Thursday, January 23, 2014

U of I Board of Trustees approves UIS Student Union project and design

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees gave project and design approval for a proposed student union on the Springfield campus on Jan. 23, 2014. The approval allows officials to continue planning and fundraising for the new facility.

The proposed student union would be the first on the Springfield campus, and is needed to fill a void that officials say has grown since UIS became part of the University of Illinois 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 lacks a centerpiece of campus life that student unions provide at most colleges across the nation.

Design plans developed by Dewberry Architects of Peoria and Workshop Architects of Milwaukee propose a two-story, 50,000-square foot student union that would anchor the campus’s south quad. The proposed $21.7 million facility would include restaurants, social and study space, and larger areas for student and campus events.

For more information on the student union, visit

UIS to award honorary doctorate degree to Springfield business leader Evelyn Brandt Thomas

The Springfield campus of the University of Illinois will award an honorary doctorate of humane letters to business leader Evelyn Brandt Thomas during commencement on May 17, 2014. The U of I Board of Trustees approved the degree at its meeting in Chicago today. Brandt Thomas is co-owner of BRANDT, a multi-million dollar international agriculture company based in Springfield.

"Evelyn has been an inspiration for women and men in business for decades," said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. "In addition to her success and leadership in business, her widespread philanthropy and sustained community service have contributed to the quality of life for all who live and work in the Springfield community."

"I am truly humbled by this honor," said Brandt Thomas. "It’s really unbelievable. I'm just a country girl from a one-room grade school who has been on a fabulous journey. That journey has taken me out of my comfort zone and around the world, but always home to central Illinois where I have tried to be a good citizen, a positive role-model and a leader in the Ag industry and community. I am so incredibly proud to be recognized by the University of Illinois Springfield."

Brandt Thomas grew up on a small family farm near Pleasant Plains, Ill. She graduated from Springfield High School in 1940 and went on to earn an Accounting degree at Illinois Business College, an unusual step for a young woman in her day. In the early 1950s, Evelyn and her brother, Glen, started a fertilizer business to supplement the family's income on the farm. Evelyn managed the books while Glen ran the business, selling and applying anhydrous ammonia.

Over the course of 60 years, Evelyn and Glen have remained active in the family business, which has grown to become BRANDT, an international company dedicated to helping growers adopt new and profitable technologies on their farms, with sales in 48 states and 45 countries. (Glen’s son Rick is the CEO of the business.) Today the company is one of Springfield's largest employers. In 2012, the company was named to Inc. Magazine's list of 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies with over $400 million in revenue.

“The fact that Evelyn has been one of only a very few women to succeed in agricultural business is a special tribute to her expertise, determination and diplomacy,” said Koch.

Today, at 90 years of age, Brandt Thomas continues to perform an active role in the business, serving as Secretary-Treasurer and going to work nearly every day. She has also been active in philanthropy for many years, making significant contributions to 4-H and many other non-profit organizations in central Illinois as well as to the University of Illinois campuses in Springfield and Urbana. She has encouraged women to pursue careers in business through her support of the Evelyn Brandt Thomas Scholarship at UIS. In 2002, the Association of Fund Raising Professionals awarded Evelyn Brandt Thomas and her husband, Gordon, its Outstanding Philanthropist Award.

The UIS Commencement Ceremony on May 17, 2014, where Brandt Thomas will receive the award, will begin at 4:00 p.m. at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

U.S. News & World Report ranks UIS online programs among the best in the nation

The University of Illinois Springfield’s online bachelor’s degree programs have been ranked the 31st best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The 2014 Best Online Programs Rankings were released on January 8, 2014.

The UIS graduate education and graduate business programs were also ranked among the top 100 best online programs nationwide.

“These rankings once again highlight the high-quality learning experience online students are receiving at UIS,” said Chancellor Susan J. Koch. “Online classes are taught by talented faculty who work very hard to provide an abundance of learning opportunities and provide strong support for online students.”

U.S. News & World Report looked at best practices and factors, such as graduation rates, assessments, class size, retention rates, and time to degree deadline in determining the rankings. They also examined program peer reputation, accreditation, faculty education, student debt at graduation, and technologies and services available to online students.

“This recognition reflects the quality of our courses and our responsiveness to online students,” said Ray Schroeder, UIS Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning. “To be ranked among the top online bachelor’s degree programs in the country and among the best graduate programs in business and education is an honor that very few other universities have received.”

UIS offers eight undergraduate degrees online in Business Administration, Computer Science, English, History, Liberal Studies, Management Information System, Mathematics, and Philosophy. An online education master’s degree is offered in Teacher Leadership and a graduate business degree in Management Information Systems (MIS).

UIS is a premier public university that provides students with a high-quality liberal arts education, exceptional public affairs opportunities, and outstanding professional preparation programs. UIS has four core strengths: (1) a teaching-focused academic experience; (2) an abundance of opportunities to collaborate; (3) a right-sized supportive community; and (4) a tradition of educating public servants and leaders. UIS has four colleges: business and management; education and human services; liberal arts and sciences; and public affairs and administration.

View the U.S. News & World Report rankings online at For more information, contact Ray Schroeder at 217/206-7531 or email