Monday, April 27, 2015

UIS to hold 44th commencement ceremony on May 16 in downtown Springfield

Commencement ceremonies for the University of Illinois Springfield will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Ninth and Adams Streets in downtown Springfield. Of the 1,606 students eligible to graduate, over 950 will participate in the ceremony.

Because of the large number of graduates and the seating capacity of The Center, it is recommended that no more than six guests attend per graduate, though overflow seating will be provided.

Tickets are not required for admission and seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no reserved seating, except for special needs such as interpretive services and wheelchairs. The doors to the main floor will open at 3 p.m.

Chicago PR executive Thom Serafin is the UIS Commencement speaker 

The UIS Commencement speaker will be UIS alum Thom Serafin founder and CEO of Serafin & Associates, Inc., a leading Chicago communications, media relations and public affairs firm, whose diverse clientele includes multinational corporations, regional, local and state businesses and non-profit organizations.

“I am delighted that Thom Serafin, a distinguished graduate of the UIS Public Affairs Program, will address our graduates at the 2015 Commencement,” said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. “His outstanding record of achievement in public affairs and communications is a testament, not only to Thom’s exceptional abilities, but also to the great value that his two UIS degrees have brought to his career and his community.”

Before establishing Serafin and Associates, Inc. in the late ‘80s, Serafin enjoyed a successful career as a political/legislative correspondent, which began as he covered the Illinois General Assembly for network radio.

Throughout his career, Serafin has advised numerous high-profile national and state policy makers. He served as press secretary for U.S. Senator Alan Dixon and U.S. Representative Dan Rostenkowski and was the Illinois campaign manager for Senator Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential bid.

His broad insight into political and governmental arenas has put him in great demand as a political analyst. Both knowledgeable, and often entertaining, he is regularly featured on national and Chicago TV and radio news programs.

Serafin earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from UIS in 1973 and a master’s degree in public affairs reporting in 1993. As an undergraduate, he assisted his professor and mentor, future U.S. Senator Paul Simon, in launching the UIS Public Affairs Reporting program (PAR). Thom endows an ongoing PAR scholarship.

Thom’s advocacy work on behalf of UIS has been extensive. He’s been chairman of the UIS Campus Alumni Advisory Board since 2006 and regularly offers his business expertise and resources to advance the mission of UIS. In 2010, Thom received the UIS William E. Winter Award for Outstanding Advocate Leadership.

Faculty & student marshals announced 

Ted Mims, professor and head of the Computer Science Department, has been chosen to serve as grand marshal. The student speaker will be Blake Hudson, who will graduate with a Master of Public Administration degree.

Faculty and students in each academic program select one graduating student who best exemplifies the goals and spirit of that program to serve as student marshal for the ceremony.

This year’s marshals are:

Accountancy: Sandra K. Huxtable – B.A. (Peoria), Elizabeth Marie Kesinger – B.A., Sara Sulamoyo – M.A.

Biology: Justin Daniel Sawyer – B.S., Logan Tyler Benedict – M.S.

Business Administration: Kristen Nicole Shaffer – B.B.A., Preston Todd Searl (Peoria) – M.B.A., Justin Charles Gumbel – M.B.A.

Chemistry: Jessica Leigh Krueger – B.S.

Clinical Laboratory Science: Aaron Cy Nightingale – B.S.

Communication: Kate McKenzi Catalano – B.A., Libby J. Bair – M.A.

Computer Science: Hayden Louis Esker – B.S., Andrew Oldfield – M.S.

Criminal Justice: Jonathan Wesley Powell – B.A.

Economics: Joseph Nicholas Langman – B.A.

Educational Leadership: David Ryan Van Aken – M.A.

English: Dana Papanikolaou – B.A.

Environmental Sciences: Kelsey Louise Townsend – M.S.

Environmental Studies: Alec J. Bergschneider – B.A., Jacquelyn A. DeBatista – M.A.

Global Studies: Shelby L. Bedford – B.A.

History: Benjamin B. Johnson – B.A., Susan Rebecca Dunne – M.A.

Human Development Counseling: Timothy Roger Moody – M.A.

Human Services: Robert Colin Gilstrap – M.A.

