Monday, November 23, 2020

UIS History professor, two alumni part of an Emmy Award-winning film shot at the site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riots

“Face to Face,” a short film featuring Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese reading a powerful poem he wrote from inside the remains of black-owned homes that were burned in the 1908 Springfield Race Riots was honored with an Emmy in the Short Format Program category during the virtual 2020 Mid-America Emmy Award on Saturday. 

University of Illinois Springfield Assistant Professor of History Devin Hunter approached The Storyteller Studios with the idea of creating the short film, while they were documenting the archaeological work at the Race Riot site. Hunter connected Storyteller with Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese and his powerful poem. 

The Emmy was awarded to The Storyteller Studios’ Chris Costello, who served as director, cinematographer and editor, and to Josh Hester, who serves Storyteller as executive producer. Costello earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from UIS in 2015 and Hester earned a master’s degree in communication from UIS in 2009. 

Hunter said, he hoped the film and the poem would help anyone that watches it focus on the victims of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, and especially to its lasting impact on the community and the work that needs to be done towards racial justice and equality today. 

“All possible credit is due to Wes, and his remarkable poem,” Hunter said. “The entire project started with his powerful words, and I'm proud that this honor may bring more attention to this amazing work.”  

The Emmy award-winning video was produced through the University of Illinois and funded by the University of Illinois Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts & Humanities and created as a part of The Humanities Innovating New Knowledge (T.H.I.N.K.) Project. 

You can watch the film at

Thursday, November 19, 2020

UIS Professor Richard Gilman-Opalsky writes new book on “The Communism of Love”

University of Illinois Springfield Political Science Professor Richard Gilman-Opalsky has written a new book on “The Communism of Love: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Exchange Value.”

According to the publisher, the book explores the meaning and power of love from Ancient Greece to the present day. Gilman-Opalsky argues that what is called “love” by the best thinkers to have approached the subject is in fact the beating heart of communism—that is, communism understood as a human yearning and way of life, not as a form of government. Along the way, Gilman-Opalsky demonstrates that the capitalist method of assigning value to things is incapable of appreciating what humans treasure most. Exchange value cannot appropriately value the experiences and relationships that make our lives worth living. Capital can only value love by turning it into a commodity, but the commodification of love destroys it.

“The Communism of Love” follows the struggles of love in different contexts of race, class, gender and sexuality, and shows how the aspiration for love is as close as we may get to a universal communist aspiration.

“In this beautifully crafted book, Richard Gilman-Opalsky persuasively uncovers and explores an ‘irreducibly antagonistic relationship of love to capitalist exchange value.’ Refusing to submit to the all-too-common reduction of love to sex, he points to the emergence of communist love during moments of uprising and resistance,” writes George Katsiaficas, author of “The Subversion of Politics,” in reviewing the book.

Gilman-Opalsky, the 2018 University Scholar award winner, is the author of five previous books, including “Specters of Revolt” and “Precarious Communism.” He earned his Ph.D. in political science from The New School for Social Research in 2006. He also earned master’s and bachelor's degrees in philosophy from The New School for Social Research and Hofstra University, respectively.

“The Communism of Love” is published by AK Press and will be released on Dec. 1, 2020. The book can be purchased on the publisher’s website at, on Amazon and from other online retailers.

For more information, contact Gilman-Opalsky at 217-206-8328 or

Sunday, November 01, 2020

UIS student Kodi Smith honored with the Student Laureate Award from the Lincoln Academy of Illinois

Kodi Smith of Taylorville has been selected as the University of Illinois Springfield student recipient of the Student Laureate Award from the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Only one UIS student is honored with the prestigious award each academic year.

“As I was reading my nomination letter, I immediately thought to myself, ‘This is too good to be true.' I began researching the award online and realized just how great of an honor it is to be named a Student Laureate,” Smith said. “It feels good to have my hard work be acknowledged by others.”

Smith, a senior biology major at UIS who graduated from Taylorville High School, plans on attending medical school and becoming a trauma surgeon following completion of her bachelor’s degree.

At UIS, she is a member of National Society of Leadership and Success (Sigma Alpha Pi) and the Pre-Health Society, a group of students who are interested in working in the medical field. She has volunteered with the group multiple times at Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach where she helped package unused medical equipment and send it to countries who are in need of the supplies.

“Experiences like this one make me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself as I am helping people who are thousands of miles away from me,” she said.

In 2019, Smith started working as a medical scribe in a hospital emergency room, which she calls an “opportunity of a lifetime,” adding that she has gained a plethora of medical knowledge. She more recently spent time shadowing an ear, nose, and throat surgeon.

“It has given me insight into the medical field that I thought I would not be able to obtain until I was at least in medical school,” she said.

Through a UIS internship, she also worked as a cancer research intern at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine this past fall.

“While there, I would culture cells, apply different medicines and treatments to cell colonies, and perform various experiments,” she said. “The doctor who I performed research under was trying to find a cure for cancer through his experiments and he gave me an appreciation for the research aspect of the medical field.”

When she was in high school, Smith was actively involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, including being a part of Taylorville’s cheer team for six years where she got the chance to travel to London, England to perform in their New Year’s Day Parade and earned the title All-American cheerleader.

She was also very involved in band in high school. She participated in four honor bands, was named a District Musician for two years and an All-State Musician. Her senior year she was named an Illinois State Scholar and Illinois Ambassador of Music and was able to travel and perform concerts in several European countries.

Her other high school involvement included National Honor Society, FFA and Key Club where she spent a significant amount of time volunteering.

“If I apply the skills I have obtained through my high school and college career thus far, I believe I can be successful with my future and have a rewarding career,” she said.

Each year an outstanding senior from each of the four-year degree-granting institutions of higher learning in Illinois is awarded the Student Lincoln Academy Medallion and thereby becomes a Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Student Laureates are honored for their overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities and receive a $500 stipend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Assistant Professor Sudeep Sharma named the University Scholar at UIS

Sudeep Sharma, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, marketing and operations at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been named University Scholar for 2020. The award, considered the university system’s highest faculty honor, recognizes outstanding teaching and scholarship. Only one faculty member receives the annual award at UIS.

Sharma joined UIS in Fall 2015, after already having established himself as a top scholar in his areas of negotiation and conflict management, personality and individual differences and emotions in the workplace. In particular, Sharma's work in the area of individual differences in negotiation has challenged the status quo. The consensus among negotiation scholars has been that individual differences play a limited role in negotiation effectiveness, but Sharma's research has proven otherwise.

