A week in the life of SIU

In the wake of all of the noise, it might be easy to miss hearing about all of the great things happening at SIU. Here’s a sampling of good news from the last week alone.

Team paddles cardboard boat
The Plant & Service Operation team paddles their boat to shore during the 45th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta on Campus Lake Saturday.
  • Men add a weight to a model of a steel bridge
    SIU’s team took second place in the steel bridge competition last week.
    Last weekend, we wrapped up a multi-day, student-led event hosting 400 engineering students from 15 universities for the Midcontinent Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers. SIU teams won first place in the technical paper competition, second in the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions, and third in the GeoWall competition.
  • We also announced student winners in the statewide Radiologic Sciences Scholar Bowl and the Louis Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge.
  • Thursday, we held the 2018 Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards, honoring Qingfeng Ge (Scholar Excellence Award), John D. Mellinger (Teaching Excellence Award, tenured and tenure-track), Gail Thomas (Teaching Excellence Award, non-tenure track), Trent W. Ford (Early Career Faculty Excellence Award), and Richard Cole and Emily J. Spann (Staff Excellence Award).
  • On Friday we celebrated our commitment to sustainability, recognizing individuals for their dedication and awarding Green Fund grants.
  • Also on Friday, we honored three distinguished alumni who serve as role models for all of our students. In addition, we hosted a meeting of our SIU Alumni Association board, a group of individuals dedicated to engaging alumni in the life of the university.
  • Chancellor Carlo Montemagno shakes hands with Ralph Becker
    I had the great privilege to dedicate the newly remodeled Ralph Becker Pavilion with Mr. Becker on Saturday.
  • Saturday was another great day. We dedicated the beautiful new Ralph Becker Boathouse and Pavilion in honor of a stellar and generous alumnus and brought the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta back to campus lake.
  • Saturday was also the launch of SIU Presents with Ice Cube, an event we will build upon as we revitalize student life and community engagement.
  • The week also gave us the 2018 Student Showcase and Runway Fashion Show, the theater production of Gem of the Ocean, American Airlines Career Day, a guest lecture by Carl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times,and many more activities and opportunities that benefited our students, faculty, staff and community.

And that’s just one week! The activities and celebrations continue as we head toward commencement in just two weeks.

There’s a lot happening at SIU. I encourage you to get engaged and help spread the word of the many great opportunities here.

SIU programs enrich the entire community

Children with books at a park

As a comprehensive research university, we are tasked with offering a well-rounded education to all of our students. But our commitment goes beyond just our students to their families and the entire Southern Illinois region.

We are not only an economic engine that provides jobs and attracts people to shop at local businesses, but a cultural and educational center. With that in mind, I want to highlight a few of the programs we provide to the youngest members of our community.

Research shows that early educational opportunities for children in a variety of areas not only help individual children develop necessary skills, but result in higher graduation rates, lower crime rates and a number of other societal benefits.

So, I am very proud to say that these programs not only serve the children of our faculty, staff and students, but are also open to the public. As summer approaches, I urge you to explore the wonderful programs offered around the campus.

Summer camps galore

Summer break can be a mixed blessing. It provides lots of additional time with the little ones, but the threats of boredom and wasted days are a constant drag. That’s not to mention the relatively recent revelation that children lose important educational gains while studies lag over the summer.

SIU is here to help. We’ve got a long list of academic, athletic, art and music summer camps to keep children of all ages entertained, engaged and learning through the summer months — including exceedingly popular LEGO camps.

For children who are more comfortable in the great outdoors, our own Touch of Nature has a wide range of outdoor camps for young explorers, including a number of camps especially for Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois.

Camps can be one or multiple days and some have day or overnight options. Whatever your child’s interest, ability or motivation, you can find a camp they’ll enjoy.

Touch of Nature’s camps also serve individuals with special needs throughout its accessible environment, and they are currently accepting registration for Camp Little Giant, an opportunity for people with mental, physical, or cognitive disabilities to get in touch with nature in a safe yet exciting manner.

