reason I do the job. It's very rewarding to know that the information that I'm providing is helping another student succeed in my own field.”

Following graduation from UIS, Thornhill plans to earn her master’s degree in accounting and sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.

“I am very glad I came to UIS,” she said. “It has given me so many opportunities. I've stepped out of my comfort zone in so many ways. I've become a leader in many programs and I have met so many people and been able to network within my own major.”

She feels her education has prepared her well for post-graduation life and says she’ll always look back fondly at her time at UIS.

“If I could do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing,” she said. “Where I've gotten to today has come from every opportunity that UIS has given me and I couldn't be more proud.”

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Leadership lived: Freshman becomes a leader in student government and his fraternity

Luigi Cabantog came to the University of Illinois Springfield knowing he wanted to make a difference. As a freshman, he was elected a Student Government Association senator and joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity on campus.

“As a freshman, getting this much leadership experience was unexpected, but I've always been up for taking advantage,” he said. “UIS offers great opportunities and beyond.”

As the philanthropy and service chair for Delta Kappa Epsilon, he is in charge of planning volunteer activities. He recently helped to organize a street cleanup along 11th Street where members picked up litter in an effort to make campus more beautiful.

“This is so important because we want to build sustainability and we want to keep our campus clean,” he said. “We've adopted the street from the Springfield Public Works, so we do this cleanup on a regular basis.”

As part of Delta Kappa Epsilon, he’s also helped to plan fundraisers and other service activities.

“Community service is so important because you meet a lot of people and you make connections and network and you give back to your community,” he said. “That's the biggest thing that is a takeaway for me. Giving back to your community is so important.”

On campus, Cabantog works for UIS Student Life and the Office of New Student Orientation and Parent Relations. Off campus, he manages social media and is a board member for Illinois Students Against Destructive Decisions.

The Westchester, Illinois native says he chose the University of Illinois Springfield because of its location in the state capital and right-sized supportive community.

“After UIS, I plan on working for a non-profit first and eventually hopefully get elected to office of some sort,” he said.

Cabantog feels he made the right decision in choosing UIS.

“I'm glad I came to UIS because it opened a lot of doors for me, not just for my major, for my academics, but also for my extracurricular life,” he said.

Monday, April 15, 2019

UIS Emeritus Professor Larry Shiner of Springfield honored for Outstanding Advocate Leadership

The University of Illinois Foundation today announces Larry Shiner of Springfield, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, as the recipient of the 2019 William E. Winter Award for Outstanding Advocate Leadership. The award will be presented at the UIS Celebration of Philanthropy on Wednesday, April 17 at UIS. The U of I Foundation is the fundraising arm of the University of Illinois.

Shiner began teaching at Sangamon State University in 1972 and has been an enthusiastic advocate for UIS ever since. He has especially appreciated the University's commitment to interdisciplinary teaching, educational innovation, public affairs and an emphasis on putting students first. “I loved the place from day one,” he said. Shiner retired from UIS in 2004.

An outstanding scholar who specializes in aesthetics, Shiner’s best known work is “The Invention of Art: A Cultural History” (University of Chicago Press, 2003). More recently, his scholarship has focused on olfactory art.

Shiner and his wife, Catherine Walters, generously support UIS financially, especially through the Suzanna Kay Shiner Scholarship Endowment Fund, created in 2002 in memory of their daughter, and Shiner energetically advocates for the art, music and theater programs at UIS.

Shiner has also served on committees related to fundraising. These include the UIS Development Advisory Board, the Faculty and Staff Campaign Council, and more recently the Reaching Stellar Campaign Planning Committee.

“Thanks in part to Larry Shiner, we are experiencing great success, not only with our current Reaching Stellar campaign, but with other ways that people support the University,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch. “I'm delighted that he is receiving the William Winter Award.”

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

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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Lisa Whelpley wins the 2019 Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence Award

Lisa Whelpley, director of annual giving and major gift development for the Office of Advancement at the University of Illinois Springfield, is the winner of the 16th annual Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award. The award was presented by Chancellor Susan J. Koch on April 11, 2019 during a celebration in the Student Union.