Although at a relatively early stage in his career, Sharma has already had numerous impactful publications in leading and high-quality journals in organizational behavior. These journals include Human Performance, Emotion, Organizational Psychology Review and the International Journal of Selection and Assessment, among others. Sharma's research has been cited 311 times per Google Scholar, and he has six papers with at least six citations each. So far, Sharma has published nine peer-reviewed journal articles and 19 peer-reviewed conference papers.

“Much of Sharma's work is lead-authored, which is a testament to the significant contributions that he has made to each manuscript,” his nominator said. 

Although Sharma's track record of published research is impressive, it is worth noting that he has a substantial pipeline of work that is poised to make additional contributions to his fields of study. He currently has eight manuscripts in development which are targeted to journals such as Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Applied Psychology and Administrative Science Quarterly. These outlets are among the best in the field. Moreover, Sharma regularly presents his research and organizes symposia at the major academic societies in the field of organizational behavior.

Sharma's scholarship has earned him awards, including the Outstanding Article Published in 2013 by the International Association for Conflict Management. More recently, Sharma was awarded a 2020 DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service) Fellowship to be a visiting scholar at the Institute for Management and Organization at Leuphana University. Only 75-100 scholars from across the globe are selected each year from across diverse areas of research.

“Although research is among the most important endeavors engaged in by university professors, Sharma has also established himself as an excellent teacher,” said his nominator. “Sharma has developed and taught several courses in the Department of Management curriculum. Student assessments of his teaching are very positive, with ratings routinely exceeding averages of the department, college, and university. Thus, Sharma embodies what it means to be a teacher-scholar at UIS.”

At UIS, he teaches courses on organizational behavior, leadership in organizations, negotiation, and HR courses on the topics such as performance management and selection and assessment to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Sharma earned a master’s and doctorate degree in business administration (organization behavior) from Washington University in St. Louis. He also earned a master’s degree in industrial relations and organizational behavior from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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

Monday, October 05, 2020

UIS Emeritus Professor Donald Morris writes a new book exploring “Taxation in Utopia”

Donald Morris, a University of Illinois Springfield emeritus professor of accountancy, has written a new book, “Taxation in Utopia: Required Sacrifice and the General Welfare.” 

At its core, taxation is an ethical question. It requires people to sacrifice for the benefit of others, whether or not they also benefit themselves. Morris’ book is an interdisciplinary exploration of utopian taxation and how it provides a novel approach to examining relations between a state's view of the general welfare and the sacrifices this view requires of its citizens. 

“I chose utopias for the same reasons that investigators exploring other problems control variables, adopt simplifying assumptions, and develop conceptual models,” Morris said. “And while moral concerns permeating taxation are illustrated in the context of utopian literature, this is not an argument for a stand-alone tax utopia or a practical treatise on tax reform. Most utopians devote little time to describing their pecuniary tax systems.” 

The book traces the moral dimensions of taxation through the utopian writings of political theorists and novelists including Henry David Thoreau, H.G. Wells, Thomas More, Leo Tolstoy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, George Orwell, B. F. Skinner, Jonathan Swift, Plato, Karl Marx and many more. 

“This is an extremely well researched and thorough exploration of utopian literature, effectively back to the beginning of the written word,” said Jennifer Bird-Pollan of the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law in reviewing the book. “Morris covers every major work of literature with a utopian element, and works through the tax (both pecuniary and constructive) present in all of these works. His explanation and analysis of economics and doctrine of tax laws is of the highest order.” 

Morris is the author of several books, including “Tax Cheating: Illegal—But Is It Immoral?” He was a Silver Award Winner in the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year in the Political Science Category, and a Category Finalist in the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, presented by Hopewell Publications. 

“Taxation in Utopia: Required Sacrifice and the General Welfare” was published by the State University of New York System (SUNY) Press in September 2020 and is available for purchase as a hardcover or electronic book from Amazon, Google and other retailers. For more information on the book, visit

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

UIS professor’s encyclopedia on LGBTQ Politics named one of Choice’s top summer picks

University of Illinois Springfield Professor of Political Science Jason Pierceson’s “LGBTQ Americans in the U.S. Political System: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Voters, Candidates, and Officeholders” was recently featured on Choice’s top ten editors’ pick list for June 2020

Choice is a publishing unit of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. 

The two-volume work, published in November 2019, includes introductory essays on LGBTQ candidates, elected officials and voters, as well as more than 250 entries on important events, issues, organizations and people in the LGBTQ rights movement. It also includes a timeline of important events in addition to noteworthy government documents, court cases and speeches by LGBTQ candidates and activists. The encyclopedia covers people and events from the early-twentieth century through the 2018 elections. 

Among the politicians profiled in the work are pathbreaking candidates and officials such as José Sarria, Kathy Kozachenko, Elaine Noble, Harvey Milk, Danica Roem, Kate Brown, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Kyrsten Sinema, Sharice Davids and Pete Buttigieg. Activists profiled include Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, Marsha P. Johnson, Cleve Jones, Larry Kramer and Bayard Rustin. 

Pierceson is the author or co-author of several books on same-sex marriage and sexuality and politics, including “Same-Sex Marriage in the Americas: Policy Innovation for Same-Sex Relationships,” “Courts, Liberalism and Rights: Gay Law and Politics in the United States and Canada,” “Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: The Road to the Supreme Court” and “Sexual Minorities in Politics: An Introduction.” 

Pierceson’s commentary and writings have appeared in such media outlets as The New York Times, The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report. He has also served as an expert witness in federal civil rights litigation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

UIS online leader Vickie Cook honored with the UPCEA Central Region Outstanding Leader award

Vickie Cook, executive director of online, professional and engaged learning at the University of Illinois Springfield has been recognized by the University Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) as the 2020 Central Region Outstanding Leader.

The Central Region Outstanding Leadership Award recognizes a UPCEA Central Region

professional member who has exhibited outstanding leadership and service within the region and their university. The award recognizes leadership in UPCEA service activities at the state and regional levels and demonstration of a strong commitment to professional, continuing and online education within the member’s institution and the region. According to UPCEA, Cook has exhibited each of these characteristics in her work at the University of Illinois Springfield, as well as in the field of professional, continuing and online education across the central region. 

“I am honored to be recognized by my colleagues across the region to receive the 2020 Central Region Outstanding Leadership Award,” Cook said. “I am privileged to work with a great team of professionals at the University of Illinois Springfield and am pleased that the organization which provides leadership to the institutions across North America has chosen to honor me in this way during 2020 when professional, continuing, and online learning is so important globally.” 

