Wednesday, April 30, 2008

UIS Cares event proves successful

By Courtney Westlake


A group of UIS students proved that college kids do indeed care about the well-being of the local community on Wednesday morning, and grateful community members who drove by and thanked them reinforced their efforts.

The group of UIS students and several staff members spent much of the morning on Wednesday, April 30, pulling weeds, planting flowers and partaking in other beautification projects at Jefferson Middle School as part of National Volunteer Week.

The day was just a part of an ongoing relationship with Jefferson Middle School, through which UIS students also mentor students from Jefferson.

"This is the 6th annual UIS Cares day, and we wanted to do a beautification project," said Kelly Thompson, director of the Office of Student Volunteers and Civic Engagement at UIS. "We wanted to show the students from Jefferson truly that we did care; we are using the name UIS Care by really showing them that we care about their school, both on the inside through our mentoring and on the outside."

UIS junior Adam Findley said he heard about the chance to volunteer during the UIS Cares event through his soccer coach and felt it would be a great opportunity for some of the student athletes.

"I felt that it'd be a great thing for us as athletes to do to really just give back to the community," he said.

A cleaner and more beautiful image is important to the community, Findley said.

"What I like to say is the first glance is always the best," he said. "When people come to Jefferson Middle School, they want to see a beautiful place, and they'll want to come back if they do."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mary Jane's Café celebrates opening

By Courtney Westlake

Coffee, ice cream and other treats were passed around as the campus community celebrated the official ribbon-cutting for Mary Jane’s Café, the Brookens Library coffee shop, on Tuesday afternoon, April 29.

"This is a dream that has been a long-time coming, and I'm so glad to have all of you here today," said Jane Treadwell, university librarian and dean of Library Instructional Services at UIS.

Mary Jane’s is named after Mary Jane MacDonald, the first librarian hired at Sangamon State University. The space for the café had previously been called the MacDonald Lounge to honor MacDonald. MacDonald was on hand to participate in the ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, and Treadwell commended her for her work and dedication at the library.

Located on the first level of Brookens, the café features pastries and light lunch items as well as coffee, espresso and other gourmet beverages. Bevande Coffee out of Bloomington, which serves shade-grown coffee roasted in Seattle, has been chosen as the operator for Mary Jane’s.

"I remember when we started talking about this, to create a 'let's get back in the library, Barnes & Noble' kind of place right here on our own campus, and now we can all see it," said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "You have to dream to have a dream come true, and the library certainly dreamed this."

In the strategic plan for UIS, education, research and study are greatly emphasized, and Mary Jane's falls into place with the plan, Treadwell said.

"What we were lacking on this campus was what is called 'third spaces', some really nice community gathering spaces, and here at Mary Jane's Café, we now have such a space," Treadwell said. "We had put the idea of a café in our short-term goals of the library's strategic plan. Dreams usually don't come through without money though; our chancellor made the funds available for us to have this cafe."

Bevande co-owner Tyler Buckley said the company is thrilled to be on campus and has found UIS to be an open and friendly environment.

"We're just excited to be here, we hope to live up to the expectations that Mary Jane's Café has been asked to do, and we hope to be here for a long time," he said.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Emiquon Field Station dedication held

By Courtney Westlake

It was a momentous occasion on Friday, April 25, as an excited crowd braved the strong winds and rain to celebrate the dedication and ribbon-cutting of the new Emiquon Field Station at the Emiquon Preserve located near Havana, Illinois, along the Illinois River.

The Illinois River is part of one of the greatest large-floodplain river ecosystems in the world. A century ago, most of the Illinois Rivers' floodplain was isolated from the river and converted to agricultural land, which significantly altered the natural ecological processes of seasonal flooding that sustained the ecosystem.

In 2007, however, the Nature Conservancy and UIS teamed up to transform 7,425 acres of land immediately adjacent to the Illinois River and owned by The Nature Conservancy back to its original state of a floodplain, which is one of the biggest transformations of its kind in the world.

UIS decided to establish the Emiquon Field Station to study, research, and document this incredible transformation and give students the opportunity to learn at the site. Dr. Michael Lemke, professor of biology at UIS, is the director of the field station.

