Monday, December 12, 2016

UIS Illinois Innocence Project seeks reversal of 1997 Naperville arson murder conviction

The Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield is seeking a new trial in a 1995 Naperville arson murder case. Attorneys will appear in DuPage County court on Monday, December 12, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. arguing to reverse the convictions of William “Bill” Amor, who has spent 21 years incarcerated on a murder conviction they maintain he did not commit. The hearing is expected to last the week and is believed to be the first of its kind in Illinois regarding changes in fire investigation.

Bill Amor will be represented in court by four attorneys: Lauren Kaeseberg, Illinois Innocence Project legal director, Chicago office; Erica Nichols Cook, director of the Iowa State Public Defender Wrongful Convictions Unit (and former Illinois Innocence Project staff attorney); Tara Thompson, staff attorney, the Exoneration 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, specifically carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

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 a confession (which the Project argues was false) and arson findings that are no longer scientifically reliable. What stands out in this case is that Amor’s confession was the basis for the fire investigators in 1995 to change their initial finding of an “undetermined” cause of fire to an arson. With the exception of giving a false confession in this case, Amor has maintained his innocence from day one. He was ultimately sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Attorneys and experts reviewing the evidence have found that investigators used outdated and discredited techniques to convict Amor. The methods used by the original fire investigators are no longer accepted as a scientifically reliable methodology in fire investigations. In fact, the “National Fire Protection Association’s Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation”, “NFPA 921”, does not support the findings in this case.

In court this week, nationally recognized arson experts will testify about the new science which undercuts the conviction in this case, including: Doug Carpenter of Combustion Science & Engineering, Inc. in Columbia, Maryland, and John DeHaan of Fire-Ex Forensics in Vallejo, California. Noted expert on false confessions, Steve Drizin, associate dean and clinical professor of law at Bluhm Legal Clinic at the Northwestern University Law School, is on the witness list for Amor as well.

“This is a unique case where we can actually demonstrate the falsity of the confession because we know with expert certainty that a fire cannot be started the way Bill ‘confessed’ to starting the fire. The ‘arson’ finding predicated on that false confession, and based on erroneous science should not stand in the eyes of the law or justice,” said Lauren Kaeseberg, legal director of the Illinois Innocence Project Chicago office, who represents Bill Amor.

Also in question is the alleged false confession that Amor gave to the police at that time. His final statement to police came after two weeks in jail, immediately followed by being served divorce papers at the station, and 15 hours of questioning. The confession included details as to how Amor purportedly started the fire with vodka and a lit cigarette – it is now known that a fire cannot start that way.

“Confessions and statements by suspects are viewed differently today than they were in 1995, due in large part to the fact that false confessions have played a role in approximately 25% of the first 325 DNA exonerations, and 205 out of 1,600 exonerations nationwide, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Today, we know that false confessions happen; this realization was not commonly accepted in 1995,” said Larry Golden, founding director of the Illinois Innocence Project.

“Bill Amor is an innocent man, who has spent 21 years in prison based on unreliable evidence. We are hopeful that the science will shine a light on the truth this week and there will finally be justice in the case of Bill Amor,” said Erica Nichols Cook, director of the Wrongful Convictions Unit of the Iowa State Public Defender, who also represents Amor as “of counsel” for the Illinois Innocence Project.

“Bill Amor’s conviction does not withstand the scrutiny of review based upon today’s science and understanding of fire investigation and false confessions. We know, based on a 2016-view of this case, that the 1990’s-arson findings are erroneous,” said Tara Thompson, staff attorney at the Exoneration Project, who also represents Amor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

University of Illinois Springfield named Bronze Bicycle Friendly University

The University of Illinois Springfield has been awarded the Bronze Bicycle Friendly University award by the League of American Bicyclists, joining more than 160 visionary colleges and universities across the country with this distinction.

The Bicycle Friendly University program recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bikeable campus for students, staff and visitors.

Over the past year, the UIS Bicycle Advisory Committee has developed relationships with the Springfield community to improve bicycling resources for students, faculty and staff. UIS encourages bicycling as an easy option for transportation and provides incentives such as the free STAR Bike Share program for students.

“We have accomplished quite a bit in our first year as a committee,” said Nancy Barrett, UIS Bicycle Advisory Committee secretary and assessment and accreditation coordinator for the College of Education. “We have sponsored organized rides and participated in health and safety fairs on campus.”

“The UIS Bicycle Advisory Committee is working with the Springfield Bicycle Club and other local partners to make our city more bicycle-friendly,” said Committee Chair, Megan Styles, assistant professor of Environmental Studies. “This will allow us to provide our students with better access to bicycles, better bicycle-related programming, and better infrastructure.”

Moving forward, UIS will have access to a variety of free tools and technical assistance from the League to become even more bicycle-friendly. The committee’s three goals for the coming year include connecting with local businesses to increase bicycle availability on campus, setting up a bicycle repair station on campus and expanding the number of free bicycles available to students through a relationship with the Midwest Mission Distribution Center’s bicycle repair program.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Illinois Innocence Project wins release of wrongfully convicted Decatur man imprisoned for 18 years

A Decatur man walked free from the Macon County Courthouse today thanks to the efforts of the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) at the University of Illinois Springfield. Newly discovered DNA evidence proves that Charles Palmer did not commit the 1998 murder of William Helmbacher.

On November 16, a Macon County judge overturned Palmer’s conviction and life sentence for first-degree murder and awarded him a new trial. The Macon County State’s Attorney declined to retry the case on November 23.

The case was overturned after DNA evidence, which was never tested by police, including the victim’s fingernail scrapings and hair found in the victim’s hand, was tested by the Illinois Innocence Project. In both cases, the DNA was not a match to Palmer.

“IIP filed a petition seeking a new trial based on this newly discovered DNA evidence,” said John Hanlon, executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project. “The prosecution, to their credit and in light of the newly discovered DNA evidence, agreed first to a new trial and today dismissed the case entirely.”

Helmbacher died in his Decatur apartment after suffering numerous blows to the head with a hammer. Another Decatur man, who lived in an adjoining apartment, became the lead suspect when he was arrested while carrying a plastic bag filled with the victim’s personal possessions. The man initially told the police that he knew nothing about the murder. However, after making a deal for himself whereby the murder charges were dismissed, he gave a statement to the police implicating Palmer.

The man also identified a pair of shoes “similar” to those supposedly worn by Palmer the evening of the crime. The crime lab found no evidence on them, though police said the apartment had been awash with blood. The lab returned the shoes to police, who sent them back with the request to “take them apart and check again.” This time, under layers of one shoe, three tiny spots of blood said to be from the victim were found. The evidence regarding these spots of blood would likely be inadmissible by today’s standards.