 UPCEA provides leadership in the areas of professional, continuing and online education to institutions across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The central region, one of five regions in North America, is comprised of Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin in the U.S. and Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nunavant in Canada.

Friday, September 25, 2020

UIS Professor Lan Dong in the spotlight again as Disney's newest Mulan takes center stage

Ten years after her book about Mulan was published, UIS English Professor Lan Dong, Ph.D. is still sought out for her expertise on the subject. With Disney’s live-action film, Mulan, released to Disney Plus earlier this month, Dong again found herself in the national spotlight.

She said the inquiries began in earnest when the Mulan trailers were released in 2019.

“I was interviewed by a reporter for The New York Times in February,” Dong said. “They asked questions about Mulan’s story, her trajectory moving from a Chinese heroine to a well-known name among English speakers; and of her global capacity because of the 1998 Disney animation.”

Dong went on to write an essay for History Extra, the website for BBC History Magazine, was featured in the Wall Street Journal, Vox Media, and Radio Free Asia, sat on a Kissinger Institute Panel, and conducted a radio interview with the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC.)

“In February and March, I had to remind the reporters for NYT and WSJ they had attended the premier of the movie and I hadn’t,” Dong smiled. “I could not comment on the movie itself.”

Though she was almost a Disney insider.

Disney invited Dong to sit on a panel of Chinese cultural experts in 2017 as production for the film was taking shape. Other commitments kept her from being able to join at that time.

She says she is intrigued by Disney’s choice to bypass the standard theatrical release and pave a new route by offering the film on Premier Access through its streaming platform Disney Plus.

The movie’s release came with controversy as film credits included gratitude for filming in the Xinjiang Province, which has been in the news for its alleged human rights abuses against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. The film’s lead actress, Liu Yifei also came under fire for her support for Hong Kong Police who are cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrators. Dong said she is not surprised the film is mired in controversy.

“The U.S.-China relationship is full of tension right now. It is in a very precarious place,” Dong said.

Going back to her book, Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States, Dong says it was published by an academic press, and has inspired additional scholarly work, but it was also written for general readers.

“I wanted the book to go beyond experts in my field,” she said. “I always wanted it to be more than that. It is meant for readers who have an interest in strong women and in Asian American culture. I’m glad to see it is still relevant. I still love her story.”

And she plans to watch it on Disney Plus soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Graham Peck named the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at UIS

Lincoln scholar Graham Peck has been named the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield

A virtual Ceremony of Investiture honoring Peck was held on Thursday, Sept. 24 where he received a medallion that symbolizes his position as a distinguished professor. Investitures are a special celebration of academic excellence. At UIS, when a professor is chosen to be an endowed chair or distinguished professor, an investiture takes place. 

“I’m confident that Peck, along with Michael Burlingame, who is the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies, will continue to establish UIS and Springfield as the place to learn about Illinois’ favorite son,” said UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney, while speaking at the ceremony. “Their efforts will be bolstered when The Center for Lincoln Studies opens early next year at UIS.” 

Other speakers at investiture included Provost Dennis Papini, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science Michael Lemke and Burlingame. Following the remarks, Peck presented a lecture on “Abraham Lincoln and the Making of an Antislavery Nation.” 

Peck came to UIS in 2019 after spending 17 years at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1991 from California State University, Hayward, and received his master’s and doctorate in American history from Northwestern University. Graham’s published scholarship – which includes multiple articles and the book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom” – focuses on antebellum American political history. 

The Wepner Distinguished Professorship was established at UIS as the result of a $1.2 million unrestricted estate gift from a Springfield couple, Wilbur and Margaret Wepner, longtime supporters of UIS. The funds are used for scholarships and the Wepner position. As a member of the Committee for Higher Education in Central Illinois, Wilbur Wepner helped found Sangamon State University in 1969. 

“On behalf of the university, I thank the Wepners for their generous donation,” Whitney said. “Their memory and passionate dedication for their community lives on in their gift. This professorship helps UIS realize one of its primary strategic goals, academic excellence. Philanthropists like the Wepners strengthen UIS.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

UIS student to serve as the Student Representative on the Illinois Board of Higher Education

Mackenzi Matthews of Springfield, a senior political science major at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been chosen to serve as the Student Representative on the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Matthews was elected by her peers, after having successfully served on the IBHE Student Advisory Committee articulating policy and student issues on their behalf. The Illinois Board of Higher Education is made up of 14 members, one student representative and one non-traditional student representative.

“Mackenzi has personified Leadership lived in her extracurricular involvement, academic diligence, and active interest in student leadership and policy development,” said Ginger Ostro, IBHE executive director.

At UIS, Matthews currently serves as the parliamentarian for the Student Government Association (SGA). Last year, she worked to rewrite parts of the SGA constitution and bylaws as chair of the Constitution and Rules Committee. As a member of Model Illinois Government, she was elected as Majority Leader and was awarded Outstanding Member of the House in 2020.  Matthews currently works as a committee clerk in the Office of the Clerk for the Illinois House of Representatives.

Matthews plans to earn a master’s degree and pursue a career in politics. She hopes to one day become a United States Senator.

Monday, September 14, 2020

UIS professor emerita of accountancy honored with experienced leader award from the Illinois CPA Society

University of Illinois Springfield Professor Emerita of Accountancy Carol Jessup has been honored with the experienced leader award from the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS).

The award is part of the society’s 2020 Women to Watch Awards, in partnership with the society's women’s committee and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

The experienced leader award is presented annually to recognize local female professionals who have made significant contributions to the accounting profession, their firms and the development of future women leaders.

“It’s an honor and privilege to recognize the inspiring actions and achievements of these remarkable women,” said ICPAS president and CEO Todd Shapiro in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated leaders striving to increase gender equality in the CPA profession and paving the way for future generations of women in accounting and finance.”

Jessup retired from teaching at UIS in May 2020. She primarily taught auditing and governmental and nonprofit accounting. Her research interests include fraud and online learning, and she has also written questions for the Uniform CPA Exam.

In addition to her academic positions, Jessup serves on the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln’s audit committee, is the editor-in-chief of The North American Accounting Studies research journal, and served as former chair of the editorial board for the Journal of Government Financial Management of the Association of Government Accountants. Jessup is also a frequent speaker and lecturer at national, regional, and state conferences.

