Thursday, August 21, 2008

Convocation celebrates new academic year at UIS

By Courtney Westlake

Faculty, staff and other members of the campus community convened once more in the Studio Theater of the Public Affairs Center for a fresh look toward the new, upcoming school year and to celebrate some of the university’s recent accomplishments.

The UIS Convocation took place on Thursday afternoon, August 21. Provost Harry Berman led the event as each of the 27 new faculty were introduced by the deans of the four colleges, and Chancellor Richard Ringeisen gave remarks about the university’s past, present and future.

Ringeisen stressed the importance of the university's strategic plan, especially three common goals within that plan: academic excellence, enriching individual lives and making a difference in the world.

"Those primary strategic goals are the foundation for our actions in everything we do," he said.

As evidence of UIS' commitment to those goals, Ringeisen listed several major accomplishments, including the 27 new tenure-track faculty this year - totaling 131 new faculty in four years, the biggest Capitol Scholars honors program ever at 312 students, the addition of a Global Studies major, the revival of an Ambassadors Series this fall and the new construction of Founders Hall with its green roof.

"What spectacular evidence of our efforts to conserve energy and be earth-friendly," he said. "The decision to have a green roof is a major commitment to environmental sustainability."

A big part of the university's strategic plan is incorporating "third spaces" on campus, and Ringeisen discussed several major developments of these spaces in recent months. The Japanese Garden, the rock garden between the PAC and Brookens Library and the courtyard between the two residence halls are all wonderful new spaces for students, staff and faculty to enjoy.

One of the university's newest attractions is the fountain in the campus pond.

"Carolyn (Ringeisen) and Joan Buckles had a grand vision of a fountain that can be seen from almost anywhere on campus and one that makes a big statement on the landscape," Ringeisen said. "Carolyn hopes the new fountain will attract more students and others to that whole area of the campus for social events and relaxation."

Several major events took place during the last school year that has helped UIS grow, such as the dedication of the Emiquon Field Station, re-accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and receiving the top award for institution-wide online teaching and learning from the Sloan Consortium, Ringeisen said.

During the next school year, the university will continue to achieve greatness and focus on issues like sustainability, diversity, fundraising, security and retention.

Ringeisen took the time to assess the university at the start of the new year to compare "where we are and where we're going in the coming year," he said.

"Here is what I see now: we have reached a critical point in time when some very big pieces of our plan to be one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the country are in place," he said. "We are physically and academically ready to move toward that aspiration."

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