“While the police sent the shoes to the lab twice based on a supposed hunch that they should be examined again, they never sent to the lab even once the key biological evidence that had been collected at autopsy,” said Hanlon.

During jury deliberations at the April 2000 trial, the jury sent four distinct notes to the court, asking for every critical item of evidence. The jury also informed the court that they were “deadlocked”, and deliberated for 13 hours before finding Palmer guilty of murder – but not guilty of residential burglary.

A motion for DNA testing of numerous items of evidence was filed in 2010 and argued in 2011. The court permitted Palmer to test the fingernail scrapings and the hair but denied testing on all other items. The Illinois Innocence Project, through Hanlon, represented Palmer from 2011 through 2016, filing and litigating a number of motions toward deeper DNA testing of the evidence, and shepherding the evidence through various forms of testing.

“This case exemplified true teamwork by the Illinois Innocence Project,” said Hanlon. “Six UIS students, along with numerous IIP staffers and volunteers, worked on this case over the years, along with another six law school students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Law.”

Illinois Innocence Project Chicago Legal Director Lauren Kaeseberg began assisting with the case in fall 2016.

The DNA testing in Palmer’s case was made possible by federal grants awarded in 2010 and 2012 to the University of Illinois Springfield for use by the Illinois Innocence Project.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

UIS part of a national study aimed at improving quality and transparency in state budgets

The University of Illinois Springfield has teamed with The Volcker Alliance to help conduct a national multiyear study aimed at improving budgeting and fiscal sustainability in all 50 states.

A team of researchers from the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership, including Public Administration Professor Beverly Bunch, Associate Professor of Economics Patricia Byrnes, and a doctoral student, will gather data on several state governments. Data collected on all 50 state governments by universities across the nation will provide the Alliance with the basis for evaluating state budgeting and financial reporting performance in areas including clarity and integrity.

“The Truth and Integrity in Government Finance Project”, as the study is known, will lay the groundwork for governors, legislators, civic organizations, and citizens concerned about fiscal stewardship to effect meaningful improvements in the quality and transparency of state budgets in a time of fiscal stress for many governments.

“Understanding state budgets and financial reporting is challenging, even for those of us who teach and study these issues,” said Bunch. “This project provides an opportunity to take a closer look at current practices among the states and identify areas that need improvement.”

The nonpartisan Volcker Alliance was launched in 2013 by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker to address the challenge of effective execution of public policies and to help rebuild public trust in government.

“Trust in government is at a low point,” said Volcker, “and part of the reason is that the public cannot even tell what our government can afford. Accounting may be complicated, but governments have an obligation to the public to reveal what services cost, how much money is borrowed, where there are shortfalls, and what tradeoffs society will face to balance the budget. This project aims to show the way.”

The Alliance is partnering with academic institutes across the United States to complete the study, including UIS. Other partners include Arizona State University; City University of New York; Cornell University; Florida International University; Georgia State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Kentucky; University of Minnesota; and University of Utah.

“The Truth and Integrity in Government Finance Project” is made possible in part by grants from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The Alliance anticipates releasing its next round of analysis in 2017, identifying state budgeting and financial reporting practices that need improvement and providing concrete examples of best practices.

For more information about the study, contact Professor Beverly Bunch at 217/206-6080 or

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

UIS awarded $25,000 Innovation Fund grant to increase study abroad

The University of Illinois Springfield is one of eight institutions that has been awarded a $25,000 Innovation Fund grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation-sponsored competition, “100,000 Strong in the Americas”.

The grant was in recognition of education initiatives to create partnerships between higher education institutions, such as UIS, and Latin America; with the goal of increasing study abroad programs in the field of environmental sciences, with an emphasis on water.

Keenan Dungey, UIS associate professor of chemistry, was the lead author of the proposal, which also included Michael Lemke, UIS professor of biology; Jonathan GoldbergBelle, senior director of UIS International Programs; Claudia Bonecker, professor of biology at the Universidade Estadual de Maringa (UEM) and Felipe Velho, co-director of the NUPELIA field station of UEM.

“This grant will leverage our 10-year collaboration with the Universidade Estadual de Maringa creating additional student research opportunities, sharing our aquatic ecology projects with a broader audience, and contributing to public policy on river management,” said Dungey.

The joint project between UIS and UEM will bring together students and faculty from the U.S. and Brazil to study two of the world’s great rivers: the ParanĂ¡ and the Illinois. Initially nine students and six faculty will be involved in the summer of 2017, with plans to grow the program in future years.

It is expected that the eight grants, handed out internationally in 2016, will result in 115 students studying abroad, preparing them to be more globally competent for the 21st century workforce.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Students thank donors at 20th annual UIS Scholarship Luncheon

The University of Illinois Springfield recognized scholarship donors during the 20th annual Scholarship Luncheon on November 3, 2016. Nearly 300 people participated in the luncheon.

“These scholarships make a difference and provide the opportunity for students to experience higher education and to become productive citizens,” said Jeff Lorber, UIS vice chancellor for advancement.

One of the donors in attendance was Marilyn Lawler, who represented the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The organization currently provides four scholarships to UIS students and hopes to add more in the future.

“I think this is a wonderful event and it really brings together the organization that I represent with the students that we’re helping,” said Lawler. “It makes it so much more meaningful and it makes us want to work hard to make more money for more scholarships.”

For scholarship recipients, such Crystal Terrazas and Eli Cook, the extra helps means they can focus on their course work without worrying about finances.

“I’m so thankful. Words just can’t describe how thankful I am that I was able to receive the scholarship. It helps out so much for me and my family,” said Terrazas.

UIS Associate Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) Dave Larson sees the impact scholarships can have on a student’s performance in the classroom. He’s started his own scholarship to help out students in the MIS program.

“Without the financial support, I’m not sure I would have gotten the two degrees I’ve received here,” said Larson.

During the event, students got a chance to personally thank their donors and let them know the difference the scholarship has made.

“Your investment goes a long way. Investing in students is one of the best investments you can make,” said Cook.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

UIS students collect a record 14,085 pounds of food for the Central Illinois Foodbank on Halloween night

Hundreds of University of Illinois Springfield students helped to collect a record 14,085 pounds of food for the Central Illinois Foodbank on Halloween night. The total breaks a previous Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods record of 11,620 pounds of food collected in 2014.

A total of 18 teams, consisting of 181 students, went door-to-door in several Springfield and Chatham neighborhoods collecting the canned goods.

