Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Office of International Student Services brings students together

By Courtney Westlake

At this year’s International Festival, Rick Lane noticed that during downtime, members of the Students of African Descent group and the Indian group began to dance together and enjoy each other’s cultures.

That is exactly the environment Lane is working to create, with help from many others on campus, as the director of the Office of International Student Services at UIS.

Organizing the International Festival, held annually, is just one of the responsibilities of the office. Its primary duty is to assist international students with immigration issues, whether they are arriving as new students or maintaining their legal status, and the benefits of that status, in the United States, Lane said.

“We also do programming with the students and for the students, like the International Festival,” he said. “We assist them with tax workshops and cultural adaptation. I am also one of two advisers (along with Dana Atwell) for the International Student Association, so we do welcome parties and other activities to help them interact with each other and get to know the campus and Springfield.”

The Office of International Student Services works closely with numerous other offices on campus, including the Diversity Center, Housing, Student Life and the Admissions office. In fact, a new counselor recently started in the admissions office who is dedicated solely to international students.

“We know how important it is for international students to get a quick response when they’re trying to figure things out from many miles and many hours away,” Lane said. “We wanted someone who could understand their unique needs and questions and respond promptly to those, and dedicate himself to that.”

The Office of International Student Services is located in the Human Resources Building, in the same space as the Office of International Programs led by Jonathan GoldbergBelle. The student services office also includes office manager Sherri Boner, graduate assistant Jolene Vollmer and student worker Reid Johnson. A future goal for both offices is to rename the space the “International Center” to bring all programs together.

The international studentson the UIS campus, including U.S. lawful permanent residents and all non-immigrant visa categories, number around 500, Lane said, which is close to 10 percent of the campus population. The majority come to study at UIS from India, most of those in computer science. The office and the international recruiting task force, which is chaired by Lane, have plans to expand recruiting efforts to parts of Asia, as well as recruit students in a variety of majors and programs.

“We have many students from India, Korea, Japan, China, but we also have students from western Europe, Africa and the Americas – North, Central and South,” Lane said. “We are now going to be concentrating on Asia; that area of the world is sending the most students to the United States, and we would like to grow our international population very quickly. While we certainly want to continue welcoming students from India in computer science, we have a goal of diversifying to other parts of the world as well as what majors they are pursuing outside of computer science.”

While it’s the law to have such a department on campus to provide services regarding forms and legal status, Lane believes the office provides much more than that to the international students who come to UIS.

“I believe that interaction between international students and American students is crucial not only for education of those international students but for - dare I say it? - world peace,” he said. “I don't think there is anything that does as much to help foster good understanding of who were are as Americans, and understanding of the rest of the world, as having international students and American students interacting. They couldn't do that if we weren't here to help that happen; they need someone to be their advocate, their liaison.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Computer Science grad student wins 2nd in international contest

By Courtney Westlake

Tejesh Morla
, a graduate student in Computer Science, recently won second place in the General Students category of the MySQL and GlassFish Contest sponsored by SUN MicroSystems. The contest challenged participants to create a web application using MySQL and Glassfish along with Java, Morla said.

"It's a global contest; anyone can participate," he said. "I found out about it because of an email sent by Dr. Ted Mims (computer science department chair)."

Morla's winning project was a basic web application that responds to customers' needs to register on a site to place and view orders, as well as administrators' needs to view and list all registered customers. He then created an in-depth blog entry that detailed the steps he took to develop his application and how he used MySQL and GlassFish in the process.

Morla says the project took a lot of time and research.

"It was a tough task," he said. "At one point, I thought I would never make it. I had problem where mySQL stuff was not syncing with the Java."

The contest began on September 2, and October 22 was the deadline to submit a project, Morla said. He found out he won 2nd place while he was on Thanksgiving break vacationing in Las Vegas.

"One of my friends always says there should be something in your resume which would tell the difference from others, so I thought I should participate in that to get some experience," he said. "I am very excited and can't believe that I happened to win."

Oldfield publishes new book

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, and Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III, a colleague from the University of Vermont, are co-authors of Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class, recently published by State University of New York Press.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scannell addresses Global Management Conference

Nancy Scannell, associate professor of Finance in the Department of Business Administration, was the invited keynote speaker at the International Association of the Scientific Knowledge's Global Management Conference, held in October in Portugal. Scannell spoke on "The Fate of Poison Pills for the Next Generation of Corporate Takeovers in a Poisoned Financial System."

Following the conference, she met with Lisbon Fulbright officers and a group of local students who were interested to hear about UIS and academic life in the U.S. This international student recruitment initiative was coordinated by Rick Lane, UIS director of International Student Services, and Lori Giordano, UIS associate director of Admissions.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Professor finds expression through poetry

By Courtney Westlake

While writing may not be the most lucrative of careers, Dr. Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor of English, has found that writers, and especially poets, are constantly aware of what is going on around them, what is going on inside of them and are able to record it, which is a unique and interesting way of life.

“I don’t know how many of us will make a living at it, but it is a great life,” Perkins said. “Poetry I like because it distills and intensifies the emotions. One of the reasons we write is to explore both what we know and what others know and to try to come to the truth of the moment. I like exploring the terrains of the spirit and terrains of the outer world. I like the distillation and the intensity of poetry."

Perkins has written for as long as she can remember. In fact, she still has a copy of a book from her childhood that contains the scribbles of the words she used to “write” and then she would “read” her stories to her mother.

“There is not a time in my life when my family can remember me not writing,” she said. “As I grew up, I found genres - creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. I choose a genre by what I have to say; I like to have a grab-bag of genres.”

Perkins began her undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky before moving to Illinois to finish her bachelor degree at Illinois State University. She also earned her master’s and doctorate degrees at ISU and earned a Specialist in College Teaching from Murray State University in western Kentucky. While teaching English and directing the Writing Center at Eureka College, Perkins heard about a “wonderful job that would just be in creative writing and children’s literature” at UIS, she said, and started here in 2000.

“There are a lot of things to like about UIS,” she mused. “In the English department, we’ve had the online degree program, the Capital Scholars program and now there is a shift to having freshmen, which I adore. I like the energy of all of that.”

Perkins is teaching a class this fall in fiction writing, a graduate seminar in fiction writing and an online course in children’s literature.

“In my online children's lit class, I have students in Tokyo, Sweden and an island off Galveston - I have students literally all over the country, so that class is a great deal of fun,” she said. “I’m also teaching fiction writing, which is splendid. It’s compiled of people who have never written fiction before and those who are graduate students who have written a lot.”

Perkins will be taking a sabbatical during the spring semester to complete the third book in her poetry trilogy about NYX, the primal Greek goddess Night. Each of the three books focuses on a specific aspect of the goddess’ being. The first book, called NYX: Mother of Light, is about the “joys of being alive and celebrating the fact that we’re human, and it’s full of resolution,” and the second book, NYX: Daughter of Chaos, is full of poems of “things not resolved,” Perkins said.

