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.

Friday, April 24, 2020

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

The University of Illinois Springfield held a virtual Faculty Honors Reception on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Chancellor Susan Koch and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Dennis Papini presided over the Zoom ceremony honoring faculty members who have been recommended for tenure and/or promotion, been awarded sabbaticals or granted emerita/emeritus status. Four major awards – the Pearson Faculty Award, the Spencer Faculty Service Award, the Faculty Excellence Award and the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award - were also presented.

The Pearson Faculty Award for outstanding teaching was presented to Atul Agarwal, professor of management information systems. 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.

Agarwal joined UIS in 2009. Since then, he has taught many undergraduate and graduate courses in the operations management and management information systems areas. He has excellent teaching evaluation ratings that are above department, college and university percentages. Students describe Agarwal as being “very responsive” and “one of the best professors I’ve had…at UIS.” His teaching philosophy is well articulated and rests on five pillars of educational excellence to: create a learner-centered environment, encourage active learning, create “learned” vs. “high grade” individuals, encourage learning with fun and integrate new knowledge from scholarly work into student learning. He also applies great teaching innovation in his classes through his creation of class simulations that encourage experiential learning.

The Spencer Faculty Service Award was given to Tena Helton, associate professor of English and modern languages. 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.

Helton joined UIS in 2005, and over the subsequent 15 years she has completed a record of exceptional service at all levels of the university. She has held numerous leadership roles in the Department of English & Modern Languages that include chairing the department for seven years, chairing eight search committees, being the director of first-year writing for seven years and director of graduate studies for four years. She has served the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences on the executive committee, academic advising council and as dean’s fellow. At the university level, Helton has chaired the general education council and general education review committee. She has also served two terms on the campus senate and been a member of the graduate council and tenure review committee. At the University of Illinois System level, Helton has represented UIS on the arts & humanities steering committee. The review committee noted the numerous committees that Helton has chaired and the important, time-consuming committees of which she has been a member.

Helton is also an active participant in her professional discipline. She was a member of the MLA committee for the status of graduate students in the profession for three years and since 2006, she has been a moderator or presider at four conferences. Helton has provided service to the community as a discussion leader or panelist at the Vachel Lindsay Association, Decatur Public Library, Chatham Public Library and the Sangamo Club. In addition, she has been a moderator and scorer at several of the Rochester High/Junior High Scholastic Bowls and been a coach for the first Lego League numerous times.

The Faculty Excellence Award was presented to Heather Bailey, associate professor of history. The award recognizes mid- and late-career colleagues who best exemplify the ideal of the teacher-scholar and whom faculty recognize as role models, based on sustained accomplishments in teaching and scholarship at the University of Illinois Springfield. The award is funded through the generosity of Wilbur and Margaret Wepner.

Bailey came to UIS in 2002, and since that time has taught 21 different lower division, upper division and graduate classes for the Department of History and Capital Scholars Honors Program. Associate Professor Elizabeth Kosmetatou, a colleague who has observed her teaching, describes Bailey as an enthusiastic teacher with the highest standards who incorporates her scholarship into her courses. Bailey is further described as having vast knowledge that enables her to move seamlessly between disciplines. In addition, she sometimes translates primary source material into English so that students with be able to access this valuable information. A graduate student, Sabrina Miller, describes Bailey as having a passion for history that helped to foster “the intellectual phoenix” in her.

Bailey also has an active research program that has produced two books of which she is the sole author: “The Public Image of Eastern Orthodoxy: France and Russia, 1848-1870” (2020) and “Orthodoxy, Modernity, and Authenticity: The Reception of Ernest Renan’s ‘Life of Jesus’ in Russia” (2008). Since 2017, she has completed five sole authored, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Since 2002, she has given 14 sole authored, peer-reviewed presentations at national conferences and an international presentation in France. In addition, Bailey has reviewed numerous books and manuscripts. She is currently providing service to her profession as an executive board member for the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture, and she has engaged the Springfield community through presentations at the Springfield Art Association and German-American Club.