Previously, Jessup held several positions in state and local government, served on the team that implemented GAAP in Illinois, and provided expert witness testimony in utility regulatory proceedings. Jessup received her doctorate in business administration from Saint Louis University and her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in accounting from the former Sangamon State University, which is now UIS. She is a licensed CPA in Illinois and a Certified Fraud Examiner.

This year's honorees will be recognized at the ICPAS Leadership Recognition and Awards Celebration on Sept. 17 as well as be featured guests at the ICPAS Women’s Leadership Forum on Oct. 23. Both events will be virtual this year.

Ken Owen: On Pace for a Healthier Lifestyle

Ken Owen, UIS Associate Professor of history, recently placed 4th overall and 1st in his age category in the Prairie Star 5K, held earlier this month on the UIS campus. 

“If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be running a 5K voluntarily, of my own free will, I would not have believed you,” joked Owen who buckled down into a healthier lifestyle after the birth of his daughter almost three years ago.

In fact, the 2018 Prairie Star 5K was his first race ever. Since then, he’s been a regular face at The Recreation and Athletic Center at UIS.

“I had been going to TRAC regularly and using a stationary bike. But during a conference in Cleveland, there were no stationary bikes, so I started using the treadmill,” he said.

Owen downloaded a fun-inspired Couch to 5K app on his phone when he returned to Springfield and headed back to TRAC, this time opting for the indoor track.
So far, he’s dropped between 80 and 90 pounds and feels better than ever.

“I’m adamant exercise was not the primary factor,” Owen said. “It was about controlling my eating. Exercise was just another way of getting into a healthy habit where I could feel the benefits of losing weight.”

Owen credits meal planning, shopping for and cooking heathier foods, and tracking his meals for most of his success. 

“I found that I liked roasted vegetables more than I thought. I learned to cook better,” Owen said. “When you’re limiting what you eat, you want to enjoy it more.”

And he has learned to enjoy running, and regularly runs more than a 5K.

“My ultimate goal is to break 20 minutes,” said Owen, whose Prairie Star 5K time this year was 20:22. “I’m frustratingly close, but close enough that I should get there soon.”

A worldwide pandemic may have thrown a wrench into his regular workout schedule, but Owen said that running gave him a sense or routine and the activity was a welcome change from being stuck at home. He appreciated the safety measures at the Prairie Star 5K.

“It was very carefully organized,” Owen said. “We never congregated in groups, there was a staggered start, and we lined up in rows that were 7 feet apart from other runners, 10 feet apart front and back.”

His advice to those thinking about getting started is simply to take the first step. 

“Don’t feel like you have to go fast. Run slowly, your body will adapt and you’ll get quicker naturally,” he said. “Go at a pace that is slow, then slow that down a bit.”

“A mile done slowly is a better than one you don’t run at all.”

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

UIS freshmen awarded $125,000 combined in President's Award Program scholarships

Sixteen newly-admitted University of Illinois Springfield freshmen have been awarded $125,000 combined in scholarships from the University of Illinois System’s President's Award Program. The individual scholarship amounts range from $5,000 to $10,000 per student.

The President’s Award Program aims to enroll highly capable students who have been admitted to one of the U of I campuses and are members of historically underrepresented groups and groups that have been less likely to enroll at the University. The broad goal of the program is to ensure and enrich the diversity of the student body. The University of Illinois believes that a diverse student body enhances the quality of education for all students.

High achieving newly-admitted freshmen from several underrepresented groups are considered for the scholarship. To be eligible for consideration, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, be Illinois residents and have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement while graduating from an Illinois high school.

In addition, students must have an ACT composite score of 25 or higher or a combined verbal and quantitative SAT score of 1220 or higher. A limited number of students with lower ACT or SAT scores may also be considered depending on their overall record of academic achievement.

President's Award Program Scholarship Recipients at UIS 

Daliyah Anderson
Biology - Pre-Medical

Joseph Berry
Nursing (Pre-Nursing)

Aidan Biga
Computer Science

Naila Buckner
Park Forest

Ivette Delgado
Biology - Pre-Medical
Lake in the Hills

Norman Hernandez
Exercise Science

Anthony Hightower
Biology - Pre-Medical

Alyssa Madsen

Noah Martinez
Computer Science

Charlotte Medina
Computer Science

Franki Miller 
Biology - Pre-Medical

Nazeerah Muhammad
Nursing (Pre-Nursing)

TJ Pinedo
Lake Zurich

Bryn Keller

Kayli Ward 

Salome Valentino Wortman
Computer Science

Students from any of the following underrepresented groups at the University of Illinois are eligible for consideration for the PAP award:
  • Students who are members of one of the underrepresented racial/ethnic groups at the University of Illinois (African American, Latino or Native American; Latino is based on origins from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, or Central or South America);
  • Students from underrepresented Illinois counties, with underrepresented defined as counties sending an average of two or fewer students per academic year to the University of Illinois in the past five-year period;
  • High achieving dependent students whose families are at or below the poverty level and are not expected to contribute to the cost of their education, as verified through FAFSA and financial aid application processes.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Helping re-establish Ospreys in Central Illinois

Every summer since 2014, University of Illinois Springfield Environmental Studies Associate Professor Tih-Fen Ting has trekked to Virginia or Massachusetts to bring Osprey chicks back to Central Illinois for release. It’s a process known as “hacking" through translocation.

The Osprey is a large, distinctively shaped fish-eating hawk that is endangered in Illinois. 

Hacking allows the chicks to be re-located to a new nesting site, which will hopefully become their home. The chicks are placed into a hack tower and when they are old enough and ready to fledge, the doors are opened so they can leave the box. 

“The objective is to re-establish self-sustained breeding populations of Ospreys in Illinois where they are listed as endangered,” said Ting. 

This summer six Osprey chicks were re-located to Banner Marsh and another six chicks were re-located to Lake Shelbyville. 

The Ospreys will eventually migrate to Central and South America, and when they are mature, hopefully return to Central Illinois to breed.

Ting’s efforts are funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Monday, July 27, 2020

UIS names Van Vieregge the interim vice chancellor for student affairs

The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) has officially announced the appointment of Van Vieregge, Ed.D., as the interim vice chancellor for student affairs. His appointment was approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees on July 25. He began his new position on June 1.

The Greenville, Illinois native has served as the executive director of auxiliary services at UIS since January 2012 and as the assistant vice chancellor for student service since 2013. Vieregge earned an associate of arts degree from Kaskaskia College in 1988, a bachelor’s degree in finance from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in 1993 and an MBA from SIUE in 1997. He received his doctorate in education (Ed.D.) from Saint Louis University in higher education administration in 2011.