Whelpley has been part of the Office of Advancement team for almost 20 years. She is the “go to” person in the office for planning and executing strategic long and short-term endeavors associated with UIS’ $40 million Reaching Stellar comprehensive campaign.

Additionally, Whelpley directs a complex annual fund operation that secures well more than $1 million annually for the benefit of the greater UIS community. She also helps to coordinate and generate hundreds of communications to alumni and donors each year. In FY 18, she led her team in 359 projects that consisted of 760,396 calls, emails and mailings.

Whelpley is also responsible for coordinating UIS’ wildly successful annual Faculty and Staff Campaign, which has garnered 50% giving participation in the past two years.

“None of these accomplishments would get realized without Lisa’s ‘can do’ attitude in working across multiple offices on campus and throughout the University of Illinois System to achieve aggressive goals. Bottom line: Lisa gets stuff done,” said her nominator.

Whelpley is also actively engaged in outreach to departments on campus and was instrumental in piloting two crowdfunding efforts last fall.

Earlier this academic year, she was selected to participate in the University of Illinois System’s inaugural cohort group of the Academic Professional Leadership Program. The mission of the program is to foster and sustain a culture of exceptional, dynamic and transformational leadership at all levels throughout the University of Illinois System.

“She is eagerly and actively engaged in this opportunity to improve her already significant skill set,” said her nominator.

The CAPE Award recognizes U of I academic professionals for their efforts in three general categories: work projects, professional development and affiliations and contributions to their units. The winner receives $500 in cash for personal use.

All academic professionals are eligible to receive the CAPE Award; nominations are reviewed by campus committees and candidates’ names are forwarded to the chancellor, who makes the final selections.

Others nominated for the 2019 CAPE Award include Sean Crawford, Angela Evans, Joan Sestak, Carlyn Shank and Robin Vansacik.

Four UIS students present their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Four students from the University of Illinois Springfield are presenting their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. The three day conference began on April 11, 2019.

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

Students presenting include Benjamin Schulte (Psychology), Brendan Mitchell (Public Administration), Rebecca Smith (Chemistry) and Natalie Kerr (Chemistry).

The 33rd annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research is a program of the Council on Undergraduate Research. Approximately 4,000 students from around the country are presenting their research and creative activities.

The students are being accompanied on the trip by Anette Sikka, assistant professor of legal studies, and Keenan Dungey, associate vice chancellor for research and institutional effectiveness.

For more information, contact Dungey at 217/206-8112 or

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

UIS students part of first and second place teams at Campus 1871 startup competition

A group of three University of Illinois Springfield students took part in the sixth annual Campus 1871 event, a weekend-long initiative hosted by Chicago-based 1871, a non-profit digital startup incubator, which simulates the realities of launching and running a startup company. The event was held April 6-7, 2019 in Chicago.

For one weekend a year, 1871 brings together more than 100 students from local universities for the ultimate startup experience. Students come together to share ideas, collaborate and build out business solutions with mentoring and coaching from 1871 entrepreneurs. The weekend concludes with a pitch competition in front of a panel of top leaders in Chicago’s tech community for assorted prizes.

The three UIS students who participated included Nikita Newcomb, an undergraduate business administration major from Russia; James Ukonu, a graduate data analytics major from Nigeria; and Olamide Ogunbameru, a graduate computer science major from Nigeria.

Newcomb and Ukonu’s team took first place in the business solutions track and Ogunbamer's team took second place. There were a total of 11 teams who competed.

Founded in 2012, 1871 was created to support Chicago’s digital startup community. Since that time, it has become the hub for the city’s thriving technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Located in The Merchandise Mart, 1871 is the home of more than 400 early-stage, high-growth digital startups.

Monday, April 08, 2019

UIS team places second in statewide Society for Human Resource Management competition

The University of Illinois Springfield Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter recently finished second out of eight teams in the Illinois SHRM Student Conference Human Resources (HR) Case Competition held at Illinois State University in Normal March 29-30, 2019.

UIS students competed against students from other Illinois colleges and universities during the annual event.