Legal Studies: Julia Rae Westerfield – B.A., Kelly Phillips – M.A.

Liberal and Integrative Studies: Nicholas Lloyd Webb – M.A.

Liberal Studies: Larry M. Brown – B.A.

Management: Gary Michael Huwe (Peoria) – B.A., Jacob Aandrew Wherley – B.A.

Management Information Systems: Eric Frederick Seling – B.S., Collin Anthony Madding – M.S.

Mathematical Sciences: Michael Remington Walker – B.A.

Philosophy: Dimas C. Flores – B.A.

Political Science: Michelle Danielle Tuma – B.A., James G. Wilson – M.A.

Psychology: Trenton J. Adams – B.A.

Public Administration: Manuel Talavera – M.P.A., Michael Lee Woods – D.P.A.

Public Affairs Reporting: Seth Alexander Richardson – M.A.

Public Health: Hima Bindu Kondragunta – M.P.H.

Social Work: Katherine Marie Johnson – B.S.W.

Sociology/Anthropology: Lisa Nicole Gregory – B.A.

Teacher Leadership: Cynthia Marie Arnold – M.A.

Visual Arts: Alexander B. Johnson – B.A.

A number of events are planned for graduates, their families and guests, including a reception for Peoria-area students on Friday, May 8. Separate brunches for CAP Honors graduates and online degree graduates are scheduled for Saturday morning, May 16.

Admission to some commencement events is by invitation only. Updated information, including a complete list of events, is available from the commencement website at

The ceremony will be webcast live at DVD copies of the ceremony can be purchased from the Office of Electronic Media for $25. Orders can be placed by phone at 217/206-6799 or at

For more information, go to the UIS Commencement website at

Thursday, April 23, 2015

UIS Economic Outlook Survey finds Sangamon County businesses are very optimistic about the future

The Spring 2015 Economic Outlook Survey, conducted by the University of Illinois Springfield and The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, finds local businesses and non-profit organizations are very optimistic about doing business in Sangamon County over the next 12 months.

In the past two and a half years, local business expectations have increased 30 points, expectations for their sector have increased 23 points, and expectations for the overall Sangamon County economy have increased 36 points. All three measures indicate strong positive expectations for the economy over the next 12 months.

“The Economic Outlook Survey is a crucial piece to getting a true indicator of how our local employers view the current state of the economy,” said Chris Hembrough, president and CEO of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. “The overall survey numbers are the best since 2008. The responses we received this spring not only demonstrate a healthy economy, but our employers are feeling better about doing business in Sangamon County than they have in many years.”

Three-fourths of survey respondents report that they expect an increase in their own gross revenue/sales over the next 12 months and 63.9 percent report that they expect an increase in the overall gross revenue/sales in Sangamon County. In addition to positive expectations about their own business and the overall county, local employers also report optimistic projections for almost every industrial sector with the medical/health care sector receiving the most positive expectations.

However, local employers are not without concerns. Four in ten respondents (39.3 percent) report that government regulations and taxes are one of the biggest challenges facing their organization. Other challenges were competition from other businesses, availability of skilled workers, state government finances and employee compensation and benefits.

According to UIS Survey Research Office Director Ashley Kirzinger, local employers have reserved optimism about the local economy.

“While respondents still report that there are significant challenges for local businesses and continue to identify liabilities for doing business in Sangamon County, they are optimistic about the future,” she reports.

The telephone survey of local employers was conducted between March 5, 2015 and March 26, 2015 and includes 249 respondents from the private, public, and non-profit sectors. For more information on the methodology, please visit the UIS Survey Research Office website for the full report.

If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Ashley Kirzinger at 217/206-7956 or

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Good as Gold Ceremony honors over 60 Sangamon County volunteers and businesses

The University of Illinois Springfield, the Junior League of Springfield, and the United Way of Central Illinois honored more than 60 Sangamon County volunteers and businesses during the annual Good as Gold Ceremony. The event was held on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 in the Sangamon Auditorium Lobby at UIS.  

Distinguished Volunteer Award

Edward ‘Ed’ Hohenstein of Springfield was honored with the 2015 Distinguished Volunteer Award. He volunteers full-time for Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County. During 2014, he committed to be the general contractor for the build out at the organization’s new headquarters on South Sixth St. in Springfield.

Hohenstein has also brought two new programs to Habitat. One project developed, and trained volunteers to build pallet furniture and other reclaimed items to be sold in the Habitat Restore. He secured a location for building the items, found a steady stream of pallets and venues to recruit new volunteers. Over a 5 month period, he recruited over 100 new volunteers and sold more than $10,000 of pallet items to support Habitat’s programs.

The other program started by Hohenstein was a wheel chair ramp installation program through Habitat’s Critical Home Repair objective. His effort brought with it an additional $10,000 in startup funding as well as a trailer to carry the supplies needed to build the ramps. He trained volunteers to survey the property for the ramp installation, apply for the building permit, assemble the ramp parts, and install the ramp.

Finalists for the Distinguished Volunteer Award included Neill Howey of Hope Church, Elizabeth 'Liz' Magee of Mini O'Beirne Crisis Nursery, and Cindy Wilson who volunteers with 4-H and Girl Scouts.

Star Student & Star Staff Awards 

UIS student Brittany Carls of Arenzville was honored with the Star Student Award for her volunteer efforts. She serves as the co-director for Leadership for Life service and leadership program overseeing and volunteering at various events in the Springfield community, including the UIS Homecoming service project, a local prairie restoration project, and a recent Kumler Outreach Hospitality House night. She also recently completed an internship with Habitat for Humanity and outside of her internship and leadership positions, has completed over 350 hours of service in the past year. Other UIS students nominated included Nicole George and Brittani Provost.

The Star Staff Award was given to Karen Lee, a visiting clinical instructor in the UIS Department of Human Development Counseling Program. She is retired from the SIU Medical School and is very active within the arts community. She has provided support for Alzheimer patients, their families and caregivers and given them a place to voice fears, concerns, hopes and dreams.

Community and Organization Awards 

Thirty-six local volunteers were also honored with the Heart of Gold Award. Recipients included: Darrel Berry, Jennifer Bosaw, Analy Camacho, Rae Clementz, Ann Collins, Brian Davis, Nicole Evans, Daniel Hughes, Annette & Paul Jaderholm, Karen Jeffers, Stan Johnson, Sarah Jones, Cecine Jones, LeAnna Kehl, Ruth Elaine King, Frances Lenhart, Kathryn Kleeman Lesniak, Frank Lynch, Cheryl McKnelly, Connie Miller, Pamela Nation, Randy Pope, Steve Read, Heather Schneider, Melissa Skinner-Liberman, Kevin Smith, Jim Struebing, Jennifer Sublett, Steve Sullivan, Jeff Threlfall, Kim Tribbett, Mattie Watson, Vernon Wilson, Rodney Womack and Mary Yokem.

The winner of the 2015 Organization Agent of Service Award is Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County. In 2014, Habitat celebrated its 25th anniversary. In those 25 years, 97 homes have been built, with 4 of those completed in 2014 and they plan to kick off their 100th house build this Saturday. In addition to new construction and renovating existing homes with the “Brush with Kindness” program, in 2014 they added a new program installing wheelchair ramps. Habitat has continued its pallet furniture making and began work on their new office and ReStore location on South Sixth St., which they moved into earlier this year.

Business Honor Roll 

A total of 24 Sangamon County businesses were named to the Business Honor Roll sponsored by the UIS College of Business and Management and supported by The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. The honor roll recognizes businesses that have made giving back to our community a priority. Businesses making this year’s honor roll include Ameren Illinois, Bank of Springfield, Brandt Consolidated, BUNN, Farmers Insurance, H. D. Smith, Heartland Credit Union, Illinois Association of Realtors, Kerber, Eck & Braeckel, Marine Bank, Mayfield Insurance and Financial Services, Memorial Health System, Noodles and Company, Orthopedic Center of Illinois, PJP Auto Enterprises, President Abraham Lincoln Hotel, R.W. Troxell & Company, SCHEELS, Small Business Growth Corporation, Steve Koch/Ameriprise Financial, Terry Farmer Photography, United Community Bank, US Bank, and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

For more information about the awards, please visit, email or call 217/ 206-7716.