Donna Bussell, associate professor of English and modern languages, was honored with the Burks Oakley II 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.

Bussell came to UIS in 2005, and she has taught many online courses in the Department of English & Modern Languages. She places high emphases on organization, communication, creating a welcoming atmosphere for students, and engagement through discussion forums in her online courses. In addition, she exemplifies qualities of an instructor who is student-centered. The use of course components that engage students to content, students to students and students to faculty are a hallmark of her pedagogy. Her communication and personal engagement in the courses are reflected in the student evaluations and comments from students.

Faculty members Tyrone Dooley, public administration; Jae Ha, communication; Anne-Marie Hanson, environmental studies; Sibel Oktay Karagul, political science; Megan Styles, environmental studies; and Adam Williams, public administration were recommended for tenure and promotion to associate professor. Ahmad Juma’h, associate professor of accountancy, was also recommended for tenure.

Recommended for promotion to full professor were Deborah Anthony, legal studies; David Bertaina, history; Donna Bussell, English & modern languages; Sharon Graf, sociology/anthropology; Layne Morsch, chemistry; Kathy Petitte Novak, communication; Sheryl Reminger, psychology; Dennis Ruez, environmental studies; Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, art, music, & theatre; and Lucia Vazquez, biology.

Faculty members nominated for emeritus status were Rassule Hadidi, management information systems; Carol Jessup, accountancy; Laurel Newman; business administration; Hazel Rozema, communication; and Robert Wright, business administration.

Sabbatical leaves have been recommended for David Bertaina, history; Brytton Bjorngaard, art, music, & theatre; Donna Bussell, English & modern languages; Hua Chen, biology; Richard Gilman-Opalsky, political science; Stephen R. Johnson, chemistry; Michele Miller, psychology; Peter Shapinsky, history; Ann Strahle, communication; and Te-Wei Wang, 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.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Associate Professor Holly Thompson, finding a rhythm

Every morning Associate Professor of Human Development Counseling Holly Thompson goes to work upstairs in her guest bedroom with one of her favorite co-workers, three-year old Xaria. After a brief consultation and a quick hello on Zoom, Xaria heads back downstairs to consult with dad about more pressing issues like toys.

Thompson has found that separation of home and work life has been one of the most difficult challenges of remote learning.

“I’ve not really had to be a mom and a professor at the same time, all day long,” she said. “But now that we are several weeks into it, we are figuring it out. I have a supportive partner, and we have found a rhythm that works for us.

Thompson says her Human Development Counseling faculty and students are also finding their rhythms.

“We were moving into this world as quickly as we could with skill and competence,” she said. “There are a lot of things to factor in when you can’t meet face to face.”

Thompson was referring to clinical counseling skills.

“There was a halt to all of our clinical activities and that was challenging because our students weren’t able to meet with clients,” she said. “It created some interesting challenges. They had to learn telehealth, but we are moving forward.”

The department received HIPAA-approval for their Zoom telehealth portal and students were able to take advantage of free online training curriculum offered by the Professional Education Systems Institute (PESI) to all helping professions such as professional counseling, social work and psychology.

“Technology has improved vastly, but it’s not the same as sitting in the same room. I can’t imagine a way that technology could account for being in the same time and space,” Thompson said. “Zoom isn’t so bad, but there is energy in a room that technology can’t account for, but it will work in this situation.”

Zoom has also been instrumental in keeping things like Campus Senate and job searches moving forward.

“Last week we had a teaching demo and there were 40 to 50 people who logged in. In person, we probably wouldn’t have had that many attendees. It was wonderful to have that level of participation and support. We really didn’t expect that.”

Her advice is to breathe.

“I say it 25 times a day,” Thompson said. “The most important thing to do is just breathe deeply. It’s something we don’t do well. It is something we don't do well normally. In this unique time, we also must have flexibility and allow some space for the unknown and imperfection. We’re moving through this journey, this process where the destination is unknown, but we’ll be tougher in the long run, wherever it is.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

UIS Associate Professor of English Meagan Cass awarded a one-month creative writing fellowship

University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of English Meagan Cass was recently awarded a fellowship from the Jentel Foundation to do a one-month creative writing residency at its facility in Wyoming during the summer of 2021. Cass was selected from a group of 275 applicants.

