Thursday, March 24, 2011

UIS community helping with relief efforts in Japan

Students, faculty and staff at the University of Illinois Springfield are helping to raise money for relief efforts in Japan through the Sister City Association of Springfield’s Ashikaga Relief Fund.

“This is just something very small we’re trying to do to show our support for them,” said Jonathan GoldbergBelle, director of the UIS Office of International Programs.

The office has been collecting cash donations outside of the Public Affairs Center Food Emporium during lunch. They’re also working to create 1,000 origami cranes to send to the people of Ashikaga.

“The crane is one of the symbols of long life and good luck, and a project of making 1,000 is something that’s seen as 1,000 acts of good will,” said GoldbergBelle.

Ashikaga, Japan has been a Sister City to Springfield for more than two decades. UIS has had an academic exchange and cooperation agreement with the Ashikaga Institute of Technology since 2000. The agreement allows UIS students to study in Japan and students from that country to study in Springfield.

“It’s part of helping the community, because we are part of the Springfield community and it’s really important to help the community,” said Abena Afreh, a junior Clinical Laboratory Science major.

Freshman biology major Anna Dang got involved with the project on its first day. She helped create cranes and brought in several more she created at home. For her, the effort is a way to give back.

“I’m kind of sad and I don’t know what to do here,” said Dang. “You might as well find donations and help them.”

Part of the money raised will also go to fund UIS programs related to the Ashikaga Institute of Technology.

For more information on how you can make a donation, contact the International Programs Office at 217/206-8319. Students, faculty and staff are also encouraged to monitor Campus Announcements for updates on the effort.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

UIS baseball hosts first-ever home game

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball team hosted their first-ever home game against Wisconsin-Parkside on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at Chatham Community Park. Baseball, the newest sport on campus, was added as part of an expansion into NCAA Division II athletics.

Head Baseball Coach Brian Grunzke has worked hard preparing the team for the inaugural season. He says after spending the first four weeks of the season on the road it was nice to finally play at home.

“It was great for our guys. I think we had a lot of parents and fans support. I think that shows a lot of people that they’re interested in the baseball program here,” said Grunzke.

The team has played 13 games so far this season, with an overall 2-11 record. Grunzke says with 24 freshman on the team he knew the season could be a challenge, but he’s proud of his players.

“You’re going to have some days where you’re not going to play as well as you hoped to, but it’s been a learning experience every day,” he said.

For baseball fans, it’s a new era having NCAA Division II baseball in the Springfield area for the first time.

“We’ve all been looking forward to this for quite a while. Not only people on campus, but people in Springfield too,” said UIS Chancellor Harry Berman.

Community member Phil Coady started to follow the team after they won their first game ever against Alcorn State University in Mississippi. Coady hopes more people will come to UIS baseball games and help support the Prairie Stars.

“I think the people of Springfield need to get out and see what UIS has to offer in other sports, along with baseball,” said Coady.

The Prairie Stars will play their next home game on Saturday, March 26 in a doubleheader against Indianapolis. The game will be played at Chamberlain Park in Springfield, but the normal home for the Prairie Stars will remain the field at Chatham Community Park.

Monday, March 21, 2011

UIS receives major National Science Foundation grant to study ethics in computer science

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Illinois Springfield a $183,603 grant over two years to study ethical implications in computer science education.

Researchers will use the grant to explore whether college students can benefit from learning ethics early on in introductory computer science classes. At issue is whether early exposure to ethics not only leads to a better ethical understanding, but improves overall technical skills.

“We believe that if instructors replace some time used for teaching technical skills with lessons on professional ethics, students will score better on assessments of their technical skills,” said Keith Miller, principal investigator and Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIS. “We anticipate that students’ performances will improve because they will be motivated to study harder.”

UIS Computer Science Instructor Mary Sheila Tracy and Ray Schroeder, Director of UIS’ Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service are part of the project’s research team. The grant will be shared with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researcher Michael Loui, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Ken Urban, a Computer Science and Information Technology faculty member at Parkland College in Champaign; and Barbara Moskal, an expert on assessment, and a faculty member at the Colorado School of Mines.

Miller and the other researchers plan to design a customizable online teaching module for ethics content that can be used by other colleges and universities, who may not have instructors confident about teaching ethics themselves.

“More ethically aware computer professionals can be expected to produce more reliable, safer computer systems that are more appropriate for user needs,” said Miller.

If the study demonstrates the technical worth of ethics education in computer science, there could be a broadly based increase in computer science instructors who incorporate ethics in their teaching. This, in turn, would mean that computer professionals would be more aware of, and better prepared to deal with these issues.

