Monday, July 31, 2006

Pre-Law Center to offer LSAT preparation

UIS' Pre-Law Center will offer an LSAT Primer Program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, August 14 through 16, in the Public Affairs Center. The program is open to everyone, but may be especially helpful to those planning to sit for the exam within the next two years. Read more>>

Thursday, July 27, 2006

UIS breaks ground on new rec center

UIS administrators and other dignitaries gathered today to break ground for a $16.2 million recreation and athletic center on campus. The state-of-the-art center, which will be completed next summer, is part of the university’s strategic plan to create a more vibrant campus for a growing number of residential and commuter students.

Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said that the new center is expected to become the social and recreational hub of the campus. Read more>>

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Innocence Project plays role in acquittal of Julie Rea-Harper

On July 26, a jury in Carlyle found Rea-Harper not guilty of the 1997 murder of her son, Joel Kirkpatrick.

Despite the not guilty verdict, UIS' Downstate Innocence Project, which has provided significant investigative assistance to Rea-Harper and her legal team for the past several years, points to her case as another example of a flawed criminal justice system in Illinois.

"Despite the death penalty reforms that were put in place to guard against an innocent person being wrongly convicted, this case exposes serious flaws that still exist in our criminal justice system," said Nancy Ford, Innocence Project co-director. Read more>>

UIS offers new certificate in emergency preparedness/homeland security

UIS' Department of Environmental Studies will offer a Master's Certificate in Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security beginning this fall. The certificate consists three required courses in environmental risk assessment, risk management and communication, and program evaluation, plus two electives chosen from criminal justice, environmental studies, legal studies, public administration, and political studies.

ENS chair Sharron LaFollette said that the program is designed to accommodate working professionals who are interested in obtaining an advanced professional credential. Read more>>

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Media Advisory: Groundbreaking ceremony for recreation and athletic center

Groundbreaking ceremonies for UIS' new $16.2 million recreation and athletic center will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, July 27, at the construction site, just west of Kiwanis Stadium on the south edge of the campus. Read more>>

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

UIS student trustee gets official vote for first time

Governor Rod Blagojevich has for the first time designated the student trustee from the University of Illinois at Springfield an official voting member of the U of I Board of Trustees. At today's meeting of the board in Chicago, Sarah Doyle became the first student trustee from UIS ever to be given official voting rights. More >>

Friday, July 14, 2006

UIS featured in Chicago Tribune article

The following article about the University of Illinois at Springfield appeared in the Friday, July 14, 2006 edition of the Chicago Tribune newspaper:

U. of I's newest kid a big little school
Striving to grow while staying small

By Jodi S. Cohen
Chicago Tribune higher education reporter
Published July 14, 2006

SPRINGFIELD -- When Chancellor Richard Ringeisen looked out his office window here five years ago, he saw lots of prairie, but few people.

The grounds at the University of Illinois at Springfield seemed so desolate, he joked about a plan to hire pedestrians. There was no basketball team, no student theater performances, no dormitory. Not even a coffee shop.

It was a place for juniors, seniors and graduate students, where transfer and commuter students went--usually at night--to finish a bachelor's degree or get a master's.

Now, when Ringeisen looks out his window, he sees the beginnings of a traditional university, with a central colonnade and fountain and, occasionally, students playing cricket. One dormitory has been built, and another, a $15.8 million project, was approved by the U. of I. Board of Trustees on Thursday.

The campus' strategic plan, unveiled earlier this year, is clear about the university's ambition: to become one of the top five small, public liberal arts universities in the country.

"We're the new kid on the block," Ringeisen said. "We're creating something that Illinois can really be excited about."

That won't be easy, officials have learned, as they struggle just to get noticed. High school guidance counselors still look puzzled when they find out that the university has an undergraduate program, and students joke that even some Springfield residents don't realize the university exists. Students don't mind the ignorance, saying they were drawn there by the small classes, professors who know their names, and relatively light tuition and fees at about $6,700 a year.

