Wednesday, April 26, 2017

UIS to hold two commencement ceremonies in downtown Springfield on May 13

The University of Illinois Springfield will hold two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Ninth and Adams Streets in downtown Springfield. Of the 1,836 UIS students eligible to graduate, 1,270 will participate in the ceremony.

The first ceremony for students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will begin at 12:30 p.m. The second ceremony for students in the College of Business and Management, College of Education and Human Services and College of Public Affairs and Administration will start at 5:30 p.m.

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 an hour before each ceremony. Overflow seating will be provided in the lower level of The Center.

Memorial CEO Edgar J. Curtis to receive honorary degree 

During the second ceremony at 5:30 p.m., Edgar J. Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System, will be honored with an honorary doctor of humane letters. Curtis was nominated by the UIS Department of Allied Health for his outstanding and innovative leadership in health care administration as well as his sustained and exceptional community service.

“Mr. Curtis’ strategic direction has made the Memorial Health System of central Illinois a premium healthcare destination,” the award states. “Mr. Curtis’ outstanding and innovative leadership at both MHS and in the civic arena has raised the quality of life for the Springfield area and surrounding regions.”

Curtis has led Memorial Health System and its seven affiliates since January of 2008, providing senior-level administrative leadership for the overall strategic direction of the health system. Under his leadership, the health system’s annual revenue has grown from $500 million to $1 billion.

In 2014, Memorial contributed $2 million and entered into a partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield and the University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing to bring UIC’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to the UIS campus. In 2016, Memorial Medical Center was the only hospital in the nation, and the first in Illinois, to receive the American Hospital Association Quest for Quality award. Also in 2016, Memorial Medical Center received two of four Illinois Health and Hospital Association Quality Excellence Achievement Awards.

Curtis serves on numerous healthcare boards and is currently chair of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association Board. He has served Springfield in leadership roles with several community organizations, including the Springfield Urban League, United Way of Central Illinois and Central Illinois Foodbank.

Curtis received his masters of business administration degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his bachelors of science degree in nursing from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He began his career as a registered nurse.

Faculty & student marshals announced 

Kristi Barnwell, assistant professor of history, has been chosen to serve as grand marshal. The student speaker will be Alexander William Camp, who will graduate with a master’s degree in public affairs reporting.

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: Deborah A. Stratton – B.A. (Peoria), Diane Marie Boyle – B.A., Binqian Shi – M.A. 

Biology: Jack Henry Zinnen – B.S., Jessica Michelle Souther – M.S.  

Biochemistry: Jarrett Matthew Lindsay – B.S.  

Business Administration: Shane Michael Clarke – B.B.A. (Peoria), Wei Jin – B.B.A., Damon Eugene McFall – M.B.A., Emery P. Halverson – M.B.A. (Peoria)  

Chemistry: Carolyn D. Mazzuca – B.S.  

Clinical Laboratory Science: Lindsay Rajeanne Stevens – B.S.

Communication: Laura Elise Troxel – B.A., Allyssa J. Brown – M.A.

Computer Science: Alex C. Ginglen – B.S., Janasha Prabhu – M.S.

Criminology and Criminal Justice: Kinsey Storm Weikel – B.A.

Economics: Jocelyn A. Matsen – B.A.

Education: Kari Lynn Caldwell – M.A.

Educational Leadership: Christian Devon Mahone – M.A.

Elementary Education: Makinzie J. Yoho – B.A.

English: Alaina A. Beaird – B.A., Courtney E. Cox – M.A.

Environmental Sciences: Timothy John Mayer – M.S.

Environmental Studies: Lindsay Ann Frisk – B.A., Sydney Renee Rubenstein – M.A.

Global Studies: Alexandra Nicole Madden – B.A.

History: Kendra D. Baber – B.A., Kathryn M. Suits – M.A.

Human Development Counseling: Alexa B. Kaufmann – M.A.

Human Services: Kelly Ann Herd – M.A.

Information Systems Security: Romillo K. Holloway – B.S.

Legal Studies: Kaitlyn Aurora Murphy – B.A., Chevaughn Latoya Starling – M.A.

Liberal and Integrative Studies: Pamela Jean Reed – M.A.

Liberal Studies: Alisha Marie Funkhouser-Walker – B.A.

Management Information Systems: Dale Gene Daily – B.S., Tara Stacy Sadler – M.S.