Giving kids a Head Start

SIU is also home to Head Start, a federally funded program to help low-income families provide high quality preschool for children aged three to five. The program has centers in Carbondale, Marion and Murphysboro.

Children enrolled in this program have language and literacy skills that consistently score at or above national averages, and are taught by highly qualified preschool teachers.

Children’s families must meet income requirements, but the half-day sessions are offered free of charge. For more information, call 618/453-6448 or use their contact form.

High quality child care

Rainbow’s End Child Development Center, located behind the Student Health Center, provides licensed child care for children ages six weeks through second grade, including summer programs for school-age children.

In addition to providing high quality early childhood education, Rainbow’s End offers a number of programs that sets them apart from other child care centers in the area.

“Stretch-n-Grow” teaches children ages 2 and up about the importance of nutrition, fitness and overall wellness in a fun and interactive way.

The center also partners with the nationally recognized Rehabilitation Institute to provide behavioral analysis and targeted interventions to help teachers better manage their classrooms and provide one-on-one assistance with children who may need extra help.

Help with challenging behavior, picky eaters and more

Speaking of the Rehabilitation Institute, their Child Behavior Research and Training Laboratory offers local parents a variety of services to help navigate some of parenting’s roughest waters.

They offer social skills groups; assessment and treatment options for challenging behavior; a feeding clinic to help with food refusal and selectivity; and more.

Erica Jowett Hirst, an assistant professor in the Rehabilitation Institute, also offers monthly parenting workshops at the Carbondale Public Library.

So, whether you need a hand with a tricky behavioral problem, or just need to keep your kid entertained over the summer, come see what SIU has to offer.

Alumni and our academic mission

Meera-KomarrajuGuest blog post by Meera Komarraju, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, SIU Carbondale



On most campuses, faculty members welcome alumni to their classes to talk with students about their careers and expertise. At SIU, alumni also regularly volunteer to serve as mentors to our students in multiple ways. Sometimes these activities happen on an ad hoc basis, and sometimes they occur more formally. For example, the SIU Alumni Association offers a formal “extern” program in which alumni and others host students in their workplaces over spring break.

Most faculty simply informally ask a graduate to come to class to speak. At SIU, we also have a formal policy to grant adjunct status to a “professional person engaged in instructional and research programs of the university but who is not employed as a member of any educational unit of the university.” These individuals in no way replace our faculty. They enhance our programs by offering the opportunity to consult with our faculty, to mentor our students, and to support our academic initiatives.

In some cases, a qualified individual is invited to participate as part of a graduate student’s master’s or dissertation committee – usually because of particular expertise that is of benefit to the student’s research or creative endeavors. Such an individual must be approved for adjunct graduate faculty status. The Graduate School’s operating paper states: “Individuals who can fulfill a specific need in the department’s graduate program but who are not eligible for regular membership in the Graduate Faculty are eligible to be appointed adjunct members of the Graduate Faculty by the Graduate Dean.”

These individuals, whether or not they are alumni, must meet the same academic standards as any member of the graduate faculty. Unless they are SIU professional staff members with terminal degrees and appropriate qualifications, they are not eligible to direct dissertations. Adjunct faculty have been appointed routinely through these processes in the past in support of our students’ academic success.

Valuing alumni contributions

Before I go further, I think it is important to emphasize that engaging our alumni in the academic life of the institution benefits our students in multiple ways. Alumni serve as role models, mentors and subject experts who show our students what success looks like after graduation. In fact, our goal is to graduate students who are well equipped with strong, relevant professional skills and experiences. Connecting them with outstanding, knowledgeable, successful alumni is a powerful contribution toward this goal.

Alumni also benefit from engagement with students by giving back to their alma mater, sharing their knowledge, and in some cases building a network of potential future employees. The university and its faculty also benefit, since student interaction with alumni can support retention and lifelong engagement with SIU.

