Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UIS survey reveals strikingly positive expectations about the Sangamon County economy

A survey conducted by the University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy and Leadership, in partnership with The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, shows Sangamon County employers are positive about the overall local economy, their business sector, and the economy of their own business or organization. This is the first survey since Spring 2012 in which respondents have reported positive expectations in those categories.

The Spring 2014 Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey studied local businesses, and non-profits in order to gauge expectations across several economic indicators. The survey is based on the responses of 201 individuals representing various economic sectors including construction, manufacturing, retail, financial, and healthcare.

The survey found a significant portion of businesses are not expecting a decrease or increase in Sangamon County employment for the next year. A total of 51.5 percent of respondents expect employment to “stay the same,” while 28.3 percent expect an increase and 20.2 percent of respondents report that there will be a decline.

Results from the survey show 45 percent of Sangamon County employers think the biggest challenge they face in the next 12 months are government regulations and taxation, which remain heaviest on the minds of local area businesses and non-profit organizations. As expected, 41.8 percent of respondents consider the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and health care for employees as the second largest challenge.

When asked how minimum wage increases would affect small business owners, 77 percent of respondents felt it would hurt small business owners while 20 percent felt it would have little effect and three percent felt it would help small business owners. The vast majority of respondents, 81.1 percent, indicate that they believe the ideal minimum wage is higher than $8.25, the current minimum in Illinois.

Beside expectations about inflation rates and capital investment, major economic indicators saw positive expectation increases since Fall 2013. The outlook for gross sales/revenue increased by seven points when compared to the last survey, and represents the single largest improvement among the seven economic indicators.

When analyzing the expectations by industry sectors, manufacturing and wholesale trade saw substantial gains compared last fall, both jumping up 14 points. Overall, 9 out of 12 industry sectors had higher expectations than six months ago. The next highest gains were made by retail trade and transportation/warehousing, with both posting 10 point gains in positive expectations for industries in Sangamon County. Healthcare maintains the highest overall expectations with 32 points despite experiencing a slight decline since the last iteration of the survey.

Businesses and organizations had similar outlooks of themselves in the survey, posting steady, strong numbers. There were increases in overall expectations, while profitability and capital investment maintained identical expectations from last fall. The total number of employees and gross revenue/sales were only slightly lower in expectations when compared to the last survey.

The survey is sponsored by the University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor’s Office, the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS and The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on the survey, contact Ashley Kirzinger, director of the UIS Survey Research Office, at 217/206-7956 or

Sunday, May 18, 2014

43rd Commencement marks new beginning for UIS students

Watch the full UIS Commencement Ceremony

The University of Illinois Springfield held its 43rd Commencement ceremony on May 17, 2014 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield. For many students the day marked an important milestone, as years of hard work, culminated in a single event.

UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch presided over the ceremony, welcoming the crowd of around 6,000 people. A total of 740 students took part in the ceremony, walking across the stage and shaking Koch’s hand.

“Like the other two campuses of the U of I, we are ‘transforming lives and serving society’ in Illinois and far beyond,” said Koch. “We make a difference in the world. In saying that, I am not talking about an abstract ideal. I am talking specifically about each of you, our graduates – about your own future aspirations, contributions and achievements.”

Koch also congratulated first generation college graduates, thanked family members for supporting their students, and thanked members of the military.

Chancellor Koch was joined on the stage by campus leaders and University of Illinois President Robert A. Easter who reflected on what students have learned at UIS.

“You are world-ready critical thinkers with the ability to communicate, to analyze, to innovate and to adapt,” said Easter. “You have the tools needed to flourish in your first job, and the capacity to build on those talents and adjust to a fast-changing, global workplace that will no doubt look much different 10, 25 or 50 years from now.”

The 2014 Commencement address was delivered by UIS alum Donovan Pepper who is now national director of local government relations for Walgreens. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political studies from UIS. As a student leader in the early 1990s, he was so highly regarded as Student Government Association president that his peers renamed the student leadership award after him while he was still a student. In 2008 he was honored with the University of Illinois Alumni Association Loyalty Award for exceptional alumni service.

Pepper spoke to the graduates about his experiences at UIS and how they prepared him for his current career with Walgreens. He ended his speech by challenging graduates to get involved.

“I am challenging you today to share your time, talents and treasures beyond your soon-to-be new or current employer, or in the pursuit of another degree, or simply with your family and friends,” said Pepper. “There are people, places and causes outside of your sphere of influence that need your time, talents and treasures.”

Zachary Sullivan, the student speaker who earned a master’s degree in political science, started his speech by thanking UIS administrators, the Board of Trustees, staffers, and friends and family for their support of his fellow students. Sullivan reflected on his time at UIS and some of the more memorable moments.

"There are so many things that we will miss," said Sullivan. "Hilarious conversations in the PAC Food Emporium, all of the Welcome Week activities on campus, the excitement felt when a major internship or a good grade would come through, and of course, the craziness known as Springfest!"

Sullivan spoke about his choice as a non-traditional transfer student to return to college and first earn his bachelor’s and now his master’s degree from UIS. He spoke about the numerous leadership opportunities available to UIS students and how those experiences have changed him. He ended his speech by asking his fellow students to take Leadership lived a step further.

“We now possess the tools and know-how to make profound differences in our world,” said Sullivan. “Utilize these traits, and you will be fine. By getting involved on our communities, we can make this world a better place. It will require a lot of hard work, but in the long run, it will be worth it to you, and to those around you.”

Also at the ceremony, business leader Evelyn Brandt Thomas was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She is the co-owner of BRANDT, a multi-million dollar international agriculture company based in Springfield.

University of Illinois Trustee Karen Hasara, UIS Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lynn Pardie, UIS Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tim Barnett, and UIS alumni speaker John Lowder also took part in the ceremony.

Photos and more video are available at the commencement website:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Online students travel to UIS to celebrate graduation

Over 200 people attended the University of Illinois Springfield’s pre-graduation brunch and celebration for online students on May 17, 2014. The event brings online students from around the country to campus, often for the first time.

A total of 40 online students from 9 states attended the annual event in the Public Affairs Center. Students traveled from Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The celebration recognized graduates and their families, online coordinators, and program faculty before Commencement at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

UIS has been recognized as a national leader in online education, having received multiple awards for online excellence and achievement. In spring 2014, a total of 1,923 students were enrolled exclusively online at UIS from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia; 72 counties in Illinois; and 13 foreign countries. About 66% of all UIS students take at least one class online.

A group photo of the online graduates was taken and each of them was presented with a gift from the University. For more information on online programs at UIS, visit

View photos from the brunch on Flicker

Friday, May 09, 2014

UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership honored with Community Action Award

The Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield was recently awarded the Grey Warrner Friend of Community Action Award from the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA).

The award is given to organizations that have a long and distinguished partnership with Community Action, supporting Community Action in its mission to fight poverty in Illinois. UIS has worked in partnership with IACAA for over 30 years.

“It is a partnership built on the shared value that it is our obligation to make a difference in our communities,” said Lorena Johnson of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership. “For UIS, this award is validation of that achievement and a celebration of a partnership committed to the continued development and success of the mission of Community Action.”

The center has helped IACAA recognize agency achievement by assisting with their annual Best Practices Award. UIS faculty and staff have led their Family and Community Development (FCD) Specialist and Certified Public Manager Certification trainings and assisted in the collection and compilation of data for reporting on Community Service Block Grant, LIHEAP and Weatherization programs.

UIS is currently helping IACAA with an examination of Community Action Leadership to promote guidance for future leaders of Community Action.

For more information, contact David Racine, executive director of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership at 217/206-8417 or