The third book of the trilogy is called NYX: Sister of Erebus and speaks about the journey that Perkins has gone through recently with her mother who had Alzheimer's disease. Erebus is the mythological region of darkness where souls must journey from this world on their way to the underworld.

“I’ve been working on this book since 2001, and my mother passed away a year ago in September,” Perkins said. “I want to take and shape the poems I have into the stages of Alzheimer’s so people can know they’re not alone if they must also make this journey.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Perkins is also continuing to work on a project she laughingly calls her “life project”: a book on the early settlers of Woodford County, Illinois, which is about 90 percent complete, she noted.

Though Perkins is so busy that she is barely finding enough time to submit her poetry for publication and readings, she is still doing her best to make time for what she loves. She has been invited to be the featured poet in three different states, and she feels honored at the opportunities.

“It feels really nice that people are inviting me to be a featured poet and that people are giving me feedback about my poetry, saying ‘I like that, I understand it, and it’s what I’m going through right now’,” she said. “I’m doing all the things I like to do; it’s great."

To listen to Perkins read two of her recent poems, watch the video below:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kirkendall acknowledged for support of autism fundraiser

Karen Kirkendall, interim director of the Capital Scholars Honors Program and associate professor of Liberal & Integrative Studies, was among those acknowledged for their support of the second annual "Take a Step for Autism Walk" held in September in Washington Park. The winter edition of the Autism Society of America Central Illinois Chapter newsletter thanked Kirkendall for "announcing the walk and her devoted support to autism spectrum disorders. She is a treasure."

Rosina Neginsky named UIS University Scholar for 2008

Rosina Neginsky (left), associate professor of Women's Studies, English and Liberal Studies/Individual Option at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has been named University Scholar for 2008-2009. She is one of 15 faculty members, and the only one from UIS, chosen for this award honoring and rewarding outstanding teachers and scholars at the three U of I campuses.

University Scholars receive $10,000 a year for three years to support research and other scholarly activities.

Materials nominating Neginsky described her has an "outstanding example of someone whose scholarship and teaching are excellent and intertwined." She is an international scholar who brings to UIS a "perspective that includes multiple languages and a rich cultural mix."

Neginsky has published two collections of poetry: Under the Light of the Moon and Juggler, which were both released in Russian and English. Her book Zinaida Vengerova: In Search of Beauty, is in its second edition and another book, Salome: The Image of a Woman Who Never Was, has been accepted for publication.

Neginsky is also the founder of the UIS International Film Festival, has organized three European film festivals, and has given guest lectures in Paris. She was recently awarded a strategic academic initiatives grant to organize a 2009 symposium on the Symbolist movement.

Neginsky teaches courses on ancient Greek and biblical motifs in European literature, European cinema, international women writers and the Symbolist Movement in Europe. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The University Scholars program was inaugurated in 1985 when the U of I Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary. The program's purpose, then and now, is to strengthen the University in meeting today's challenges and tomorrow's promise. Faculty do not apply for this award; they are nominated by their peers. A committee of senior faculty makes the final selection.

Schroeder addresses conference at UM

Ray Schroeder, director of the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning, gave a plenary address at the annual Teaching and Technology Conference held recently at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

See a pdf copy of The Messenger, the UMSL newsletter, for additional information.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Treadwell among honorees at ESGR Bosslift

Jane Treadwell, UIS Library dean, was among employers honored at the 131st Fighter Wing/Bosslift/Employer Appreciation Day on November 19. The annual event is sponsored by the Missouri Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) as a way to thank those whose employees include National Guard and Reserve members.

Megan Hunter, multimedia communications specialist in the Library, is a member of the Air Force 131st Fighter Wing National Guard unit in Missouri, based at Lambert Field. Former library staff member Rich Barnes was a member of the Army National Guard and served a tour of duty in Iraq while employed at Brookens. (The photo at the left shows Treadwell, left, and Hunter during the event.)

Bosslift participants have a firsthand opportunity to observe a variety of training and leadership activities of the National Guard and Reserve, as well as a chance to share insights on the challenges and benefits of having employees who serve in Reserve components.

The day's activities also included a tour of an F-15 tactical fighter jet and a flight on a Missouri Air National Guard C-130 Hercules to Whiteman Air Force Base, near Sedalia, Missouri.

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a Department of Defense agency that seeks to promote a culture in which all American employers support and value the military service of their employees. The agency seeks to recognize outstanding support, increase awareness of the law, and resolve conflicts through informal mediation.

Monday, November 03, 2008

English course inspires play-writing for Illinois Issues editor

By Courtney Westlake

It was at an alumni event several years ago when Beverley Scobell, projects editor for Illinois Issues magazine, first heard the story of New Philadelphia, a community that was established in Pike County by a free black man in 1836.

“I was captivated by the story; I couldn't believe I had lived this long in the state and not heard it,” Scobell said. “I pitched it as an idea for the magazine about the archaeology being done there.”

Then, after reading the book about the community, called “Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier” by Juliet E.K. Walker, and taking an English class at UIS, Scobell decided to turn out a new form of writing to express her thoughts about the subject: play-writing.

“I thought it was such a story of courage, that it was an incredible love story of a man who so wanted not only his own freedom but also the freedom of his entire family,” she said. “He came to an Illinois frontier not particularly welcoming to African-Americans and established this town. It became a multi-racial town. It apparently was a town where people of all different kinds of backgrounds got along.”

Scobell took a course taught by Dr. Marcellus Leonard, who is now the director of First-Year Programs at UIS. While in the class, she wrote her play about the Springfield Race Riots and New Philadelphia, a story which is not historical but is based on fact, she said. Scobell's play is from the point of view of the “spiritual descendants” of New Philadelphia, families of different races who are caught up in the violence of the Race Riots. A character, Aunt Lucy Ann, the family storyteller, tries to calm the children with the story of New Philadelphia, a place “where character was more important than skin color,” Scobell said.

“I thought the play might be a way to introduce schoolchildren to a part of Illinois history,” she said. “The story I was trying to tell was of New Philadelphia, but the technique I was using was the 1908 riots. Until recently, these two events in our past have not been well-known.”

Leonard recognized the timeliness of the play, Scobell said, and suggested that the UIS TV station produce it as readers’ theatre. Over the summer, volunteers dedicated their time to work on it, and it was filmed a couple of months ago. It will be aired in the near future.

“Characters kept talking to me, and I would go to work on it and find a new name,” Scobell said. “As everybody tells me, I have way too many characters, and it jumps around to different time periods, so it is a director's challenge, if not nightmare.”

Scobell said she is nervous about seeing her new story acted out but is looking forward to seeing the finished product.

“This is a totally new process for me. The kind of writing I do at Illinois Issues is reporting, putting facts together, but I hadn't really done anything creative,” she said. “It's one thing to write it on your computer at home, but another thing to have people read it and speak the lines. It’s exciting.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

UIS Prairie offers sustainability and opportunities to university

By Courtney Westlake

The state of Illinois had 22 million acres of prairie up until the 1820s, but since European settlers moved into area, there are now less than 2,500 acres. Caring for the prairie areas that remain is now extremely important, such as the beautiful prairie located on the south area of the UIS campus.

