In the Dawg Pound


My favorite part of a Saluki basketball game, besides winning, is the Dawg Pound. Students gather in the stands on the south side of the arena – the Dawg Pound – to demonstrate their support of the team loudly. They cheer in full Saluki gear, follow the cues of our great pep band, and add their own form of entertainment to the game experience. One example: At the Bradley game, it was quite a sight as they threw confetti when the team was announced.

I love the Dawg Pound. It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s special to SIU. It is a community that comes together every game to say: “I’m proud to be a Saluki.”

Dawg Pound brings a positive energy to the SIU experience that I hope we can spread across campus. Let’s do it!

Support our teams

I hope to see a great turnout, both in the Dawg Pound and the rest of the arena, for the last home men’s basketball game of the season vs. Loyola at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in SIU Arena. It should be a great game, as the team is currently in second place in the conference standings behind Loyola. We also hope for a great showing at the Missouri Valley Conference championships in St. Louis March 1-4.

The women’s basketball team, also doing well and in fourth place in the conference, has two more home games: Thursday, March 1, at 6 p.m. against Indiana State and Saturday, March 3, at 2 p.m. vs. Evansville. Both games are in SIU Arena. The MVC championships follow March 8-11 in Moline.

Please come support our student athletes.

 

Space exploration: A look at our campus

Aerial view of the SIU Campus

Space. We looked toward it in August as the center of a total eclipse. Now, it is time to look earthward at a different kind of space – our own facilities at SIU.

How can we use our classrooms and laboratories strategically to provide the best academic experience for students and faculty members alike? How can wise use of space maximize synergy, enhance communication and promote cross-disciplinary learning and research?

If we are to answer these significant questions, we need to undertake a long-overdue review of space utilization on campus.

Enhancing the student experience

In addition to looking at our academic spaces, we must also consider our student housing space. SIU has had great success with living-learning communities that bring together students who share similar majors or interests. What can we do to even further integrate our on-campus life with initiatives that promote academic success?

The housing staff is looking at ways we can enhance spaces such as study rooms to reflect each LLC community. Examples already in place are a drafting table are in the architecture LLC and an engine room for automotive technology students. They are also exploring a faculty-in-residence program to better integrate the inside- and outside-the-classroom experiences.

What more can we do optimize housing and other student-focused spaces, such as the Student Center, to enhance the student experience? One example currently under discussion: I have asked Jim Garvey and Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, to look at creating a highly visible makerspace with funds made possible by an SIU donor. A makerspace allows students to get together to create and explore, providing the tools and room to do so. It will help attract students to the Student Center and add excitement to campus life. I’m looking forward to the outcome.

Efficient use of space

While our primary focus needs to be on using our space strategically to achieve our goals, we cannot ignore the importance of using all of our space efficiently. Currently, we use only 10 percent of our classroom space after 5 p.m., for example. Over last summer, we saved $60,000 in utility and maintenance costs by closing Lawson Hall, a classroom building. Our current infrastructure once supported nearly 25,000 students, and even when we reach our goal of 18,300 by 2025, we will still have plenty of room. This raises an additional question: How should we prioritize our investments in maintaining spaces across campus?

Finding the answers

I have asked Lizette Chevalier, associate provost for academic program; Jim Garvey, interim vice chancellor for research; and Judy Marshall, executive director of finance and administration, to engage the campus in a review of how we use our space and what we might do to make sure we are making optimal use of our classrooms, laboratories, studios and other facilities that support our academic mission. They will engage individuals from the colleges, administrative offices and housing, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Stettler, to help assess how we’re using space currently and offer recommendations for improvement. I look forward to their recommendations.

Being Transparent

As someone who believes in being open, I am sharing the following statement with the campus community:

In the interest of transparency, we are providing information about the status of moving expense reimbursement for Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, as well as proposed costs for the move of his laboratory equipment that he is donating to the university.

The chancellor’s employment contract included up to $61,000 to cover “actual costs of expenses related to moving and storage, if needed, of household, personal, and professional office possessions from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Carbondale, Illinois.”  What was to be included in the contracted amount was not part of a detailed listing, so there was a misunderstanding about what could be covered in the move.

The chancellor owned two homes in Edmonton, and when the moving costs for the homes exceeded the contracted amount, not including the lab equipment, Chancellor Montemagno paid the difference to the moving company directly.  He has also agreed to pay for and has already reimbursed the university for the move of the second home.

The final cost of the move as allowed under the chancellor’s contract is $49,853.58.  Related documentation is being released with this statement.  The pending move of the chancellor’s laboratory equipment remains under discussion and will be addressed separately.

Thank you for your feedback

Pen laying on a survey form

Every day, on campus and off, people come up to me and volunteer feedback on our proposed reorganization. Feedback has also come in through hundreds of emails and the nearly 70 meetings with faculty and other stakeholders I have had so far.