“Over the course of the next few months, I will be working with Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney, UIS students, the university community, the City of Springfield, Sangamon County and other key stakeholders all over the country,” said Vieregge. “We will continue the work and vision of my predecessor, Clarice Ford, as we move forward to provide an inclusive, diverse, safe and supportive experience for our students.”

Ford passed away unexpectedly in April.

Vieregge is a veteran educator, serving as an adjunct instructor for Greenville University from 1997-2014, a Lake Land College instructor from 2003-2005, an adjunct instructor for Blackburn College from 1999-2002 and as an Illinois Department of Transportation Technology Transfer training technician from 1993-1999.

Vieregge’s employment history includes 22 years with the Illinois Department of Transportation, four years as the business administrator at Graham Correctional Center, and seven years as the director of business and auxiliary services at Saint Louis University.

Vieregge and his wife, Lora, are lifelong residents of Bond County.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Newest Prairie Stars meet through virtual KickStart

KickStart Orientation is a UIS staple in preparing new Prairie Stars for a transition from home to campus. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's orientation transitioned to an all-online format, and according Lisa McGuire, director of New Student Orientation and Parent Relations, it has been successful. 

Behind the scenes, McGuire and her team of experienced orientation leaders worked fast to attend webinars and trainings on how to take their programming online. They were guided by schools who had years of experience in online orientations.

“The National Orientation Directors’ Association was a great place for sharing ideas on how larger schools do online orientation or have components of it online. It was like having 3000 colleagues sharing resources to help with online development,” McGuire said.

McGuire used the university’s new learning management system, Canvas, to build orientation modules introducing new Prairie Stars to academic advising and expectations, financial information, student success, living on campus and technology. An optional module on student life and opportunity fairs was also available. KickStart attendees begin with a 90-minute online Zoom that includes an introduction to McGuire and her team; they then are placed in breakout rooms with other students and orientation leaders like UIS senior Libby Price.

“The whole point of summer orientation is to get to know each other, which is a little harder on Zoom, but we’re getting there,” Price said. “We have several ice breakers that help students get comfortable in a group and we allow them to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously on going to college.”

McGuire said with the change to online format, she was not able to hire all of her orientation leaders back, but those who are working, like Price, have gone above and beyond making the experience special for incoming freshmen.

“It is our job to create that first sense of community, engagement and relationship building,” said McGuire. "We are missing the in-person component, especially the evenings -- that’s where relationships develop -- but our orientation leaders are going above and beyond to keep these new students in contact with each other. They are hosting extra activities like trivia nights each week where new students can log in, trying to create those experiences and maintain those interactions.”

McGuire admits it was a lot of work to transition KickStart to an online format, but it was worth the effort.

“An online version of KickStart had been on our back-burner for a while,” McGuire said. “This year it became a front burner project.”

McGuire also credits the many faculty and staff who helped in the success of the transition and created content through videos and Google slides to share information or experiences with new students. 

And even when things go back to normal, and KickStart can return to an in-person format, McGuire said she plans to maintain some of the online components she worked so hard to build. “There are more things we can look at, things we can do online to create a richer experience in a shorter time and be mindful of costs,” she said.

New students will have one final Kickstart module available to them closer to move-in day which will give them the latest information on plans for move-in and health checks.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Collaboration Success

The moment the Illinois “stay at home” order went into effect on March 21, the wheels were turning in Bruce Sommer’s head. Sommer, UIS’ Director of Economic Development and Innovation knew businesses would have questions on how to handle the temporary shutdown, so he gathered a team of experts to field those questions online.

“In the beginning, there were so many questions and so many things going on,” Sommer said. “People were concerned, so our first webinars were about the relief programs for businesses, how to take your business online and the economic impact of a shutdown. No one was providing them that information.”

Sommer used his own personal Zoom account for the first free webinar which limited his capacity to 100 attendees. Those spots filled within the first minute. The next week he used a UIS Zoom account, and attendance surpassed 100.

Since that time, Sommer and his rotating team of experts have hosted nearly 1,500 attendees with weekly webinars on business, education, health and the economy. Some topics came about as suggestions from frequent flier attendees.

“The amazing thing is that, for many of the panelists, I’ve asked them to participate on very short notice and no one has turned me down. We typically have five panelists each week. The collective collaboration around this has been my greatest reward,” Sommer said.

The weekly webinars are a collaboration between the UIS Office of Economic Development and Innovation, Innovate Springfield, and the UIS colleges of Business and Management and Public Affairs and Administration. Community partners include The Community Health Round Table, SIU School of Medicine, local businesses and state and local government officials.

“When I moved back to Springfield, people in social impact circles within the community felt like UIS was an underutilized resource,” Sommer said. “Through these webinars, we have inserted UIS into the conversations. We have incredible researchers and teachers and the community is craving that leadership."

Sommer said the success of the webinars is directly attributable to the layers of knowledge around the Springfield community and UIS campus. That is what Innovate Springfield, the first hub in the Illinois Innovation Network is about, bringing local resources and collaboration together.

“People came together in a time of crisis,” Sommer said. “It’s a great example of IIN’s goal of working collaboratively at all times.”

Moving forward, webinars will alternate between a business and health focus. Older webinars can be accessed on the UIS Academic Affairs website.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Virtual summer stargazing

The University of Illinois Springfield's long-standing Star Parties have gone online, for now, to accommodate safe social distancing of participants. UIS Associate Professor of Astronomy and Physics John Martin hosted the first virtual Star Party on May 30.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We could have had from three to 300 participants,” Martin said. “We did not have 300, but it went really well. Those who showed up were interested and captivated.”

UIS Information Technology Associate Jeff Suddeth logged on to the virtual Star Party to make sure all technology was working properly. His children logged on to participate in the fun.

“The iPad app that Dr. Martin used was really fun because you could see what was happening in the sky right now,” said Suddeth’s son, Weston, age 11. The free app is called GoSkyWatch.

Suddeth said his youngest child was equally captivated by the constellations and how they could create pictures in the sky.

“I encouraged people to be outside,” Martin said. “We started with a tour of the night sky just before sunset. I told them that if they looked west, they could see planets and the Big Dipper. We looked at the moon and were able to identify where the first moon landing happened.”

The virtual Star Party happened the same day SpaceX launched. “We had a visible pass of the International Space Station where the Dragon capsule was six to ten minutes behind it,” Martin said.