"I told my friends that I was going to U. of I. Springfield and they said, `What? That doesn't exist,'" said senior Sarah Doyle of La Grange Park, the student representative to the Board of Trustees. Earlier this week, Gov. Rod Blagojevich gave Doyle the single student vote on the board, the first time the Springfield representative has been given that honor, which historically has rotated only between the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses.

But even as officials push for a lively campus, they are in the seemingly contradictory position of guiding a university that is considered a national leader in online education, a notion contrary to bringing people together. In fact, the university offers more for-credit classes online than any public university in the state, with more than one-quarter of the credits earned last semester coming from online courses.

The university has received more than $3 million in grants to develop online education, growing its program from 30 students in fall 1998 to 1,830 last semester and offering 175 courses in subjects as diverse as graphic design, human resources and environmental law. Fourteen degrees can now be earned entirely online, and full-time faculty members teach nearly all the online classes.

Administrators, however, seem almost reluctant to talk about that success, worried that too much attention on the online achievements will detract from the goal to build the so-called "on ground" programs.

"We don't want to be known as the online institution in Illinois. We won't have a vibrant campus without focusing on growing the on-campus enrollment," said Marya Leatherwood, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management.

Founded as Sangamon State University in 1969, the campus has for most of its history been an upper-division transfer school with a focus on public affairs. It became part of the University of Illinois in 1995, joining the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses. Five years ago, the university accepted its first freshman class, a small group of honors students. This fall, traditional freshmen will be accepted for the first time, and 280 are expected to enroll.

U. of I. President B. Joseph White, who oversees all three campuses, refers to UIS as the "adolescent," the one teeming with energy and on the verge of something big.

That energy mostly has come from the growing number of freshmen, whose desire for a traditional college atmosphere has begun to transform the university. About 900 students now live on campus, there are about 70 clubs to join, and the new basketball team won a spot in a national conference tournament this past spring.

With a current roster of about 4,500 online and on-ground students, the university's goal is to have about 6,000 students five years from now, including about 500 freshmen. New students have created a need for an increased faculty, and about 40 new professors will start this fall, a considerable boost to the 160 now there.

Non-academic services also have changed to accommodate more students. There are now two doctors, two nurse practitioners and several counselors on staff.

"If we are going to be what we want to be, it's important that we have the services for traditional students," said Christopher Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, who previously worked at Arizona State University and South Dakota State University.

Some, however, feel that the non-traditional students--the reason the university was founded--are getting shortchanged. Others worry that the university's public affairs mission will be de-emphasized in a push for a more mainstream liberal arts education.

"It's all about the freshmen. I have yet to hear that we are doing something for the graduate students," said MBA student Mahreen Chaudhary, who complained that grad students can have a hard time getting the classes they need

Doyle, meanwhile, worries about a perceived decline in the university's public affairs mission. "They need to find a way to not lose the traditions," Doyle said. "Even in the strategic plan, they don't say that much about public affairs."

Administrators say they've heard that concern but that it's unfounded. The Graduate Public Service Internship Program, which pairs graduate students with paid internships at government agencies, for example, is as strong as ever, they said.

As the university strives to become one of the top small public colleges in the country, administrators hope it will one day become a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, a group of nearly two dozen institutions nationwide.

To get accepted, the university will have to show that it offers "a very broad education that allows creative thinking," said Susan Finkel, the group's executive director.

While embracing that goal, retired philosophy professor Larry Stiner cautioned about being too focused on joining the mainstream. The university historically has had liberal requirements for faculty research and scholarship, for example, allowing more time for teaching and public affairs activities.

"I wouldn't want it to be just another Eastern, Western, just another anywhere, second-tier state university," said Stiner. "The university has to pay attention to ... the things that make it different from other places."

With all the changes, it can feel like UIS has two divergent identities--not only academically, with dual online and on-ground initiatives, but also physically. The original campus is a clustered lot of single-story metal trailers, nestled amid pine trees. More than 30 years after they were built, they are still referred to as "temporary."

Meanwhile, up a short hill, there is a more traditional-looking university, with a grassy quad and fountain, where students sunbathe while studying.