“We have such small remnants of prairie still left,” said Dr. Tih-Fen Ting, assistant professor of Environmental Studies. “By losing this part of the native ecosystem, we also put out a lot of other species that are associated with prairie, whether it be birds, mammals or insects. We hope that we can increase biodiversity locally and also help species that still depend on prairie for survival and reproductive needs.”

Prairie is a French word meaning ‘meadow,’ Ting said. A prairie system is made up of lot of grasses and flower species and is very productive. Prairie grasses and forbs have deep root systems, and once a plant dies, its roots decompose and become part of the soil.

The prairie at UIS was established in 1991 by the student organization Students Allied for a Greener Earth (SAGE). Bob Raebig, who was a SAGE member and later became the environmental health and safety officer at UIS, played a tremendous role for the prairie restoration, Ting said, and when he passed away in 2004, Ting took responsibility of maintaining the prairie, along with help from Joan Buckles, UIS superintendent of grounds.

“We can use this as a living laboratory to teach students about the prairie and its ecosystem,” Ting said. “Even though it’s only three acres right now, it’s still a nice opportunity to have that living laboratory on campus for students to be able to learn more about a prairie ecosystem.”

Having a restored prairie on campus is beneficial not only to the campus community but to the environment and to sustainability in general.

“Sustainability is a broad issue in the sense that it involves not only environmental stewardship but social responsibilities and economic wellbeing,” Ting said. “There are many ecological benefits the prairie can provide. It increases biodiversity in a human-dominant landscape. And it does not preclude the opportunity for other species to be able to co-exist with us, which is important for sustainability.”

The prairie is also appealing for its aesthetic value and provides a natural setting for people to come, Ting said.

“It's such a beautiful place, and I think people will get inspiration for all kinds of work,” she said.

In the early days, a prairie was maintained by fires from lightning or grazing done by bison, Ting said. Now, UIS uses the method of fire-prescribed burns to maintain the health of the prairie ecosystem. The Friends of Sangamon Valley assists UIS in conducting species inventory and prescribed burns.

“Those are the ways to prevent trees, brushes and shrubs from taking over the prairie ecosystem. We try to mimic the natural force with controlled fires,” Ting said. “The fire will help release nutrients from vegetation back to the soil so it will enhance soil productivity and help other plants to grow. It also helps to control a lot of invasive species as well.”

The UIS prairie gives the campus community the opportunity to be immersed in a different kind of natural setting, Ting said.

“I encourage everyone to come here. It’s right on campus, on west side of the Strawbridge-Shepherd House,” she said. “There are beautiful species and grasses. You can come, meditate, take a nice walk, and it will probably help with your day.”

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson receives ITA Award of Excellence

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, associate professor and director of theatre, has received the Award of Excellence in the College/University Division from the Illinois Theatre Association. The award was presented during ITA's 2008 Convention, held at Illinois State University in September.

Each year, the ITA recognizes both individuals and organizations for significant contributions in promoting quality theatre throughout the state. Recipients are nominated by the Illinois theatre community.

Thibodeaux-Thompson has served as a board member and co-chair of the ITA College/University Division and was co-chair of the organization's 2007 convention.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wing in LRH promotes leadership and service

By Courtney Westlake

Even before school started, students in the Leadership for Life Service Wing in Lincoln Residence Hall were lending a hand, volunteering for the local Special Olympics.

“Everyone is just genuinely interested in doing volunteer work,” said Charles Olivier, a sophomore who is the resident assistant for the wing.

The Leadership for Life Service Wing is the only living-learning community in LRH and provides residence to 28 first-year and sophomore students. The wing has a new focus this year on both leadership and service, said Kelly Thompson, director of the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center at UIS.

“They really go hand in hand,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to work with first-year students to help build their service and their leadership skills. We want our first-year students to feel comfortable and at home at UIS, and we want them to know that we're here to help them, as well as engage them with the campus and the community.”

Students living in the Leadership for Life Wing have service requirements that they need to complete, as well as several service programs to attend each semester, Thompson said. One of their first activities was a leadership retreat at Camp Cilca, which Thompson described as “very enlightening.”

Besides volunteering at the Special Olympics before classes started, the residents of the wing were also able to work together in service when Senator Barack Obama was in town to introduce his running mate.

“It really tested our bonds with each other; we were out there for seven hours in the heat, but it was a good experience,” Olivier said. “We also all came together in the first weeks and had a party for some of the residents who had a birthday after they moved in.”

To join the Leadership for Life wing in LRH, students fill out an application, explaining why they have an interest in service and what volunteer opportunities they have been involved in.

“The students all have a passion for volunteering and all have backgrounds in service and volunteerism - mission trips to other countries, activities in their communities, awards they've been given,” Thompson said. “They have a wide variety of interests they would like to explore, such as working with animals, children, the homeless and different special needs populations. Our job is to be that link and help them explore those options and feel that connection to the university as well as the community at large.”

Olivier lived in the service leadership wing last year and said he feels it is a very positive environment and brings students together with a common interest.

“You know that other people are involved in something you like doing,” he said. “We promote development of leadership through building connections with community organizations or having volunteer services on campus.”

Olivier has high hopes for his first year as a resident assistant and believes his residents will have a big impact on the campus.

“It's exciting; we have fun,” he said. “I believe volunteering is not a one-way street. Everyone who volunteers gets something back, even if it’s not money. You gain a sense of humility and gratitude. I think it's important and an important part of leadership.”

Research has shown a relationship between civic engagement and how well students do in school, and Thompson hopes to foster a sense of the importance of service and leadership in the residents of the Leadership for Life wing and all students at UIS.

“We want our students to be better informed about their own leadership skills and better informed about service opportunities, and what it means to them to be involved in service, how that might affect their major and even their course for what they do in their life after they leave UIS,” she said.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meeks honored with alumni award

Loretta Meeks, professor of Teacher Education, is the recipient of the 2009 Alumni Achievers Award from the School of Education and Human Performance at Winston Salem State University, North Carolina. The award recognizes Meeks for professional achievements and contributions to the field of education and the community. It will be presented at the Winston Salem Founder's Day Convocation in late October.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Randy Eccles named WUIS Development Director

Randy Eccles (left), a 30-year veteran of radio stations WGN-AM in Chicago and KTAR-AM/FM in Phoenix, has been named Development Director for NPR-affiliate WUIS 91.9/WIPA 89.3.

WUIS is a service of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Springfield. In announcing his appointment, station General Manager Bill Wheelhouse said, "Randy is committed to quality radio and community service, which is what WUIS is all about."

Eccles' experience includes programming, marketing, promotions, production, and website development for music and news/talk/sports radio stations. He has been a part of the management teams at stations that have won multiple awards from the National Association of Broadcasters, including Marconi Awards for excellence and Crystal Awards for community service.