The next UIS Star Party also will be hosted virtually on June 27. Viewing information can be found on the star party website.
“We are taking it a month at a time,” Martin said. “We like to do the live ones; they are a ton of fun with more than a few telescopes. The Sangamon Astronomical Society comes out with their telescopes. But in the meantime, we wanted to do something to sustain the interest.”

Martin said he will be working with Lincoln Memorial Gardens, with advice from health professionals, to assess transitioning back to live Star Parties later in the summer.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Photography students shift focus to capture pandemic moments

UIS Associate Professor of Communication Kathy Novak, Ph.D., was only a few weeks into  her COM 407 Photojournalism and Photo Documentary Class when Illinois began to shelter in place and UIS students returned home to begin remote learning.

The already-online class did not have to adjust for remote learning, but assignments had to be modified immediately.

“Their weekly photo assignments normally send them out into the public to photograph people, places and events,” Novak said. “I encourage them to meet people, introduce themselves and take photographs, these are all professional skills. Meeting and photographing people are central to what this course is about.”

But in the midst of a pandemic, when the world is essentially shut down, meeting people in public spaces would prove to be a challenge.

“A teacher’s goal is to impress and exercise the content of the course, and I was worried that wasn’t going to happen,” Novak said.

But it did.

Olivia Mitchell, a 2020 PAR graduate and student in the class, was worried whether she would be able to complete assignments on lighting, profiles and angles.

“I was scared to be outside and be around people,” Mitchell said. “But I let go of the fear and decided to take pictures of any opportunity I saw.”

One of those opportunities was her 30th birthday, when she snapped photographs of her niece and nephew playing outdoors.

Mitchell admits the pandemic closures forced her to re-think her dynamic angles assignment, as she had originally planned to take pictures from the top of the Wyndham Hotel.

“I still went downtown. It was so empty,” she said. “Since I couldn’t go inside, I laid down on the ground to take the photo looking up. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, I still accomplished everything I was supposed to do.”

Novak said when students turned in their final project photo essays, she was amazed at the stark moments that were captured; photos that tell the story of how the world stood still and how life was altered by COVID-19.

Some of those photos included a hospital laryngoscope prepped and ready to be used on patients, a pop-up COVID-19 testing site, social distancing while grocery shopping, volunteers delivering meals and the empty streets of downtown Chicago during rush hour.

“Even with the added restraint on their daily lives, students were able still to chronicle what it has meant to live during the COVID-19 outbreak, to create visual work of consequence,” Novak said.

A sampling of this important work can be found on the UIS Communication Department Facebook page. Mitchell’s work is also featured on the NPR Illinois website.

“I learned that I loved to take photographs,” Mitchell said. “People may read the story, but they will always look at the photos. A picture really is worth one-thousand words.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

UIS honors Associate Professor Donna Bussell with the Harry and Deborah Berman Sabbatical Award

The University of Illinois Springfield’s Harry and Deborah Berman Sabbatical Award has been presented to Donna Bussell, associate professor of English.

Bussell’s sabbatical plan is to research library archives on the liturgies for Mary Magdalene in medieval England, highlighting religious orders for communities of men and of women. Little research has been done on the figure of the Magdalene during the early and high middle ages, when religious practices were in Latin. Secondarily, she will explore the value of digital humanities methods for tracking multiple manuscripts and different narratives.

While travel is restricted due to COVID-19, Bussell will utilize digital tools and techniques.

“Her work will form the foundation for her next book project, and will also impact her teaching, as she continues to lead the development of a digital humanities curriculum at UIS,” said Keenan Dungey, UIS associate vice chancellor for research and institutional effectiveness.

Faculty who are awarded sabbatical leaves may apply for supplemental funding to assist with sabbatical expenses. Awards are granted through a competitive review and selection process.

The award was made possible thanks to the generosity of Harry and Deborah Berman. Harry served as a gerontology professor, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, provost and interim chancellor. Deborah served in a variety of central administrative positions at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Chris Lowe: Athletic performance on and off the field

University of Illinois Springfield athletes may be at home, but during remote learning they were still actively training with athletics staff and preparing for their next season. UIS Director of Strength and Conditioning Chris Lowe had played a large role in that.

“We’ve been using an online software program, and the athletes have an app on their phone that is really user friendly,” Lowe said. “Normally they would be on campus training with me, and I could make changes. We have had to be extremely creative with at-home workouts. Not every person has the luxury of a weight room and access to weights. Our staff has done a great job developing programs for at-home settings.”

Lowe said athletic staff is concentrating on more than reps and sets, they are focusing on the athlete as a whole. The app allows for connections beyond just physical workouts. It comprises overall wellness including mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Athletes had weekly challenges to learn new skills while at home, such as cooking which is tied directly into nutrition, an important part of being an athlete. Lowe said cooking proved to be motivational.

Zoom has also helped UIS athletes connect with their teammates. “It allows for that face-to-face interaction, which is great to see in coaching, it’s that human interaction you don’t get in text messages,”

Lowe said. He is impressed with the dedication UIS athletes have demonstrated at home. “They take a step every day to be champions, to reach a goal. This has not deterred them, “Lowe said. “That is a testament to them and the coaching staff.”

Lowe also said the virus has opened doors for athletic staff from throughout the Great Lakes Valley Conference to connect and learn from each other. “For the first time ever, we had a Zoom session with all of the coaches in the GLVC to learn from each other, how each one operates and how it differs from school to school. Lowe also recently attended the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association online convention. We all still want to get better in our profession and there is so much more communication than we have had in the past.”

With finals over, Lowe said athletes are on a summer schedule with no mandatory Countable Athletic Related Activity (CARA) hours. He is hopeful the fall semester will resume and with it, fall sports.

“When that comes up, we are being realistic and optimistic,” he said. “We can only control our response and that is a huge mental piece of this puzzle. I remind them of our mission statement which is to be the best version of themselves as a person.”

Monday, May 18, 2020

UIS computer science students among best in The National Cyber League competition

The University of Illinois Springfield Cyber League team named the 404 Society placed in the top two percent in The National Cyber League competition held remotely in April.

The annual cybersecurity competition hosted by Cyber Skyline enables students to prepare and test themselves against practical cybersecurity challenges they will likely face in the workforce, such as identifying hackers from forensic data, penetration testing and audit vulnerable websites and recovering ransomware attacks.