Recent graduate Brad Ward, who helped found the Blue Crew student spirit squad, is excited about the transformation, although he hopes the university retains the small atmosphere that drew him there.

"You get to know everyone really well," said Ward, 22, who graduated in May and is now a marketing specialist for the university. "The people in the cafeteria know you want biscuits and gravy for breakfast."

Ward said he decided to take a job at the university after graduation in part so he could be there "to see how it all turns out."

If he stays long enough, he'll see a $16 million recreation center open next spring, perhaps the biggest indication that the university is catering to traditional, amenity-seeking students.

But to attract more students, Ringeisen knows he'll need to bring in more than a fancy student center. There are currently no shops or restaurants within walking distance of the university, which is surrounded instead by about 600 acres of university-owned prairie.

"We have issues with having enough to do, no doubt about it," Ringeisen said, adding that he'd like to see a "campus town" with at least a pharmacy and coffee shop.

During his first year on campus, Ringeisen asked for proposals to build commercial space on the university's property, but nobody responded.

"I've had trouble getting developers to spend money here because there aren't enough of us yet," he said. "It's getting so much more likely now that we're growing."

- - -

University facts

University of Illinois at Springfield:

Founded: 1969 as Sangamon State University. Joined the University of Illinois system in 1995.
Enrollment: About 4,500 online and on-ground; 57 percent undergraduates, 90 percent from Illinois.

Online impact: About 42 percent of students took an online class last semester.
Average student age: Undergraduate, 30; graduate, 35

Average class size: 15. Classes rarely have more than 40 students.

Top five majors: Business administration, computer science, psychology, accountancy and educational leadership.

Noted programs: Graduate Public Service Internship Program, Illinois Legislative Staff Internship Program.

Tuition and fees: $6,700 a year.

Source: University of Illinois at Springfield

Click to view this article in the online edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rec Center will be a "wonderful addition" to campus

The following letter to the editor appeared in the July 9, 2006, edition of the State Journal-Register.

Recreation center will be great addition at UIS

Later this month, Springfield will experience yet another important groundbreaking ceremony, this time at the University of Illinois at Springfield campus.

The new University Recreation and Athletic Center will be a wonderful addition to an already beautiful and growing campus and will provide the students with new and much-needed fitness and recreational opportunities.

I have been fortunate enough to serve on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee at UIS for several years and I distinctly remember our first meeting with Rich Ringeisen when he was named to succeed the retiring Naomi Lynn. Despite the uncertain economy, Chancellor Ringeisen boldly and confidently predicted the construction of University Hall and a new athletic center for the campus. I suspect many of us on the committee were skeptical at the time.

Thanks to the chancellor’s vision and the enthusiastic support of then-State Rep. Gwenn Klingler and many others, University Hall was completed in August 2004. (I remember Gwenn calling me from the floor of the Statehouse when the appropriations bill passed, she was so excited!)

There is much we can be proud of in Springfield. I sincerely believe that the University of Illinois at Springfield will play a key role in our community’s future as it continues its progress toward becoming a world-class institution of higher learning.

John B. Farrell

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

UIS Pre-Law Center LSAT Primer Program

9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Monday, August 14-Wednesday, August 16


Open to students from all majors and institutions

Prepare for the LSAT, get an overview of the application process, learn tips on writing your personal statement

Two LSAT exams administered under simulated conditions.
Instructional sessions in each section of the exam.
Test-taking strategies and hints for better performance.
Personal strategies and writing tips, with an individual critique of your work.

Pre-registration required before August 6.
Contact Dennis Rendleman, PLC director, at or call 206-6324.

Presented with support from UIS’ Institute for Legal and Policy Studies.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chemistry program receives continued ACS approval

The Chemistry program at UIS recently received word that its curriculum has passed a five-year review process and continues to meet standards and guidelines set by the American Chemical Society. The program has been ACS-approved since 1983. The ACS Committee on Professional Training has also approved the program’s new biochemistry option. Read more>>