"My role is to find resources and supporters to allow WUIS to continue serving the community with quality programming," said Eccles. "I'm also seeking the funding to develop the best content for emerging technology platforms such as, WUIS-HD so we can best serve central and west central Illinois."

Eccles explained that in 2007, he and his then-fiancé took a two-month, nationwide road trip looking for a smaller town with a high quality of life and a lower cost of living where they could relocate. "Springfield had so many things going for it: arts, an emerging music scene, the Capitol, the lake, Lincoln heritage, and the quickly growing UIS," he noted. "We liked it so much we got married here. I'm proud to work for WUIS and the University."

WUIS-WIPA is listener-supported public radio. The station's mission is to satisfy a curious, societally engaged audience through programming and community outreach. For the program schedule, events, and other information, visit or call the station at 217/206-6516.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Welcome Week 2008

UIS celebrated Welcome Week 2008 in August to greet new and returning students to campus. Welcome Week activities included an open house at the Diversity Center, the Chancellor's Picnic, the Involvement Expo on the Quad, the Foot in the Door Job Fair, a trip to Knight's Action Park and much more.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Heshmat to make presentation at national event

Shahram Heshmat, UIS associate professor of Public Health, will make an invited presentation on "Applying Behavior Economics to Changing Health Behavior" at the Second National Predictive Modeling Summit, to be held September 22-23 in Washington, DC. The summit is the leading forum on healthcare predictive modeling implications, strategies, and solutions for care management, underwriting, profiling, and other related activities. Co-sponsors are the Harvard Health Policy Review, Health Affairs, Predictive Modeling News, and several publications and organizations. Heshmat is one of only 35 faculty from across the nation who were invited as presenters this year.

UIS represented at annual ACS meeting

Jennette Hansen, UIS undergraduate chemistry major, recently presented a paper titled "Preparation of Porous Lithium Cobalt Oxide" at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia. Co-authors were associate professor Keenan Dungey and undergraduate students Steven Hynek, Andrew Dunn, and Anthony Kilburn.

Dungey also made a presentation at the meeting on "Introducing scanning probe microscopy into undergraduate chemistry courses with hands-on experiments." Co-authors included UIS Chemistry faculty Marc Klingshirn and Gary Trammell.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Professor fosters education of Latino and immigrant issues

By Courtney Westlake

Before Dr. Hinda Seif returned to grad school, she spent a number of years doing social justice work, and much of this work involved working with immigrant families. She was so interested in their stories, she became motivated to record those stories and learn more about “the context for how immigrants ended up coming to the United States,” she said.

That experience led Seif to pursue a doctorate from the University of California-Davis in anthropology with a focus on immigration issues. After receiving her Ph.D., she spent a year at the U.S.-Mexico border thinking through international migration issues with scholars from many other countries as a fellow at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, and she also worked on immigrant students and college access at University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research.

Now going into her second year teaching at UIS, Seif believes the university is an ideal fit.

“When I interviewed here, I was so impressed by the camaraderie. I loved the fact that we are a public university with small classes where I really get to know students that I’m working with,” Seif said. “A big draw was the location in the state capital because I’m interested in learning about and researching Latino and immigrant politics. Illinois is a state where Latinos and immigrants are having more and more impact on state politics, so it seemed perfect for me to be at UIS.”

This fall semester, Seif will be teaching courses in the sociology and anthropology curriculum and also the women’s studies curriculum. She teaches courses on cultural diversity in the U.S. as well as Women, Gender and Society, which is a core course for the Women’s Studies minor.

And a new course, which she first developed during the spring semester, fulfills the Comparative Societies requirement and is called “Women and Gender in Mexico and the U.S.”

“I think it is a unique course because this comparative societies requirement challenges us as professors to think about some of our favorite topics in this comparative fashion,” Seif said. “Usually when people teach about gender and women in this country, we focus on the United States or an entirely different country. Actually comparing the lives of women and gender roles in the two countries is a really interesting challenge.”

“I think it helps students think through not only what their lives are like as gendered individuals, but how they might have been different if they grew up in another country like Mexico,” she added.

The Latino population, which is the largest minority group in the United States, makes up about 14 percent of the population in Illinois and about 25 percent of the population in Chicago, Seif said. She is excited about diversity issues and is looking forward to continuing to help students think about different communities across the state, the country, and the world and broaden their horizons.

Seif is also joining with other campus faculty to welcome Latino students to our campus. Starting fall 2008, she is the faculty adviser for the campus student organization OLAS, or the Organization of Latin American Students.

“In fields that range from business to education to social work, employers are looking for students who are sensitive to diversity and can operate in a global economy,” she said. “I'm looking forward to learning with my students about diverse Latino communities in Illinois, like the one in Beardstown.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Current UIS students give advice to first-timers

Current students at UIS weigh in on the university and what it is like to arrive as a freshmen, and give veteran advice about getting involved on campus.

Shana Stine, senior: The cool thing about UIS, and really any college campus, is however active you want to be, you can be. It's all up to the student how much they want to do. There are tons of things to do: Sangamon Auditorium has Broadway shows, Student Life is always offering crazy things, you can go in to downtown Springfield, or just go to a movie and hang out. Living in the dorms gives you a great chance to meet everyone, and you can do a lot of group study or just a lot of group fun. And don't be scared of the laundry machines; laundry is not that bad.

Derek Rhoads, sophomore: It is so easy to get involved at UIS; there are so many things to do. Get out of your safety bubble. We all have this place we feel comfortable in, and the worst thing you can do is stay there. The best thing you can do is just get out and meet new people, and not let the nervousness of somebody different keep you from interacting with them because you're going to learn a lot of new things. We get to experience diversity instead of just talk about it, and I promise you your life will be changed because of the other lifestyles you run into.

Priyanka Deo, junior: I would say to bring a lot more stuff than you think you'll be able to for your dorm room because it's a lot bigger than you think here, which is nice. And don't be nervous about coming here at all because it's one of the best experiences you'll ever have. The small campus is really beneficial because you can get so involved in so many things, and there are a lot of leadership positions available.

Jordan Haley, senior: As far as UIS goes, my favorite thing is the community. It's big enough that you always have the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and make connections around campus, but it's small enough that you can get to know friends really well and your professors really well. As a freshmen, you'll get a ton of emails about events going on around campus - go to those events, show up at stuff and you won't have a problem getting involved.

Freshmen coming in need to remember that they're here for school and because they need to build skill in a certain area so that they can graduate and get a job; I think you realize that as a senior and not as a freshman. The other thing they need to remember is that you're only going to have the opportunity to be an undergraduate once and live in a residence hall once, so you need to make the most of it and embrace the whole experience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Director of first-year programs passes on love of learning

By Courtney Westlake

In 1981, at the age of 41, Dr. Marcellus Leonard was working in retail and found himself out of a job.

He decided to take a college course in creative writing with no plan to obtain a degree. Eight years later, he walked out of Illinois State University with a Ph.D. in the teaching of writing.