The second place HR Case Competition team was made up of undergraduate students Alexis Eddings of Jacksonville (team captain), Tracy Cessna of Pana and Marina Gendek of Lake Bluff. The team also included graduate students Cuong Nguyen of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Trinh Tran and Le Tran of Springfield.

UIS students also competed in the HR Jeopardy Games where they were placed into 18 random teams with students from other universities. Eddings finished on the second place HR Jeopardy team.

Students say they benefited from the conference because they learned valuable information about their future career field.

“We were able to network with popular and reputable HR professionals, listen to speakers discuss current issues and change in HR regarding disabilities, women's empowerment, veterans, and other organizational change, and connect with peers like us who are going into HR, which is helpful because we will most likely meet again in the workforce,” said Eddings.

The SHRM chapter at UIS is advised by UIS Management Instructor Donna Rogers Skowronski.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Leadership lived: Student helps Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria as part of Alternative Spring Break

Senior business administration major Matthew Traxler was one of 14 University of Illinois Springfield students who spent their spring break in Puerto Rico helping the U.S. territory recover from Hurricane Maria.

It was the first time Traxler had flew on a plane and the first time he took part in a large scale volunteer effort.

“We focused a lot on conservation,” he said. “We learned when we got there that a lot of efforts when natural disasters happen are focused on houses and rebuilding structures, which is important, but we found out that a lot of efforts aren't focused at all on the conservation.”

Traxler and fellow UIS students helped to clean up shorelines, trails and bike paths. They also helped to rebuild a Montessori school that was damaged by the storm.

“The real impact was on the second day, the last day we worked on the school, when we were leaving,” he said. “As we pulled away, the principal turned around and walked away and you could see her wiping tears away for her eyes and in that moment it was real.”

On campus, Traxler is a member of the Phi Kappa Tau Zeta Zeta Chapter where he also serves as recruitment chair. He is the entertainment chair for the Dance Marathon, a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network, and president of the UIS Disc Golf team.

The Philo, Illinois native says the chose the University of Illinois Springfield because it is affordable and offers a University of Illinois degree.

“I'm glad I came to UIS,” he said. “There are plenty of other opportunities out there, but I do think that UIS was the best opportunity for me.”

Traxler says he’s made lifelong friends at UIS and feels he’s grown as a person.

“I think this school is great to kind of get out of your comfort zone, give you an opportunity to get involved with organizations and build your leadership skills,” he said.

Monday, April 01, 2019

UIS Education Honor Society inducts eight new members

The Alpha Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education, at the University of Illinois Springfield inducted eight new members during a ceremony on March 23, 2019.

Dustin Day, superintendent and high school principal of Waverly Community Unit School District #6, 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 include: Jennifer Brooks, Julie Dzubin, Sara Leverton, Kyle Murphy, Erica Peak-Nordstrom, Yuli Salgado, Sydney Smith and Sara Tebrugge.

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

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Leadership lived: Student helps lead recycling and sustainability efforts at UIS

Before coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, Caleb Froidcoeur admits he wasn’t passionate about the environment. However, that all changed when he arrived on campus and got involved in efforts to increase recycling and sustainability.

“I don't really know where it came from, but once I got to college I realized that the environment was really my calling and there's just something about being out in nature and really being immersed,” he said.

The senior environmental studies major from Minooka, Illinois is now a Campus Sustainability Projects Coordinator. He helps take project ideas, like refillable water bottle stations and low emission vehicle (LEV) parking spaces, from the drawing board to reality.

Froidcoeur was recently part of a $3,654 PepsiCo funded grant that explored whether “bedazzled” or more aesthetically pleasing recycling bins made people more likely to recycle on campus. The study ultimately found that bin aesthetics did not impact recycling behavior.

“Taking part in that research really helped me to kind of develop skills with working in a team,” he said. “I never really worked in a team that was larger than three or four people.”

The bins purchased as part of the study are now being deployed in campus housing. Froidcoeur and other advocates are training resident assistants to encourage recycling behavior among students living in on campus residence halls, townhouses and apartments.

“Hopefully with residents recycling in a better way we'll be able to avoid any contamination with the recycling,” he said.