The team was made up of UIS computer science students who hailed from different cities across Illinois. "These teammates didn't know each other before the competition, but they came together fully motivated from the start to be a winning team” said Janis Rose, the team’s faculty advisor and
UIS computer science instructor. “I've never seen a team so totally in support of each other. I stood back in awe as they worked through one challenge after another. They competed with intellect, character and heart. I couldn't be prouder."

Team members include Nolan Bogumill from Palos Hills, Brandon Brant from Dwight, Kenneth Stroup from Chicago, Michael Weinberg from Mokena, Connor Alisson from Bloomington, John Scully from Springfield and Nicholas Ferraz de Oliveira from Champaign.

The UIS team is ranked in the Cyber Power top ten for the central region of the nation and in top 20 nationally. The team also ranked 10th in the nation among the Center of Academic Excellence schools.

UIS’s computer science program is certified by both the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

UIS professors part of a $500,000 USDA grant studying the use of pesticides in urban agricultural communities

Two University of Illinois Springfield professors, in collaboration with professors at Tuskegee University in Alabama, have received a three year $500,000 United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to assess the risk of pesticide use and air dispersion in urban agricultural communities.

UIS Assistant Professor of Public Health Egbe Egiebor and Associate Professor of Public Health Dorine Brand will receive about $168,000 from the overall grant awarded to Tuskegee University.

Due to urban growth, there are greater populations at the edge of agricultural land. The study will evaluate the present methods for monitoring and modeling the atmospheric spread of pesticide pollutants under various weather conditions, identify hotspots and assess the vulnerability of affected communities.

“We are really excited to conduct this study,” Egiebor said. “It is the first time a project like this will be facilitated in two different agro-ecological zones with different production systems. This study will be conducted in two different locations, Alabama and Illinois.”

According to Egiebor, farmlands in the United States have shrunk by 215 million acres since 1954 because of urbanization. Residents living at the proximity of farmlands have reported problems with odors, noise, dust, pesticide sprays as well as health problems associated with agricultural operations.

“In particular, the use of pesticides causes contamination that is transmitted via surface runoff, groundwater and airborne residues,” Egiebor said. “Overwhelming evidence shows that pesticides adversely affect humans and other living organisms as well as the environment.”

Commonly used pesticides have been linked with birth defects, organ damage, developmental issues, psychological issues, different cancers and even death.

According to Brand, the study will explore the links between health effects and pesticides, while educating those communities most impacted by them.

“The project will contribute to sustainable air quality management for health and environment protection in the urban-agriculture interface and will improve long term planning and management of pesticide risk and its impacts on the environment as well as communities,” Brand said.

UIS graduate students will have an opportunity to take part in the research and will be mentored and trained in many aspects of the study.

“Students will gain valuable experiential learning by taking part in a federally-funded research study,” Brand said.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

UIS Graduate Public Service Internship Program honors recent graduate and state agency supervisor

The University of Illinois Springfield Graduate Public Service Internship (GPSI) Program has honored a recent graduate and a state agency supervisor with awards for excellence during the 2019-20 academic year.

Christopher Poetschner of Springfield was awarded the Brian T. Milbrandt Internship Award for academic and professional excellence in public service. Poetschner graduated on May 9, earning a master’s degree in data analytics from UIS. As part of the GPSI Program, he worked at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) since August 2018.

Poetschner’s nomination sites his contribution to the State Plane Coordinate System of 2022, as IDOT develops statewide recommendation for submissions to the National Geodetic Survey.

“The work Chris has been doing with coordinate systems will result in better quality estimation for roadway plan designers and when combined with other IDOT initiatives, will have a lasting effect on reducing internal expenditures and saving taxpayer money,” said Drew Christopher, Poetschner’s supervisor at IDOT.

James Jennings of Springfield, manager of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Unit, was honored with the Sagarika Madala Award for Exemplary Leadership as the UIS Graduate Public Service Supervisor of the Year. Based on a nomination submitted by intern Brock Titlow, Jennings was chosen for his exemplary leadership and work in public service. Jennings exposed Titlow to the work of a regulatory agency, while also giving him the opportunity to develop his interest in environmental legislation.

“James combined the right amount of direction and freedom to let me learn, but also explore my own interests,” Titlow said.

Sherrie Elzinga, director of the UIS Office of Graduate Interns Programs, said there were many compelling nominations for both this year’s student and supervisor awards. A video of all of the nominees can be found at

The GPSI program provides graduate students with an opportunity to work in state, federal or local government and not-for-profit organizations, while simultaneously pursuing a graduate degrees in one of many graduate programs offered at UIS. Students receive a tuition waiver and stipend for their work and two years of professional experience.

UIS has a long history of partnering with the state of Illinois to train public service professionals and the GPSI program continues to offer training and mentoring for students who want to pursue a public service career.

“There has never been a more urgent need for well-trained public service professionals to protect the welfare and health of our citizens,” Elzinga said. “UIS is prepared to meet that need and is committed to producing a new generation of public service professionals.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program alum Trif Alatzas leads his team to a Pulitzer Prize win

Trif Alatzas, a 1989 graduate of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Public Affairs Reporting Program (PAR), has led his team to a 2020 Pulitzer Prize win as editor-in-chief of Baltimore Sun Media.

The Baltimore Sun was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s ‘Healthy Holly’ book scandal. She was sentenced to three years in federal prison in February after being found guilty of fraud, tax and conspiracy charges.

In a May 4 story published in The Sun, Alatzas calls the award an “all-out effort,” adding he is “just glad to be a part of it.”

This is the second time the Pulitzer Board has recognized a publication led by Alatzas. In 2019, the Pulitzer Board awarded The Capital Gazette a special citation for their work in covering the June 2019 attack on their Annapolis offices that killed five employees.

Alatzas was inducted into the Bill Miller Public Affairs Reporting Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois Springfield in 2019.

The UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program now boasts three Pulitzer Prize-winning alumni, including Alatzas. Other PAR alumni who have won the prize include Kathy Best, former executive editor and managing editor for digital news at the Seattle Times, who led her staff to two Pulitzer Prizes, and Deborah Singer Peterson, a retired reporter, columnist and editorial board member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

UIS English Department alumnus Mitch Pugh also led his newsroom at The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina to win a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2015.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Marie Watson; Stepping out of the box

When she couldn’t meet students face-to-face, UIS Associate Director of Student Life Marie Watson stepped out of her comfort zone and into the social media spotlight.

She has been a regular face on weekly Student Life Instagram Live chats.