“I discovered not only that I was a pretty good student but also that I loved writing and was pretty good at teaching others how to write,” Leonard said. “I decided to take maybe a course at the graduate level and found it came easily so I got a master's as well. I went to the doctoral program at ISU and found that I loved it even more.”

With a Ph.D. in hand, Leonard moved to Springfield to begin a new career with Sangamon State University 19 years ago and eventually became the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at UIS.

Before returning to college, Leonard said he didn’t quite grasp what it meant to “be an intellectual.” But learning about himself, gaining knowledge in his studies and communicating to others how to write raised his self-confidence, and he wanted to share that with other young adults.

“The CTL fits my plan very well,” he said. “Here we help people; we challenge students to do better in writing, math, chemistry, study skills, time management and more.”

The center holds academic sessions when students can come to practice what is taught in their classes, Leonard said.

Building off of several introductory classes in English, chemistry and biology, students come to the CTL after they have gone to class, and a graduate assistant who sat in on the same class with the same instructor holds a session in that course. Students are able to review homework, discuss aspects of the class they find challenging and ask questions.

The center also offers one-on-one tutoring with graduate assistants, student tutors or even the CTL staff. Leonard, a poet and author himself, has a passion for helping students to gain writing skills and appreciate the art of writing.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people to put their writing together,” he said. “I personally write essays, poetry, nonfiction. I’m very much in love with words and painting with words and helping students to paint with words. I try to get them to see that writing is less of a chore and assignment and more of an expression of self.”

Helping students to explore and learn to enjoy writing, math and other academic skills is just one way the Center for Teaching and Learning welcomes and mentors students. The department, filled with comfortable couches and study areas, also serves soups and stews and other snacks occasionally during study sessions that are held throughout the year.

“I think it's a wonderful program we have here,” Leonard said. “From every center that I have visited, including my own alma mater of Illinois State, they can't touch us. This is all in the interest of creating the home and hearth hospitality that will tell students that you are welcome here, and we will nurture and help you if you want to help yourself."

In keeping with the hospitality and welcoming atmosphere of UIS, Leonard will be taking on a new role at the university as the director of first-year programs starting this fall. As the director, he will be working with various offices around campus such as the Diversity Center, Disability Services, Counseling Center and more.

“We want first-year students to be successful at every level,” Leonard said. “We have programs that are designed to help students be successful and I have been fortunate enough to be the person selected to help coordinate this effort. It’s an honor to be part of this effort at the University of Illinois at Springfield.”

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Barrows named Associate Chancellor for Administrative Affairs

Dave Barrows has been appointed Associate Chancellor for Administrative Affairs at UIS. Barrows has been employed on campus since 1993, serving as campus architect/assistant director of the Department of Physical Planning and Operations, and most recently as executive director of Facilities and Services. In his new position, he will assume additional oversight for the campus’ Conference Services office, new Office of Sustainability, and new Parking Services unit. Facilities and Services is responsible for building and grounds maintenance and remodeling.

Barrows was previously employed as a senior project manager with the state of Illinois' Capital Development Board, where his responsibility included projects at the Secretary of State's and Attorney General's offices, the State Police, Capitol Complex power plant, and the complexes at the SIU School of Medicine and at UIS. Before that, he was a project architect with Fischer-Wisnosky Architects, Inc. in Springfield.

He holds a master's degree in Architecture from UIUC, and is a licensed architect in the state of Illinois.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association looking for new volunteers for 2008-2009

The Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association is currently looking for new volunteers for the 2008-2009 schedule of events and performances at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS.

A dedicated corps of over 280 trained volunteers, SAVA (Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association) members make up the team of ushers who help greet patrons, tear tickets, hand out show programs, and help ensure the safety and comfort of those who attend performances and other events at Sangamon Auditorium and the UIS Studio Theatre. Interested volunteers also have opportunities to provide support in the administrative office, as needed, assisting with marketing, community outreach, and the Auditorium's educational and family programs.

Concerning the benefits of being a volunteer at Sangamon Auditorium, Carly Shank, director of audience and development and communication noted, "Although it's a wonderful way to support the university and the arts, it's also great way to network and make social connections within the community. It's the best way to get involved with our organization."

Requirements and Expectations - Sangamon Auditorium Volunteers are requested to volunteer for at least three events a semester and are required to attend at least one mandatory training session. Two training sessions will be offered during the month of August -- on Tuesday, August 12, at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday, August 23, at 10 a.m. New and returning volunteers are required to attend only one of these sessions. Training sessions are held at Sangamon Auditorium. Those planning on attending are asked to RSVP by calling Carly Shank at the number below.

For a complete description of volunteer responsibilities and expectations, visit

For additional information, or to join the Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association, contact Carly Shank at 217/206-8286 or via e-mail at

Sangamon Auditorium, UIS

Located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, the Auditorium hosts more than 120 performances annually. Home to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Ballet Company, it is the only auditorium of its kind and size in the Springfield area with a seating capacity of 2,018.

With a staff of 11 full-time employees, graduate assistants, more than 280 volunteers, ushers, and local stagehands, Sangamon Auditorium continues to fulfill its mission of presenting and supporting varied cultural and educational professional arts activities to the audiences in Springfield, Sangamon County, and the surrounding areas. The Auditorium administrative offices can be reached at 217/206-6150 or by e-mail at

For more information, contact Bryan Leonard at 217/206-8284 -

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cranson to play at band concert

Todd Cranson will play the tuba in a duet performance, with Dia Langelier on piccolo, of "The Elephant and the Fly" at the Springfield Municipal Band concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at Douglas Park in Springfield.

Cranson is assistant director of co-curricular music at UIS.

The concert falls on a "dog day" at Douglas Park and audience members are encouraged to bring their dogs along with the lawn chairs and picnic baskets.

For more information, contact Cranson at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Staff Members star in Civil War musical downtown

By Courtney Westlake

Ralph Shank typically wears his hair a little shorter, but it can now almost be tied into a ponytail, and his beard is quite thick as well. But it's not personal preference - the facial hair and long locks are all part of a 1860s period role in a local musical.

Ralph, multimedia specialist with Information Technology Services at UIS, and his wife Carly, program coordinator at Sangamon Auditorium, will be performing in the musical "The Civil War," which will be put on at the Union Square Park, located at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, from July 24 through July 27.

Carly will play Sarah McEwen, the only white female in the performance, and Ralph will be portraying Captain Billy Pierce, a captain in the confederacy.

"We went back and looked at pictures from the Civil War era, and there was usually a lot of hair, slicked down, curls in the back, and a lot of beards," Ralph said. "As captain of the confederacy, I'll be singing country for first time, so that should be interesting."

Carly's interest in the theater began when she was young, and she has been involved with numerous plays in the local community, having grown up in Riverton, as well as traveled with a theater company. She also has a degree in theater.

Ralph moved to Springfield from Austin, Texas, and his background is in music. He performed in his first play in 2004.

They now enjoy performing together when possible. Their upcoming play, The Civil War, is actually a Broadway musical, not just a local show, Carly said.