During the field station dedication ceremony, Lemke explained how the restoration of the floodplain began and gave thanks to everyone involved who made the restoration and the field station possible.

"The physical function of the field station allows the vision that a lot of us have here; many of us have been busy studying this 7,000 acre-land restoration," he said. "A lot of planning and foresight has gone into this project. There is a chance for students here to learn biology, ecology, anthropology and many other disciplines."

The station features laboratories and an electronic classroom, Lemke said. The classroom lets instructors teach over the Web or bring guest speakers from distant locations to Emiquon, providing a connection to the rest of the world.

"Stories here at Emiquon aren't just for college-age students; we plan to share what is going on here with people from 'K to gray' through workshops, outreach and other ways," Lemke said. "I'm excited about sharing the stories here that have a global impact."

The Emiquon Project and the field station are right in line with UIS' goal to become one of the top five public, liberal arts universities in the country, said UIS Chancellor Richard Ringseisen.

"One of the phrases we like to use a lot is 'local excellence, global impact,' and if there's ever been an example of that, it certainly is this station," Ringeisen said. "This is an excellent and highly visible example of statewide and national recognition, so we're very excited today."

The field station is more than just a new building and observatory, Lemke said.

"It's also the people that work here. All of the people that have planned this and made it happen are part of the life of Emiquon," he said.

With the dedication of the new field station, UIS is becoming part of the long, rich history of the Emiquon floodplain, said UIS Provost Harry Berman.

"Dreams can come true," Berman said. "And with dreams come responsibility. At UIS, we now have a responsibility to take advantage of this wonderful facility and the splendid opportunities it offers to faculty and students. We will teach here, we will do research here, and in partnership with the Nature Conservatory, we will educate the public about biodiversity and conservation."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Professor anticipates greater need for field in near future

By Courtney Westlake

What most people usually don't want to talk about for five minutes, Dr. Carolyn Peck has been studying and teaching most of her adult life.

The topics of death and dying don't overwhelm or dishearten her so much as interest her.

"The study of death and dying and working in that arena is something that has come naturally to me," Peck said. "One of my work experiences in Oklahoma was in a hospice as the bereavement coordinator and volunteer coordinator. I've also had the good fortune of caring for family members at the end of their lives. Because of those experiences, it's something that became part of my life, and it's an interest I continue to have professionally."

Peck, who came to UIS in 2002, is a faculty member in the human services department, teaching in the concentration of gerontology. Previously, she worked in the field of gerontology for more than 20 years in public and private sectors, she said.

"I've had a real rich diversity of experiences in a variety of arenas," Peck said. "My first job was as the manager of low-income housing for the elderly. I really stumbled into the field of gerontology; I had no idea it was the beginning of a lifetime career for me."

Within the gerontology concentration, one of four different concentrations in human services, Peck teaches four aging-related classes: Perspectives on Aging, Psychology of Aging, Aging and Human Services and Sociology of Death, Dying and Bereavement.

"In my death and dying class, I see one of most dramtic transformations following enrollment in the class," she said. "Initially there is some anxiety, and usually by the end of the semester, many of them are empowered, and, I hope, benefit both personally and professionally as a result. I hope in all my classes students are changed."

Enrollment in the gerontology concentration at UIS has remained constant, Peck said, although she belives there will be a significant increase in the near future.

"I anticipate a fairly dramatic increase because of the number of older adults who are going to be needing services over next 10 to 15 years," she said. "We have not seen that yet, but we anticipate enrollment to increase substantially over the next five to 10 years in order to meet the demands of the baby boomers that are just starting to turn 60."

The Baby Boomers are the group of people born between 1946 and 1964. They are different from today's elderly in variety of ways, including individuals who are living longer, have a higher-income due to higher levels of education and individuals who have chosen to remain single all their lives, Peck said.

"There will be some challenges when we look at the group of people who have never married and have remained single all of their lives. When we look at the individuals in today's elderly and who is caring for them, it's their adult children," Peck said. "The question being asked is who will care for the future elderly who are single in their later year; if they don't have children and never married, that's going to be a critical question."

