Friday, March 30, 2018

Kelsea Gurski selected as new UIS associate chancellor for public affairs

The University of Illinois Springfield has selected Kelsea Gurski as the new associate chancellor for public affairs. She will also serve as chief of staff for UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch.

Gurski has more than  15 years of experience as a communications and marketing professional. She comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) as the Bureau Chief of Communication Services. Prior to IDOT, she was the system director of Public Relations and Communications at Memorial Health System and was the Voice Editor and a features reporter at The State Journal-Register.

Her responsibilities will include managing key issues and representing the chancellor at various internal and external constituencies as well as leading the communications team and supervising the UIS Police Department.

“I am thrilled for this opportunity to serve under Chancellor Koch’s leadership and become part of the UIS community,” said Gurski. “It is a very exciting time to join the Springfield campus, and look forward to contributing to the bright future UIS is creating for all who benefit from this educational treasure.”

Gurski earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Bradley University in 2002 and a master’s degree in communication from UIS in 2008.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Leadership lived: Student helps to shape the future of Greek Life at UIS

Colleen McMahon came to the University of Illinois Springfield as a freshman with no plans of joining a Greek Life organization. However, that all changed when she and fifteen friends founded the Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Inc. Captivating Chi Chapter.

“I love Gamma Phi Omega because it’s the support network that I didn’t necessarily think I needed at first,” she said. “It wasn’t something that I saw myself being a part of, but once I got interested and became a member, I realized it was a network beyond my undergraduate career.”

Now a senior business administration and communication major, McMahon is president of Gamma Phi Omega’s Chi Chapter and is helping to shape the future of Greek Life at UIS as the president of the UIS Greek Life Council.

“As the president of the Greek Life Council, I’m in charge of making sure that the different Greek organizations here work together and they get along and they follow the rules that the university has set for Greek Life,” she said.

McMahon also plays a role in advising the university about the expansion of Greek Life on campus. She recently led a talk on the “Dos and Don’ts of Greek Life” where she advised prospective groups of students who wanted to start their own Greek organization.

“We wanted to make sure they understood what goes into being a member of Greek Life on this campus and what it’s like to be member of a Greek Organization in general,” she said.

As a founding member of the UIS Gamma Phi Omega Chapter, McMahon knows how much work it takes to start a new sorority or fraternity chapter.

“My role as a founder was to really bring together our sisters and to get this organization ready for when we would start recruiting other people,” she said. “We had to create governing documents, create events and the things that would create a legacy that other people would want to be a part of in the future.”

McMahon, a native of Flora, Illinois, is also a peer mentor for the Capital Scholars Honors Program on campus, a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma National Business Honor Society and the Organization of Latin American Students at UIS.

Following graduation from UIS, McMahon plans to earn a master’s degree in multicultural communication and later hopes to work in higher education. She says she’s learned many lessons about leadership during her time at UIS.

“At UIS, I’ve had all these experiences in leadership and I’ve grown as an individual in ways that I never would have guessed before I came to college,” she said.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS baseball player Michael Rothmund enjoys breaking records and mentoring teammates

Michael Rothmund grew up playing baseball and watching the Chicago Cubs on television while dreaming of playing on the collegiate level or even professionally. He’s off to a good start as the first baseman for the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars baseball team.

During the 2017 season, Rothmund set several UIS and NCAA records for homeruns. He led the entire NCAA (Division I, II and II) in home runs at 24 and broke the Division II single season homerun record averaging almost one home run per every two games played. He was also named the UIS Athletics Male Athlete of the Year and 1st-Team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference.

As a senior, Rothmund is considered an unofficial leader on the UIS baseball team. He enjoys mentoring the younger players and helping them to improve their game.

“Kids go to you and they look to you for answers and if they’re having a hard time on the field, struggling with hitting or fielding, they go to you,” he said. “It makes a real impact on my life knowing that I mean that much to some of the kids on the team.”