Following graduation with his bachelor’s degree, Froidcoeur plans to stay at UIS to earn his master’s degree in environmental studies. He’ll also be taking advantage of the Graduate Public Service Internship (GPSI) Program.

“It's hard to pass up an internship, paid stipend, and also nine credit hours of my tuition covered,” he said.

Froidcoeur would ultimately like to work as a conservation or restoration specialist for a state or national park. He credits UIS for helping him make his career decision.

“I'm glad I came to UIS,” he said. “I've never experienced a situation where the professors were as involved in my life as they are here. They really help me to figure out where I should be going and what I should be doing with my life.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Leadership lived: Maura Freeman heads campus newspaper, while making sure students feel at home on campus

Maura Freeman has two major leadership roles at the University of Illinois Springfield. The senior communication and English major is editor-in-chief of The Journal, the student newspaper on campus, and is a resident assistant (RA) for the Department of Residence Life.

“What's really cool about our newspaper is that we are editorially independent,” she said. “That means that we get to choose what's in our paper. It is student-led, student-operated. We do have a faculty adviser, but otherwise we're kind of on our own and that means that we're a platform for students to have their voices heard.”

As editor-in-chief, Freeman helps decide what stories the paper covers. She also helps proofread stories and makes decisions about the layout of the paper.

“I've always been really interested in writing and I think that my studies really lent toward me working for the paper,” said Freeman, who started working at The Journal as a columnist.

As a resident assistant, Freeman currently oversees Sunflower Court, a family housing complex. In the past three years, as an RA, she says she’s interacted with more than 150 students and still stays in touch with many of her past residents.

“I love being an RA,” she said. “It was my job before I become editor-in-chief and it's been really rewarding to be able to talk to residents and kind of be there for them.”

Freeman, a Plainfield, Illinois native, says she chose the University of Illinois Springfield because of the small class sizes, quality academic programs and leadership opportunities.

“All of the roles that I've had on campus so far have really challenged me to be a better person and to be a better leader and through it all I've learned so much about myself,” she said.

Following graduation from UIS, she plans to attend graduate school and start her future career in political communication.

“For me that looks like ideally speech writing, preferably at the national level. My dream goal is to write part of the State of the Union address one day,” she said.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Leadership lived: Future counselor enjoys the challenge of the Capital Scholars Honors Program

When Alice Caceres-Turcios was looking for a place to attend college, she knew she wanted to be challenged academically. She found the perfect fit in the Capital Scholars Honors Program at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“I enjoy doing the difficult readings, I enjoy doing papers and I enjoy doing research,” she said “In looking at the Honors Program here at UIS, it really did emphasize interdisciplinarity, which is something that I never really knew about until I got here.”

Caceres-Turcios, a psychology major with a focus on clinical counseling, is now a peer mentor for the Honors Program, helping to guide younger students. She also recently spoke to perspective students during an Honors Program Open House.

“I basically helped answer questions and concerns that they had about what it's like to be in the Honors Program and some of the advantages,” she said.

On campus, Caceres-Turcios works as a Student Ambassador in the Office of Admissions. She gives campus tours to prospective students and families and helps with office tasks and outreach.

She’s also involved in several campus organizations. She is president and mental health advocacy chair for the Psychology Club and is vice president for the National Society of Leadership and Success, an honor society chapter on campus.

However, much of her work focuses on being the president of the PERIOD Club. The club was created two years ago to raise awareness about menstruation.

“It’s not really something that's talked about in our society,” she said. “We usually try to fundraise money to provide products for women in homeless shelters and last semester we actually were able to provide products to two homeless shelters locally.”

Following graduation from UIS, she would like to become a grief counselor or a college counselor at either a university or a high school.

She’s glad she made the decision to come to UIS.

“(UIS) has taught me a lot about myself,” she said. “When I first came here I was pretty shy, but because of the amount or responsibility and the amount of opportunities since I've gotten to UIS it really taught me that I am capable of doing great things.”