Earlier this month, the teams canvassed the neighborhoods and distributed door hangers that explained the project. Collected items were returned and weighed on campus. Prizes were awarded to the teams that collected the most food.

The Central Illinois Foodbank distributes over 9 million pounds of food annually to over 150 food pantries, soup kitchens, residential programs and after-school programs in a 21 county region.

Also this year, the UIS Cox Children’s Center participated in the fun by having the children in costume Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods at on campus departments. The children collected 365 pounds of food which was donated to UIS Cares, a new food pantry on campus open to all UIS students in need.

For more information, or if you have food that was not collected, please contact the UIS Volunteer Center at 217/206-7716 or

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

University of Illinois Springfield adds six new majors to give students more options

The University of Illinois Springfield has added six new majors in order to give students more educational options. Five of the new majors started this semester and a bachelor’s degree in theatre will begin in fall 2017.

The five new majors that started in fall 2016 include bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry, exercise science, public administration and public policy. A master’s degree in data analytics was also added this semester.

“These new majors represent a continual effort by our faculty to provide undergraduate and graduate degree opportunities in the professional fields, STEM, and the liberal arts,” said James Ermatinger, UIS interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost. “These majors are in areas which have high student interest and demand and represent our commitment to providing high quality education for the region and its students.”

The six new degree programs were approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education. UIS now offers a total of 31 bachelor’s degrees, 20 master’s degrees and one doctoral program.

The biochemistry curriculum prepares students to immediately begin careers in the medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries, and meets the requirements for successful admission to professional schools in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, pharmacy school, and other health-related fields.

Students of exercise science study the science of movement, physical exertion, kinesiology, health awareness, and research into health disorders. The program is designed to prepare UIS students for various positions in the exercise and health field, or for post-graduate study in Exercise Science or additional Allied Health programs.

Public administration is a field of study that prepares students to serve as managers in local, state, and federal government as well as the nonprofit sector. The UIS program endeavors to prepare students to advance the public interest and civic engagement. Students are prepared though an integration of theory and practice.

The public policy curriculum explores the full policy-making process, including the study of specific policy issues from healthcare to education, criminal justice, social welfare, environmental and agricultural policy, among other areas.

The theatre major at UIS offers students the opportunity to further develop their talents as theatre artists, by working with great dramatic literature in the classroom and on the stage. Theatre majors are exposed to a wide variety of production experiences, while exploring the collaboration needed to create a fully realized production.

The master’s degree in data analytics is offered in traditional on-campus, online, and blended formats. The degree aims at providing an interdisciplinary approach to data analytics that covers both the foundational mathematical knowledge of data science and the computational methods and tools for preprocessing, interpreting, analyzing, representing and visualizing data sets.

Students interested in registering for classes may apply online or contact the UIS Office of Admissions with questions at 217/206-4847 or

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

UIS to open a transfer office at Richland Community College

The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Richland Community College (RCC) in Decatur are partnering to make it easier for students to continue their college education after earning their associate's degree.

UIS will hold periodic office hours at a space inside the Kitty Lindsay Learning Resources Center on Richland’s campus for advising and counseling for RCC students considering transferring to UIS.

“Providing UIS with a formal location on our campus exemplifies the strong partnership that exists between the two institutions,” said Rob Kerr, RCC Registrar. “This collaboration will support our students as they prepare for the next step in their educational career and seek to achieve their occupational goals.”

The first transfer sessions are scheduled for October 31, November 10 & 14 and December 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. After that, UIS plans to have a presence on the Richland campus on a weekly basis with regularly scheduled office hours allowing for more interaction with visiting UIS professors and advisers.

“Community College students have such busy lives inside and outside of the classroom,” said Raymond Barnett, UIS transfer coordinator. “This presence at Richland allows UIS to be there to answer the questions of students who are curious and those who are needing direct assistance.”

For more information on transferring to UIS, contact Raymond Barnett at 217/206-6628 or

UIS partners with Illinois DCFS to launch Child Protection Training Academy

The University of Illinois Springfield Center for State Policy & Leadership has partnered with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to launch a Child Protection Training Academy.

The academy has already trained nearly 130 new DCFS investigators utilizing the Residential Simulation Lab and the mock courtroom on the UIS campus. The academy will soon expand to include new curricula for supervisors, multidisciplinary team members and a training partnership with the SIU School of Medicine.

“Investigators are faced with some of the most complex cases in child maltreatment with a constantly changing landscape,” said Susan Evans, the new director of the Child Protection Training Academy. “Training is critical and the investigators who have completed this new simulation training have overwhelmingly expressed a desire for additional hours in the simulation labs, practicing the skills they will need to be confident and competent in the field.”

Evans is a 24-year veteran of DCFS and spent 14 years in the field as a Child Protective Investigator and 10 years in the Office of Professional Development, training new staff and developing curricula.

The Child Protection Training Academy was created by the Illinois General Assembly on August 11, 2015 through Public Act 99-0348.

“This is an exciting step forward in the ability to train our employees, specifically in child protection investigations,” said Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director George H. Sheldon. “Through this partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield, we’ve made significant progress in reaching the goal of revising the Child Protection Foundation training. The lives of children depend on us, and resources like this training academy will help improve the overall quality of our investigations and better serve the most vulnerable.”

In addition to the partnership with DCFS, the academy has been awarded two new grants. The first grant was developed in partnership with the University of Missouri St. Louis and Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. Awarded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) the 5-year, $316,319 grant will support Project FORECAST (Foundations for Outreach through Experiential Child Advocacy Studies Training), which focuses on incorporating the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Core Concepts within Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) curricula in universities across the United States.

The second grant was awarded by the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts. The Court Improvement Project funding will support a pilot project that brings together Illinois Court Appointed Special Advocates, DCFS Caseworkers and Assistant State’s Attorneys to train together utilizing mock courtrooms in three locations, including UIS.

In addition to training professionals in the field, the Child Advocacy Studies program at UIS provides experiential learning for students in a number of academic programs. The CAST certificate is offered online and on-ground and is an interdepartmental curriculum for students in public administration, social work, psychology, legal studies, criminal justice and teacher education.

“The CAST program provides critical course content and experiential learning for students who are interested in careers where they will likely interact with at-risk children and families” said Betsy Goulet, UIS clinical assistant professor and CAST Coordinator.

For more information on the Child Protection Training Academy or the CAST Certificate Program, contact Betsy Goulet at 217/206-8523 or

Thursday, October 20, 2016

UIS leaders tour student union construction site


University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch and other campus leaders toured the student union construction site on October 19, 2016. The tour was led by Chuck Coderko, UIS director of construction.

According to Coderko, the building is currently about 30 percent complete. Construction crews have finished the majority of the steel construction and are now pouring the concrete floors inside the building. The next step is to finish the roof and start to build the outside walls.

“Construction is right on schedule,” said Chancellor Koch. “There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but there's a lot that’s been accomplished.”

UIS broke ground on the new $21.7 million student union building on May 4, 2016. The first-ever student union will serve as a hub for student life and foster a greater sense of community on the growing campus.

Student Government Association President Austin Mehmet was among those who toured the construction site. He’s excited about the new amenities the building will offer.

“I think like most students, I’m looking forward to the Starbucks, being able to go in and grab yourself a cup of coffee and head to class or relax for a little bit. I think that’s going to be wonderful,” said Mehmet.

The two-story, 50,000-square-foot student union will anchor the campus’s south quad, providing campus dining services, a ballroom with seating for up to 450 people and a Student Leadership Center that will house student government, volunteer offices and workspaces for student organizations. The facility is scheduled to open in early 2018.

“It’s going to be breathtaking,” said Mehmet. “Just kind of looking through seeing everything furnished, everything done and every student enjoying the space, I think that will be breathtaking.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

UIS unveils new Shakespeare Garden, marking the 400th anniversary of the writer’s death

The University of Illinois Springfield unveiled a new Shakespeare Garden on September 29, 2016, marking the 400th anniversary of the poet and playwright’s death in 1616. The unveiling ceremony included the reading of Shakespeare sonnets, period music and remarks.

The themed garden, located in the Patton Park area just north of Brookens Library, features plants often mentioned in William Shakespeare’s work. It includes signs near each plant with the relevant quotation and reference to the appropriate play or poem, as well as a fountain, walkways and benches.

“Thanks to a generous gift from the University of Illinois Chester Fund, this new Shakespeare Garden is giving new life to Patton Park – creating an educational resource and a place of enjoyment for students, faculty, staff and visitors to our campus,” said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch.

The centerpiece of the Garden is a life-sized bronze sculpture of the writer, titled “Shakespeare,” by renowned sculptor Gary Lee Price. The sculpture depicts Shakespeare relaxing on a garden bench – an open invitation for visitors to sit beside him for a chat or a photo.

Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. He often used plants and gardens as metaphors for life, with many important scenes taking place in garden settings.

Other Shakespeare events happening on campus include, the UIS Theatre production of “Macbeth”, October 28-30 and November 3-6 and the ECCE Speaker Series screening of the documentary film “Shakespeare Behind Bars” on November 7.

Shakespeare Garden

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Enrollment increases at the University of Illinois Springfield for Fall Semester 2016

Fall 2016 census numbers show an increase in the number of students taking classes at the University of Illinois Springfield. After the first 10 days of classes, a total of 5,428 students are enrolled, up from 5,402 students in fall 2015. That makes it the second largest student body in UIS history.

“One of our highest priorities has been growing our enrollment and we are pleased with this fall’s census,” said UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch. “When students and families make the decision to pursue their educational goals at UIS, they know they will receive a high quality personalized experience at the same time they are earning their University of Illinois diploma.”

Online learning also continues to grow at UIS, with 1,665 (30.7 percent) students enrolled in online degree or certificate programs. That’s an increase of 4.3 percent overall from Fall Semester 2015. This semester, UIS online students reside in 46 states, 74 counties in Illinois, and 9 foreign countries.

“We are excited to see the continued growth of online enrollments at UIS, particularly at the undergraduate level where we saw a nearly ten percent increase this fall,” said Ray Schroeder, UIS associate vice chancellor for online learning. “We continue to serve as a national leader in providing access to high quality learning opportunities for adult learners in Illinois and beyond.”

There are a total of 626 African American students enrolled this semester comprising 11.5 percent of the student body. Students who self-identify as Hispanic comprise 5.7 percent (312) of this year’s student body, Asian students comprise 3.6 percent (193).

Illinois residents make up 67 percent of the student body. International students encompass 20 percent of the students enrolled and 13 percent are non-Illinois residents. Many of the 1,088 international students came to UIS from India and China. Computer Science and Management Information Systems are the most common majors chosen by international students.

UIS is one of three campuses of the University of Illinois and 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.

For more information, contact Derek Schnapp, director of public relations, at 217/206-6716 or

Friday, August 26, 2016

UIS students give back to the community during the first week of classes

University of Illinois Springfield students volunteered at nine Springfield locations on Friday, August 26, 2016, as part of the annual Welcome Week Service-A-Thon.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of students participating in this event, in our first-year service project and our MLK Day project,” said Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center.

Nearly 130 students were deployed to service projects at the Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County ReStore, M.E.R.C.Y Communities, the Springfield Urban League, Family Service Center, Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, Central Illinois Foodbank and the St. John’s Breadline.

“I just wanted to come out and help the community,” said UIS freshman Mariah Rodriguez. “I saw the Family Service Center listing and I wanted to get to know more about it. We’re going to be painting a white wall blue, so it makes it friendlier.”

Like Rodriguez, first-year students Amanda Greenan and Tori Covington are just starting to explore their new home of Springfield.

“You get thrown into a new town and you should definitely get to know your community and go and volunteer to make sure you help out,” said Covington.

Dochterman hopes many of the students participating in the Service-A-Thon will get involved in the year-round service projects at the Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center.

“We hope that if this is the first time a student has served, it encourages them to do it again and get involved with something over a longer period of time.”

This is the eighth year that UIS has held a Service-A-Thon during the first week of classes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chancellor’s Picnic helps start the 2016-17 academic year

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan J. Koch helped kick off the 2016-17 academic year by hosting her annual Welcome Week picnic on August 23, 2016.

“The Chancellor’s Picnic is a chance for students, faculty and staff to come together and have some social time together and look ahead to the new academic year,” said Koch.

Students have an opportunity to meet Chancellor Koch and make new friends at the picnic.

“It’s fun because you get to see a lot of people you don’t usually see for the rest of the school year,” said Donae Gordon, a communication major.

International student Karan Rikke, from India, came to the picnic for similar reasons.

“You get to know a lot of people here, otherwise you end up staying in your community with your own friends,” he said.

This year, students were also given the chance to sign a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the new UIS Student Union.

“I wish the beam could be exposed, unfortunately that won’t be the case, but all of us who have signed it are going to know that our names are going to be in that student union forever,” said Koch.

It’s estimated that more than 700 people attended this year’s picnic.

“I think what I appreciate the most is just the opportunity to be part of this wonderful academic community,” said Koch. “It’s just a great community and I’m honored to be part of it.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hundreds of new UIS students arrive on Freshman Move-In Day

The University of Illinois Springfield welcomed approximately 250 new students during Freshman Move-In Day on August 17, 2016.

“There is incredible energy and just a sense of starting something new and opening a door," said John Ringle, UIS director of Residence Life.

On Move-In Day, students are assigned arrival times in an effort to avoid congestion. Volunteers help direct parents to parking spaces, unload and carry items and help students find their rooms.

“I chose the dorm experience just to get the full college life,” said incoming freshman Jacqueline Johnson of Sherman, Illinois. “I wanted to be part of this university and to join a ton of clubs, so that’s why I decided to live on campus.”

Fellow student Royce Hill of Chatham, Illinois also decided UIS was the right choice because of the academic opportunities and proximity to home.

“I definitely wanted to get out of the house, so that was a priority, but I like still being close to home, but not living at home,” said Hill.

Chancellor Susan Koch visited with students and parents as they moved into Lincoln and Founders Residence Halls, offering advice and reassuring parents.

“Move-In Day is really one of the most exciting times of the year,” said Koch. “One of the things I enjoy about it is not only meeting new students, but meeting their parents.”

Fall 2016 semester classes begin on Monday, August 22, 2016.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

UIS students and faculty take part in a national collaboration studying super-users of healthcare

UIS students Regina Bolin and Sicely Nicholas joined seven other student researchers in Camden, New Jersey in July to begin the collaboration.

Five University of Illinois Springfield students and two faculty member are part of a national collaborative that aims to better understand super-users of healthcare services in the United States.

Over the next six months, UIS students will partner with team members from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, St. John's College of Nursing and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville to engage three to four high-utilizing patients.

The teams of five to six students, will learn about the barriers that medically and socially complex patients face to obtaining high-quality care and maintaining their health.

“Beyond the student opportunities, this program makes a huge difference in patients' lives and in the local community,” said Brittany Carls, a UIS graduate student taking part in the collaboration.

“By working directly with patients, we are able to provide social support, help patients navigate the healthcare system, get patients on track to reaching their health goals, and lower the economic burden that often occurs with super-utilizers," she added.

Through online curriculum and accompanying monthly case conferencing, the students will learn the key aspects of high-utilizer interventions: obtaining and using data for patient identification and selection, engaging patient and communities, motivational interviewing, transitioning patients to their primary care providers, and recording patient outcomes.

UIS Associate Professor of Business Administration Jorge Villegas and UIS Social Work Fieldwork Director and Advisor Vincent Flammini will assist the students.

UIS students taking part in the collaboration include Brittany Carls (MBA), Regina Bolin and Colleen McMahon (BBA), and Sicely Nicholas and Katherine Selway (Social Work).

The central Illinois team is one of 30 teams across the nation engaging with high-utilizing patients during the Interprofessional Student Hotspotting Learning Collaborative. Findings will be reviewed during a wrap-up meeting in January 2017 in Camden, New Jersey.

The collaboration is being held in conjunction with the Camden Coalition, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Primary Care Progress (PCP).

Friday, July 08, 2016

UIS professor relocates endangered osprey birds to Illinois

Tih-Fen Ting, associate professor of environmental studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, translocated 12 six-week-old ospreys, an endangered fish eating bird of prey, from Virginia to Illinois thanks to the help of the Illinois Audubon Society. The society contributed $3,000 to transport the birds by plane in collaboration with the aviation program at Southern Illinois University.

The birds were flown into the Decatur Airport on July 7, 2016, and were processed and tagged the following day at the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur. Later in the day, the birds were released at two sites, one near Lake Shelbyville and the other near Canton, along the Illinois River.

“Biological diversity is important to the long-term well-being of human health and communities,” said Ting. “Efforts to recover threatened or endangered species, such as ospreys in Illinois, are necessary to keep biodiversity strong so that future generations can benefit from these wonderful creatures.”

Establishing a self-sustaining breeding population of ospreys in Illinois is one of the goals of a multi-year U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant awarded to Ting through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The objective is to re-establish ospreys in Illinois where they are listed as endangered.

“We’re happy to help with this important project. This gift, I believe, will make our members proud, plus have potential to educate many more people regarding our effort to bring back this tremendous bird of prey,” said Tom Clay, executive director of Illinois Audubon Society.

Since 2013, Ting and a group of UIS students and research personnel, in collaboration with IDNR, have helped to successfully translocate and fledge 24 young ospreys from the Chesapeake Bay area. The researchers have been feeding, observing, and tending to the translocated osprey chicks at Anderson Lake, near Havana, and at Lake Shelbyville. A third site called Banner Marsh, near Canton, was added this year.

Although ospreys have a wide range of distribution in North America, the birds rarely breed in Illinois and are considered vulnerable to climate change. According to the National Audubon Society’s climate model, by 2080 ospreys are projected to lose 79 percent of their current summer range, particularly in coastal areas.

“Through translocating young birds, we can help with ospreys’ range expansion into inland lakes or rivers in Illinois,” said Ting.

For more information, contact Tih-Fen Ting, UIS associate professor of environmental studies, at 217/206-7876 or

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jim Sarra named the new director of athletics at the University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield has named Jim Sarra as its new director of athletics, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. He has spent the past 11 years at The University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) where he currently serves as deputy director of athletics for the NCAA Division I school.

“I’m delighted that Jim Sarra is joining the UIS Leadership team as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics,” said Chancellor Susan J. Koch. “Jim’s extensive experience with all facets of Athletics and his strong focus on academic success for student-athletes are among the many strengths recognized by the search committee in their recommendation. I have every confidence Jim will lead our young Division II athletics program to even a greater success.” 

Sarra topped a pool of more than 50 national candidates that applied to lead the UIS Athletic Department. He looks forward to helping the program continue to grow. 

“I am so pleased to accept the Director of Athletics position, join Chancellor Koch’s leadership team, and help grow and advance UIS Athletics,” said Sarra. “This is an exciting leadership opportunity, and I look forward to getting to know the coaches and student-athletes, begin building relationships on and off campus, and settling into the community. Chancellor Koch has a dynamic vision for UIS Athletics, and I welcome the challenge to lead and advance the athletic department. I want to thank Chancellor Koch and the entire search committee for their support and I can’t wait to get started,” added Sarra. 

At UTSA, Sarra was appointed deputy director of athletics in 2009. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the athletic department. He supervised the areas of academic services, compliance and strength and conditioning. He also served as the administrator for several sports. 

Sarra served as UTSA senior associate director of athletics for external affairs from 2007-09, UTSA associate athletics director for administration from 2006-07 and UTSA assistant athletics director for compliance from 2005-06. 