Rothmund, who grew up in Lombard, Illinois, is a communication major at UIS. He says he chose UIS because of the excellent baseball coaching staff and because he wanted to earn a University of Illinois degree.

“People say they want to go to big colleges and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s not my kind of style. I like getting to know my professors and getting to know my teammates and classmates and everything and having that personal connection with them.”

Rothmund is currently gaining professional experience by interning with Nicole Hager, who is the director of academic support services for UIS Athletics. As part of the internship, he helps with important paperwork and is planning a social media campaign to keep other student-athletes informed about important deadlines and resources available to them.

Following graduation from UIS, Rothmund says he’s considering a career in real estate or broadcasting. However, he’s hoping he can continue to play baseball.

“If there’s any chance I can keep playing baseball, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s been my goal since I was four or five years old and saw Major League Baseball players on TV and I just wanted to be that.”

Rothmund says he’ll look back on his college experience with fond memories and confidence that he made the right choice by attending the University of Illinois Springfield.

“It’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else,” he said.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS sophomore gives back by mentoring the next generation of leaders

Aaron Boyd came to the University of Illinois Springfield knowing he wanted to give back to his community. The sophomore is majoring in criminology and criminal justice at UIS and plans to become a police officer following graduation.

Boyd, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, is the vice president of the UIS Black Male Collegiate Society, historian for the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Upsilon Xi Chapter, a student orientation coordinator for the UIS Office of New Student Orientation and Parent Relations and an intramural referee for UIS Campus Recreation.

As part of the Black Male Collegiate Society, Boyd mentors a second grade student at Springfield Public School’s Matheny-Withrow Elementary every other Friday through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.

“We talk with the boys and see how they’re doing and check on their grades and things like that,” he said. “It’s just important to give back. It’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling seeing the smiles on kids’ faces when we come in and how they enjoy spending time with us.”

Boyd was recently picked to ask candidates a question about the environment during a UIS debate featuring Democratic candidates running in the primary race for Illinois governor.

“It was kind of nerve-racking. I was in front of a lot of important people. I was on TV,” he said, adding that the debate has given him a new interest in politics.

Boyd says he chose UIS because he had a brother who also attended the university.

“I came down here for a visit and people treated me with respect and treated my kindly, so I decided to look more into it and came down here and fell in love with the campus,” he said.

Boyd says he chose criminology and criminal justice as his major because he wants to continue to make a difference in his community as a state or local police officer.

“I just want to be there in my community, policing my own community, rather than letting somebody else police my community,” he said.

As a sophomore, Boyd has two more years at UIS before he graduates. In that time, he plans to accomplish even more and leave his mark on the university.

“I feel like when I graduate I will have made my name at UIS,” he said. “I hope to bring in the next generation of black males and help them make their names, just as I want to and have already.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Four inducted into the UIS Legislative Internship Hall of Fame during ceremony

The Samuel K. Gove Illinois Legislative Internship Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois Springfield honored four individuals who have served as legislative interns at the state capitol. Mark Denzler, Marcilene Dutton, DeShana Forney and David Joens were inducted during a ceremony at the Old State Capitol on Monday, March 12, 2018. Inductees are selected based on their contributions to Illinois and its citizens. The Hall of Fame is also recognition of the important role that public service internships play in developing public sector leadership.

Mark Denzler is vice president & chief operating officer for the Illinois Manufacturers' Association (IMA), a statewide advocacy organization representing nearly 4,000 member companies and facilities. Denzler assumed his current post in January 2006 and is responsible for all government affairs, membership and human resource activities. Prior to IMA, Denzler served in various posts including overseeing Illinois government affairs for State Farm Insurance, a Fortune 50 company headquartered in Bloomington. He served as director of government affairs for the IMA and was a legislative analyst in the General Assembly focusing on taxes, education and transportation. Denzler was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn and reappointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to Illinois Workers' Compensation Advisory Board. He serves on the Board of Directors for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois, Sangamo Club, and sits on the National Public Affairs Steering Committee for the National Association of Manufacturers. Denzler is a 2015 selection as an Edgar Fellow at the University of Illinois and a graduate of the inaugural class of the Crain's Chicago Business Leadership Academy. Denzler is a 1993 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and currently lives in Springfield with his wife and son.