“Introducing ethics earlier puts technical skills into a broader social context, and illustrates that computing has consequences and can be used to good (or ill) effect,” said Miller.

Miller believes offering computer science courses that include explicit ethical content are more likely to be attractive to women and other underrepresented groups. Some research suggests that women are more interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects, and particularly in computer science, when technical details are put into context.

UIS offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, which are designed to teach students the fundamental skills and core theories of computer science that power the rapid technological change in the world today. Both programs are offered in a face-to-face and an online environment.

For more information on the grant, contact Professor Keith Miller at 217/206-7327 or email

UIS students spend spring break cleaning up the Mississippi River

A group of 21 University of Illinois Springfield students and 2 advisers spent their spring break helping to clear trash and other debris from the Mississippi River.

The students spent nearly a week in Memphis, Tenn. as part of an annual Alternative Spring Break trip. The volunteers spent their time picking up trash by boat and on land with the help of the nonprofit environmental organization Living Lands & Waters.

“Picking up trash doesn’t sound very exciting, but I’ve never had that much fun in my life, just picking up trash before,” said Paige Heiser, a UIS freshman.

UIS students worked with other college students from around the country to remove debris (tires, appliances, barrels, etc.) that are polluting the rivers and impairing the habitat of indigenous fish, birds, and wildlife.

“It was just really cool because you had all these different people from all these different groups and getting to know everyone was great,” said Eric Reuss, a UIS freshman.

In 2009, students took their first Alternative Spring Break trip to Mandeville, Louisiana to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity following Hurricane Katrina. The following year, students traveled to Galveston, Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008.

“The experience was actually kind of fun because for the past couple of years we’ve gone to places where we built houses, so this was kind of a new experience,” said Kudus Ogunseye, vice president of the Alternative Spring Break student organization.

For more information on Alternative Spring Break, contact the Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center at or call 217/206-7716.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Under the Dome" gives high school students an insider look at state government

Almost 50 high school students from central Illinois got a behind the scenes look inside the Illinois state capitol during the “Under the Dome” event on March 8, 2011.

“Under the Dome” is the University of Illinois Springfield’s premier immersion event for high school juniors interested in government, politics, and public service. The day of activities is designed to highlight careers in state government and talk about the degrees necessary to enter the field.

“It’s really not your typical tour of the capitol. We bring in a panel of students and alumni to talk about their experience at UIS, what they got to do, and what they got to accomplish,” said Joan Sestak, UIS Director of Community Relations.

Students not only got the chance to hear from alumni working in state government, but elected officials who attended UIS. Representative Wayne Rosenthal, a republican from the 98th District graduated in 1974.

“I think anytime we can provide educational opportunities and get kids involved in the process I think is good,” said Rosenthal.

UIS relies on the hundreds of alumni working in state government to help provide students with the behind the scenes tour. Students got the opportunity to meet with State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and talk with IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig, just to name a few during the 2011 tour.

“I think today is wonderful. I’ve gotten a lot of insight about what actually goes on behind the scenes in the senate and the house,” said Miles Crisp, a junior at Springfield’s Southeast High School. “I feel like instead of just reading it in the book or a textbook I actually know what really goes on.”

Crisp was thinking about a career in state government even before attending “Under the Dome”, but he wanted more information about the profession.

“This whole experience has taught me that and I think I might just go into a career dealing with politics,” said Miles.

For other students, such as Sacred Heart-Griffin High School junior Helen Cavanagh the day was spent learning more about state government in general.

“As a resident of Springfield, I want to know what’s better for me, what’s in the future, what’s in the future for my parents and if I can come and learn about what’s going on then that just makes me happier,” said Cavanagh.

UIS has hosted the “Under the Dome” event for the past three years. For more information on the next “Under the Dome” event visit

UIS students to spend Alternative Spring Break helping clean up the Mississippi River

A group of students from the University of Illinois Springfield will spend their spring break volunteering to help clean up the banks of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. Students will focus their efforts on removing trash and sorting recyclable materials in order to help the environment.

The 21 students and 2 advisers will leave Springfield on Sunday, March 13 at 7 a.m. and return to campus on Friday, March 18 between 6 and 7 p.m. Students will traverse the Mississippi River both on foot and in boats while working with the nonprofit environmental organization Living Lands & Waters. UIS students will work with other college students from around the county to remove debris (tires, appliances, barrels, etc.) that are polluting the rivers and impairing the habitat of indigenous fish, birds, and wildlife.