Mathematical Sciences: Amanda Jean Gosbeth – B.A.

Political Science: John C. Coultas – B.A., Dustin Baragiola – M.A.

Psychology: Sara L. Stutzman – B.A.

Public Administration: Terri Renae Miller – M.P.A.

Public Affairs Reporting: Haley M. Bemiller – M.A.

Public Health: Veenu Khubnani – M.P.H.

Social Work: Sean N. Blackwell – B.S.W.

Sociology/Anthropology: Rona A. Taylor – B.A.

Visual Arts: Grace Katalinich – B.A.

A number of events are planned for graduates, their families and guests, including a reception for Peoria-area students on Friday, April 28. Separate brunches for CAP Honors graduates and online degree graduates are scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 13.

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 ceremonies will be webcast live at DVD copies of the ceremonies 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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

UIS Child Advocacy Studies certificate program wins approval from national training center

The Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) certification program at the University of Illinois Springfield has been named one of only three Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center approved programs in the United States.

The UIS CAST certification program was started in the spring semester of 2015 and utilizes a Residential Simulation Lab and the mock courtroom on campus to teach students how to better protect at-risk children and families.

“Many of our graduates pursue careers in professions where they are statutorily required to report child maltreatment,” said Betsy Goulet, a UIS clinical assistant professor and CAST coordinator. “The Child Advocacy Studies curriculum was developed to insure that our students begin their careers prepared to identify, report and respond to allegations of child maltreatment.”

The Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, located at Winona State University in Minnesota, first developed the CAST curriculum in 2004 as a collaborative approach to training and educating the next generation child welfare practitioners.

“The University of Illinois Springfield has quickly established itself as a pioneer in educating future child protection professionals,” said Victor Vieth, founder and senior director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. “Equally impressive, the university is taking a leadership role in implementing similar reforms around the nation, even the world. It is increasingly clear that the future of child protection runs through the University of Illinois Springfield.”

In order to achieve Gundersen’s approval, the UIS CAST certification program had to complete a site visit, show that faculty had completed Gundersen’s training program and that course content closely models the original training program.

There are currently 92 students enrolled in the CAST program at UIS for the spring semester of 2017. The certification consists of three elective courses offered most semesters online and on ground. Students who complete the program are eligible for a certification from the National Child Protection Training Center.

“The demand for this training has been so high that we are working with the Psychology Department to develop a Child Advocacy Studies minor,” said Goulet.

The Residential Simulation Lab and the mock courtroom on campus are also utilized to train Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigators and other first responders. The Child Protection Training Academy has already trained nearly 200 DCFS investigators.

Founded in 2003, the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center has been recognized as a national leader in child abuse prevention education. Besides UIS, other Gunderson approved training facilities are located at the University of South Carolina Upstate and Pennsylvania State University.

For more information on the CAST certificate program, contact Betsy Goulet at 217/206-8523 or

Thursday, April 06, 2017

UIS Illinois Innocence Project client granted new trial in DuPage County arson murder case

Today a DuPage County judge vacated the 1997 conviction of William (Bill) Amor, a client of the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield, and ordered a new trial in the arson murder case. The victory comes after a week-long post-conviction hearing was held the week of December 12, 2016, in DuPage County, where attorneys presented new arson-related scientific evidence in the 1995 Naperville arson case.

The Amor case is believed to be the first of its kind in the state of Illinois regarding changes in fire investigation.

Bill Amor was represented by four attorneys: Lauren Kaeseberg, Illinois Innocence Project legal director, Chicago office; Erica Nichols Cook, formerly of the Illinois Innocence Project, now pro bono counsel for Amor and currently Director of the Wrongful Conviction Division for the Iowa State Public Defender; Tara Thompson, staff attorney, the Exoneration Project; and Kevin Caraher, of the law firm Cozen O’Connor and pro bono attorney for Amor.

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.

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 has been proven 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.

The alleged false confession in this case was given to police after two weeks in jail after 15 hours of questioning and immediately following Amor being served divorce papers at the station. The confession included details as to how Amor purportedly started the fire with vodka and a lit cigarette – which, at the December hearing, all experts, including the State’s own witness, testified is not possible.  

“It is undisputed by the experts in this case that fire science has evolved, and it has changed to such an extent that the original findings in this case are unreliable,” said Lauren Kaeseberg, legal director of the Illinois Innocence Project Chicago office, who represents Bill Amor. “In fact, the evidence points to an accidental fire – which is what we believe occurred here. Bill Amor did not murder anyone and the science finally supports that which he has claimed for 22 years – he is innocent.”