I value all of it, positive and negative. While I always hope that feedback is constructive and on point, I take it seriously regardless. I thank every faculty member, every staff member, every student, every alumnus, every donor and every community member who has taken the time to share their views.

The board meeting

Last week, at the meeting of the Board of Trustees in Edwardsville, a number of faculty and staff members came to express their views. This is a welcome, important part of the shared governance process, and I again thank all who made the trip, regardless of their position.

I do want to give special thanks to those faculty and staff, including representatives of the Civil Service and Administrative Professional Staff Councils, who came forward with comments and resolutions of support for our direction. I am also grateful to others who came simply to show their support.

It’s important for voices representing multiple perspectives to be heard, and I thank you for adding yours to the public conversation.

Students lead the Saluki pack

Students talking outside

I have said before that a comprehensive university needs to offer its students more than career training. It needs a core curriculum that provides students with a broad base of knowledge and a wide range of electives to help students specialize their skills. This is true. But, to be a truly comprehensive university and produce the type of graduates who go on to be leaders in their fields, an institution needs to go beyond the classroom.

Here at SIU, we embrace this challenge to provide not only a well-rounded education, but also a vibrant and engaging campus life. Our student body is one of the most diverse in the state, consisting of students from a wide variety of backgrounds with a wide variety of interests. Providing opportunities for each student to thrive is essential to our core mission. At the same time, we are limited in the number of classes we can offer.

So how do we expand our classroom experience to allow students to socialize, build real-world skills and emerge as leaders? By letting our students lead the way. Our campus is home to more than 300 registered student organizations.

Registered Student Organizations bring Salukis together

To me, the best thing about RSOs is that they are driven by students. With some guidance from a faculty advisor, students are instrumental in starting new RSOs. Students determine the RSO’s activities and mission. Students manage every aspect of the RSO, from recruitment to fundraising to event planning.

This means that RSOs are tailored specifically to what our students want and need to supplement their education at SIU. Groups specialize in anything from engineering to arts, student government to religious groups, sports to professional honorary societies.

While some of these groups are more active than others, there are many that do exceptional things. For instance, in a recent blog, I talked about the accomplishments of the amazing Flying Salukis, who consistently place at the top of national competitions, and our robotics team, whose robot “Winston” recently dominated a national engineering completion.

Here are a few other notable groups:

Engineering of all shapes and sizes

Students who want to know how things work have numerous opportunities to dig in and create something thanks to the variety of RSOs connected with the College of Engineering.

SIU’s branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers have topped competitions with their steel bridge and concrete canoe designs. This year, SIU will host 16 teams for the Mid-Continent Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers April 19-21. I fully expect our team to make SIU proud. Other engineering focused RSOs build Formula-style racecars, moonbuggies and rockets for various competitions.

Stewards of the environment

As I’ve discussed before, sustainability is an issue close to my heart, and Salukis are exceptional stewards of the environment. Many RSOs give students a chance to take that commitment a step further.

S.E.N.S.E. (Students Embracing Nature, Sustainability, and the Environment) is where many sustainability efforts across campus are born. These dedicated students led the initiative to institute the student green fee and work every day to protect the environment.

Creativity abounds

RSOs across campus help Salukis express their creativity in any medium, associated with the School of Art and Design, Theater, Music, or Mass Communications and Media Arts.

The Big Muddy Crew works to plan and organize the annual Big Muddy Film Festival, which will celebrate its 40th year Feb. 19-25. The festival’s schedule is packed with films from a variety of genres and many focus on important social issues.

The Africana Theater Laboratory highlights African and African American art by producing theatrical performances and events featuring minority student artists. Any student can participate, regardless of experience or cultural or ethnic background.

Business and financial leaders start here

Got a head for business? SIU has a whole host of RSOs for you.

The Saluki Student Investment Fund traditionally outperforms 90 percent of professionally managed midcap portfolios. The group more than doubled the portfolio it manages for the SIU Foundation and currently manages $1.62 million in assets. During the next academic year, a group of SSIF students will travel to Omaha to meet with Warren Buffet as part of a selective program run by the billionaire fund manager.

Re-established in 1989, Blacks Interested in Business focuses on developing business leaders. Its focus is on creating opportunity for students regardless of ethnicity or cultural background. Any student is welcome to join.

Staying active

Students who want to get moving and stay fit can participate in just about any sport imaginable.

For instance, the SIU Carbondale Equestrian Team stimulates interest in horsemanship, and provides members with an avenue to increase their knowledge about horses. They have an organized, structured riding program involving lessons and competition in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Events.

Giving back

Other RSOs focus entirely on community service and fundraising, like Up Til Dawn. They host an “up all night” event to solicit donations for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. They have raised about $20,000 this year, and won national recognition in the past for their efforts.