Marcy Dutton serves as general counsel to the Teacher’s Retirement System of Illinois (TRS) which is a $6.4 billion pension fund providing financial security to retired public-school teachers employed in school districts outside of the City of Chicago. Prior to joining TRS, Dutton worked for eight years at the Illinois State Board of Education as its deputy general counsel although she pitched in and served as general counsel twice when called upon to do so. The majority of Dutton’s professional career has been public school and public service focused. Dutton graduated from Millikin University with degrees in political science and English. After completing the legislative internship program in 1986, she attended Louisiana State University where she earned a Juris Doctor degree. A lifelong learner, in 2010 she completed the Chief School Business Official endorsement program offered by the University of Illinois Springfield. Since 2007, she has taught school law classes at UIS on a part-time basis. Dutton and her husband live in Chatham.

DeShana Forney is senior director of government and community relations for Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, subsidiaries of WEC Energy Group. In this role, she is responsible for leading the company’s Illinois government and community relations strategy. Prior to joining Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, Forney was the associate director of governmental relations for the University of Illinois. She has more than twenty years of legislative, budgetary and management experience, which includes leading the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) as its executive director, serving as the director of public safety and house legislative liaison in the Office of the Governor, and working on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s issues development staff. In addition to her government affairs work, Forney has held numerous senior political campaign positions in races for state legislative, constitutional, Supreme Court and countywide offices, and formerly served as the Democratic Party of Illinois’ deputy executive director. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a master’s degree in political studies from the University of Illinois Springfield. She was born and raised in Springfield.

David Joens, director of the Illinois State Archives, worked on the Illinois Senate Democratic staff for seven years. A U.S. Army veteran and former newspaper reporter, he was a press secretary for Democratic members of the Senate, including the Senate’s Black Caucus. In 1996, he began work as the assistant director of the Illinois Legislative Studies Center at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he authored two “Almanac of Illinois Politics” books. In 2000, he moved to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, where he worked for four years on the policy staff. In 2004, he was picked by Secretary of State Jesse White to serve as the fifth director of the Illinois State Archives, a position he holds today. Joens has an undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University, two master’s degrees from the University of Illinois Springfield and a doctorate in Illinois history from Southern Illinois University. In 2012, he authored the book “From Slave to State Legislator: John W. E. Thomas, Illinois First African American Lawmaker.” Joens is married to Mona Martin, who is also a former legislative staff intern and who was inducted in the Samuel K. Gove Hall of Fame in 2013. They live in Springfield.

The Hall of Fame is hosted by the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. The Hall of Fame is named for the late Samuel K. Gove, founding director of the internship program and one of the founders of Illinois Issues magazine. Established in 1990, the Hall of Fame, including this year’s inductees, now numbers 68 individuals, among them a former governor and several former and current state and federal legislators. The names of the Hall’s members are inscribed on a plaque that hangs on the fourth floor of the Illinois Statehouse.

For more information, contact Rob Fafoglia with the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership at 217/206-7163 or

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Leadership lived: UIS senior resident assistant helps bring her community together

Ciara Koepke says the University of Illinois Springfield has given her the opportunity to become a leader. Koepke is now a senior resident assistant at Lincoln Residence Hall where she mentors other resident assistants, plans events and oversees front desk operations.

Koepke, a junior history major, is a member of the Leadership for Life Service Program where she helps to recruit students to the volunteer-focused first year living-learning community. She is also the vice president of the History Club on campus.

“UIS, since it is small, just gives you that opportunity to really try it out and have multiple different opportunities to become the leader you’ve always wanted to be,” said Koepke.

As a senior resident assistant, Koepke is also responsible for hosting community council meetings. The council is made up of students who live in Lincoln Residence Hall who want to make their community a better place by getting involved.

