Friday, March 29, 2013

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS helps free Peggy Jo Jackson from prison

The Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, has helped to secure the release of Peggy Jo Jackson. In 1987, she was convicted of first-degree murder in Jefferson County, Ill. for her indirect involvement in the death of her husband William Jackson.

After serving 27 years of a life sentence without parole, Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive clemency order today, which freed Jackson from the Logan Correctional Center on parole.

“We applaud Governor Quinn for the clemency of Peggy Jo Jackson,” said Erica Nichols-Cook, lead attorney for the Illinois Innocence Project. “The release is a victory for all innocent women that have suffered from serious domestic abuse.”

The Illinois Innocence Project worked on the Jackson case for 4 years, believing she was innocent. The project was supported by the Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women.

Attorneys for the Illinois Innocence Project argued that William Jackson was an abusive husband who violently beat and sexually assaulted his wife. After a week of abuse, Peggy Jo’s brother Richard confronted William about the abuse. Peggy Jo was convicted for not trying to prevent her brother from murdering her husband.

Jackson’s case was heard before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in October. Governor Quinn commuted her sentence to time served.

For more information, contact Erica Nichols-Cook, at

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dr. Hanfu Mi named Dean of the UIS College of Education & Human Services

Dr. Hanfu Mi, chair of the Department of Elementary Education and Reading at the State University of New York at Oneonta, has been named Dean of the College of Education & Human Services (EHS) at the University of Illinois Springfield, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

"My enthusiasm and eagerness to join the EHS and UIS communities have been enhanced by the clearly defined university vision of Leadership lived. I am so looking forward to making contributions, together with UIS administration, faculty, staff, and students,” said Mi.

Mi holds a Ph.D. in Reading Education, with associated emphases in English Literature and Linguistics and in Educational Research and Measurement, from the University of South Carolina. He has been on the faculty at the State University of New York at Oneonta since 1998.

“I am so pleased that Dr. Mi will be our new Dean of the College of Education & Human Services. The Search Committee’s assessment of Dr. Mi’s strengths as a candidate included an appreciation for his extensive and successful administrative experience, commitment to a servant leadership model, ability to promote collaborative solutions to complex challenges, and appreciation for and leadership of online teaching and learning initiatives,” said Dr. Lynn Pardie, UIS Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Mi’s record of scholarship includes publications and presentations on a variety of topics involving social and cultural aspects of language and instruction, and he has extensive experience serving as a program reviewer for the International Reading Association and National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education. Mi is a member of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers and the International Reading Association. He has received a number of academic honors and awards, including the honorary title of Distinguished Professor in China.

"The location where UIS is situated affords itself the potential to assume a leadership position to promote the diversification, globalization, and internationalization in American higher education,” said Mi. “UIS is a young, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating institution with so much creative energy and so many possibilities for ongoing development of innovative curricula and academic programs.”

Mi’s appointment as Dean of the UIS College of Education and Human Services will begin on July 1, 2013. For more information, contact Derek Schnapp, UIS director of public relations at 217/206-6716 or email

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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

Over 50 Illinois high school students got a behind the scenes look at state government during the University of Illinois Springfield's annual "Under the Dome" day on March 20, 2013.

The students started their day at UIS where they boarded buses to the Illinois State Capitol. Once they arrived, they took a tour, learned about the legislative process, and met with lawmakers.

“You can’t get this on a normal tour,” said Joan Sestak, UIS director of community relations. “They’re going to see and experience things they wouldn’t be able to see or experience at any other time and only with UIS.”

“Under the Dome” is designed specifically for high school students interested in government, politics, and public service. The day of activities is designed to highlight careers in state government.

“My ultimate goal would be a congressman at the federal level, but I also understand you have to do some things to get to that level,” said Garrett Ziegler, a junior at Altamont High School.

Ziegler is not alone is his political ambitions, Illini Central High School junior Cole Harris left the capitol with a renewed interest in state government and some new friends.

“It’s nice to come here and learn a lot more about it. I’d like to be here someday,” said Harris. The “Under the Dome” behind the scenes tour was led by alumni, such as John Webber, who works in state government, and regularly interacts with state lawmakers.

“It’s very important for younger people to understand the role of the legislators and how it all comes together in this building,” said Webber.

What makes the tour unique is the access UIS alumni provide and the knowledge they share with high school students during their visit.

“Our tour guide really went into detail with everything and she tried to show us a lot of things that not a lot of people get to see. We met the state treasurer and he told us stories and everything,” said Justice Collins, a senior at Springfield’s Southeast High School.

The day is also designed to highlight the abundance of opportunities to study state government at UIS, while showcasing experienced faculty members.

“We want them to realize how close UIS is to this aspect of Public Administration and if they’re interested in this type of career there’s no better place to get that type of instruction,” said Webber.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

UIS Alternative Spring Break students help restore the Everglades

A group of 28 University of Illinois Springfield students spent nearly a week in the Everglades helping to remove invasive plant species as part of the annual Alternative Spring Break trip.

“They introduced these plants that weren’t native to the lands to try and give it more biodiversity, but the plants took over in a way that isn’t healthy for the environment,” said Paige Heiser, a junior business administration major and president of the Alternative Spring Break group.

Students removed plants, picked up trash, and stayed at a hostel during their trip to Florida. They chose the location, planned the trip, and held fundraising drives throughout the school year to cover the cost.

“I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was a great experience being able to do that,” said Claude Henry, a sophomore visual arts major.

Like many on the trip, Henry decided to travel south with the group to experience something new, give back, and make new friends.

“I made a lot of lasting bonds with the kids that were involved,” said Angela Staten, a senior biology major. “You learn a lot about yourself in the process.”

Even after surviving the 23 hour drive, students say it was well worth it.