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

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

Three Springfield educated journalists are the newest inductees into The Bill Miller Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois Springfield. Trif Alatzas of Baltimore Sun Media, Patty Culhane of Al Jazeera and Natasha Korecki of POLITICO are the 2019 inductees. The award-winning journalists’ experiences range from bridging print to digital, to reporting from the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and covering the criminal trials of two consecutive Illinois governors.

Trif Alatzas is publisher and editor-in-chief of Baltimore Sun Media. A 1989 graduate of the PAR program, he interned in the Illinois State Capitol with United Press International and Gannett News Service. Under his leadership, Baltimore Sun Media has been recognized with more than 40 national awards including being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize three times during the past four years.

Patty Culhane joined Al Jazeera in 2009. Before joining she worked as a correspondent for MSNBC/NBC covering the Bush administration. She has been a journalist for 24 years, working in Iowa, Illinois and Norfolk, Virginia where she covered the U.S. military, travelling extensively through the Middle East covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is a 1995 graduate of the PAR program.

Natasha Korecki is a national correspondent for POLITICO, covering the 2020 presidential race. Before that, she authored and launched POLITICO’s Illinois Playbook. She previously worked as chief political writer at the Chicago Sun-Times covering federal courts and law enforcement during a golden age of political corruption prosecutions in Chicago. Korecki reported on the criminal trials of two consecutive governors – George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich – and created the “Blago Blog,” which drew a national following. She is the author of “Only in Chicago” (Agate) based on the Blagojevich probe and trials. Korecki is a 1997 graduate of the PAR program.

An induction ceremony will be held on April 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Conservatory Room of the Inn at 835, located at 835 S. 2nd St. in Springfield. Register online at or call 217-206-7163. Charles Wheeler III, the retiring director of the PAR program, will make closing remarks on the status of state government reporting.

The PAR Hall of Fame honors program graduates who have had distinguished careers in journalism and recognizes the contribution the UIS PAR program has made to journalism and to the state of Illinois. The PAR Hall of Fame is named in honor of Bill Miller, an award-winning journalist who served as the PAR program’s director for 19 years. The PAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is sponsored by NPR Illinois, the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership, Illinois Times, the Illinois Press Association and the UIS Office of Advancement.

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

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

Leadership lived: Musically gifted student helps international students feel welcomed at UIS

Samantha Hwang transferred to the University of Illinois Springfield because she wanted to be part of the UIS Music Program. She’s played the violin since she was in elementary school and was offered a Camerata Music Scholarship at UIS.

“Playing the violin is a way that I can express myself without actually speaking,” she said. “I'm kind of shy in that way, but the violin is my way of showing the world what I have to say.”

Hwang, a sociology and anthropology major, is now the concert master for the UIS Orchestra. She is also an International Student Ambassador and works part-time at Brookens Library.

“I really like being an International Student Ambassador because it presents so many opportunities that I never would have had otherwise,” she said. “I get to plan events and I get to help bring people together, which I think is the best part of being an International Ambassador.”

Hwang’s parents are from Taiwan. She was born in Indiana and has called Springfield home for the past 10 years. She’s also lived in other places around the world.

“Even though I'm not an international student here, I've lived in China before, so I know what it's like to be in a completely foreign place,” she said. “I really, really want to make it my mission to make people feel welcome and at home here.”

Following graduation from UIS, Hwang wants to enter the workforce and earn her master’s degree in counseling. She’d like to work in higher education or as an event planner.

“UIS has taught me many things, but above all I think it is the leadership role,” she said. “Before I was very introverted because there were so many people, but here at UIS there's a balance between leadership and following.”

Hwang says she’ll always remember the time she’s spent at UIS.

“I'm glad I came to UIS, for sure, because it is a U of I campus,” she said. “I've met so many great people and people that I'll never be able to forget and people I'm grateful for and the experience here has helped me grow very much as a person.”

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Five UIS students honored with awards at the Model Illinois Government simulation

Five University of Illinois Springfield students were honored with awards during the annual Model Illinois Government (MIG) simulation at the Illinois State Capitol on March 1-3, 2019.