He previously was responsible for direct oversight of corporate sponsorship sales, marketing & promotions, media relations and ticket operations at UTSA. He also led UTSA fundraising efforts through the department's annual fund. 

Sarra has served in many different administrative roles at NCAA Division I BCS, FBS and FCS institutions. He was selected to and is a graduate of the NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Males and Females, and the NCAA Fellows Leadership Development Program. 

A native of West Seneca, N.Y., Sarra earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in advanced teacher education from St. Bonaventure University in 1989 and 1990, respectively. He also earned a master’s degree in sports management from Western Illinois University in 1993. 

Sarra will take over as UIS director of athletics on August 1. He replaces Kim Pate, who left the university in May to become the director of intercollegiate athletics at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina. 

UIS has 15 athletic programs, including baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball, and is a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference in NCAA Division II.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

UIS announces spring 2016 semester Dean's List

The University of Illinois Springfield has released the Dean’s List for the spring 2016 semester. 

A total of 539 students were selected; 87 are students in the College of Business and Management, 40 are students in the College of Education and Human Services, 346 are enrolled in programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 54 are enrolled in programs in the College of Public Affairs and Administration, and 12 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.

Spring 2016 Dean's List in Excel | Spring 2016 Dean's List PDF  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New UIS students welcomed to campus during summer KickStart orientation event

The University of Illinois Springfield is welcoming hundreds of new students to campus during its summer KickStart orientation programs in June, July and August. A total of six different orientation sessions are planned.

The two-day overnight event helps students understand UIS academic expectations and major requirements, allows them to meet with an adviser and registering for classes.

“College is not the same as high school, said Lisa McGuire, UIS director of new student orientation and parent relations. “There’s a lot more interdependence and people expecting you to be prepared and already know how to do things. Orientation is about helping them figure out what they need to do.”

Students also are given a chance to participate in fun activities, which allows them to get to know their classmates and start making friends.

“My favorite part of today is probably getting to know everyone because these are your future classmates and basically your family for the next four years,” said Aaron Shrestha, an incoming first-year student.

Alice Caceres, a fellow incoming first-year student, says she appreciates the personalized attention she received throughout her UIS orientation experience.

“It’s been a long day, but I like how they’re getting involved with us, they’re trying to connect with us,” she said. “They asked us our name and where we come from, our majors, our minors. I feel like they’re actually trying to get to know us better.”

McGuire says students will leave UIS with their fall class schedule and hopefully a better understanding of what to expect when they return in late August.

“I hope they leave feeling comfortable with the fact that they have their classes and they know what they’ll be taking next fall,” she said.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

UIS students and faculty studying abroad and conducting research in The Gambia

Four students and three faculty members from the University of Illinois Springfield are spending a month studying abroad in The Gambia, a small country in Western Africa. The group left Springfield on May 24, 2016, and will return at the end of June.

Biology major Shyleen Studley is working with Associate Professor of Chemistry Keenan Dungey and Associate Professor of Public Health Josiah Alamu to conduct water quality assessments in the country.

“In terms of water quality, we measured parameters for human health and environmental health, including nitrates, chromium (VI), and coliforms,” said Alamu. “We measured water from wells, a city dump, and The Gambia River. We collected bacterial samples which will be analyzed and compared with samples from the Illinois River.”

UIS faculty members are also training six undergraduates and one faculty member from The University of The Gambia in field techniques and lab chemical procedures.

Global Studies/Accounting major Jessica Villegas, Sociology/Anthropology major Tyshianna Bankhead and graduate student Jacqualine Williams are working with the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) to gain socio and cultural experience. The students are assisted by UIS Associate Professor of African-American Studies Kamau Kemayo.

Williams is also working with Gambia Food and Nutrition Association to gain experience on food processing/preparation and its effect on the health of the Gambians.

So far, the group has traveled to many locations in The Gambia, including Banjul, Brikama, Serrekunda, Kembujeh, Tanji and Kartung.

UIS students and faculty have been traveling to The Gambia on study abroad trips since 2011.

Friday, May 27, 2016

UIS Economic Outlook Survey finds Sangamon Co. businesses are worried about the state's finances

The Survey Research Office at the University of Illinois Springfield has released the Spring 2016 Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey. The study examines the economic perceptions, expectations and evaluations of Sangamon County businesses as well as public and non-profit organizations.

The spring 2016 survey reveals that economic expectations for the economy of Sangamon County have decreased slightly since the spring of 2015 across all economic sectors. More than a third of respondents (36%) expect to see a decline in the state of the overall economy in the next 12 months. Similarly, 27% say that overall employment will decline, and 25% think that revenue will also decrease in the next 12 months.

Regarding respondents’ expectations for their own firms/organizations, views are more optimistic. More than half of those surveyed (53%) say they expect their own sales to increase in the next 12 months. Likewise, 46% expect profitability to rise in the next year and 45% think that the overall status of their businesses/organizations will improve in the coming year. However, these percentages show declining optimism if compared with the fall 2015 survey, when 67% of respondents expected sales to go up, 52% looked for profitability to increase and 53% believed the overall status of their firms would get better.

Respondents were asked to identify the three biggest challenges for their business over the next 12 months from a list of pre-identified challenges. A majority (54%) report that the state’s government finances are going to be one of the biggest challenges facing them in the next 12 months. Employers also identified government regulations and taxation (42%) and consumer confidence (37%) as important challenges looming in the year ahead.

The report also analyses the impact of the state budget impasse on Sangamon County’s businesses and organizations. Respondents identified gross sales (54%) and profitability (47%) as the two business aspects more likely to be negatively affected by the current budget impasse.

Across economic sectors, the survey finds that respondents in the retail trade and the medical/ health care sectors are the most likely to indicate that the budget impasse has affected their organization negatively, whereas those in the finance/ insurance/ real estate sectors were the least likely to indicate the state budget impasse affected their organization in a negative way.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, public sector organizations and non-profits are more likely than private businesses to think that the budget impasse will have a negative effect on the overall status of their organizations in the next 12 months.

The Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey has been conducted biannually (March and September) since 2008. The results for 2016 are from 262 local organizations that were contacted in March via mail surveys and email invitations using Qualtrics Research Suite, a platform for online surveys.

The Spring 2016 Sangamon County Economic Outlook Survey is sponsored by the UIS Chancellor’s Office, the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership and The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. For more information on the methodology and the full report, please visit the UIS Survey Research Office website at

Questions about the survey may be directed to Juan Carlos Donoso, director of the UIS Survey Research Office, at 217/206-7956 or

Thursday, May 26, 2016

UIS releases complete list of 2016 graduates

A total of 1,716 students earned degrees from the University of Illinois Springfield at the conclusion of the spring semester on May 14, 2016, pending completion of university requirements.

Below you'll find a printable list of graduates' names and degrees listed by the city of residence on file with UIS Records and Registration at the time of graduation.

May 2016 Graduates in Excel | May 2016 Graduates PDF

For photos, video and more from the 45th UIS Commencement Ceremony, visit

Sunday, May 15, 2016

More than 1,100 earn degrees at 45th UIS Commencement ceremony

The University of Illinois Springfield held its 45th Commencement ceremony on May 14, 2016 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield. A record 1,106 students took part in the ceremony, making it the largest commencement in the university’s history.

UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch presided over the ceremony, welcoming over 6,000 guests. She reminded graduates about the important milestone of earning a college degree.

“Along with your family and friends, I want you to know how proud I am of you today,” said Koch. “I’m grateful to the UIS faculty and staff and to all who helped get you to this day and who are here to honor you and celebrate your achievements.”

Koch also congratulated first generation college graduates and thanked family and friends for supporting their students and encouraging them to succeed.

“I trust that each of you has your own ‘Leadership lived’ story as a result of your UIS experience. I am supremely confident that you will indeed make a difference in the world with your leadership,” said Koch.

Koch was joined on stage by campus leaders and University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen who challenged students to “create a choir that shifts the tenor of the national discourse”.

“You can do it by taking the high road. Always the high road. Think UIS, your Alma Mater, breath in and out – take that high road and replace mean-spiritedness with public-spiritedness whenever and wherever you see it – again and again and again,” said Killeen.

The 2016 Commencement address was delivered by UIS alumna and Springfield native Donna Sollenberger who was part of the first graduating class of Sangamon State University, now UIS. Since 2009, she has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Health System.

She was honored with the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award in 2005 and named one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare.

Sollenberger told the story of her daughter who was struggling to decide between a higher paying job in the business world or a lesser paying job at a non-profit.

“I asked her which of the jobs energized her. What job ignited her passion? Which job would make her want to get out of bed every day and go to work? After all, we spend as much time at work as we do at home, if not more,” said Sollenberger.

Following Sollenberger’s advice, her daughter took the non-profit job that she loved and has never looked back. She told the graduates to follow their hearts.

“Do what inspires you; do what ignites the fire of your passion for life and for work. We spend too much time at work not to be passionate about what we do with our careers. Yes, money helps pay the bills, but it should not be the sole or primary reason for your decision. Your happiness and fulfillment in life matters more,” she said.

The student commencement address was delivered by Robyn Nicole Crutchfield of Matteson, Ill. who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She was an active member of the student body during her years at UIS, having been involved in leadership positions with both the Black Student Union and Alternative Spring Break.

“Graduating is one of the most exciting and trying times in our lives,” Crutchfield told the audience. “On one hand, we’ve gotten this degree that we’ve worked so hard on, despite each and every one of our circumstances. On the other hand, our loved ones favorite question is ‘what are you going to do next?’”

Crutchfield encouraged her fellow graduates to LIVE (love, inspire, vocalize, experience) as they move forward with the rest of their lives. She told the audience to love and be compassionate in your words and actions, to inspire others by telling your story, find your voice and use it, and to go out and try something new. Finally, she told them to be proud of their education and everything they have already accomplished in their lives.

“Be proud of your alma mater and remember the time you spent here for the rest of your life,” she said. “These memories you have will be stories to tell for a lifetime.”

University of Illinois Board of Trustee member Karen Hasara, UIS Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Lynn Pardie and UIS Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford also spoke at the ceremony.

Photos and more video are available at the commencement website:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

UIS unveils statue of young Abraham Lincoln

The University of Illinois Springfield unveiled The Young Lawyer, a 6' 4" statue of Abraham Lincoln sculpted by renowned artist George Lundeen, on May 10, 2016. The statue is located on the quad between the Public Affairs Center and University Hall west of the colonnade.

“Every campus needs significant landmarks that create a sense of identity and history,” said Chancellor Susan Koch. “UIS is a young campus and the only such landmark on the campus (until today) has been our beautiful colonnade.”

The statue depicts a happy Lincoln as he would have appeared when he was studying to become a lawyer in his late 20s or early 30s.

“It seems to me in this remarkable statue that George has captured the vital spirit of the young lawyer in Springfield,” said Michael Burlingame, the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair for Lincoln Studies at UIS.

Chancellor Koch was joined at the unveiling by University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen and student Faith Hook, who helped to uncover the statue.

“I imagine years from now Lincoln’s outstretched hand on this statue will appear gold, as students grasp it for good luck,” said Hook.

Lundeen, an artist known for his highly polished bronze statues of historical figures, spoke thanking the university and those who helped him create the statue.

“This has been a fairly long process,” said Lundeen. “We started this about three years ago, but it’s been a wonderful journey and I want to thank Chancellor Koch.”

The statue was made possible by the John N. Chester Estate Fund, an endowed gift fund created with the intent of adding to the attractiveness of the University of Illinois campuses.

Burlingame closed the ceremony by reflecting on what he thinks Lincoln would have to say about the statue.

“Here we have Lincoln smiling and I would like to think he is saying to the students, as they admire the statue, work, work, work, quarrel not at all, and enjoy your time here and thank god you’re getting a college education,” said Burlingame.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

UIS breaks ground on first-ever student union building on campus

The University of Illinois Springfield broke ground on a new $21.7 million student union building on May 4, 2016. The first-ever student union will serve as a hub for student life and foster a greater sense of community on the growing campus.

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen was joined by UIS Chancellor Susan Koch, and Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder for the groundbreaking ceremony.

“Today marks a historic moment in the life of the Springfield campus,” said Koch. “This groundbreaking today is the culmination of years of planning, imagining, negotiating, campaigning, fundraising and I will admit, no small measure of strategic whining and complaining on the part of the Chancellor.”

The two-story, 50,000-square-foot student union will anchor the campus’s south quad, providing campus dining services, a coffee shop, a ballroom with seating for up to 450 people and a Student Leadership Center that will house student government, volunteer offices and workspaces for student organizations. The facility is scheduled to open in January 2018.

"I'm deeply grateful to all of you for your generosity and support and to Susan and her team for their hard work and persistence to make this dream a reality," said Killeen.    

More than $5.3 million in gifts have been raised and officials say they will meet their $8 million fundraising goal before the facility opens. The remaining $13.7 million will be paid through campus funds and a construction fee that students approved in a 2012 referendum. 