“I became a resident assistant because I wanted to be directly involved with helping people get really used to campus,” she said. “When I came to UIS, I was very bad at communicating, I didn’t know how to build a community and so Residence Life gave me the opportunity to really work on those leadership skills.”

Following graduation from UIS, Koepke plans to become a high school history teacher.

“I want to do that for a few years before getting my master’s and going and getting my doctorate eventually, so I can become a professor of history,” she said.

Koepke feels confident that the skills she’s learned as a resident assistant will help her become a better teacher when it comes to dealing with challenging situations in the classroom.

“UIS taught me that leadership is all up to you,” she said. “You have all of the skills in you, you just have to take the initiative to become the leader.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

UIS emeritus professor writes a book tracing the history of the Upper Delaware Forest

Robert McGregor, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois Springfield, has written a new book on the historical significance of the forests along the Upper Delaware Valley.

The book, published by McFarland Press, is titled “The Story of a Forest: Growth, Destruction and Renewal in the Upper Delaware Valley.”

McGregor said the book grew out of his passion for teaching environmental history at UIS coupled with his dissertation research from 35 years ago.

“The book traces the development of forests along the Upper Delaware River in New York and Pennsylvania, beginning at the close of the last glaciation,” said McGregor.

 McGregor’s book is an analysis of how the forests were first modified by Native Americans to promote hunting and limited agriculture, followed by the disappearance as Europeans clear-cut farmland and fed sawmills and tanneries.

Railroads accelerated the demand and within 30 years, industry had left barren hillsides.

The book goes on to explain the forest’ subsequent recovery nearly a century and a half later.

McGregor taught environmental history, early American history, and the history of popular culture, before he retired after 26 years of teaching at UIS, in 2012. He now lives in Corning, New York.

UIS online leader Ray Schroeder honored with the Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield, has been honored with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who's Who. Schroeder’s name first appeared on a Who’s Who list in 1988.

The Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement recognizes individuals that have achieved greatness in their industry and excelled in their field for at least 20 years.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition of contributions to the field of online and distance education,” said Schroeder. “This award reflects the dedication of UIS to support learners who cannot come to campus. None of these contributions would be possible without the commitment of the staff, faculty and administration of UIS.”

Who’s Who calls Schroeder an “accomplished listee” who has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. According to Marquis, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

Schroeder is a nationally recognized leader in the field of online learning and is the current director of the Center for Online Leadership at the University Continuing and Professional Education Association (UPCEA). He regularly presents his research at national conferences and has written numerous publications about online and technology-enhanced learning. He is also the author of the popular blogs “Online Learning Update” and “Educational Technology”.

In 2016, Schroeder was honored with the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Hall of Fame Award and the Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education by the Univeristy of Wisconsin.

He was the inaugural recipient of the Sloan Consortium's highest Individual award - the A. Frank Mayadas Leadership Award in 2010. Schroeder was an inaugural Sloan Consortium Fellow and was named the 2012 Innovation Fellow for Digital Learning by the UPCEA. In 2011, he received the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award.

Schroeder was a Sloan Consortium Distinguished Scholar in Online Learning 2002-2003, recipient of the 2002 Sloan-C award for the “Most Outstanding Achievement in ALN by an Individual,” University of Southern Maine “Visiting Scholar in Online Learning” 2006-2009, and co-founder of the New Century Learning Consortium.

Monday, March 05, 2018

UIS students win the outstanding large delegation award at the Model Illinois Government simulation

University of Illinois Springfield students were honored with the outstanding large delegation award during the annual Model Illinois Government (MIG) simulation at the Illinois State Capitol on March 2-4, 2018.

Four UIS students were elected to statewide office within the Model Illinois Government organization. Payton Raso was elected speaker of the house, Chloe Compton president of the senate, Cale Bergschneider comptroller and Collin Cisco treasurer.