Salukis can pursue their passions or just have fun        

Whether they want to develop skills for a future career, give back to the community or simply have fun with their friends, chances are students can find an RSO that meets their needs. If their interests aren’t yet on the list, they’re welcome to start their own.

I can’t wait to see what these amazing groups do next.

From reorganization to revitalization

Desks in a row

Over the last couple of weeks I have been meeting with faculty in potential new schools that might result from academic reorganization. The conversation is constructive, the questions are thoughtful and the commitment to SIU is clear.

Many faculty are excited about the opportunities that reorganization will present. They recognize that reorganization is the vehicle, not the destination. It’s the platform for change, not the goal.

Reorganization will break down artificial administrative barriers, giving faculty more flexibility to build and revitalize our programs – to distinguish them in ways that will make us stand out and attract students. Faculty will have more capacity to focus on teaching and research, something I frequently hear they want and need to advance SIU and their own careers.

We can also distinguish ourselves from other institutions by re-envisioning our core curriculum. What is the hallmark of an SIU graduate, and how do we ensure that we deliver on that promise? Our faculty are hard at work envisioning a renewed core curriculum now. I’m especially excited that the Diversity Council has been actively looking at how we can ensure that cultural competency is a hallmark of every student.

Research and experiential learning

Reorganization is a platform for growing our research enterprise. Again, it breaks down barriers and creates more opportunities for collaboration. More collaboration, and more focus on our research strengths, will grow external funding and partnerships with industry. I look forward to sharing more about developing our research mission soon.

Reorganization will enhance experiential learning opportunities for our students. I am confident that it will translate into more hands-on creative and research experiences, more leadership opportunities, and more engagement across multiple disciplines. All of that means good things for graduates as they enter the workforce or continue their education.

Finally, academic reorganization puts the responsibility for academic programs exactly where it belongs: in the hands of our faculty. It gives them more freedom to grow and make meaningful changes without getting sidetracked by administrative barriers.

Maintaining focus

I appreciate the constructive conversation at our faculty meetings as well as all of the feedback I have received from students, alumni, friends and community members. The collaborative tone, even in the face of disagreement, helps all of us stay focused on what’s most important for our future: a revitalized SIU.

Outstanding people make an outstanding university

Teacher talking to students

If you look at the budget for any institution of higher learning, you will notice the biggest expenditure is on personnel. At SIU, almost half of our total expenditures go to pay our faculty, staff, student workers and administrators, and for good reason. Our people define what SIU is.

That’s why I am always thrilled to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of any member of our SIU family, and why I am so excited to hear the amazing stories put forward during the nomination process for the Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards.

Nominations are due by 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9, and I encourage everyone on campus to consider nominating an outstanding coworker, teacher or mentor. These awards give us the opportunity to recognize those who have contributed so much to our community.

Exceptional new hires show a fresh perspective

Last year, we recognized the amazing contributions of several faculty and staff members, including a relatively new assistant professor, Jennida Chase from the Department of Cinema and Photography. Jennida earned the Early Career Faculty Excellence Award, receiving praise from her colleagues for her creativity, social conscience and commitment to students. Jay Needham, professor of sound and media and interim director of SIU’s Global Media Research Center, noted that she embodies what a professor should be at a comprehensive university:

“Many people teach others how to use technology, but few are ever able to integrate what is essential about artistic creation or what is culturally relevant about creating electronic media,” Needham wrote.

Accomplished professors leading the way

Michael J. Lydy, professor, Department of Zoology, has been with SIU since 2001, and stands as a wonderful example of experience driving innovation. Michael is recognized as a pioneering researcher in the field of toxicology of environmental contaminants in aquatic and terrestrial environments.

He is not only a prolific author of scientific research, with close to 200 peer-reviewed publications to his name, but is a respected mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students. Those students often win national awards for their work.

Remarkable staff supports student achievement

While our exceptional faculty deserve accolades for their contributions to our students’ success, neither they nor the university could function without solid support from our staff.

Liz Hunter exemplifies this principle. She was recognized last year for her work in developing and maintaining the university’s website strategy. Thanks in part to her efforts while serving as a member of the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee, SIU’s website topped the rankings for accessibility in a study of 140 university websites two years in a row.

Liz has been with SIU since 2005, and recently earned a promotion to assistant director of communications for admissions. Congratulations, Liz, you have certainly earned it!

Nominate an outstanding colleague today

These are just a few of the many exceptional people who make SIU such a great place to study and work. The Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards are such an amazing opportunity to recognize on the good work of people like Jennida, Kathleen and Liz.

Nominate someone today and help me shine a spotlight on those who exemplify the Saluki spirit. #ThatsASaluki