Aislinn Diaz of Chicago was named outstanding committee person in the senate, Bryce Thomas of Hawthorn Woods won the award for outstanding chair in the senate, Brock Titlow of Kewanee won the outstanding staff member award, and Ben Szalinski of Mundelein and Andrew Cunningham of Decatur won the outstanding Moot Court team award.

Three UIS students also served in statewide offices during the Model Illinois Government Simulation. Chloe Compton of Troy served as president of the senate, Cale Bergschneider of Springfield served as comptroller and Collin Cisco of Springfield served as treasurer.

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 associate professor of history, at 217/206-7439 or

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Leadership lived: Transfer student helps prospective students and parents learn about UIS

As a transfer student, Cambry Bennett says she had a smooth transition to the University of Illinois Springfield thanks to the UIS Admissions Office. Now she’s helping prospective students learn about UIS as a Student Ambassador.

As a Student Ambassador, Bennett gives campus tours to high school students and their parents who are interested in attending the University. She is also a part of UIS Preview Days where large groups of prospective students visit campus.

“I have the privilege of showing them around,” said Bennett. “First, we introduce ourselves, just to get familiar with them, see what they're interested in so we can help show them things that would specifically interest them in the campus.”

Bennett, a liberal students major, says she enjoys meeting new students and learning about their educational goals.

“I think it's very cool to see them when they do accept UIS and we see them on campus and they say 'hey you gave the tour'! I think that's really cool to be a part of because you're already part of their experience at UIS before they even start,” she said.

As a commuter student, Bennett lives in her hometown of Pawnee, Illinois and drives 20 minutes to campus each day.

“I'm able to still be involved in my community as well as share my community here at UIS,” she said.

On campus, Bennett is a member of the Commuter Student Association and sings in the UIS Music Choir Ensemble. She’s also a member of International Student Fellowship, a group which aims to help international students feel welcome in Springfield.

This past summer, Bennett traveled to seven foreign countries with the group Youth With A Mission as part of an educational Christian mission trip.

“It allowed me to teach music as well as teach English through the music abilities and to also learn different cultures, different languages and things like that,” she said.

Following graduation from UIS, Bennett would like to continue to travel world-wide and teach English through mission work.

“I believe UIS has been a key point to what I want to do in the future and I believe that it has helped me to be able to grow in my experiences of not only learning to be a leader, but also to be able to work with people. I'm so glad I made the decision to come to UIS,” she said.

Monday, February 25, 2019

UIS honors Randall F. Dunn and Larry Golden with alumni awards for achievement and service

Larry Golden (Left) and Randall F. Dunn (Right)
The University of Illinois Springfield honored the significant achievements and contributions of Randall F. Dunn and Larry Golden during the annual Alumni Gala on Friday, February 22, 2019, at the UIS Student Union.

The 2019 Alumni Achievement Award for outstanding success and national or international distinction in one’s business, profession or life’s work was presented to Randall F. Dunn, a southwest Florida entrepreneur and community leader. The award is the highest honor bestowed upon alumni of the University. Dunn earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UIS, then Sangamon State University, in the 1970s.

Upon completion of his graduate degree, Dunn relocated to southwest Florida and within 18 months, partnered with a radiologist to establish the Oncology Center, a radiation therapy and medical oncology cancer treatment center. Dunn also administered Radiology Associates, a hospital-based radiology practice. Dunn and his partner sold their holdings to Navix Diagnostix (Navix Imaging), a merger which saw Dunn become senior vice president of Navix Imaging, Inc., overseeing regional growth and expansion.

Fueled by a passion for entrepreneurship and leadership, Dunn went on to found multiple organizations devoted to medical practice management; home, condominium, medical facility and hotel/motel development; and personal and business finance.

Dunn’s passion for leadership has made a significant impact on his local community in southwest Florida. Dunn is credited with leading the Punta Gorda Revitalization Committee; YMCA; American Cancer Society of Florida; United Way; and has helped found, or served as a member of, other non-profit, community focused organizations including his local Chamber of Commerce, where Dunn was awarded Pacesetter of the Year.