Six students were named to caucus leadership spots within the house and senate. Payton Raso was named majority leader in the house (Democrats), Noah Danner was named assistant minority leader in the house (Republicans), Conor McKenzie was named majority whip in the house (Democrats), and Joseph Partain was named minority whip in the house (Republicans), Chloe Compton was named majority leader in the senate (Democrats) and Cale Bergschneider majority whip in the senate (Democrats).

UIS students honored with individual awards include Payton Raso (outstanding member of the house), Chloe Compton (outstanding member of the senate), Joseph Partain (outstanding first year delegate in the house) and Collin Cisco (outstanding OMB analyst). UIS alum Garrie Allen won the award for outstanding staff member.

Outgoing UIS leadership on the MIG executive board includes Zachary Sullivan, who served as president of the senate; Caitlin Osborn, who served as treasurer; and Donnie Lewis, who served as comptroller.

Each year, students from more than 20 colleges and universities around the state gather at the Illinois State Capitol to serve as legislators, staffers, lobbyists, journalists, and officials of the executive branch. Through committee actions, a regular legislative session and a veto session, participants learn the legislative process by doing it.

MIG members get started in the fall term preparing legislation, polishing up parliamentary skills, and organizing the membership into a delegation for the spring conference.

For more information, contact Kenneth Owen, MIG faculty advisor and UIS assistant professor of history, at 217/206-7439 or

Thursday, March 01, 2018

UIS students, who are leaders in fighting hunger, to share their knowledge at a national summit

Five University of Illinois Springfield students, who are campus leaders in the fight against hunger, will be featured during the 2018 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit (UFWH) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign March 15-17, 2018.

Daniel Rodriguez, Rachel Mau and Katie Simpson will be featured during a Leaders Forum panel at the Presidents United to Solve Hunger Conference (PUSH.) The panel is titled, “Students Fighting Hunger through Collaborative Partnerships.”

Daniel Rodriguez, a pre-nursing major from Joliet, serves as the UIS Community Garden coordinator. He oversees the planting, care and maintenance of the garden, coordinates volunteers and helps educate the public about the importance of gardens.

The UIS Community Garden’s mission is to provide fresh, organic, chemical free produce to anyone in need, and eventually the Student Union. “I love what I do,” said Rodriguez. “It is a proactive activity that teaches, not only me, but everyone else about plants and how to maintain them in hopes they will create a garden of their own.”

Rachel Mau, from Algonquin, is majoring in pre-nursing and serves as the student director of the UIS Cares food pantry, to ensure UIS students always have enough food to eat. The UIS Cares food pantry is directly partnered with the Central Illinois Foodbank and receives donations from faculty and staff bins placed in campus buildings. Mau helps coordinate those donations, creates the marketing and advertising campaigns, and works in the pantry during operating hours.

“UIS Cares has had such a positive impact on this campus because it helps the community realize how many students may need some extra support to ensure the best outcome in their college careers and it builds a stronger community by helping one another,” said Mau.

Katie Simpson, a psychology major from Joliet, serves as the Leadership for Life Sustainability Committee Chair and is directing a project that partners the Cox Children’s Center and UIS Green Fee Committee to establish a teaching garden on campus.

“I think making our campus a more sustainable place is incredibly important,” said Simpson. “I think that the best time to start education on living more sustainably is at a young age. When a person is being raised being conscientious of environmental issues, they are more likely to keep them in mind as they get older.”

Jacqualine Simone Jarju, a graduate student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will present her research, “The Culture of Food,” as part of the PUSH conference, and Assistant Professor of Public Health, Brian Chen will speak on using comprehensive systematic reviews to alleviate food insecurity and chronic disease.

The UFWH Summit will also include a poster presentation on Food Waste Management: Food insecurity as a socioeconomic paradigm, by UIS Public Health graduate student Christopher Vemagiri Marbaniang from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

According to a Hunger on Campus report, 22% of U.S. college students report having the lowest levels of food insecurity. For more information on the 14th annual UFWH Summit or PUSH Leaders Forum, visit