"I think there's a misconception in community that this is something that the museum put together," she said. "But it played on Broadway in the late 1990s. We have really characterized it as being a theatrical concert because it is primarily music."

"A lot of the lyrics and dialogue in the show are based on letters and speeches from civil war.," Ralph noted, but unlike many presentations about the Civil War, the music in this performance is not from the time period, Carly added.

"The creators really wanted to capture the spirit of the Civil War in a way modern audiences could relate too," Carly said. "The music is actually very poppy."

Most of the actors and singers involved in the show are very experienced, so they haven't had to hold the lengthy rehearsals that many productions do, Carly said.

"There is a large male chorus and African-American chorus," Ralph said. "They are just amazing, and they will blow your socks off with their performance. And then of course Carly has a beautiful voice as well."

The show's affiliation with the Presidential Museum and Library is really unique, Carly said.

"Most of people in show have experience in Muni, the Springfield Theatre Center and Theatre in the Park, but this is a nice endorsement by the library and museum," she said. "Hopefully it will be nice crossover for people who are really interested in exploring the theater of the Civil War and interested in the history aspect, as well as people who are just interested in shows and theater."

For tickets to the show, go online at or call the box office at 558-8934.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

UIS instructor receives award for small business

Donna Rogers, instructor of management in the College of Business and Management at UIS, was among five recipients recognized at The Springfield Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards Luncheon on July 1. The Small Business Awards Luncheon is an annual event recognizing outstanding entrepreneurs and business advocates in our community.

Rogers received the award of The Home-Based Business Owner of the Year, which recognizes an owner whose business is based in the home for more than two years. Roger is the owner of Rogers HR Consulting.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Neginsky's work on Salome inspires Miller's editorial in technology magazine

Rosina Neginsky, UIS associate professor of Liberal Studies, Individual Option, and English, recently gave a sabbatical presentation about her new book Salome: The Image of a Woman Who Never Was (forthcoming, Edwin Mellon Press). The book examines myth-making and artistic depictions of Salome.

Colleague Keith Miller, professor of Computer Science, attended Neginsky's presentation and was inspired to write about it in "The engineer, the dancer, and the severed head," his first editorial as editor for the magazine IEEE Technology and Society.

The entire text of the editorial is available online through the Brookens Library homepage. Said Miller, "From the library homepage, click on the quick link 'A-Z list of databases,' then click on 'IEEE Xplore,' then click on 'Journals and Magazine' under the heading Browse, then click on 'T,' then click on 'Technology and Society Magazine,' then click on 'GO TO ISSUE,' and finally click on the PDF for the editorial.

"I know that's a pretty long list of clicks, but the more people do all that clicking, the more hits will be recorded by the IEEE, and the more money they will give to the society that sponsors the magazine." He added that UIS pays a fee for access to IEEE Xplore, "and this is one way all UIS students, faculty, and staff can take advantage of that resource.

"Of course, I would be tickled pink if lots of UIS library users wandered about on the Technology and Society website and read MANY of the articles there," he said.

Oldfield is invited panelist at national conference

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, was an invited panelist at the annual Public Administration Theory Network Conference, held in May in Richmond, Virginia. The panel's theme was "On the Marginalization of Social Class and Socioeconomic Status in Public Administration." Over the last few years, Oldfield has published several refereed papers on the topic of social class inequalities in higher education.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Professor spurs academic examination of Bob Dylan

By Courtney Westlake

College English classes typically focus on works by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and other well-known artists and writers. But Bob Dylan?

Dr. Bill Carpenter, assistant professor of English at UIS, created a summer English course focused on the works and lyrics of Bob Dylan, called “Bob Dylan’s America,” that was first offered in the summer 2007 and is being offered again this summer as part of the ECCE requirements.

The class came about because, Carpenter said, he had an idea about putting Bob Dylan in the center of a study about American communities and looking in depth at the way in which Dylan interacted with different communities. He wanted to give students insight to a cultural icon they may not have “immediate access” to.

"This is a class I always wanted to teach," he said. "I always thought it'd be really fascinating to get people talking about Bob Dylan the same way we talk about T.S. Eliot or Dante or Shakespeare. Plus I'm a big Dylan fan and really curious about the effects he's had on American culture and the way in which American culture perceives him."

Carpenter, who created the first-year writing curriculum when he first came to UIS a couple of years ago, said he truly enjoys this unique course and the students it brings into his class.

“The students come from all over and have different levels of experience,” he said. “Some have never listened to him, but some are big fans, so it's nice to bring them all together and have those different ranges of knowledge work together.”

The course’s main focus is to study the connection between Dylan and groups such as civil rights activists, the folk revival, Evangelical Christians and the Millennial Generation. There are a couple of goals for the course as well, Carpenter said.

“I want to have the students work together to create kind of a community-based knowledge about Bob Dylan and American culture,” he said. “They have to work at finding resources and creating interpretations and sharing them with each other so they can talk about what they see happening in the works and in the history and the context.”

“And,” he added, “I'm also really trying to get them to see, and then ultimately go out and show other people, that you can take artists and works that aren't necessarily thought of as ‘classic’ or ‘high art’ but you can look at them as if you are intellectuals. You can deal with that work in very intellectual, critical, academic ways. So I'm trying to reinvent the literary canon in addition to just teaching them about someone I like to listen to.”

And not only is Carpenter encouraging the critical analysis of Dylan and his works, he is doing it in unique ways, namely through social media tools.

“I blew my students away the other day because I used the SmartBoard in the classroom,” he laughed.

One of his most recent classroom activities involved the use of laptops and the World Wide Web. His students found works of poetry on the Web and created their own versions with certain words or phrases hyperlinked to connect to other resources or Web pages. The final products were then posted to Blackboard.

“It’s all a way of demonstrating that web of knowledge we already exist in,” Carpenter said. “It’s also to show that none of these authors exist in a historical vacuum. They’re all part of a larger system of interactions and connections. So hyperlinks and social media really help materialize those kinds of relationships for them.”

Knowledge has everything to do with connection – how facts and ideas link up with other facts and ideas, Carpenter said. Teaching about Dylan in this way allows students to connect Dylan to other events, people and cultures in a critical way.

“We’re now dealing with a group of students for whom the world has never not been connected and linked,” Carpenter said. “Using social media is a way for knowledge to be created and disseminated. The Internet gives us a very interesting means to talk about community.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nancy Perkins takes part in celebration at Walden Pond

Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor and past chair of the English program, read three of her poems at Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts, on June 20 to celebrate the longest day of the year in the place made famous by Henry David Thoreau.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grounds crew keeps campus beautiful rain or shine

By Courtney Westlake

At times like the bright, sunny, 75-degree days that Central Illinois has been experiencing, members of the UIS grounds crew have been hearing many comments about how lucky they are to have outside jobs.

But weather like this is a definite rarity for the crew.

"We get a lot of comments that people want our jobs on days like today. But on days like the hot, humid days of the summer or the cold windy days of winter, we don't get too many people asking to trade places," laughed grounds supervisor Joan Buckles, who has a degree in ornamental horticultural from UIUC and has been at UIS since 1991.