A pilot project

About a year ago, the SIU Alumni Association started an initiative to identify alumni who might be interested in giving back to the university in multiple ways – from recruiting students to volunteering at our food pantry. One focus of the effort involved an alumni-initiated proposal to create an alumni professional network that would engage well-qualified graduates as occasional lecturers and mentors of our graduate students.

The pilot program emerged from the commendable commitment of our alumni to give back to SIU and to support the next generation of scholars and researchers. The goal was to build a pool of interested, volunteer alumni who were keen on giving back and give them the opportunity to do so. The proposal was well received by former provost Susan Ford, and I continue to support it in my current role.

A common question when talking about bringing anyone into the academic realm relates to qualifications. As noted earlier, we already have policies and procedures in place to evaluate an individual’s qualifications for adjunct appointments. We are applying our existing standards and procedures to the pilot project. Because we wanted to ensure that alumni weren’t making an indefinite commitment, consideration was being given to a three-year term.

As part of the effort to gather the names of potential participants, we invited department chairs in three colleges to identify alumni who may be interested in being part of the pilot program.

Intent vs. perception

Unfortunately, the outreach to engage the campus in a voluntary, good-will initiative proposed by our alumni was misunderstood as an effort supplant the work of our excellent faculty with “unpaid labor.” This perception tapped into understandable national concerns related to adjunct faculty.

Replacing the work of our faculty was never the intent, and it will never be our goal. We deeply value and respect the work of all of our faculty members, who deliver every day on our mission as a national doctoral research university.

This was not a project that was initiated to save money, to address budget shortfalls, or to undervalue or replace the work of others. Instead, the intent was to formalize something we already do – engage our outstanding alumni in the academic work of the university and in our student success mission. The goal, in fact, was to make it easier for faculty to identify qualified alumni who might provide an occasional guest lecture, mentor current students or provide specialized expertise on a thesis committee. The project simply makes what we are already doing more intentional.

This misunderstanding has sparked thoughtful conversation on our campus that will help us refine, clarify and improve upon the pilot project. I am grateful to all who have reached out, as well as to the alumni who have proposed the pilot project. Our faculty are the heart of all we do academically, and our alumni are a valuable resource. We will continue to identify ways they can collaborate to benefit our students.

It’s about the ‘product’

As we focus on recruitment, we must think about the product we deliver. Of course, education is not a product like a cell phone or a can of vegetables on a grocery shelf. It is a valuable service we offer to people who have many other choices. Our “product” is the Saluki experience.

When people aren’t buying a service or product, no matter how strong we believe it to be, we must look closely at how we can change, improve and distinguish it to make it more attractive. All of the marketing in the world won’t make a difference if the service or product doesn’t stand out from its competitors.

At SIU, academic reorganization is all about reinforcing, expanding and distinguishing the Saluki experience by making it more visible and accessible to prospective students. There is nothing more fundamental to future enrollment growth than revitalizing and repositioning our academic programs.

The full college experience

We are not focusing on academic programs alone. As noted in my eight-month update to the campus, we are also actively looking at all of the elements that comprise the Saluki experience, including student life and student services, to bring renewed energy and excitement to campus. We must revitalize the entire campus experience.

Word of mouth can be one of our best marketing tools, so we must make sure our students have a positive experience that they will talk about with enthusiasm. Every interaction we have with every current and prospective student is critically important.

Recruitment and retention

The eight-month update includes many of our strategies – most of them new – focusing specifically on recruitment and retention. We have put a great deal of energy into these efforts, which may be less visible than academic reorganization but are no less important.

I’m pleased to announce one major step forward: the appointment of Jennifer DeHaemers as associate chancellor for enrollment management.

I won’t revisit details of the many other steps we are taking, since you can read them in the report, but a few of the highlights follow:


  • Earlier outreach to prospective students, including freshman and sophomores.
  • Increased outreach to a greater number of prospective students.
  • Streamlined application and admissions process.
  • Increased outreach to guidance counselors.
  • Increased outreach to community colleges.
  • Increased outreach to prospective graduate and international students.
  • College calling campaigns.
  • Revamping marketing messages and strategies.