“That’s a positive thing about all of this, I have opened myself up to new opportunities and different ways of engaging with students,” said Watson, who admits she is more comfortable with small groups and one-on-one communication. “I’ve been putting myself out there on social media, and I’ve grown both personally and professionally.”

Each week, Watson has hosted the Student Life Instagram Live chats, which have featured a guest from the UIS campus. She said the engagement and energy with students has been high.

“As soon as we went to remote learning we had to think creatively. Student life is so tied into student success. It impacts how they live and what they experience.” Watson said she did not realize how underutilized technology was prior to remote learning.

Zoom has been instrumental in helping Student Life staff stay con
nected to students with face-to-face interaction. It is used for weekly trivia nights and Student Activities Committee planning sessions. And Watson credits Microsoft Teams for helping staff communicate and work remotely together.

She admits she is missing spring on campus. “I miss my students, I miss the smell of the food from the Food Studio,” she said “I miss the nice weather on campus, walking across the campus, seeing the flowers and trees. Our campus is so beautiful. I miss seeing the students out in their fashions. The mood is light and fun.”

She also said missing Springfest was difficult. “The SAC Traditions Coordinator and Springfest committee had all worked so hard to plan out Springfest,” she said. “Everything was looking beautiful, but next spring it will be 10 times better. It will build anticipation and that will be huge.”

Watson encourages graduating seniors to return to campus for Springfest 2021 and participate as alumni. “They can come back and rejoin the family, participate in Springfest and get their full experience of their last year.”

Watson wants all UIS students to know the Office of Student Life is committed to their success.
Planning has already begun on Welcome Week activities for the fall, with the hope that students will be able to return to campus.

Despite connecting remotely, Watson remains committed to helping UIS students have the best possible college experience. “I’ve come to understand that there are great days and challenging days. But it is important to be able to connect with my students through email, Facetime, Group Me, texting me, Zoom, whatever it takes. I want to know what they’re doing because I care, because of that relationship and connection I have with them.”

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Strength in numbers

It would be nearly impossible to have a health class without acknowledging the elephant in the room, COVID-19.

Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Angela Doehring said one of her first assignments for students in her EXR352 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention class this semester was to research a hot health topic in the news. Nearly every student chose to write about Coronavirus.

“The very first week of class we discussed a novel virus originating in China,” Doehring said. “Even though this was January and there were no confirmed cases in the United States yet, it was just this strange, unknown virus in China.”

Doehring said tracking the spread of the virus in real time is helping teach students that exercise science and health and wellness are integrally linked to disease prevention, infections and epidemiology.

The virus is providing extra opportunities for learning. Doehring’s students can receive extra credit for participating in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webinars. Many have logged in to learn about social distancing and the spread of the disease.

But while extra opportunities for learning is positive, the loss of the annual UIS Health and Wellness Fair on campus was a blow for her classes.

Each year, students in EXR233 Personal Health and Wellness class create poster presentations and health assessments they deliver during the fair. “We had to figure out how to do a virtual health fair,” Doehring said. Students had to create their posters and make a video of themselves sharing it. Everyone has had different approaches. It’s been interesting how you envision it and then how someone interprets it.”

Another important part of the Health and Wellness Fair presentation was the physical assessments that accompanied it for the other EXR classes like EXR 412 Exercise Management for Special Populations.

“Originally the whole class would work together to plan out one or two assessments to deliver at the health fair. Instead, I let students take the lead at home, choose one assessment they’ve done and perform it on someone in their home and take a video of it,” Doehring said. “Students had to assess the individual, just like they would have at the Health Fair, and explain how they could do better or how it applied to their overall health.”

Doehring said with remote learning, she let her students help direct how the classes would work best for them.

“I put a survey out to my students to see if they wanted the class to be synchronous with zoom meetings at the same time, or asynchronous with a video or Powerpoint each week so they could work at their own pace,” she said. Doehring said her students chose asynchronous learning to work at their own pace. They can log in anytime, and most students are working ahead.

“It seems to be working well,” she said. “But I miss the face-to-face comradery and students interacting with each other. That’s what I miss, classroom discussion, that is the part of teaching that I enjoy most, the student interaction.”

Doehring said despite the initial challenge, both she and students in the class are feeling accomplished and she has tapped into COVID-19 as a teaching tool.

“From a health promotion standpoint, what they’ve learned is playing out in real life, and they are learning the importance of disease and early detection,” Doehring said. “It’s a real-life invaluable lesson.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Molly Lamb named the new executive director of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership

Molly Lamb of Chatham has been named the new executive director of the University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy and Leadership (CSPL). She will start in the role on Monday, June 1, pending formal approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Lamb comes to UIS from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) where she has worked for 11 years. She most recently served as the deputy director of IDPH’s Office of Health Protection. She began her public sector career as an emergency response coordinator for the Logan County Health Department and has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Lincoln Land Community College.

“Molly brings unparalleled enthusiasm and a wealth of ideas to this position,” said Dennis Papini, UIS provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “She advanced a variety of initiatives that are centered squarely on advancing the visibility and impact of the Center for State Policy and Leadership, and her knowledge of how state agencies work will offer her insight into collaborations with UIS.”

At IDPH, she crafted and led the successful adoption of raw milk sales regulation rulemaking in Illinois, championed the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) Vaccines For Children (VFC) immunization re-join project, managed significant organizational structural changes at IDPH and designed centralized grant system to ensure standardization, consistency and improved decision-making.

“CSPL has a rich capacity and demonstrated success in promoting evidence-based policy and practice,” said Lamb. “Evaluating and understanding governmental infrastructure, workforce needs and policy and engaging partnerships are key to advance change and build a strategic roadmap. I look forward to continuing to strengthen the visibility and capability of the CSPL to best serve UIS and Illinois, grow leadership and workforce development opportunities and promote applied research and innovation to address publicly-identified and emerging issues.”

Lamb is currently completing a doctorate in public health leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is expected to graduate this year. She holds two master’s degrees from UIS in public administration and public health and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University.

Lamb replaces David Racine who is retiring after 10 years serving as executive director of the Center for State Policy and Leadership.

The UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership promotes evidence-based policy and practice in the public sector. The center’s mission is carried out through research that informs public decisions and understanding; internships, training programs and applied problem solving that strengthens public leadership; and journalism that educates and engages citizens in public affairs.

The center is comprised of the Child Protection Training Academy; Graduate Public Service Internship Programs; Illinois Innocence Project; Illinois Institute for Public Finance; Innovate Springfield; Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies; NPR Illinois; Office of Electronic Media and Survey Research Office.