Jentel is located in a rural setting on a working cattle ranch in the Lower Piney Creek Valley approximately 20 miles southeast of Sheridan, Wyoming. Cass will be among the award recipients focusing on their own creative projects at this working retreat for artists and writers. A panel of arts and literary professionals review samples of art work and manuscripts before making final recommendations for residency awards.

“I plan to deeply revise two new stories for the collection I'm currently working on,” Cass said. “One story centers on a group of four women who played soccer together growing up. In the world of the story, their recently deceased mothers send them gifts from the afterlife, which they must help each other decipher. In the second, a woman who has lost her partner finds that her grief takes the form of pink gum and accumulates all over her house. I hope to rework the structure and characterization of both pieces and further locate the stories in terms of place.”

During the four week long residency, Jentel provides communal spaces designated for research, recreation, food preparation and dining. Each artist and writer is offered a private comfortably furnished accommodation and a light airy workspace. Each resident receives a stipend to help defray living expenses during the program. Artists and writers experience unfettered time to allow for thoughtful reflection and meditation on the creative process in a setting that preserves the agricultural and historical integrity of the land.

For more information on the Jentel Artist Residency Program, visit

Sunday, April 19, 2020

UIS announces the death of Dr. Clarice Ford, vice chancellor for student affairs

The following message was sent to UIS students, faculty and staff on April 19, 2020 from UIS Chancellor Susan Koch.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

It is with deep sadness I write to inform you that Dr. Clarice Ford, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, passed away Sunday, April 19, 2020, at Memorial Medical Center following a brief illness. Dr. Ford has been a profoundly important voice for students and an essential member of the UIS leadership team since 2008 – first serving as Executive Director of the Diversity Center and Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Services and, starting in 2014, as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Dr. Ford has been a leader who was dedicated to cultivating inclusive communities and ensuring that every student, regardless of background, has an opportunity to succeed. She has been the embodiment of "Leadership lived.” Her impact on the University of Illinois Springfield will live on in the many students, faculty and staff she has guided and influenced.

Funeral arrangements are pending and we will have an appropriate celebration to honor Dr. Ford’s many contributions to the University at a later time. In the meantime, I hope you will keep Dr. Ford’s family, colleagues and students in your thoughts.

Sincerely, Chancellor Susan Koch

- Students, I want to remind you the Counseling Center is available for anyone who needs assistance. You can contact the Center at: 217-206-7122.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Jumping through hoops

Despite being one thousand miles apart, UIS Women’s Basketball Coach Casey Thousand is running drills with her team and having weekly meetings.

“Our biggest challenge is not having a post season,” she said. "We are still a new staff needing to tweak what we’re doing and how. Normally we would be in the gym doing workouts and could demonstrate in-person what we wanted them to work on to prepare for next year. Not being on the court with our team is hard.”

Spring is also when basketball recruits, who are current high school juniors, are invited to campus.

“It’s really weird right now, figuring out how we can get our offers to these kids without showing them campus. We don’t like to offer scholarships until they come to campus. We like to get to know the whole family and this time is very different because it’s all over the phone,” she said.

Thousand jokes that her phone is usually dead by noon because of so many calls she is on with recruits, coaches and her own players.

Thousand, her coaching staff and team connect on Zoom at least once a week and she monitors their workouts on a new app that all UIS athletes are using to track their progress.

“They are bored. They miss campus. They miss being around each other. We do a lot of texting and calling. When we Zoom, they are usually pretty talkative and happy to see one another,” she said.

Thousand considers herself lucky that they were able to finish their season. But she is disappointed her seniors won’t get a proper send-off.

“It’s hard, I talk to them a lot about resumes and being alumni and make sure they know we want to stay in contact with them,” she said.

Thousand feels for the spring sport athletes, who are missing their entire season.

She says one positive thing that has come out of the extreme circumstances is a connectedness between basketball coaches around the country. During the NCAA Final Four, college coaches typically connect in conferences and learn from speakers, but this year, with the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, those conferences didn’t happen.

“They didn’t happen in person, but they did happen online,” said Thousand. The NCAA moved the conference virtual. We connected on Zoom. People are just figuring out how to do it differently and stay connected. We are able to learn as a staff to make our team better.” Thousand considers the virtual platform better, as D1, D2 and D3 coaches are in regular contact with one another, instead of just for one weekend.

As for the summer, it’s still to be determined. Thousand and her staff would normally spend the summer visiting potential recruits playing AAU ball. “AAU tournaments typically happen April, May, June and July,” she said. “The April tournaments have been cancelled, but players are getting creative, they’re utilizing their home courts.
We’re all learning from this.”

“We cannot wait to get everyone back together," she said.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Governor appoints UIS professor to Illinois State Museum Board

University of Illinois Springfield Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies Graham Peck, Ph.D. has been appointed to the Illinois State Museum Board by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Peck was one of ten people appointed in the Governor’s administration. Pritzker called the group a strong team of diverse experts in their fields.

Peck was the author of the book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom,” which received the 2018 Book of the Year Award from the Illinois State Historical Society. He also wrote, directed and produced a feature-length documentary on Stephan A. Douglas, which is on permanent exhibit at the Douglas Tomb State Historic Site and has numerous scholarly publications.

Peck received his master’s and doctorate in American History from Northwestern University and, before joining the UIS faculty in 2019, taught for 17 years at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

UIS Master's Thesis awards presented to two recent graduates

The University of Illinois Springfield Research Board has honored two former graduate students with awards for their master’s thesis projects for the 2018-2019 academic year. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on campus in the fall.

Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award

Rashaun DeBord of Saint Louis was selected for the UIS Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award. He graduated from UIS in May 2019 with a master’s degree in history. His thesis study investigated long-term impact from the 1908 Springfield Race Riots. His thesis was chaired by Devin Hunter, assistant professor of history.

DeBord studied newspapers, archives and oral histories to obtain a broad view on the history of the riots, its spatial history and its lasting legacy on the black community. He states, “While the race riot is a tragic event, we must preserve its memory, understand the spaces with which it operates, commemorate its past, and reconcile for the betterment of the future.” The digital portion of this project ( analyses the landscape of the race riot through photography.

He grew up in Kewanee, a small town in northwestern Illinois. He chose UIS because of their great public history program, and knew it would provide the challenge he needed to grow professionally and personally. During his graduate studies, he also helped initiate a health and safety program at the Illinois Department of Revenue, through the Graduate Public Service Internship Program (GPSI). He now works as a research education and information specialist in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at Washington University in St. Louis.

Honorable Mention

Joshua Rai of Bethel, Ohio was selected as the UIS Honorable Mention for the Outstanding Master’s Thesis. His research study was on the environmental and sociological impacts of yarsagumba harvesting in Nepal.

Rai graduated from UIS in May 2019 with a master’s degree in environmental studies. His thesis chair was Megan Style, UIS assistant professor of environmental studies. For his research, Rai traveled to Nepal and observed the harvesters and took environmental measurements.

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.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

A different kind of theatrical transition

Professionally, the COVID-19 closures and cancellations dealt a double blow to Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson, UIS associate professor of theatre; she lost face-to-face contact with her students, and was forced to cancel the university’s spring production, "Twelfth Night," which was set to open in mid-April.

“It was just heartbreaking, there was so much time and energy that had been put into it already,” she said. "We were really in the home stretch. And, we didn’t get closure, which is important in theatre productions.”

Before she could even think about how to convert her classes to remote learning, Thibodeaux-Thompson had to drive across the country to bring her own daughter home from college.

She credits several colleagues and Kara McElwrath from ITS for helping her get ready to teach remotely. “Kara is my hero, she needs to be the employee of the millennium,” Thibodeaux-Thompson joked.

“I learned that you don’t have to replicate everything that you would in an on-ground class,” she said.

Thibodeaux-Thompson’s students will use Zoom’s Kaltura feature to act and record monologues for class feedback. And she’s found workarounds. Instead of students writing a paper on a live production they’ve gone to see, they are watching a production online from provided links.

One of the best remote-learning experiences she has had so far is her students showing up for her first Zoom class. “They’re dealing with crazy things like being at home,” she said. “On that first day, they just showed up and waved from their bedrooms, just to say hi. Their heads were in the game and that speaks volumes of our students, that they would rather be in the classroom.”

Thibodeaux-Thompson is also applying her newfound technology skills to other parts of her career, participating in Zoom meetings with UIS Campus Senate, other directors in Art, Music and Theatre as well as the regional leadership team from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

And she says "Twelfth Night" will debut on stage in spring 2021. “The design and conceptual work were already done,” Thibodeaux-Thompson said. “We understand some people will have graduated and may have other plans or commitments but they are welcome to come back. We’ll take as many people who can come back.”

Monday, April 06, 2020

Anne Moseley to lead UIS’ Sangamon Experience historic exhibition and Center for Lincoln Studies

Anne Moseley has been selected to lead the University of Illinois Springfield’s new Sangamon Experience historic exhibition and Center for Lincoln Studies. Moseley started working today as director of engagement and curator for Sangamon Experience and acting director for the Center for Lincoln Studies.

A UIS alumna, Moseley previously worked as director and curator of the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois. In that role, she was responsible for maintaining the museum's budget, applying for grants to further the museum's educational programs and locating and speaking with potential donors.

Sangamon Experience, a new on-campus exhibition space telling the history of the Sangamon Region of central Illinois, opened on Jan. 30, 2020 in the lower level of the Public Affairs Center at UIS. The Center for Lincoln Studies is scheduled to open later this year and will provide new opportunities for learning about Lincoln and the impact of his contributions.

“I am excited for this opportunity to help create a new way of experiencing the local history that surrounds us here in the Sangamon Valley area,” said Moseley. “In addition, I am looking forward to engaging a new wave of historians studying here at UIS to carry on the rich legacy this campus has in studying local history and welcoming historians near and far to study the legacy of Abraham Lincoln here at the Lincoln Studies Center.”

Before serving as director and curator of the Lincoln Heritage Museum, she was the assistant director and curator for seven years and taught as an adjunct history professor at Lincoln College. She has also worked as a project administrator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and as an intern with the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.

Moseley earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 2009 and a master’s degree in public history from the University of Illinois Springfield in 2011.

Her appointment will be presented to the Board of Trustees for formal approval at the May 2020 meeting.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

UIS Ceramics, kneading to find a new way

Until the COVID-19 pandemic shut the doors to on-campus learning, Associate Professor of Ceramics Shane Harris had never taught an online class.

His ceramics and 3D art classes are hands-on and require studio space and materials.

“It was a challenge just thinking about it, how was I going to adapt,” Harris said. “I had to think on my feet. I didn’t just want to assign them a paper on the history of pottery based on the pottery wheel.”

Harris had to get creative, and fast. He and a few of his student workers  met to box up tools and pug the clay. Pugging is the process of removing the air from clay to make it usable.

Harris then contacted each one of his ceramics students to find out where they would be living during the shelter-in-place. He hand delivered or shipped 25 pounds of clay, tools and instruction cards to each ceramics student in his class, including one living in Florida, so that they were prepared for online learning.

“The pottery wheel is just a tool,” said Harris. “Their hands are their most important tool.”

Those students will be creating a set of six cups and bowls for their grade.

Then, Harris had to equip his home studio for remote learning. I had to get an extender to reach my home studio, then get an extender for that extender, in order to have Wifi for the Zoom conferences,” Harris said.

Harris is meeting with his classes through Zoom and has found online videos and even pottery wheel apps for students to throw clay. For his 3D art students, Harris found the online design tool Tinkercad.

The highlight of the 3D art class is creating multi-dimensional cardboard art and then using those pieces in a live-action performance. Students will still work to create their pieces,  which will be 3D printed at the end of the semester, and Harris has promised to glaze and fire all of the ceramics projects brought back to campus this fall.

“We are adapting to not being in classroom, but I think the biggest challenge I face, is not being able to teach them the hand-on tricks that will make them better as an artist,” said Harris. “I also miss seeing their confidence grow. That is one thing I love about teaching that you can’t see online.”

Harris also had his own art show cut short by the shelter-in-place. Information on Harris' show Convergence, can be found on the UIS Visual Arts Gallery website. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Adapting to online learning in MLS

Like most professors across the country, Amandailee Adams, assistant professor of medical laboratory science, had to re-think her curriculum at a moment’s notice, or so it seemed.

She chose Zoom learning for her lectures and said it has worked well, although she admits there are a few kinks to work out in the coming weeks.

“I like that I can create breakout rooms in my Zoom sessions. I can lecture for 20 minutes and then place students in breakout rooms for interactive learning,” she said. While lecturing online, Adams has students submit their questions to Blackboard, and she answers them at the end of the lecture. 

Adams found online videos for some of her laboratory work.

She said internet connection is the biggest challenge for both her and her students.

Covid-19 challenges have caused her to step out of her comfort zone and try instructional techniques she might not have tried before. “I feel lucky we live in this technological state, that we have options,” she said.

Every day when she logs on, she reminds herself to be flexible, patient and willing to try something new. It’s the same advice she gives her students. “We’re all learning this new process; you have to be willing to laugh at yourself.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

UIS business students win big at International Collegiate Business Skills Championship

The University of Illinois Springfield Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM) chapter took home eight awards from the International Collegiate Business Skills Championship 2020, including first place for Campus Chapter Performance in the small chapter division.

Nineteen university chapters competed in the annual skills competition, which was held remotely this year.

The following UIS students received awards: Adam Shaw, first place Extemporaneous Speech; Sruthi Puranapanda, Animesh Pawar, K. Sneha Shenoy and Srinjoy Meta, second place in Case Competition; Nikhil Aatrei, Abhishek Sheshagiri, Adam Shaw and Manasa Nagamalla, second place Written Case, K. Sneha Shenoy received the third place Overall Individual Award and Nikhil Aatrei was named Outstanding Student.

Besides placing first in Campus Chapter Performance in the small chapter division, the team took home second place Overall Performance Award and Hasan Kartal was named Outstanding Adviser.

The International Collegiate Business Skills Competition provides students with an exciting learning experience in which they compete directly with other college teams running a simulated company.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

UIS Model Illinois Government Delegation Wins Outstanding Large Delegation at 2020 MIG

The University of Illinois Springfield Model Illinois Government delegation was named the Outstanding Large Delegation at the 2020 Model Illinois Government simulation at the Illinois State Capitol.

The delegation also took home three individual honors. Mackenzi Matthews, of Springfield, was named Outstanding Member of the House, Collin Moseley, of Flora, was named Outstanding Committee Chair in the House and Aislinn Diaz, of Chicago, was named Outstanding Committee Chair in the Senate.

Four UIS students were elected to leadership positions within MIG. Kallie Matthews, of Springfield, who served as the Speaker of the House this year, was re-elected to that position for 2021. Mackenzi Matthews was named Majority Leader, Joseph Partain, of Iuka, was named Minority Leader and Collin Moseley was named Majority Whip.

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 actively participating in the simulation.

MIG members start preparing legislation during the fall term, polish their parliamentary skills and organize membership into a delegation for the spring conference.

The UIS delegation is led by Kenneth Owen, MIG faculty advisor and UIS associate professor of history.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Executive Director of UIS' Center for State Policy and Leadership honored for career

David Racine, executive director for UIS’ Center for State Policy and Leadership has been chosen to receive the 2020 Rail Splitter Public Service Award, given by the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.

Racine was chosen as outstanding individual whose career exemplifies public service.

He began his career with the American Public Welfare Association in Washington, DC, and went on to serve as a senior policy advisor, legislative director and was the founding staff member and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Points of Light Foundation.