“I want to thank our donors, some of whom are here today. As our donors know so well, a project like the Student Union is a big aspiration and we set a big fund-raising goal of $8 million to match that aspiration – an unheard of goal for this campus,” said Koch. 

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 lacks the central gathering place that student unions provide at most colleges across the nation.

William Brothers Construction Inc. of Peoria will be the general contractor for the project. Subcontractors include E.L. Pruitt Co. of Springfield, Commercial Mechanical Inc. of Dunlap and Foster Jacob Electric Inc. of Peoria. Dewberry Architects of Peoria and Workshop Architects of Milwaukee, Wisconsin developed design plans for the new facility. 

Professional services will be provided by Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, Inc. of Springfield, TRC Worldwide Engineering, Inc. of Springfield, Massie Massie & Associates of Springfield, and Ricca Design Studios of Greenwood Village, Colorado. The building will be constructed to achieve U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold certification.

Monday, April 25, 2016

UIS to hold 45th commencement ceremony on May 14 in downtown Springfield

Commencement ceremonies for the University of Illinois Springfield will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Ninth and Adams Streets in downtown Springfield. Of the 1,716 students eligible to graduate, 1,106 will participate in the ceremony.

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.

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.

Healthcare executive Donna Sollenberger is the UIS Commencement speaker 

The UIS Commencement speaker will be UIS alumna and Springfield native Donna Sollenberger who was part of the first graduating class of Sangamon State University, now UIS. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Literature in 1971 and a master’s degree in Literature in 1974.

Since 2009, Sollenberger has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Health System, where she oversees all clinical strategy and operations of a system that includes five hospitals and 90 clinics, plus a healthcare system that serves the health care needs of two-thirds of Texas’ prison system.

Under her leadership, UTMB has made numerous quality improvements, including increases in patient satisfaction and reductions in death from sepsis, and achieved many awards and accolades, including designation as an ANCC Magnet for Nursing, accreditation by The Joint Commission for stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease care, and the American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines—Resuscitation Gold Quality Achievement Award.

Throughout her tenure at UTMB, she has overseen plans for numerous health care facility renovations and construction projects, including opening two new hospitals for the system. She has also supported the implementation of various cutting-edge health information technologies, including the installation of a state-of-the-art electronic medical record system, and has been influential in developing many community partnerships across the region.

Prior to joining UTMB Health, Sollenberger was Executive Vice President and CEO of the Baylor Clinic and Hospital. She also served as president and CEO of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics (UWHC), Executive Vice President and COO of City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles and Vice President for Hospital and Clinics at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

In 2005, Sollenberger was honored with the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award and named one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare.

Faculty & student marshals announced 

Lynn Fisher, associate professor of sociology/anthropology, has been chosen to serve as grand marshal. The student speaker will be Robyn Nicole Crutchfield, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication.

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: Christian M. Brown – B.A. (Peoria), Quentin Kuntzman – B.A., Vivica Autumn Futrell – M.A.

Biology: Janell Monee Mathus – B.S.

Business Administration: Gabrielle Daphne Little – B.B.A., Katherine Marie Shaffer – M.B.A., Scott Michael Shoff – M.B.A. (Peoria)

Chemistry: Daniell Marie Bennett – B.S.

Clinical Laboratory Science: Jennifer Chao Ching Esquivel – B.S.

Communication: Tayla Jenkins – B.A., Caitlyn Elizabeth Barnes – M.A.

Computer Science: Daniel Joseph Evertz – B.S., Justin Allen Snyder Day – M.S.

Criminal Justice: Sophia G. Matthews – B.A.

Economics: Andrew Cole Bergschneider – B.A.

Educational Leadership: Miranda Braye – M.A.

English: Bobby Max Bolt – B.A.

Environmental Studies: Preston Robert Marucco – B.A., Diana Sue Fuller – M.A.

Global Studies: Manuel Gomez – B.A.

History: Thomas J. Clatterbuck – B.A., Beth Anne Kruse – M.A.

Human Development Counseling: Gregory Franklin Irwin – M.A.

Human Services: Michael Todd Cheek – M.A.

Information Systems Security: Jessica D. Williams – B.S.

Legal Studies: Josh M. Lawson – B.A., Shannon Anthony Holubetz – M.A.

Liberal and Integrative Studies: Hannah Rucker – M.A.

Liberal Studies: Rose Elizabeth Beauchamp – B.A. Management: Sean Alexandre Vaughan – B.A.

Management Information Systems: Natalie T. Nowak – B.S., Jared Ross – M.S.

Mathematical Sciences: Benjamin W. Stull – B.A. Philosophy: April M. McKinnery – B.A.

Political Science: Ramon Alvarez – B.A., Salam A. Awad – M.A.

Psychology: Mackenzie Jo Atchie – B.A.

Public Administration: Jasmine Jetton-Gonzales – M.P.A., Sarah Wolin Mackey – D.P.A.

Public Affairs Reporting: Ashley Alaundrea Lisenby – M.A.

Public Health: Ometere Osilama Topah – M.P.H.

Social Work: Amber Nicole Darrow – B.S.W.

Sociology/Anthropology: Jessica Erin Kaspar – B.A.

Teacher Leadership: Tobias J. Gass – M.A.

Visual Arts: Caytlin McCormick – B.A.

A number of events are planned for graduates, their families and guests, including a reception for Peoria-area students on Friday, May 6. Separate brunches for CAP Honors graduates and online degree graduates are scheduled for Saturday morning, May 14.

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

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

For more information, go to the UIS Commencement website.

UIS dedicates new facilities to train DCFS investigators and first responders

The University of Illinois Springfield, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), dedicated the new Residential Simulation Lab (a simulated training house) and a mock courtroom on campus on Monday, April 25, 2016.

The two training labs are designed to train students, investigators, law enforcement, and other first responders to identify and respond in cases of child maltreatment.

“The goal of the partnership is to make it possible for child protection first responders and the next generation of child welfare workers to enter the field with the necessary skills to protect the most vulnerable of victims,” said UIS faculty member Dr. Betsy Goulet, coordinator of the Child Protection Training Academy.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch was joined by DCFS Director George Sheldon, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, Springfield Chief of Police Kenny Winslow and National Child Protection Training Center Senior Director/Founder Victor Vieth at the dedication ceremony.

Participants also planted a tree in memory of “Caleb”, the young boy who is the subject of the investigation used in the training curriculum.

The two labs are part of a DCFS Child Protection Training Academy pilot program and were designed by the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership. They are supported by a state grant awarded to the University.

The Residential Simulation Lab is located in a building that formally housed the Sangamon Schools Credit Union. The house has been vacant since the branch closed in July 2010.