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.