To help faculty, staff and students begin preparing for their aging family members, Peck and the UIS Counseling Center have been offering workshops on the subject.

"One of the realities of today, and our campus is no different, is a truly epidemic number of middle-age people caring for their elderly parents," Peck said. "We felt the need to have some specialized types of education classes as well as support groups for people on our campus who are caring for aging family members. They have been well attended, and we have every reason to believe will continue."

There is no doubt, Peck said, that there will be a significant influx of older adults over the next 20 years.

"I see lot of jobs opening in the field of gerontology and associated fields," she said. "The number of older adults will create demands for service at a variety of different levels, which of course means a demand for positions and individuals who have a special training in the field of gerontology."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day presenter encourages action for sustainable Future

By Courtney Westlake

UIS celebrated Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22 with a presentation on "Education and Action for a Sustainable Future" given by Dr. Debra Rowe, president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, on Tuesday evening in Brookens Auditorium.

Earth Day, an annual event since 1970, is a chance for people around the world to celebrate the planet and our responsibility toward it. (For more information about Earth Day, go here.)

Rowe is a faculty member and administrator at Oakland Community College in Michigan, where she creates and teaches interdisciplinary projects about futuring, environmental sustainability and a more humane society. She is also a senior fellow with the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, national co-coordinator of the Higher Education Association's Sustainability Consortium, founder of the Disciplinary Associations' Network for Sustainability, and senior adviser to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

As president of the U.S. Partnership, Rowe works with educational institutions across the country to integrate a sustainable worldview into formal education at all levels. "Sustainable development," as defined by the United Nations 2002 World Summit, is that which would improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future.

Rowe discussed topics such as what sustainability is, what the challenges in creating sustainability are, what solutions already exist, what national trends are occuring and resources for the attendees.

"This isn't about saving the planet; the planet's going to be fine," she said. "It's just a question of what kind of species is going to be able to survive on the planet and with what quality of life."

United Nations declared a decade of development for sustainable development starting in 2005. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, every ecosystem is degrading. Nearly half of the world's major rivers are going dry or are badly polluted, the fishing areas are collapsing or in decline, and there is dangerous climate change, Rowe said.

"With each breath you take, with each drink of water, each piece of food, you are receiving life-sustaining gifts from the ecosystem, and you're not paying the full price the way our economic system is structured," she said.

In higher education, we learn knowledge, values and skills, Rowe said, and we need to do two things with those.

"We need to change private choices and behaviors, or our habits," Rowe said. "And the second thing we need to do is change our public choices, our laws."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kim Hayden named CAPE award winner

By Courtney Westlake

Kim Hayden, director of the Graduate Public Service Internship program, was given a top honor on Tuesday afternoon as she was named the recipient of the 2008 Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence Award, also known as the CAPE Award, during the 5th annual CAPE ceremony.

The CAPE Award honors all Academic Professionals at UIS by recognizing one outstanding AP each year. The AP nominees are judged on three criteria: work projects, professional development and affiliations, and contributions to one’s unit. The winner receives $500 in cash for personal use, and another $500 is given to the winner’s department.

This year's nominees included Hayden, Tom Ambrose, Michael Bloechle, Linda Cox, Tammy Craig, Andy Egizi, Lori Giordano, Dana Goodrum, Janette Kirkham, Jim Korte, Holly McCracken, Lynn Otterson, Rogelio Salvador, Barbara Selvaggio and Lisa Whelpley.

"Even though we only have one honoree, this award really honors all of the academic professionals for all that they do for UIS. Academic professionals work across all disciplines on campus, so that makes being an AP so interesting," said Jerry Burkhart, chair of the Academic Professional Advisory Committee.

Chancellor Richard Ringeisen congratulated all the nominees and recognized the past recipients of the award, including Barbara Ferrara, Tavia Ervin, Sherry Hutson and Shari McCurdy, before he announced Hayden as this year's award winner. Hayden was presented with a personal plaque and another with her name that will hang in the Chancellor's office.

