Thursday, April 12, 2018

Eleven inaugural “Innovator of the Year” awards handed out to central Illinois organizations

The University of Illinois Springfield, Innovate Springfield and the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine handed out eleven “Innovator of the Year” awards to organizations during the inaugural Illinois Capital Innovation Competition Awards on April 6, 2018, at the UIS Student Union.

More than 100 individual applicants applied for award consideration. The goal of the awards were to identify, celebrate and engage area innovators in the Sangamon County area and bring them together to collaborate with leaders from industry, social impact organizations and government.

Megan Luckey and Khara Koffel of Jacksonville, founders of Serious Products, received the “Innovator of the Year” award in the startup category. The two are the inventors of Serious Lip Balm, a company that hand makes all-natural lip balm out of beeswax, sweet almond oil, shea butter, lanolin and scented lip balm oil.

In the business solutions category, Barnabus Helmy of Springfield, creator of The Puck at SmashToast, was honored with an “Innovator of the Year” award. The Puck is a small device which allows smartphone control of any TV, speaker or other machine which accepts an infrared signal. One Puck can control multiple devices, allowing users to “toss the remote.”

The roots category honored innovation that has been applied outside of the area by an innovator who has roots in central Illinois. Andrew Arenz, owner of Spare Accessories, who grew up in Auburn, Illinois, won the “Innovator of the Year” award in this category. Arenz invented the patent-pending Reel Rack, the only spare tire cover that holds fishing poles securely on your spare tire.

The “Innovator of the Year” award for UIS research was presented to Yanhui Guo, Ph.D., UIS assistant professor of computer science, for his work in computer-aided microcalsifications (MC) in the detection of breast cancer using DCNN classifiers.

An award was also presented to UIS student Miranda Mogle, a business administration major from Chatham, who started Good News Now. Good News Now is a news content aggregator that screens out unpleasant news stories providing consumers with only positive news, which studies show leads to overall greater emotional happiness for children and adults.

The “Innovator of the Year” honor in the government solutions category was awarded to the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology’s Blockchain Initiative, which is made up of a consortium of Illinois state and county agencies. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology has the potential to redefine the relationship between government and the citizen in terms of data sharing, transparency and trust and make a leading contribution to the State’s digital transformation.

The award in the community solutions category was given to the Community Health and Support Team at the SIU Center for Family Medicine for the CHIS intensive care coordination outreach model. Award-winners include Tracey Smith, DNP, Dr. Nichole Mirocha and Meghan Golden with SIU Medicine and Janice Frueh, clinical associate professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. CHIS programs provide crisis intervention, brief treatment and connection to longer term community and primary health care. The CHIS multi-pronged approach is a proactive and comprehensive program currently providing immediate health care linkage to stabilize participants through a variety of evidence-based programs.

In the health care application category, the “Innovator of the Year” honor went to Dr. Gregory Mishkel and Amy Durako with the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Program (ERAS) at Prairie Cardiovascular. As part of the ERAS program, patients can connect with their doctors through the Seamless MD app. The app is provided at no cost to patients and has resulted in a decrease length of stay for open heart surgery patients, has increased compliance with cardiac rehab and decreased use of opioids for pain management in patients utilizing the app.

Ashim Gupta, Ph.D. and Dr. Michael Neumeister with the SIU School of Medicine and Sohyung Cho, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, were honored with the “Innovator of the Year” award for medical device. They invented a syringe system for fluid separation during surgery that helps reduce the time a patient is under anesthesia, as well as the time the surgeons and anesthesiologist are in the operating room.

SIU School of Medicine physicians were also honored with the “Innovator of the Year” award in the medical research category. Andrew Wilber, Ph.D. and Christopher Chambers, Ph.D. along with Jeffrey Miller developed a hemoglobin gene therapy to treat Sickle Cell Anemia and Beta-thalassemia. Each year, 300,000 – 500,000 babies are born with one of these disorders.

An honorary “Innovator of the Year” award was presented to Zack Kerker, Derek Parris, Jared Phillips, Kevin O'Dea, Andrew Harby, Beth Neuhoff, Michael Hulvey and Danielle Outlaw with Neuhoff Media in Springfield for their digital, on-demand, personalized delivery of sports information in Sangamon County.

The awards competition was open to researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, startups, existing businesses, institutions, social entrepreneurs, non-profits and other individuals who currently live in and around Sangamon County, who have lived here at some point in their lives, or are willing to relocate here.

For more information, contact Bruce Sommer with the UIS Center for Entrepreneurship at 217/899-3186 or

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

UIS students spend Alternative Spring Break helping with Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas

A group of students from the University of Illinois Springfield are spending their spring break helping to rebuild Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

A total of 21 students left Springfield on Sunday, March 11, at 3 a.m. and will return to campus on Saturday, March 17, at approximately 11 p.m. as part of the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip.