UIS to conduct second Sangamon County Citizen Survey focusing on attitudes towards education

The University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy & Leadership, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, and the United Way of Central Illinois are partnering to assess the quality of life in the Springfield area through the 2015 Sangamon County Citizen Survey.

This is the second time that the partners have conducted the survey, which is designed to assess the quality of life over the next decade. Results of the 2015 survey will be released on June 26 at the Citizens Club of Springfield Policy Breakfast. The survey covers topics, such as culture and recreation, education, health, economy, government and civic participation, environment, public safety, infrastructure, and social wellbeing.

This year the survey will pay special attention to education issues affecting the community. “The citizen’s survey offers a chance for our community to better understand issues affecting education, financial stability and health, which are the building blocks for a good quality of life,” said John Kelker, president at United Way of Central Illinois. “A greater emphasis on education this year allows us to better evaluate resources being invested in this area.”

“One of the major findings of the 2013 survey was that Sangamon County residents believe education plays an important role in improving Sangamon County. This year’s survey includes additional questions in order to provide a more in-depth examination of these attitudes,” said John Stremsterfer, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln.

Researchers from the UIS Survey Research Office, part of the Center for State Policy & Leadership, will combine a traditional landline telephone survey with a survey of cell phone users who live in Sangamon County. The final sample will include over 500 randomly selected Sangamon County residents. The survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

“We are very lucky to have partners committed to continuing the Sangamon County Citizen Survey. This is a great source of data for community leaders and allows UIS to help provide longitudinal insights into issues facing local residents,” said Ashley Kirzinger, director of the UIS Survey Research Office.

Similar to past efforts, volunteers appointed by the three organizations and the Citizens Club of Springfield, formed the 2015 Citizen Survey Steering Committee, which helped to develop meaningful questions for the survey.

Members of the 2015 Citizen Survey Steering Committee include: John Allen, Citizens Club; Dr. Gordon Brown, Citizens Club; Heather Burton, Central Counties Health Centers; Josh Collins, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Ryan Croke; Barbara Ferrara, UIS; Jennifer Gill, Springfield District #186; Bob Gray, Citizens Club; Angela Hall, Hospital Sisters Health System; John James, Boys & Girls Club; John Kelker, United Way of Central Illinois; Valerie Peterson, United Way of Central Illinois; Norm Sims, Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission; Katrina Schroeder, United Way of Central Illinois; John Stremsterfer, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln; Amy Uden, SIU; Kenley Wade, Citizens Club; Jade Washington, Sangamon CEO; and Dominic Watson.

If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Ashley Kirzinger at 217/206-7956 or Visit the UIS Survey Research Office website for more information

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

UIS history class tweets "as-live" coverage of Lincoln's assassination and funeral train

A University of Illinois Springfield history class is using Twitter to educate people about the events leading up to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and what happened following his death.

Assistant Professor of History Kenneth Owen’s HIS 515 History and Digital Media class will be tweeting "as-live" coverage of Lincoln's assassination and funeral train back to Springfield.

“We’ll be putting up tweets as events happened,” said Owen.

Lincoln was shot just after 9 p.m. central time on April 14, 1865 and died the following morning. The majority of tweets on the @AbesLastRide account will begin after 7 p.m. on April 14.

“Our tweets will start around the time Lincoln is going to the theater, but the bulk of the project will unfold over the next couple of weeks, as we trace funeral arrangements and public viewings as the funeral train makes its way to Springfield,” said Owen.

Owen says the idea behind the History and Digital Media class is to introduce students to ways in which historical research and public history can be carried out through digital media, including online databases, Twitter feeds, blogs, podcasts, and crowdsourcing projects.

“The idea with the Lincoln project was to think about how to present historical information in new ways. Condensing events to a series of 140-character tweets is challenging, both in terms of research and in writing,” said Owen.

He says one of the most interesting aspects of the project is being able to see the interest it develops as more people follow the account.

“I hope it will give students a real sense of accomplishment to see the project come to fruition and engage new audiences with the story of Abraham Lincoln,” he said.