The UIS grounds crew, committed to the exterior of the campus rain or shine, consists of 11 members, plus Buckles. The grounds crew cares for all of the trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, turf, parking lot, sidewalk maintenance and more.

"Pretty much everything outside, we've got work to do on it," Buckles said. "We've got 370 acres we maintain. The university owns 750 acres, but only 370 of those are landscaped at this time."

A beautiful campus is important to the sustainability of the university and attracts people to visit and attend school at UIS.

"It's first thing potential students and their parents see when they come to campus," Buckles said. "It's important to have a neat, tidy, landscaped area. It shows off the buildings, and it creates a nice place for people to relax and play. Additionally, the Sangamon Auditorium in the PAC brings in a lot of the general public."

The grounds crew has several upcoming projects for campus. One of the biggest includes two new soccer fields that were planted in the spring and are expected to be ready in the fall.

They will also have their hands full with the new landscaping for Founders Hall when the building is completed in August, and they plan to do some correction for drainage issues, and possibly create gardens out of those, in lower campus areas, Buckles said.

"We see maintenance issues and try to eliminate them or make the maintenance easier on them by landscape design," she said. "And we just keep expanding along with all the construction. There are new landscape issues that come along with all that, and it's just ongoing."

Buckles speaks very highly about the diligence her crew has shown throughout the years while creating a more appealing campus, maintaining the grounds and handling any problems that arise.

"This is a very dedicated crew that we have right now, very knowledgeable, and there are a lot of landscape backgrounds in most of the individuals," she said. "They've done an excellent job at keeping the campus looking neat and tidy at all times."

Nancy Perkins gives poetry reading

Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor of English, read her poetry at Etcetera Cafe in Paducah, Kentucky, on June 6.

Perkins, who writes and reads her creative works under her first two names, nancy genevieve, has been teaching creative writing, fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction at UIS since 2000.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kenneth Oldfield addresses national coalition

Kenneth Oldfield, emeritus professor of Public Administration, gave an invited presentation at the annual conference of the Coalition of State University Aid Administrators, held in April in Huntington Beach, California. Oldfield spoke about "Welcoming First-Generation Poor and Working-Class Students to College."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mooney interviewed on WILL

UIS Professor of Political Science Chris Mooney was interviewed on the WILL radio program Focus 580 with David Inge during the week of April 21, 2008. Mooney's segment was titled "Government by the People: Referenda, Grass Roots Initiatives, and Recall Petitions."

Focus 580 features interviews with "newsmakers and experts on international affairs and daily life."

Listen to the interview

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Perkins publishes new poems

Nancy Genevieve Perkins, associate professor of English, had two poems published in the inaugural Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Springfield's newest literary journal, Quiddity: International Literary Journal. The issue presents more than 70 "new works of poetry and fiction from emerging and established writers around the world."

These poems are a part of a new body of work by Perkins, who writes and reads creative works under her first two names, nancy genevieve. She has been teaching creative writing, fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction at UIS since 2000.

More about Quiddity

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

MIS professor elected president of professional organization

Rassule Hadidi, Hanson Professional Services Faculty Scholar and professor and chair of the Management Information Systems Department at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has been elected to a three-year term as president of the Midwest United States Association for Information Systems (MWAIS).

As a chapter of the Association for Information Systems, MWAIS serves AIS members across 12 Midwestern states. The organization's goal is "to promote the exchange of ideas, experiences, and knowledge among scholars and professionals engaged in the development, management, and use of information and communications systems and technology."

As president, Hadidi will head up MWAIS' seven-member executive committee. AIS currently has about 3,700 members worldwide; MWAIS has about 100 members.

The MIS Department, housed within UIS' College of Business and Management, offers the master of science degree, as well as an undergraduate minor and a number of graduate certificate programs. The graduate degree focuses on providing a balance between technical skills and knowledge of business functions and processes and was recently named a "Best Buy" by

Dr. Hadidi's homepage

More about the Department of Management and Information Systems

More about the College of Business and Management

More about the Hanson Professional Services Faculty Scholar

Two UIS degree programs were recently named Best Buys by

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Student named finalist in photography contest

By Courtney Westlake

When Sue Huskins was involved in an accident at work that left her without the use of her right hand in 1999, she was forced to quit her job at a print shop. She took that opportunity to go to college, first receiving her associates degree from Richland Community College in Decatur and now working toward her bachelors at UIS.

"That's where I found photography, and I love it; it's my passion," she said.

At UIS, Huskins is majoring in visual arts with a focus on photography, which she studies under professor of communication Michael Duvall. It was after one of Duvall's classes that Huskins noticed a brochure for the 28th Annual Student Photography Contest.

And from among the more than 4,000 students who entered this year's contest, Huskins was selected as a finalist in the competition, and her photo titled "Repetition in Glass" will be published in the "Best of College Photography Annual 2008."

"I just happened to find the flyer for the competition in Professor Duvall's lab and just thought I'd try; it doesn't hurt to try," she said. "I was very surprised. I was hoping to be at least maybe recognized a little bit, but I never dreamed I'd make it in the top five percent."

Huskins captured her "Repetition in Glass" photograph while on a trip to Chicago.

"My friend and I went on bus trip to Chicago, but instead of going to the art museum we were supposed to go to, we spent the whole day downtown looking for shots that we liked. We drug each other all around the town," she said. "I like reflections, I like using the camera to get odd angles. And I like to get every day items that people see but pass by and don't really recognize."

Because her accident left her without the use of her dominant hand, Huskins must hold her camera differently than most people to capture her images.

"Since the shutter release button is located on the right side of the camera, I cannot use it in the normal position. When using a camera, I turn it upside down, resting it on the top of my bad hand," Huskins said. "Doing it this way, it leaves my left hand free to manually focus and set the shutter speed and the aperture. It also puts the shutter release button on the left side on the bottom where it is easily accessible with my left thumb."

Huskins said she decided to come to UIS because of its close proximity to Decatur and due to all of the positive things she had heard about and read about UIS. Eventually, she said, she'd like to continue her education and pursue a master's degree.

"I'd like to do freelance photography but also maybe teach photography in a community college setting," she said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UIS graduates nearly 1,300

Nearly 1,300 students received degrees at UIS' 37th commencement ceremony on May 10.

See a printable list of graduates' names and degrees


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New exhibit presents work by Liz Murphy Thomas

identity: conceptual/perceptual representations, an exhibit of photographs by Liz Murphy Thomas, will be on display at the Robert Morris Gallery in downtown Springfield from May 20 through July 11.

Thomas is assistant professor of Visual Arts at UIS, where her teaching focuses on digital media and graphic design.

identity includes work from several series of Thomas' photographs, all dealing with "perceptual and conceptual identities." She describes the focus of her work as looking at "how we create, categorize, and perceive identity."

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 22. The reception and admission to the gallery are free.

The Robert Morris Gallery is located at 607 East Adams; summer hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, contact Shelley LaMantia at 793-4245 or Liz Murphy Thomas at 206-7547.