The group is in Beaumont, Texas where they are partnering with Community Collaborations International (CCI). The students are gutting/mucking homes, clearing debris and helping with reconstruction projects. The students are staying at a church in Beaumont while they volunteer.

“ASB decided to go to Texas because at the time we started planning this year’s trip Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters were happening in the United States,” said Hailey Hawkins, a UIS senior and president of Alternative Spring Break. “We knew ASB would be a great opportunity for students at UIS to help with the emergency relief projects and serve those affected by the natural disaster."

This trip marks the 10th anniversary of Alternative Spring Break at UIS. Students first traveled to South Dakota in 2008 to help Habitat for Humanity with a building project. Since then, they’ve traveled to the Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas helping with disaster relief, eco-restoration efforts and early childhood education programs. Students have also helped to feed the homeless at soup kitchens in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

"I love to spend my spring break with ASB not only because it is a great chance to travel to new places and connect with other students, but also because you get a different sense of purpose and meaning when you give your spring break to help those in need in a place you have never been before,” said Hawkins, who has been on four ASB trips. “I love helping other students have that experience as well.”

For more information on Alternative Spring Break, contact RJ Swartz, AmeriCorps VISTA for the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center, at 217/206-6586 or

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

UIS Illinois Innocence Project client who spent 22 years in prison acquitted after new trial in DuPage Co. arson murder case

A DuPage County judge found William (Bill) Amor not guilty of arson murder today. Amor, a client of the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield, served 22 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The victory comes after two weeks of testimony between January 24 and February 2, 2018, at which attorneys presented new arson-related scientific evidence in the 1995 Naperville arson case. Similar testimony resulted in Judge Liam Brennan vacating the initial conviction in April 2017. Amor was released from custody in May of 2017 and has been free on bond.

The Amor case is believed to be the first of its kind in the state of Illinois, where a court issued an official finding that modern fire science is “new science” under the legal definition of “newly-discovered evidence” entitling an innocent person to a new trial.

Upon his acquittal, Amor said, "This is the end of a nightmare for me. I have fought to clear my name for the last 22 years and I am so grateful that I was able to have my day in court for the truth to be heard. I am looking forward to starting the next phase of my life as a free man, no longer labeled as a murderer, for the first time in a long time."

Bill Amor was represented by a team of attorneys, including lawyers from the Illinois Innocence Project, the Exoneration Project and Cozen O’Connor. Amor’s trial team was Lauren Kaeseberg, Illinois Innocence Project Chicago legal director; Tara Thompson, staff attorney for the Exoneration Project; Erica Nichols Cook, formerly of the Illinois Innocence Project, now pro bono counsel for Amor and currently director of the Wrongful Conviction Division for the Iowa State Public Defender; Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, staff attorney for the Illinois Innocence Project; and Kevin Caraher, of the law firm Cozen O’Connor.

On the evening of September 10, 1995, Amor and his wife left their Naperville apartment (which they shared with Bill’s mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli) to go to a drive-in movie. They were gone for several hours and when they returned, they found that a fire had broken out at the apartment and Miceli had died from smoke inhalation.

Amor would be convicted two years later, on September 17, 1997, of murder and aggravated arson for setting the fire that caused Miceli’s death. Amor was convicted based upon faulty fire investigation and a purported confession to starting the fire in a way that experts recently testified is scientifically impossible. With the exception of the false confession, Amor has maintained his innocence from day one. He was ultimately sentenced to 45 years in prison.

The alleged false confession was given to police after two weeks in jail, following 15 hours of questioning and immediately after Amor had been served divorce papers in the interrogation room at the police station. The confession included details as to how Amor purportedly started the fire with vodka and a lit cigarette – which all experts, including the State’s own witness, testified is not possible.

“Justice has finally come for Mr. Amor in DuPage County. This took an army and we formed quite a team with the Exoneration Project and Cozen O’Connor, coming together to exonerate Bill,” said attorney Lauren Kaeseberg, who represents Bill Amor. “We have known for a long time that Bill is innocent and a terrible injustice occurred. While it took far too long, we are thrilled by today’s verdict finally exonerating Bill. We look forward to seeing Bill live his life, finally truly free, after so long.”

At the trial, nationally recognized arson experts testified about advances in fire science that discredit the original conviction in this case. The new evidence includes scientific proof that the way Amor claimed the fire started in the confession is impossible, and modern fire science actually shows that Amor was not even in the apartment when this fire started.

“Science matters. The truth matters. We are elated to have corrected this injustice and to be able to bring Bill justice after two long decades,” said Tara Thompson, staff attorney at the Exoneration Project. “This case presented a unique chance to objectively prove that the confession in this case is false – science proves that this so-called confession was fundamentally untrue and coerced.”