  • Updating retention plan.
  • Improving course scheduling.
  • Increased academic support and realigned student support and engagement initiatives.
  • Ongoing and new college-level retention strategies.
  • Updated student fee structure.
  • Improved orientation.
  • Enhanced career services.
  • Enhanced student and residence life.

Taking action

If we are to distinguish ourselves from other campuses so that we stand out in a crowd of institutions – so that we address our enrollment changes – we have to look at everything we do. This includes the product we offer, the way we position and promote it to attract new students, and what we do to retain our students once we attract them. We are addressing all of these areas simultaneously thanks to the dedication of our faculty and staff.

Even so, we will not turn enrollment around overnight. As I have said in the past, it took us many years to get here and it will take time to correct course. None of the many changes we are making will be in time to significantly influence fall 2018 enrollment, although we are still doing everything we can to increase the yield of students already in the pipeline.

Furthermore, future gains we make in new students will be partially offset as our larger junior and senior classes graduate and our smaller freshman and sophomore classes move up. This is one of the reasons retention must be a continued focus.

The most important point is that we are taking action. Lack of sufficient action in the past is at the heart of our enrollment decline. We continue to work collaboratively and hard on all fronts, and we are seeing signs of progress. Let’s keep moving forward.

Field trip

Earlier this month, six faculty members took a field trip to Arizona State University to learn first-hand about the transition of many of its departments into schools.

There, at the invitation of ASU President Michael Crow, they met with academic and administrative leaders to gain a better understanding of the possibilities and the process – what worked and what didn’t.

As you may know, Arizona State underwent a major academic reorganization that included the creation of schools from groups of academic departments, not unlike the process we are engaged in at SIU Carbondale. Academic reorganization with a focus on interdisciplinary engagement was a significant component of ASU’s recent growth and success, as outlined in the book Designing the New American University by President Crow and William Dabars.

Seeing is believing

I’m grateful for the willingness of our delegation’s members  – Craiz Anz, Michael Eichholz, Derek Fisher, Scott Ishman, Christina McIntyre and Mandara Savage – to invest the time to learn from their colleagues at Arizona State. They returned from the trip eager to share what they learned and are currently planning to reach out to meet with groups of faculty and staff across campus.

By understanding how another institution managed its own evolution, we can see that change is doable and success is achievable. I know that not everything that worked at ASU will work here, but I believe we have talented and visionary faculty and staff who can adapt lessons learned to our own campus. In fact, I believe that our success at SIU will depend as much on attitude and creativity as it does on process and hard work.

Thank you to President Crow and everyone at Arizona State for helping us see what’s possible.

Moving forward: A new update on academic reorganization

Following are brief updates on the status of academic reorganization.

Votes so far

So far, 12 departments have voted on proposed schools. Overall, about 65 percent of the votes have been “yes,” 29 percent have been “no,” and 6 percent have been “abstain.”

Here’s a breakdown:

School of Biological Sciences

Microbiology: 4 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Plant biology: 8 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Zoology: 1 yes, 12 no, 1 abstain

School of Computing

Computer science: 12 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

School of Earth Systems and Sustainability

Geography: 4 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

Geology: 8 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

School of Health Sciences

Allied Health: 10 yes, 0 no, 0 abstain

Rehabilitation: 8 yes, 2 no, 0 abstain

School of Human Sciences

Kinesiology: 0 yes, 9 no, 0 abstain

Social Work: 4 yes, 1 no, 0 abstain

Public Health: 4 yes, 0 no, 2 abstain

Animal Science, food and nutrition: 3 yes, 4 no, 3 abstain

Once all units in a proposed school have voted and plans are reviewed at the college level, the RMEs are forwarded to the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Council and Faculty Association in accordance with our outlined processes. You can see an update of where each school is in the process here.

New proposals

We have received a faculty proposal for a College of Social Sciences and Humanities and understand that a proposal for a College of Communication, Design and the Arts is forthcoming. I appreciate the efforts of the faculty to develop and submit these proposals. The provost’s office will continue to be on point for managing the process to vet proposals and communication with faculty on their status.

The votes and the new proposals are all part of the feedback and give-and-take processes that continue to shape our reorganization.


We remain attuned to the ongoing feedback on the use of the term “departments.” Some faculty feel strongly that the term, especially in some fields, is important to disciplinary identity. I understand this view. However, as I have said earlier, the term “department” has a very specific meaning in university policy and in our collective bargaining agreement. I have also indicated that we are happy to work to address this terminology issue in compliance with existing bargaining and policy procedures.

To start this conversation, we reached out the Faculty Association with a proposal to collaborate on a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow us to use the term “department” instead of “division” within the context of the new school structures. The school structure would not change: departments would be nested within schools headed by a director who has fiduciary and administrative responsibility for the school.

The association has indicated that it would prefer to take this issue up during full collective bargaining, which begins later in the spring. While we were disappointed, we look forward to the opportunity to work on this issue in the future.

EDITED 3:30 p.m. April 19: Corrected percentages on overall votes. Animal Science, Food and Nutrition was incorrectly labeled and the vote tally was incorrect.

EDITED: 8:25 p.m., April 19: Corrected vote tallies for Kinesiology and Animal Science, Food and Nutrition.

Together or separate?: The system question

The recent board vote defeating a proposal to transfer $5.1 million in state appropriations from SIU Carbondale to Edwardsville has led to a call from Edwardsville-area legislators to separate the system. I understand that this is not the first time this discussion has been raised.

The renewed call for separation is a disappointing response to a request for collaboration. The Carbondale campus has never been opposed to exploring the budget allocation model. Our concern, expressed by many members of the campus community, was that we were not invited to be part of a collaborative process that considered the multiple factors and metrics that should be taken into account — before making changes that could have a substantial impact on our campus and region. The board’s vote provided the opportunity to evaluate the allocation of resources objectively. We still hope that happens.

A stronger voice

There are incredible strengths to being part of a system. Together we serve more than 28,000 students, which gives us a greater footprint to serve the southern part of Illinois and adds to the power of our voice in Springfield. A number of complex factors must be studied carefully before we can determine whether a separation of the system is in the best interests of either campus.

For example, the campuses benefit from a number of efficiencies by sharing services that reduce costs or duplication. Included are some IT contracts and a number of services through the system office such as governmental affairs, general counsel, internal audit and risk management. In addition, the Carbondale campus provides a number of services to the system office, including accounting, payroll, procurement, communications and other support.

It is likely that a separation of the campuses could yield both additional costs and additional savings. These must be itemized and analyzed to assess the impact.

Academic impact

There are academic implications, as well. The pre-nursing program at Carbondale feeds into the nursing program at Edwardsville, and the Edwardsville campus relies on Carbondale’s Graduate School to train all of its joint Ph.D. students.

I should note that the proposed legislation to separate the campuses includes aligning the School of Medicine with Edwardsville. My understanding is that this was also included in past legislation but was sorted out before the proposal died. Obviously, the School of Medicine is deeply interconnected with the Carbondale campus. First year medical students are taught in Carbondale, many faculty have research facilities here, and the research office provides the school with support. The medical school is important to our research mission, and it is part of our governance system. Most importantly, the School of Medicine’s accreditation is tied to Carbondale. The medical school is an integral part of SIU Carbondale and must remain so.

Power in numbers

Perhaps the most important consideration is that there is power in numbers. As I noted earlier, we have a stronger voice as part of a larger system — one of just two in the state. And as a system, we have more flexibility to weather change.

For many years, the Carbondale campus and its leadership worked hard to make Edwardsville possible. And Carbondale benefitted last year from a temporary, three-week shifting of funds — on paper only — until the state reimbursed its funding for the FY 17 fiscal year.

A side note about this shifting of funds: By all accounts, it had no impact on Edwardsville’s operations. Yet the timing and impact of the decision has been compared with the timing of the proposal to permanently reduce $5.1 million from the Carbondale budget. It is unfortunate that this comparison has clouded discussion about the reallocation.

Regardless, my point is that the institutions have long relied on each other and may need to do so again in the future. As we rebuild Carbondale to a position of reputational and financial strength, there may be many benefits to Edwardsville, just as Edwardsville may benefit Carbondale in ways we haven’t anticipated.

Further, the call for separation is based on an assumption about future state funding that may or may not be true. Both campuses may find greater benefit in the collaborative approach initially agreed to by the board.

Details matter

I have been asked many times over the weekend what I think of a potential separation of the campuses. My answer is that I believe we are stronger together, the details matter, and we all need to be careful what we wish for.

In short, until we have done a careful analysis, we can’t know the impact or wisdom of such a move as it relates to the Carbondale campus. To lead that analysis, I am reconstituting the Chancellor’s Planning and Budget Council with cross-campus representation. I will ask the committee to make sure that all members of the campus community have a voice.

In spite of the unknowns, we can be confident of one thing: This will be a long, intense conversation requiring significant collaboration with our legislators and the engagement of our faculty, staff, alumni and many friends.

We must be a part of the discussion even as we cannot let it distract us from our continued revitalization. SIU Carbondale will continue to move forward.

Thank you for your passion, commitment

Those of you following today’s Board of Trustees meeting already know that the proposal to shift $5.1 million in state appropriations from the Carbondale to the Edwardsville campus effective July 1 did not pass.

I am grateful to the faculty, staff, students, community members and trustees who spoke about the importance of maintaining these funds until a possible new funding model is developed with campus input, a shared understanding of the metrics that will be considered, and guidance from an external consultant.

I was proud of the passion and commitment shown by the Carbondale campus. I was equally impressed by the commitment our many colleagues at SIU Edwardsville have for their institution. Clearly, there are great things happening on both campuses. My hope is that this discussion brings us closer rather than driving us apart. We are different but symbiotic institutions that, together, strengthen the entire SIU system.

Trustees also approved the promotion and tenure of 53 faculty members  and the appointment of Dr. Meera Komarraju as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. Congratulations to all.

Eight months of progress

When I arrived on campus nearly eight months ago, I knew I was coming to a university with strong faculty and staff, loyal alumni and friends, and a welcoming community. I also knew that that we had a lot of intense, meaningful work to do to fulfill the promise of the university’s mission.

Looking back at the last eight months, we have accomplished a great deal toward the revitalization of this great institution. Today, I am sharing an update outlining the progress we have made as a campus community. We have much to be proud of, and much more to do. Thank you for all you do to position us for the future.

A special tie to the Special Olympics

I have spent a lot of time recently talking about the future of SIU, but I have also been impressed by the amazing things this institution has accomplished throughout its past.

For instance, you may know Special Olympics is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, a celebration that kicks off Friday at Touch of Nature. But I recently learned that Special Olympics might never have happened at all if it weren’t for the contributions of SIU.

How Special Olympics is linked to SIU

Here’s a little information about how it all started. The university “loaned” faculty member and recreation pioneer William Freeberg to the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation by special request of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Freeberg taught workshops showing people how to work with individuals with disabilities. One of the participants was Anne McGlone, now better known as longtime Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne McGlone Burke.

She was so enthused she returned to Chicago and began planning a citywide track meet. Freeberg helped, securing funding from the Kennedy Foundation and permission from the International Olympic Committee to use part of its name. On July 20, 1968, the Special Olympics was born at Soldier Field with 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada participating.

Don’t miss Friday’s kickoff celebration

Burke and Freeberg’s granddaughter, Brittney (Freeberg) McGovern will be special guests and speakers at Touch of Nature’s Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration.

Opening ceremonies are set for 10 a.m. Friday at Touch of Nature, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.

Activities will include free food, sports, crafts, backyard games, exercises, camp songs and dance, musical entertainment and much more.

Join me to help celebrate a big milestone for an amazing organization at my favorite university.