“This year, since we are doing an environmental project, I think that it will be rewarding knowing that we are helping to maintain our Earth. Sometimes we tend to focus so much on helping others that we forget about helping ourselves. I think that helping to maintain our environment will help all of us out in the long run," said Monique Johnson, president of the UIS Alternative Spring Break group.

The UIS Alternative Spring Break student organization was formed in 2009 when students took their first trip to Mandeville, Louisiana to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity following Hurricane Katrina. In 2010, students traveled to Galveston, Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008.

For more information on Alternative Spring Break contact Monique Johnson by email at or call the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center at 217/206-7716.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Author and Humanitarian Greg Mortenson visits Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield welcomed Greg Mortenson, co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute, Pennies for Peace and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea to campus on Thursday, March 3, 2011.

Mortenson started his day with a visit to Springfield Public School’s Laketown Elementary where he spoke to more than 200 children about what we all have in common, slavery, racism, poverty and bullying. Mortenson also spoke about his effort to build schools in Central Asia and the lack of resources available to students.

“I’ve been working in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 18 years to help children have the right to go to school,” said Mortenson.

Mortenson calls himself an advocate for education, having helped establish over 141 schools, and another five dozen temporary refugee schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The effort has provided an education to over 64,000 children, including 52,000 girls, who often have few education opportunities.

Following the visit to Laketown, Mortenson visited with UIS students in the Lincoln Residence Hall Greatroom. Students got the chance to ask questions, get books signed and hear Mortenson speak.

“What I would like our students in particular to take away is that one person can make a huge difference in the world and in the lives 10’s of thousands of people. Just by having the vision and tenacity to stay after whatever that vision is,” said Tim Barnett, UIS Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs.

UIS students also led a Pennies for Peace fundraising drive, which collected over $500 to buy school supplies and help pay teachers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sophomore Management Information Systems major Caitlin Crane led the effort.

“Reading that book was absolutely inspiring. I was completely blown away by his determination and drive to change the world,” said Crane.

Three Cups of Tea is mandatory reading for all U.S. military commanders and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan. The book has sold over four million copies and has been published in 45 countries. Mortenson’s new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan, was recently released.

Several bi-partisan U.S. Congressional representatives have nominated Mortenson three times for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2009, 2010 and 2011. President Obama designated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize award to be donated to Mortenson’s effort in Afghanistan in March 2010.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Christopher Z. Mooney named the first Honorable W. Russell Arrington Professor in State Politics

Christopher Z. Mooney, professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois Springfield and U of I Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) has been named the first Honorable W. Russell Arrington Professor in State Politics.

Mooney is a leading national expert in the field of state politics and policy, with a special focus on legislative decision-making, legislative leadership, and morality policy. He was selected for the appointment over other distinguished candidates from all three U of I campuses.

“Not only is this position a great honor for me, but it’s also an opportunity and a great responsibility,” said Mooney. “The Arrington professorship will give me the opportunity to launch into a new line of scholarship.”

In his first project as Arrington professor, Mooney is conducting a series of interviews to determine how lawmakers think about cause and effect in public policy.

“I’m talking about how lawmakers understand the world. How lawmakers acquire and use information about both politics and policy, about the tricks of minds and strategies they use,” said Mooney.

Mooney was honored during an investiture celebration at UIS on February 28, 2011. The event was attended by U of I administrators, colleagues, friends, family and former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, an IGPA distinguished fellow.

“When I was told he was going to be the appointee, I said good, that’s the right person,” said Edgar. “I have been in his classroom and also I’ve watched him on television when he’s asked about things going on in state government I always think he has a lot of common sense.”

The Arrington professorship is named for the late W. Russell Arrington, a towering figure in the Illinois House (1945-55) and Senate (1955-73).

“(Mooney’s) background and his list of achievements place him among the top academics in the United States,” said Michael Arrington, the former lawmaker’s son.

Mooney joined UIS in 1999 and is the sixth recipient of a named professorship on the Springfield campus in the past decade. The Arrington professorship is the first to reside within the Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

“Dr. Mooney is not only a nationally known scholar, but he’s also consistently rated by our students as one of the most dedicated and effective professors,” said Harry Berman, UIS Chancellor.

The founding editor of State Politics and Policy Quarterly, the premier academic journal in its field, Mooney has published dozens of articles and books, both in scholarly and general audience outlets. In 2010, the American Political Science Association recognized him as a leader in the discipline by establishing the Christopher Z. Mooney Best Dissertation Award in the field of state politics and policy. Mooney was also named University Scholar the same year.