Dunn is a past recipient of the UI Loyalty Award for Exceptional Alumni Service; served on the Development Advisory Board and the National Commission on the Future of UIS; initiated the Capital Steps Scholarship Fund drive, financing its first scholarship; and is a former member of the UI Alumni Association board of directors. His daughter, Rebecca (Dunn) Albertini, is also a UIS graduate, having earned both a business administration and MBA from the University.

The 2019 Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary commitment, dedication and service to the advancement of the University of Illinois was awarded to Springfield resident Larry Golden, UIS emeritus professor of political science and legal studies and founding director of the Illinois Innocence Project. The award is presented to individuals or couples whose consistent, exceptional and meritorious service has made significant impact on the University’s overall welfare and advanced its mission.

Golden is a founding faculty member of the University who earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota, who has dedicated his life and career to teaching and activism on the issues of civil rights and liberties, and of law, inequality and justice.

When Golden first arrived to Springfield, he helped organize efforts to address school desegregation, and the form of local government and representation.

Golden helped found The Springfield Project (TSP), which seeks to unite the city as a community by working to improve the quality of life for all throughout its neighborhoods. Founded upon principles of a similar organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, a service model was implemented to help improve Springfield in areas of most need.

Golden helped found the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project, the forerunner to the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP). The IIP seeks to bring justice to the wrongfully convicted through advocacy, education and reform of the criminal justice system. UIS undergraduates work alongside law students from the state’s public law schools and attorneys to investigate and legally pursue claims of innocence. Golden has been instrumental in securing more than $3 million in grants for IIP in the past 8 years.

Golden retired from full-time teaching and continues to volunteer with IIP. In addition, Golden contributes to a course on conviction of the innocent; and presents on the topic of wrongful conviction and the work occurring across the country to free the innocent.

His distinguished service and leadership are recognized nationally. Golden is a former executive board member of the National Innocence Network, the organization linking more than 50 innocence projects around the country. Golden is also a past recipient of the Courageous Voices Award, presented by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. The award recognizes individuals who are at the forefront of pressing issues affecting the community.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Leadership lived: International student gains professional experience thanks to the Graduate Public Service Internship Program

Geetu Sharma came to the United States to be part of the Graduate Public Service Internship Program at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“It's a phenomenal work experience, which is provided by UIS to all the grad students,” she said. “We get the opportunity by interviewing with some of the state agencies and they hire us.”

In October 2018, Sharma started interning in the Office of Health Promotion at the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) where she works to prevent cases of youth suicide.

“I'm currently assisting with the youth suicide prevention project, along with researching what other states are doing about suicide prevention,” she said. “I'm also part of suicide alliance committee here.”

Sharma, who is earning her master’s degree in public health at UIS, is also active on campus as the Graduate Student Senator on the Student Government Association and president of Asian Student Organization. She previously worked as an International Student Ambassador where she helped welcome new students and planned events.

“Coming to the United States was always my dream,” she said. “Being here I have learned how to communicate with people, how your voice is important, along with that how this whole professional world works in America.”

Sharma was working as a dentist in New Delhi, India when she found out about the Graduate Public Service Internship Program from two friends who attend UIS. She wanted to gain more professional experience in the United States.

“They both told me about UIS,” she said. “They told me about this Graduate Public Service Internship Program and that was the only reason that I came to UIS.”

Following graduation from UIS, Sharma would like to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

“I am really blessed to be at UIS because whatever UIS gave me in this past one year, it's amazing,” she said. “Like it was not easy, but whatever I've achieved is something I really appreciate and I will just say I'm blessed.”

Friday, February 15, 2019

Leadership lived: Communication major helps fellow students land jobs through her work at the Career Development Center

Kia Jones has become an expert in reviewing resumes and cover letters. The University of Illinois Springfield junior communication major works at the Career Development Center where she helps any student who walks through the door make sure they’re ready to apply for a job.

“I really enjoy helping people,” said Jones. “I've actually had a couple of students who have come up to me after they came in and say they got the job after I reviewed their resume and cover letter. Just seeing them kind of furthering their careers and achieving their goals is really fulfilling for me.”

As a student worker at the Career Development Center, Jones also helps out with big events, such as the Career Connections Expo.

In December 2018, Jones was honored with the Student Affairs Employee of the Month award for her above and beyond work helping other students.

“I was kind of surprised by it, but I was more pleasantly surprised,” she said. “It really just kind of symbolizes student workers who are actually trying to actively improve not only the office, but the students that they assist as well.”

On campus, Jones is also a member of the Black Student Union, where she’s involved in Black History Month event planning, and a member of the Capital Scholars Honors Program. She says she’s learned many lessons about leadership through her involvement on campus.

“UIS has taught me that anyone can be a leader,” she said. “I was a person who I didn't mind necessarily being a leader, but I also kind of stepped back and let other people take the lead. But what (UIS) taught me is that if you want to you can take that leadership role and there's no cookie cutter person that looks like a leader.”

Following graduation from UIS, Jones would like to work in media production and possibly broadcasting. She feels she made the right decision attending UIS.

“I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason,” she said. “So I came here for a reason. I am close to being that person who I have always wanted to be. The growth that I've received from being at UIS, I don't think I would have been able to get anywhere else."

Monday, February 11, 2019

UIS Master's Thesis awards presented to three Springfield residents

The University of Illinois Springfield Research Board has honored three former graduate students, all Springfield residents, with awards for their master’s thesis projects for the 2017-2018 academic year. The awards were presented during a ceremony on February 7, 2019, at the UIS Student Union.

Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award 

Sarah Lindholm of Springfield was presented with the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award. She graduated from UIS in July 2018 with a master’s degree in biology with a specialization in ecology and evolution. Her thesis study investigated long-term changes in the floristic quality of the reconstructed tallgrass prairie at the Emiquon Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy.

Lindholm began attending UIS to pursue a bachelor’s in biology. She says the quality of education she received from her passionate professors inspired her to double major in environmental studies, and to eventually pursue a graduate degree. Throughout her academic career, she says, the mentorship, opportunities and hands-on experiences provided by UIS professors inspired her to challenge herself, find the fields of study she was passionate about and gain direct experience in them.

While an undergraduate, she was able to volunteer in biology labs, intern at the Illinois State Museum and work for the Environmental Studies Department. During her graduate degree she worked as an aquatic biologist at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency through the Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI), and at the Illinois River Biological Station (part of the Illinois Natural History Survey).

Her thesis was chaired by Amy McEuen and Hua Chen, both associate professors of biology, and Megan Styles, assistant professor of environmental studies.

Lindholm now works as an environmental scientist and geographical information systems analyst at Northwater Consulting. She specializes in water resources, watershed planning, pollution reduction and habitat mitigation and restoration. Her future scholarly interests include publishing her thesis study and pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology.

Department Awards 

Justin Blandford of Springfield was honored with the History Department award for his master’s thesis entitled “I Write Practically to Set You an Example: Sarah Davis, Education and Civil Society.”

He earned his master’s degree in history from UIS in May 2018. His thesis was chaired by Holly Kent, associate professor of history.

In July 2018, Blandford was appointed Illinois Governor’s Mansion Curator after having served as a Historic Site Superintendent for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources since 2004. Most recently he directed operations at six nationally significant state-owned historic sites: Lincoln’s Tomb, Veterans Memorials, Old State Capitol, Lincoln Law Office, Vachel Lindsay Home and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana House.

As the curator of the Governor’s Mansion he is responsible for creating and implementing the mansion’s new strategic vision, which includes a greater focus on history, education, creative arts and the visitor experience. Blandford leads the development of events and marketing programs to attract visitors to the mansion, which is the third oldest Governor’s mansion in use today.

Lauren McPherson of Springfield was honored with the English and Modern Languages Department award for her master’s thesis entitled “Possibility, Engaged and Embodied: A Pedagogy.”

McPherson graduated from UIS in May 2018 with a master’s degree in English. Her thesis chair was Stephanie Hedge, UIS assistant professor of English.

Her research focused on teaching strategies foregrounding critical pedagogies, poetics, and embodiment in the classroom. She now proudly serves as an adjunct composition instructor at UIS. When she isn’t in the writing classroom, she is a registered nurse in the HSHS St. John’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

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.