Read more about the Visual Arts Department at UIS and about Liz Murphy Thomas.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mexico Diez shares knowledge gained on trip

By Courtney Westlake

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today, a group of UIS students has found.

The Mexico Diez, a group of 10 students and two faculty members, left for Mexico the week before spring break in March and spent about 10 days in San Cristobal and Chiapas, as well as some southern, rural areas, after first undergoing training with Witness for Peace, said Julian Borjas, a junior who participated in the trip.

The group, part of the political studies class called Mexico & Globalization taught by Dr. Heather Dell and Veronica Espina, was studying how workers are actually affected by different trade agreements and economic policies put forth by the United States.

“We were looking at economic effects from neo-liberal trade policies, which are the official economic foreign policies that that U.S. backs through trade organizations and through trade agreements like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) that kind of privatize government lands and publicly-owned lands so that corporations can use the resources,” Borjas said.

The students met with families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life to learn about their experiences and perspectives regarding these policies and also stayed with three Mexican families during part of their time there.

“We talked with them about what their lives are like and what their concerns are,” said Bob Skorczewski, one of the ten students on the trip. “I had a little background in some of these political and economic issues from my time here at UIS, but the actual real world application of these policies and how they affect people is something you don't really get in a classroom environment.”

“Actually going there and communicating with the people in Mexico was very eye-opening, and you can see how these things affect them and their families,” he continued. “There are just so many things happening there that we weren't ever wanting for something to do and to learn.”

Borjas said the trip reinforced many of the ideas he had before taking the class.

“There is a lot of militarization; there are military installments in every town,” he said. “The people that are known to protest the government, the Zapatistas, are really feeling a lot of pressure. A lot of the towns are being persuaded to become more favorable to the government.”

As part of the experience, members of the Mexico Diez began speaking to groups around campus and the community upon returning from Mexico, sharing what they studied and what they learned while on their trip.

The students first talked to a couple of UIS classes, Skorczewski said, and then took on some speaking engagements at high schools in the area as well as community groups that helped to sponsor their trip.

Skorczewski encouraged other UIS students to sign up for the Mexico & Globalization class next spring for the chance to study this area, learn about globalization and make the trip to Mexico.

“Some of the experiences we had were very intense, but in a good way, in an eye-opening way,” he said. “I’m looking for ways now to get involved around here, or whatever community I end up living in, with the labor movement, or if it's in politics, keeping that in mind as we form public policy. There’s a hidden side to all these issues we see, and a lot of time we're concerned only with how it affects us and not other people.”

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Commencement celebrates exciting and surprising journey

By Courtney Westlake

Life has a way of surprising us.

That was the theme of the speech from student commencement speaker Denean Vreeland as she spoke to her fellow graduates, celebrating their common commitment, college career and all of the surprises along the way.

Hundreds of graduates gathered in their robes and gowns on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, May 10, to receive their hard-earned diplomas in the presence of their proud friends and families with happy tears and beaming smiles across their faces.

Years of dedication and hard work culminated into an exciting and emotional ceremony celebrated by the graduates, many members of the UIS community and people from around the country and world.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke served as the commencement keynote speaker, and UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen and University President B. Joseph White also gave remarks during the ceremony. White challenged the graduates sitting before him to be people of high integrity and professionals of high integrity.

“This is the happiest day of the academic calendar; I’m so happy to be able to share it with you,” White said. “I want to congratulate the graduates, and I want to thank all of the families and friends for all of their support and sacrifices. It’s really taken your love and support to get all of the graduates here.”

Vreeland, who received her degree in math and will be teaching the subject at Pawnee High School, said she was extremely excited to be chosen as the student speaker and could hardly believe her graduation day had finally arrived.

“It’s so exciting to be at the end,” she said right before the graduation ceremony. “This thing I have anticipated for so long is finally here. I really had a tremendous experience at UIS.”

Vreeland's speech was a surprise to her parents, who were in attendance. With the element of surprise being the focus of her presentation, she urged her audience not to equate surprise as being unprepared or naive.

“Each of us today has worked hard to reach this moment in our lives. For most of us, it has required careful planning and dedication,” she said. “Despite these carefully laid plans, though, I am certain each of us has encountered our share of surprises. Speaking from a later season of life, I can tell you there are always surprises ahead.”

Vreeland acknowledged the online learning at UIS, noting that she was rarely physically present on campus but was grateful for the opportunity to study and take classes online, while still feeling like she was an important part of the university. She encouraged her fellow students, both online and on-campus, to explore new possibilities and “not be afraid to open new doors.”

“Those areas least explored are sometimes those that hold the most wonderful surprises,” Vreeland said. “Our professors here at UIS have given us the tools we need to succeed. We have learned how to understand problems and come up with our own solutions. They have encouraged us to think critically and independently.”

And when it comes to planning for the future, Vreeland quoted a sentence from actor Steve Carell’s character in “Dan in Real Life” when he says “Maybe we should tell them this...plan to be surprised.”

“As we leave this ceremony today, no matter what your plans, I invite you to look for and embrace all of life's surprises,” Vreeland said.

Online students enjoy UIS campus before commencement

By Courtney Westlake

Beth Trimble and Susan Greene became fast friends after Trimble was searching for a "study buddy" while she completed her bachelor's degree in math online at UIS. Years of support, encouragement and friendship ensued, and the two met face-to-face for the first time in 2007 when Greene traveled from her home in Lawrenceville, Ill. to see her online friend graduate.

On Saturday, May 10, it was Trimble's turn to make the trip from her home in California to celebrate as Greene received her degree in math with a minor in teacher education from UIS.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better on my graduation than for her to be here," Greene said. "I feel like my day is complete since she is here. She has been a major support system for me, along with my husband Tony."

Dozens of students and their families, many of whom had never set foot on the UIS campus before, traveled from near and far to participate in UIS' commencement ceremony on Saturday. Before the ceremony, however, graduating online students were able to be a part of the campus in the morning during a celebratory brunch in the Public Affairs Center.

Students hailed from all over Illinois and from as far away as California, Delaware, New Jersey and Florida. The graduates, online coordinators and program faculty were all recognized during the brunch.

"As graduates, you represent much of all that is good and great about the university," said Chuck Schrage, vice president of alumni relations. "Your accomplishments as students, your future achievements, the way in which you live and the values by which you live will have a significant impact on UIS. It's true what many have said: alumni are the truest measure of a great university."

Online graduates from UIS live and work throughout all 50 states and many other countries internationally.

"We have a wide reach with these programs," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "I really want to congratulate you and thank you for choosing this university. We are very proud of these programs."

There was a wide mix of emotions during the brunch as the graduates met many campus community members for the first time and celebrated with their families and friends.

"I'm relieved, excited. It's been a long road," Greene said.

Both Trimble and Greene said they will always feel a connection with UIS, and especially with each other and their programs. Being teachers will also continue to keep them close, Trimble said.

"I don't think we'll ever lose that connection," Greene said.