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.