“I am happy and relieved for Bill- this has been a long journey over many years," said attorney Erica Nichols Cook. “Bill and his family have suffered due to his wrongful conviction and retrial. He is looking forward to the future.”

The Illinois Innocence Project looks forward to celebrating Amor’s exoneration at the Project’s annual Defenders of the Innocent award dinner in Springfield on April 28, 2018, at the Crowne Plaza Springfield.

Monday, February 05, 2018

UIS announces Fall Semester 2017 Dean’s List

The University of Illinois Springfield has released the Dean’s List for Fall Semester 2017.

A total of 570 students were selected; 88 are students in the College of Business and Management, 50 are students in the College of Education and Human Services, 349 are enrolled in programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 65 are enrolled in programs in the College of Public Affairs and Administration, and 18 are non-degree seeking or undecided.

In order to qualify for the Dean’s List, a student must be an undergraduate who took at least eight graded semester hours and maintained a grade-point average of at least 3.75 for the semester.

Below you'll find a printable list of student's names listed by the city of residence on file with UIS Records and Registration.

Fall 2017 Dean's List PDF | Fall 2017 Dean's List Excel

Monday, January 15, 2018

UIS students volunteer at nine locations as part of the national MLK Jr. Day of Service

More than 100 students from the University of Illinois Springfield spent their day learning and volunteering in the community as part of the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on January 15, 2018.

Students started their day on campus with breakfast and a simulation experience, and then participated in the Springfield NAACP Unity March and a community town hall at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.

Following the town hall, students spent their afternoon volunteering at nine locations in Springfield. Students sorted donated computers at Computer Banc, prepared items for sale at the Habitat ReStore, sorted medical supplies at Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, painted at Inner City Mission, sorted and organized books at the Northside Children’s Community Library (located in the basement of Third Presbyterian Church), helped around the house and sorted donated items at the Ronald McDonald House, cleaned up and repaired classrooms at the Springfield Urban League and sorted and preparing art kits for patients at HSHS St. John’s Hospital Women and Children’s Center.

On campus, students made 15,000 bookmarks to be distributed to Springfield District #186 elementary students, in partnership with the United Way, during an event in the UIS Student Union Ballroom.

In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a "day on, not a day off."

Sunday, January 14, 2018

University of Illinois Springfield cuts ribbon on new $21.75 million Student Union Building

The University of Illinois Springfield officially opened the new $21.75 million Student Union Building during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday, January 14, 2018. The first-ever student union will serve as a social hub for student life and foster a greater sense of community on the growing campus.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch was joined by U of I President Timothy Killeen, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder and student leaders in cutting the ribbon.

“This building, the next step in the growth and success of this young university, is important for many reasons,” said Koch. “Most of all, it is important to our students and our future students and I have no doubt it will enrich the entire academic community here on campus and the larger Springfield community in ways we haven’t even yet imagined.”

The two-story, 50,000-square-foot student union anchors the campus’s south quad, providing campus dining services, a Starbucks coffee shop, a ballroom with seating for up to 450 people and a Student Leadership Center that houses student government, volunteer offices and workspaces for student organizations.

In her opening remarks, Koch thanked the UIS student leaders who saw a compelling need to build the facility; U of I System leadership; faculty, staff and students who served on the planning committee, architectural partners, UIS staff who made the building possible and donors for their generous support.

“As these visionary people know well, a project like the UIS Student Union is a big aspiration,” said Koch. “It’s a game-changer and without the generosity of our donors it would still be only an aspiration and not the beautiful reality you see around us today.”

Approximately $6.25 million in private funds has been raised towards the $8 million goal to fund the construction of the $21.75 million facility. The private fundraising effort continues. The remaining cost will be paid through campus funds and a construction fee that students approved in 2012.

“For a long time, here in Springfield, we have wanted a versatile, central location that’s sole purpose is to tend to the needs of the students and surrounding community,” said Garrett Nimmo, a sophomore economics major and president of the UIS Student Government Association. “Our students, as well as myself, are very excited to have this new facility to call our own.”

The new facility will fill a void that officials say has grown since UIS became part of the University of Illinois system in 1995. The campus was originally founded in 1969 as Sangamon State University, catering to upperclassmen and graduate-level students, but is now a traditional four-year school that lacked the central gathering place that student unions provide at most colleges across the nation.

“It reflects a commitment to the student experience here at UIS that is so deep and unwavering that this state-of-the-art building rose amid an historic state budget impasse and without a dime of taxpayer support,” said U of I President Timothy Killeen. “The credit goes to you – our students, alumni and supporters – for your support and generosity and to Susan and her team for their hard work and persistence to make this long-held dream a reality.”

An open house immediately followed the ribbon cutting. Food Service and Starbucks will begin regular operations in the building when students return to campus for the beginning of Spring Semester 2018 classes on Tuesday, January 16.