"Not only is it an honor to have the opportunity to work with so many outstanding academic professionals, staff and faculty on this campus but through GPSI, I have had the opportunity to really play an active role in the mission of the university," Hayden said. "I'm deeply grateful for this moment, and this award really is for all academic professionals."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Disability Services holds open house

By Courtney Westlake


The 11th annual Disability Awareness Week at UIS came to a close on Friday with an Open House at the Office of Disability Services on campus, located in Human Resources Building 80.

"I think the week went wonderfully well; we've had lots of people attend the events, even those from outside our campus community," said Suzanne Woods, director of disability services.

Disability services at UIS provides academic accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Through inclusion, advocacy and support, the office strives to provide higher education and accommodation to all students by offering an environment that enriches their educational experience.

During the open house, the disability services staff gave tours of the office and showcased the various adaptive technology and services available through office.

"We are at the historic end of campus, and sometimes poeple don't come over here like they go to the library or the PAC," Woods said. "We wanted them to see where we are. We also wanted them to see our lab, where we have assistive technology, we have computers, and we have quiet rooms where students can come to take tests. And we wanted to see them in our own environment and see what a good place this is to come and work if you need a quiet place."

Woods said she was pleased with turnout from not only people from campus but the surrounding community as well during the Disability Awareness Week events. The office had a steady stream of people come through the open house between 12 and 2 p.m.

Woods thanked the campus for all its support this week and wants to leave Disability Awareness Week with the reminder that people can acquire a disability at any time due to an illness or accident.

"We just want people to be aware that people with disabilities are, first and foremost, people," Woods said.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Activities and presentations continue Disability Awareness Week

By Courtney Westlake


The second day of UIS' 11th annual Disability Awareness Week was full of presenters, a movie showing of "Kiss My Wheels" in Brookens Auditorium in the evening and a fun and insightful event called Color Me Blind in the afternoon.

In the morning, guest speaker Carol Schaefer discussed the topic of "Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome: A Family Affair." Schaefer is the mother of a UIS student with Asperger's Syndrome. She talked about the challenges she and other families have faced, specifically within the educational system, and the efforts and rewards of helping her daughter succeed.

"All I can say is find a group, find support, talk to people," Schaefer said. "Trust your instincts. With doctors and educators, find one you like and can believe in."

In the afternoon, Suzanne Woods, director of Disability Services at UIS, led a session called "How to Be Assertive without Being Aggressive." Woods, who has a 29-year-old son with several disabilities, discussed advocacy and bringing about necessary change.

"We all have a voice and need to use our voice, and we have to make changes that will impact everyone," Woods said. "You need to be assertive without being aggressive; you need to learn what battles to pick."

And in the Lincoln Residence Hall lounge at 3 p.m., Color Me Blind allowed participants a first-hand perspective into the life of someone who is blind or has vision impairments. The activity gave participants an opportunity to experience art on an entirely different level by envisioning a subject, then painting it without physically seeing.

"We have blindfolds, and you have to remember the different paint colors that you are using and then paint whatever you're thinking of," said Chrisa Potthast, disability services specialist in the Office of Disability Services at UIS. "It's an experience in itself, and it's very fun. And it's creating awareness for our office on campus and for our disability services."

A similar event, called Model Me Blind, will be held Thursday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m., also in the Lincoln Residence Hall lounge.

"You'll basically have to sculpt something blind-folded," Potthast said. "We're just raising awareness at how hard it is to paint or model or just do everyday things with a disability."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Disability Awareness Week kicks off

By Courtney Westlake

This week marks Disability Awareness Week at UIS. From a wheelchair race to presentations on assistive technology, advocacy and accessible fitness equipment, the events are all focused on raising awareness about disabilities.

Disability Awareness Week kicked off on Monday morning with the annual Youth Transition Fair in the Public Affairs Center concourse. The fair provided an opportunity for students, families, school staff and service providers to learn more about planning the transition to life as a young adult.

"We've had some parents come by and UIS students come by who didn't realize we have a disability services office on campus, and we've had groups from various schools from around the county and in town," said Suzanne Woods, director of Disability Services at UIS. "It's all different agencies that have services for kids as they transition from high school to college."

This is the 11th year that Disability Awareness Week has been held on campus, and the first year it's been held in conjunction with SpringFest. Woods advised anyone with any questions or concerns to contact the Office of Disability Services at UIS and encouraged the whole campus community to come out and enjoy the events planned for the week. (To read more about the events, go here.)

"We have a comedian, Color Me Blind, Model Me Blind, a wheelchair race and an open house on Friday," Woods said. "What we want people to realize is that disability is the only minority you can join at any minute. I'm not going to wake up male tomorrow, I'm not going to wake up African-American, but I could wake up with a disability due to an accident or illness."

Disability Awareness Week is important at UIS, Woods said, to give people a better insight into the lives of those living with a disability.

"It's important because a lot of people don't know much about disabilities. One out of every five Americans has a disability of some kind," she said. "This is really to bring awareness to people about the challenges of people with disabilities but also the successes they have."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

David Dodds Henry lecturer speaks on higher education

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, presented the 26th David Dodds Henry Lecture at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in Brookens Auditorium.

The focus of Ward's presentation was "Higher Education and the Global Knowledge Economy: Affordability and Accountability Redefined." Following his presentation were responses from Judy Erwin, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Naomi Lynn, Chancellor Emerita at UIS and Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. There was also a reception held after the program.

The David Dodds Henry lectures were established in 1971 by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the U of I Foundation to honor President Emeritus David D. Henry, who served as chief executive officer of the University for 16 years, from 1955 until his retirement in 1971.

Ward, who is a chancellor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spoke about the major changes in higher education over the past decades especially in terms of affordability.

"It doesn't really matter whether we talk about five, 10 or 15 years, but that the role and how we view the role and how funding is made up has changed dramatically," he said. "There is a sense that higher education, like many other sectors of the economy, is now in a global setting. Higher education is being seen by more people as critical to our future, and in that sense, our role has changed."

Tuition for public universities and colleges has increased tremendously due largely in part to lack of state funding, Ward said, but the challenges that plague higher education now have happened so gradually that many aren't aware at "how radical the changes are." It is hard to find a university president in the public sector who isn't concerned with providing the capital to find a way to "keep the excellence flourishing," he said.

"The problem is that I think in addition to these challenges and fears of global competition is we forget that over the past 25 years the role and funding of higher education has also changed," Ward said. "It doesn't mean to say that the money should come from the government, but it does mean to say some renewed funding will be needed."

Ward likened higher education's affordability to a swinging pendulum. He said many people believe that higher education and government are simply swinging back and forth between good times and bad.

"I say to those people 'the pendulum fell off its pin', " he said. "That doesn't mean we should lose our values. We now have to redefine that context through which we can fulfill our values. That pendulum's not just going to swing between good times and bad times now; they're different times."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

UIS celebrates Health Awareness Day

By Courtney Westlake

The campus community was able to get their health in check on Wednesday, April 2 during Health Awareness Day at UIS.

There were several speakers throughout the day in PAC room F. Cindy Ladage kicked off the event with a presentation about radon, and then Drs. Jim Bonacum, Hua Chen and Michael Lemke conducted a program about the Emiquon Project at 12 p.m. Finally, Dr. William Warren spoke about global warming and public health.

"Emiquon is one of the largest restoration projects in this country," Lemke said during his presentation. "Restoration ecology is not as simple as it might sound. You can't just add water into lakes and expect them to be the same. There are a lot of things that go into the study and restoration of these areas."

After Lemke explained the work going on at Emiquon (to read more, go here), Chen discussed the implications of the restoration on the climate, and Bonacum added perspectives about overall climate change.

During her presentation, Ladage, from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, spoke about what radon is and why residents should be concerned about radon present in their homes. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that enters the home through any opening between the building and the soil, Ladage said.

"The only way to tell if you have high levels of radon is to test for it," she said. "Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking; it's a proven carcinogen."

There was also a variety of health information on topics such as smoking cessation, back care, skin care and more offered throughout the event, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Area healthcare facilities set up booths for free health screenings, including cholesterol and blood sugar, vision, bone density and stress.