“I definitely recommend ASB to future students,” said Katie Woodford, a sophomore accountancy and business administration major.

“It’s a great way to get out and to see different parts of the United States that you normally wouldn’t get to see.”

No matter what their reason for coming, the students returned to Springfield feeling a sense of accomplishment.

“I think it’s important because the environment is what keeps us together as a society. We need to protect it just to ensure the future,” said Michael Rosenberger, a UIS chemistry major.

For more information on future Alternative Spring Break trips, visit the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center website at

Thursday, March 07, 2013

UIS partners with community groups to measure quality of life in Sangamon County

The University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy & Leadership, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, and the United Way of Central Illinois have partnered to conduct the 2013 Sangamon County Citizen Survey.

The biennial survey, which begins on March 11, is designed to assess the quality of life in Sangamon County for the next decade. The survey combines a traditional landline telephone survey with a survey of cell phone users who live in Sangamon County. The final sample will include over 500 randomly selected Sangamon County residents. The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

“UIS is very excited about the opportunity to work with the important groups in our community, to help provide local leaders and citizens with longitudinal insights into issues facing local residents,” said Dr. Ashley Kirzinger, director of the UIS Survey Research Office.

Volunteers appointed by the aforementioned organizations and the Citizens Club of Springfield, formed the 2013 Citizen Survey Steering Committee, which helped to develop meaningful questions for the survey.

The following nine topical areas are covered in the survey: culture and recreation, health, economy, education, government and civic participation, environment, public safety, infrastructure, and social wellbeing. The results of the survey will be released in summer 2013.

Members of the 2013 Citizen Survey Steering Committee include: John Allen, Citizens Club; Lynn Arrindell, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP; Dr. Gordon Brown, Citizens Club; Dr. Beverly Bunch, UIS; Heather Burton, United Way of Central Illinois; Josh Collins, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Barbara Ferrara, UIS; Bob Gray, Citizens Club; Larry Johnson, Illinois National Guard & Militia Historical Society; John Kelker, United Way of Central Illinois; Sarah Mackey, Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County; Norm Simms, Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission; Dr. David Steward, SIU; John Stremsterfer, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln; and Kenley Wade, Citizens Club.

If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Dr. Kirzinger at 217/206-7956 or You may also contact Dr. John Transue, UIS associate professor of political science, at 217/206-8383 or Visit the UIS Survey Research Office website for more information

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

UIS named to President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for fifth year in a row

The University of Illinois Springfield has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for a fifth consecutive year. The award is one of the highest federal recognitions a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.

“We’re very proud that UIS has been named to the Honor Roll for the fifth time in a row,” said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. “This accomplishment is another great example of ‘Leadership lived’ on this campus. Our students take advantage of the abundance of opportunities presented to them and are making a difference.”

During 2011-12 academic year, UIS students spent 65,181 hours engaged in community service. A total of 830 students engaged in some type of community service, with 476 students volunteering at least 20 hours.

“65,000 hours of service is an impressive number, but the impact and leadership that number represents is even more extraordinary,” said Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center.

UIS students spent over 3,000 hours volunteering with the Springfield Public School District’s AVID Program during the academic year 2011-12. The program is dedicated to helping students achieve their goals of going to college. The AVID class, held within the regular school day, provides support, academic monitoring and tutoring to nearly 700 middle and high school students in Springfield.

Over 150 UIS students participated in the annual Holiday Stars Project, a month-long food drive benefiting the Central Illinois Foodbank. Through the project, the UIS community provided 5,600 meals to central Illinois community members. Additionally, over 200 students, staff, and faculty members planted 3,000 trees at two Springfield parks on Arbor Day 2012 as part of the annual Springfest service project.

“Houses were built, students were tutored, families were fed, trees were planted, tornado victims were aided, and the list goes on,” said Dochterman. “This list and the recognition UIS has received today are a testament to the importance of the roles our students, faculty and staff take in the Springfield community and beyond.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service, which has administered the Honor Roll since 2006, annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.

Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service.

The corporation oversees the Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact, and the American Council on Education.

For more information on the award, contact Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center at 217/206-8448 or email

UIS students to spend Alternative Spring Break cleaning up Everglades National Park

A group of students from the University of Illinois Springfield will spend their spring break helping to remove invasive plant and animal species from Everglades National Park in Florida. Students will help staff remove the unwanted species threatening wildlife, clean trails, and assist with light construction.

A total of 28 UIS students and 2 staff members will leave Springfield on Saturday, March 9 at 1 p.m. and return to campus on Sunday, March 17 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. While in Florida, students will reside in a hostel, make their own meals, and volunteer at the park during the day. The overall goal is to help recreate an environment that is safe for plants and animals alike.

“We’ve been trying to go on this trip for a while, and we’ve finally accomplished our goal,” said Paige Heiser, a student volunteer and President of the UIS Alternative Spring Break group. “This volunteer trip is unique, it’s not the typical garbage clean-up or home restoration. This project is more about sustainability, and because of that we’ve attracted more Biology and Chemistry majors.”

Alternative Spring Break at UIS is a student-driven effort. The students choose the location, organize the logistics, and raise necessary funds. Students fill out applications to go on the trip and must be dedicated.

“Many of the students on this year’s trip are interested in ecology and sustainability. Those are issues that are only going to become more important in their lifetimes. It’s great to see students connecting their interests to action, and it’s always inspiring to see students willing to spend their break in such a selfless way.” said Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center.

The UIS Alternative Spring Break student organization was formed in 2009 when students took their first trip to Louisiana to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity following Hurricane Katrina. The following year, students traveled to Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Ike. In 2011, the students traveled to Tennessee to help clean up portions of the Mississippi River. Last year, the students helped rebuild homes damaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav in New Orleans.

For more information on Alternative Spring Break, contact Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center at 217/206-8448 or email