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.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

Seven UIS alumnae honored for achievement, service and loyalty during annual celebration

The University of Illinois Springfield honored seven alumnae for their achievement, service and loyalty during the annual Alumni Gala on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, at the UIS Student Union.

The 2020 Alumni Achievement Award for outstanding success and national or international distinction in one’s business, profession or life’s work was presented to Nina Burleigh of New York, New York. A 1984 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting program, Burleigh has covered stories on six continents and has achieved critical acclaim as an award-winning author, journalist and feminist cultural critic. She is a New York Times best-selling author of six lively, acclaimed works of creative nonfiction and has written hundreds of works on topics ranging from culture and politics to gender issues, science and the environment.

The 2020 Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary commitment, dedication and service to the advancement of the University of Illinois was awarded to Springfield resident Janice Spears. She has earned three degrees from the university, and had a remarkable career as a school administrator, which included national recognition for environmentally friendly school buildings. Upon retirement, Spears has focused her time and energy on UIS and has become an invaluable, “go –to” alumni volunteer leader whose actions have made significant, notable impact on the institution’s overall welfare and the advancement of its mission.

Five Loyalty Awards for Exceptional Alumni Service were presented to Carolyn Berning, Karen Fifer, Carol Kerins, Marilyn Lawler and Lois Strom (posthumously). Established in 1957, the award honors alumni who have consistently demonstrated notable loyalty, commitment, dedication and service in support of UIS, the Alumni Association and/or related organizations. The five have donated countless hours of time via the UIS Alumni SAGE Society, which offers opportunities for enrichment to alumni and friends aged 50 and better.

Berning of Springfield earned her master’s degree from the university. She worked in consumer services for the Illinois Commerce Commission, retiring in 2002. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, she has served on the Friends of Brookens Library Board, assisted with the Springfield Marathon, volunteered for fundraisers for the public radio station and assisted with the planning of UIS’ 40th anniversary celebrations. She also was a member of the team that offered a series of technology lecture programs open to alumni of any UI campus. She and her husband, Richard, often attend public programs and lectures on campus, as well as athletic events and performances at the Sangamon Auditorium. They financially contribute to important UIS priorities through their charitable giving.

Fifer of Springfield earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university. She spent much of her career working at UIS, including in the budget and planning office. She retired in 2009. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, Fifer frequently attends performances at the Sangamon Auditorium and UIS Prairie Stars athletics events. She is a past member of the Friends of Sangamon Auditorium Board and as a former university employee, she also volunteered for the UIS Faculty and Staff Campaign. She has financially contributed to important UIS priorities through charitable giving.

Kerins of Springfield holds two degrees and her teaching certificate from the university. She spent years with Springfield School District 186, teaching mainly second grade at Laketown Elementary School before retiring in 2006. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, on campus she has volunteered to assist at the Springfield Marathon and UIS graduation. Carol and her husband, Tom, often attend performances at Sangamon Auditorium as well as many of the public programs and lectures on campus. They financially contribute to important UIS priorities through their charitable giving.

Lawler of Springfield holds a master’s degree from the university. After teaching for 5 years in the Springfield School District as a homebound teacher, she taught in the Williamsville school district for 13 years and was a principal at the Waverly Elementary School for 12 years. She retired in 2006. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, her volunteer service on campus includes helping out at UIS graduation and the Springfield Marathon. Marilyn and her husband, Dennis, attend the many public programs and lectures on campus, as well as frequent many Sangamon Auditorium performances. They financially contribute to important UIS priorities through their charitable giving.

Strom of Springfield, who passed away in January, was honored posthumously. She earned a master’s degree from the university. She spent many years working at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, retiring in 2009 as the administrator for the chairman of the Department of Surgery. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, her volunteer work on campus included volunteering at UIS commencement, the Springfield Marathon and with the public radio station. She and her husband, Bruce, attended many Sangamon Auditorium Performances, as well as public programs and lectures on campus. The couple also gave to important UIS priorities through charitable giving.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

UIS Illinois Innocence Project executive director John J. Hanlon named to the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science

Gov. JB Pritzker has named John J. Hanlon, executive director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project, as one of 15 members to the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science, created in August 2019 through Executive Order 19-13.

“I am extremely honored to accept the Governor’s appointment to the Task Force on Forensic Science,” said Hanlon. “Proper understandings and applications of forensic evidence are absolutely crucial toward a more fair and reliable criminal justice system.”

The group is tasked with analyzing the operations and oversight of critical Illinois State Police laboratories, ensuring they use the latest forensic technologies to solve crimes and protect the public, and make recommendations to the legislature and other stakeholders as forensic science continues to evolve.

“With over 70,000 forensic assignments each year, the Illinois State Police operates one of the largest lab systems in the nation, and this task force will ensure it operates at its best and truly delivers justice,” said Gov. Pritzker. “The experienced leaders serving on this task force will take a systematic and proactive approach to further reducing backlogs and support public safety and first responders.”

The Illinois Innocence Project praised Gov. Pritzker for placing Illinois among just a handful of states taking the initiative to look at forensic science policy and practices.

“This task force is a critical first step toward increased understandings and fairness pertaining to forensic sciences processes and applications in our criminal justice system. Hopefully, the development and implementation of best practices will serve to provide justice for the guilty and at the same time reduce and even prevent the wrongful conviction of innocent people in Illinois,” said Hanlon.

The University of Illinois Springfield, which serves as the home office of the Illinois Innocence Project, is one of just two higher education institutions represented on the Task Force.  

“John Hanlon’s input on this task force will help to bolster the important work already being done by the Illinois Innocence Project,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch. “The Project is an important part of UIS’ commitment to providing students with real-world experiences and to serving the public good.”

This new task force follows national calls for the establishment of scientific standards for forensic evidence. A 2009 National Academy of Science report, now considered groundbreaking, concluded that numerous forensic disciplines lacked scientific validation and acceptable standards. The report called for strengthened oversight, research and support to ensure an increased reliability of testing, analysis and conclusions.

The 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report concluded two important gaps that warranted attention: 1) the need for clarity about scientific standards for validity and reliability of forensic methods; and 2) the need to evaluate specific forensic methods to determine whether they have been scientifically established to be valid and reliable (i.e. bitemark comparison, hair microscopy, blood spatter analysis, ballistics).

Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan Kelly will chair the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science.

Other members include:
  • Megan Alderden – director of criminology, DePaul University; former executive director, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority
  • Dr. Ponni Arunkumar – chief medical examiner, Cook County
  • Amy Campanelli – Cook County public defender
  • Major Jeff Connor – Madison County chief deputy sheriff
  • Brendan Deenihan – deputy chief of detectives, Chicago Police Department
  • Claire Dragovich – executive director, DuPage County Crime Lab
  • Phil Kinsey – executive director, Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Lab
  • Judge Heidi Ladd – circuit judge, 6th Judicial Circuit (Champaign)
  • Holly Lemons – Montgomery County circuit clerk, president of the Illinois Association of Court Clerks
  • Cathy MacElroy – St. Clair County public defender
  • Sarah Toney – managing partner, Toney Law Firm, LLC
  • Carrie Ward – executive director, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Amy Watroba – assistant state’s attorney, DuPage County
  • Robin Woolery – ISP assistant deputy director, Division of Forensic Services
The Illinois Innocence Project, founded in 2001 at the University of Illinois Springfield, provides pro bono legal advocacy and guidance to those who have been wrongfully convicted in Illinois but have credible claims of actual innocence; educates students and the public about criminal justice system failures that lead to wrongful convictions; and works with policymakers and law enforcement to change rules, laws and practices to minimize wrongful convictions.