At the December 2016 hearing, evidence was presented that showed the original arson findings are no longer reliable when analyzed under modern fire science techniques. Nationally recognized arson experts testified about the new science that 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. Further, ATF Senior Special Agent John Golder, called by the State at the hearing, conceded that the manner in which Amor’s confession claims the fire started is impossible and that Amor was not in the apartment when the fire started.

“Today this Court followed the law and finally gave Bill a chance at the justice he has been seeking for so long," said Erica Nichols Cook, who also represents Amor as pro bono “of counsel” for the Illinois Innocence Project, and is currently Director of the Wrongful Conviction Division for the Iowa State Public Defender. “We are confident that a jury hearing all of this new evidence would acquit Bill, and we look forward to the State’s Attorney’s Office considering today's ruling and allowing Bill to go home.”

“False confessions and faulty forensic science are two of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in this country,” said Tara Thompson, staff attorney at the Exoneration Project, who also represents Amor. “We hope that the Amor case can set a new standard in this state for how old, unreliable evidence is to be viewed in light of modern advancements. We know of too many other innocent people in this state and around the country who are suffering from wrongful arson convictions.”

The Illinois Innocence Project will honor Amor co-counsel Kevin Caraher of Cozen O’Connor for his and his firm’s exceptional pro bono representation of Amor at the Project’s annual Defenders of the Innocent award dinner in Springfield on April 29, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Springfield.

A hearing to determine whether Amor will be released, retired or his case appealed by the prosecution will be held on April 13 in DuPage County court.

Clarice Ford selected as the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield

Clarice Ford has been named the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield, pending formal University of Illinois Board of Trustees approval. Ford has been serving as interim vice chancellor for student affairs since 2014.

Since joining UIS in 2008, she has served as executive director of the UIS Diversity Center, associate dean of students and associate vice chancellor of student services. Ford brings more than 20 years of professional experience in student affairs as well as notable record of public service to UIS.

The UIS Student Affairs Division is comprised of many units that are critical to student recruitment and success, including admissions, records & registration and financial assistance. Ford leads with a forward-thinking, student first philosophy to enhance the co-curricular experience and promote student success.

“Ford received strong support from the Vice Chancellor Student Affairs Search Committee whose members were appreciative of her considerable expertise working in student affairs and her sincere commitment to improving and enhancing student life and opportunities,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch.

Ford earned her doctorate in educational leadership and change from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California. She holds a master’s degree in religious education and theology from Lincoln Christian Seminary and a master’s degree in adult education/multi-cultural education from Antioch University. She also received her bachelor’s degree in human services from Antioch University.

Ford’s broad experiences are complemented by leadership positions in various professional associations and community service.

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

Monday, April 03, 2017

Robert Smith named the new dean of the UIS College of Public Affairs and Administration

Robert Smith, professor of political science and public affairs at Savannah State University, has been named the new dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield. He will start on July 16, 2017, pending formal University of Illinois Board of Trustees approval.

“I am thrilled to be joining the faculty, staff and students of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at UIS,” said Smith. “I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to provide leadership for one of the outstanding Colleges at UIS. I look forward to working with the UIS Administration to position the College for growth and excellence in the years ahead. Most important, I am enthusiastic about working closely with all of the faculty, staff and students to enhance and strengthen the profile and reputation and significance of the College beginning on day one.”

“Robert brings a wealth of administrative experience and a passion for helping faculty and students attain their educational goals,” said James Ermatinger, UIS interim vice chancellor for academic affairs & provost.

Smith has served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Savannah State University, chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University and program director for the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) Program at Clemson University where he taught for 11 years.

Prior to his academic career, Smith served as a senior budget official in the Executive Department of the New York State Division of the Budget working under Governors Mario Cuomo and George Pataki. Before that, Smith served as regional director for Upstate and Central New York for United States Senator and former United Nations Ambassador Daniel Moynihan.

Smith holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in public administration (MPA) from the University at Albany, part of the State University of New York System (SUNY), and a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York.

Smith’s research interests and published academic works focus on public budgeting and financial management, government ethics, citizen participation and organization design and theory.

Smith will replace Hanfu Mi, who has been serving as interim dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration.