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 go.uis.edu/PARHallofFame2019 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 ntimm3@uis.edu.

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 kowen8@uis.edu.