Racine came to UIS to direct academic research and training at the Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies. He now serves as the executive director over that program and also oversees UIS’ Survey Research Office, NPR Illinois, GPSI, Innovate Springfield, the Illinois Innocence Project and Child Protection Training Academy.

Racine also offers his expertise to community projects including MOSAIC, the Community Health Roundtable and Sangamon County Continuum of Learning.

Racine will be presented with the award during the chapter’s annual spring banquet and awards ceremony on March 16, 2020 in the UIS Student Union Ballroom.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

UIS employees honored with Chancellor’s awards recognizing academic professional and civic service excellence

Two University of Illinois Springfield staff members were honored with Chancellor’s awards recognizing academic professional and civic service excellence during a ceremony in the Student Union Ballroom on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.

The Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) award was presented to Kara McElwrath, assistant director of client services for Information Technology Services (ITS).

McElwrath has worked at UIS for 12 years. In her role, she leads the ITS Client Services team, which includes the Learning Spaces Support Team, the Technology Support Center and the Instructional Support and Training team.

Her nominators used adjectives such as, “positive, giving, smart, unflappable, talented, determined, grit and drive” to describe her work ethic.

“Not only is she friendly and polite, she seems to always be working – weekends and our recent holiday break,” said her nominator. “I know this isn’t necessary, but it certainly lowers my stress level to know that Kara is on the job.”

McElwrath played a major role in launching the EAB Navigate app, a campus-wide student success initiative, serving as application administrator. She helped with the setup, implementation, faculty and advisor training and data integration.

She’s also recently helped to roll out a teacher education program student portal, the placements and student planner apps, a computer science graduate student planner app and has assisted computer science faculty in using virtual machines. McElwrath also regularly collaborates on projects and committees that span the three University of Illinois campuses.

“One of the many reasons I enjoy my job so much is the wide variety of work I get to do and the amazingly talented people with whom I get to work,” she said.

In addition to her work with ITS, McElwrath also teaches as an adjunct professor for the teacher education, educational leadership and management information systems programs.

“I appreciate having the opportunity to combine my passions of teaching and technology to work directly with students in helping them achieve their career goals,” she added.

The Chancellor’s Award to Recognize Excellence in Civil Service (CARE) was presented to Patty Stoutamyer, office support specialist for the Mathematical Sciences Department.

Stoutamyer has worked at UIS for 18 years. Since 2007, she has worked for the Mathematical Sciences Department. Prior to her current position, she was the office support specialist for several programs on campus.

“Patty is dedicated and hardworking,” said her nominator. “She is extremely organized and focused on continuously learning and developing best practices to manage routine activities both efficiently and effectively. She brings positive high energy and a personal touch.”

Each year, the mathematics department receives more than 1,000 requests for department approvals for various math courses. Among other responsibilities in the office, Stoutamyer handles all of these requests. She always strives to get things done in a timely manner.

“Patty always stays late during the first week of classes – several hours late after 5 p.m.,” said her nominator. “She explained, the department received a lot of last-minute requests, if we could not process them before the end of the first week, these students would have very little chance to get into classes that they need.”

Stoutamyer’s nominator says she provides great customer service to exceptional support and service to new faculty and visitors.

“I have been inspired by the dedication of the faculty and staff in each of the departments and committees where I have worked to make UIS a great campus,” said Stoutamyer. “I enjoy working with students. My attitude is to help others as much as possible, whether it be helping get into a class or find a location on campus or just someone with whom to talk.”

She has served on several committees, including the Status of the University Women Committee (later this become part of the ROAD committee) and the SURS Members Advisory Committee. She also volunteers to support the State and University Employees Combined Appeal (SECA) and the Faculty/Staff fundraising campaign.

She says her greatest gratification comes when she receives emails or notes from students thanking her for her assistance.

“A while ago a male student stopped in my office and said he didn’t want anything today, except to thank me for helping him and also thanked me for helping all the other students because they talked about me being so helpful,” said Stoutamyer. “This is an expression of doing what needs to be accomplished as an employee at UIS.”