Friday, October 30, 2015

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS receives federal DNA testing grant

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin is pleased to announce that the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project, with the support of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership, has been awarded a $753,958 federal grant to clear Illinois innocence cases where DNA testing might decide the outcome of individuals who plead guilty and Latinos who might be innocent.

The award is for a United States Department of Justice Bloodsworth Grant, named in honor of Kirk Bloodsworth, the first DNA death penalty exoneration case in the U.S. in 1993.

“In Illinois, we’ve seen firsthand how innocent people can get their lives back by taking advantage of post-conviction DNA testing to solve old cases and exonerate the wrongly convicted,” said Durbin. “The Illinois Innocence Project has worked to ensure fairness and accuracy in the justice system, including directly participating in two 2015 exonerations. I particularly applaud the Project for reaching out to Latinos wrongly in prison who often, because of their minority status, find themselves without help to remedy their convictions.”

Last year, the Illinois Innocence Project assisted in the passage of a law, which for the first time in Illinois allows those convicted by a guilty plea to go to court to get evidence tested that might exonerate them because they are innocent. Senator Durbin indicated that “providing assistance in cases where someone might have pled guilty but who might be innocent points to a potentially serious flaw in our criminal justice system. It is my hope that this grant will allow the Project to bring justice to those who believed it would be better to plead guilty than to struggle to prove their innocence.”

Reaching out to assist Latinos is an important goal for the UIS innocence project.

"Almost 14% of Illinois inmates are Latino who are often wrongfully convicted due to unique barriers involving language, citizenship, and status” said John Hanlon, executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project. “We hope to address these disparities which often lead to improper convictions and create difficulties for Latino inmates by working on cases where the individual can be proved innocent through the use of DNA testing.”

The project will initially focus on numerous cases it has already screened in both areas in anticipation of receipt of this grant. The cases will be further reviewed to determine if the evidence can be tested or retested for DNA and if the likelihood is that the individual is actually innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.

“We know that DNA is the most important forensic tool to identify or exclude a perpetrator of a crime,” said Hanlon. “This grant will give the project the resources to follow up with investigation and DNA testing of the many requests we have from people who may actually be innocent."

As part of the grant, the Illinois Innocence Project will hire several UIS undergraduate students to assist in the screening, review, and evaluation of the cases.

“This new federal grant not only meets a critical need in the state of Illinois, but provides important opportunities for our students,” said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. “Present and future students will continue to have opportunities to learn about injustices in the criminal justice system through education and practice in ways that other universities cannot provide. The Latino focus also reinforces our campus’ emphasis on diversity in its work, its staff, and its students.”

More information about the Illinois Innocence Project can be found on their website at

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

UIS students thank donors at Scholarship Luncheon

The University of Illinois Springfield recognized scholarship donors during the 19th annual Scholarship Luncheon on October 28, 2015.

“It’s an opportunity for donors or individuals who support scholarship activities at the institution to meet the students who are beneficiaries of that support,” said Jeff Lorber, UIS vice chancellor for advancement.

Former UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen and his wife Carolyn returned to campus to meet the recipients of the endowed scholarship in their name.

“The importance of financial aid, you just can’t overstate it,” said Ringeisen. “We love having a scholarship.”

UIS student Kyla Randle of Chicago was this year’s recipient of the Ringeisen Scholarship. She says it would have been difficult to continue her education without the support.

“I received a scholarship at a time I really needed it, so it really made me realize that I’m here for a reason and I’m here to pursue an education,” she said.

The event often brings students and donors together for the first time. That was the case with Sally Pancrazio and scholarship recipient Greg Irwin. The James J. Pancrozio Scholarship is named in honor of Sally’s late husband who was a UIS faculty member.

“Once my husband passed away, this was a way to honor him and the fact that he was a founding faculty member and also co-authored the proposal that started the Human Development Counseling Department,” she said.

Irwin, who is majoring in Human Development Counseling, wants to become a family marriage counselor and help people. He promises to pay it forward.

“I’m trying to help other people in the community and in the world and this allows me to better myself at that, so I can help other people,” he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UIS ranked as the "Best Online College" in the country

The University of Illinois Springfield has been ranked as the “Best Online College” in the country for 2015-2016 by (AC Online), a leading resource for online learning and college affordability information.

“This ranking reaffirms the high quality education online students receive at the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois,” said UIS Chancellor Susan. J Koch. “Many of our faculty members teach both on-ground and online and work hard to make sure that every student is able to succeed.”

In releasing the rankings, AC Online praised UIS for its online bachelor degree programs saying they “consistently receive top national rankings for small class sizes and personalized attention for students.” The website also noted that UIS’ online graduate programs in business and education have received top rankings for more than 10 years.

AC Online has distinguished its ranking scale by the use of Peer-Based Value, or PBV. The PBV score compares the cost of each program to the cost of similar programs with the same qualitative score.

“Affordable Colleges Online reviews and ranks fully accredited online programs” said Ray Schroeder, UIS associate vice chancellor of online learning. “We are pleased to be recognized by this association as deserving of placement at the very top of their statewide and national rankings.”

UIS’ most popular online programs include Computer Science, Business Administration, and Management Information Systems, followed by Public Administration and Mathematical Sciences programs.

“AC Online correctly notes UIS faculty consistently receive top rankings for their academic credentials and level of preparation for teaching online,” said Vickie Cook, director of the UIS Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS).

Over 200 UIS faculty taught online programs during the fall 2015 semester. Many of them are full-time faculty within the college where they also teach face to face. COLRS actively supports UIS faculty through providing teaching support, research support, and service to state and local organizations. began in 2011 to provide quality data and information about pursuing an affordable higher education. The website features higher education institutions that have developed online learning environments that include highly trained faculty, new technology and resources, and online support services to help students achieve educational and career success.

AC Online has been featured by nearly 700 postsecondary institutions and nearly 100 government organizations.

For more information on the rankings, please contact Ray Schroeder, UIS associate vice chancellor of online learning, at 217/206-7531 or