Fulfilling our mission through partnerships

Historically, public universities have received nearly 100 percent of their resources from state funds and tuition. Declines in state appropriations – more than 23 percent for SIU between the 2001 and 2018 fiscal years – have been offset over the years by increases in tuition and fees.

Clearly, this is a pattern that cannot continue. The future of SIU cannot rely on these two primary funding sources alone.

And while resources from our generous donors are critically important and make a very positive difference, their use is typically restricted to specific areas of the university that align with the interests of the donor. Private donations cannot fill the gaps made by declines in either state funding or tuition.

However, we have an alternative.

The value of partnerships

Strategic partnerships between SIU, industry and the economic development arms of our state and federal government can support academic programs and research to benefit faculty and students.

For example, partnerships with our incredible agricultural base have the potential to provide a capital investment in our farms in support of both teaching and research. There are similar opportunities in the STEM fields, the fine arts, health fields and many other areas.

Win-win-win

University/industry/government partnerships have many benefits.

Industry and government partners can help ensure that future employees are well prepared. Partners also welcome access to extraordinarily well-trained graduates. They may also want to be on the front end of new discoveries that will change how they operate or better serve constituents. The university benefits by attracting and deploying resources that support its mission, its community, its faculty and its students.

Everyone wins.

We’ve already started

Last week, I wrote about existing and future economic development partnerships, but there are many other examples already in place at SIU.

The Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center has received $4.6 million in funds from the energy sector to better use coal resources and transition to new energy sources in Illinois.  The “energy boost” grant provides faculty and facilities support for energy/industry research and also trains our students through scholarships.

The Center for Embedded Systems is one of our best examples of a government/industry/SIU partnership that translates to instant jobs for our students. In fact, Intel is one of our top employers.

Like Intel, many industry partners are looking for ways to grow a pipeline of well-prepared future employees.

For example, Navistar International Corp. donated nine commercial trucks to our automotive technology program, and Rush Enterprises, Inc., supported the partnership by providing licenses to software that allows students to configure and program truck body controllers.

Michael Behrmann, chair of automotive technology, discusses the benefits of donations by Navistar International Corp. and Rush Enterprises, Inc. to the program.

Similarly, the U.S. Navy donated a Gulfstream III airplane to our aviation technologies program.

Identifying strategic partners

Partnerships can provide an influx of resources that will allow us to thrive and grow. I believe that we have the potential to grow the number of industry and government partnerships significantly to benefit our students and faculty while preserving the integrity of our mission.

We need to be intentional about identifying partners whose interests align with our mission and programs. We have several conversations underway now. I encourage our faculty to identify and work with the university to explore partnership opportunities that will help move us forward.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Opportunity zone to support local economic development

Research Park on the SIU Campus

SIU remains attuned to ways we can support our regional and local economies. Being part of a newly designated “opportunity zone” will give us one more avenue to have a positive impact.

The new opportunity zone program is based on the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The act allows individuals and organizations to receive tax benefits for making a long-term investment in job creation in designated “zones.”

Governor Rauner recently announced more than 325 zones across Illinois, and much of SIU, including the Research Park, is located within one of them. This designation will allow us to work with local businesses to attract and support investors to our area.

While the details related to the process for investing in and seeking investments for opportunity zones are still pending, this is promising news for SIU and our region.

Other examples

There are many, many other ways we support economic development as we fulfill our mission as a regional economic catalyst.

Our Small Business Development Center has a long history providing local business owners with the tools and guidance they need for success. The center also advises people interested in starting or expanding a business. Last year, the center advised more than 222 clients and helped entrepreneurs create 28 new businesses.

SIU is currently partnering with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to assist with strategic planning for the World Shooting Complex and Pyramid State Park.

And our long-term partnership with the non-profit IMEC helps small- to mid-sized manufacturers in Southern Illinois improve operations, processes and training.

These are just some of the examples of the ways we support economic growth in Southern Illinois.

Partnerships like these can make a tremendous positive difference for our community. In fact, partnerships are key to fulfilling our vision for the entire university. Stay tuned for more on this subject next week.

Mission accomplishing

“SIU embraces a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, innovation in research and creativity, and outstanding teaching focused on nurturing student success. As a nationally ranked public research university and regional economic catalyst, we create and exchange knowledge to shape future leaders, improve our communities, and transform lives.”

SIU’s mission statement tells us a lot about where we have been, who we are and where we are going. It speaks to our commitment to access, our focus on innovation, and the quality of our faculty and the education we provide. It proudly declares our status as a national research university and our dedication to our region.

Telling our story

We have a lot of great stories to tell about how we are fulfilling our mission, from a forthcoming diversity plan to a new $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to create master teachers in STEM fields (stay tuned for the announcements!) to the success of our students at SIU and as alumni. Over the course of the summer, I will use this blog to feature just a few of the stories showing how we are embodying each aspect of our mission statement. I also welcome hearing your own stories about how we are shaping future leaders, improving our communities and transforming lives.

I hope you are also telling the university’s story – and touting the many successes of our students and faculty – wherever you go. We have much to be proud of, and every person we can share our pride with will help us spread the good word even further.

A work in progress

It’s rewarding to know that our own constituents clearly supported our mission in the Vision 2025 survey conducted last fall. Their support gives me confidence that we have a shared vision for the university’s future and that we can indeed work together to achieve it.

Of course, we will never truly be done accomplishing our mission. It’s an ongoing process, and each of us must work every day, make every decision, and enter every conversation with our mission in mind. I pledge my commitment to doing so, and I welcome all you do to support our mission in word and in deed.

Summer programs enhance education

I am a strong believer in the benefits of hands-on and experiential learning. SIU offers a number of unique opportunities to participate in research and creative activities starting in a student’s freshman year.

These opportunities extend beyond the SIU campus. This summer, many of our students are gaining invaluable experience and knowledge by participating in countless internships. Others are traveling around the world to learn about other cultures in study abroad programs.

Internships help students burnish their resumes

I’ve seen many recent college grads lamenting online about the difficulties of landing a new job without experience. Luckily, many Salukis are putting themselves at the head of the pack by taking on summer internships.

For instance, Emily Buice, a junior in our communications studies program, is on her way to Brussels, Belgium, for an internship with the public affairs department of the U.S. Mission to the European Union.

And Emma Rients, a junior studying Animal Science, will be one of five students in Illinois to join the new I-BELIEF (Illinois Beef Experiential Learning and Industry Exposure Fellowship) program.

Several SIU students also spent the legislative session in Springfield this year, thanks to a handful of internships offered through the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. These students include Oneida Vargas, Joshua McCray, Darrin Reinhart and Michael Smith, and Sarah Farwick and Gabby Robles.

While summer might seem like the perfect time to complete an internship, these opportunities are available year-round. Students sometime connect with employers on their own, but most find internships through their individual colleges, schools and departments or the Career Development Center.

I encourage every student to explore the options and take advantage of these great learning experiences.

Study abroad programs expand student horizons

Our students are also fanning across the globe this summer to take advantage of numerous study abroad programs under the guidance of SIU faculty.

One of the most popular recurring opportunities is the College of Business study abroad program in France, taking place from May 13 through June 10. This is the 16th  year for the program, which is conducted in partnership with the Grenoble Graduate School of Business. Participating graduate students can earn a certificate in innovation, design thinking and intrapreneurship.

Students in another popular program, the Messages from Hiroshima: Global Peace Education program recently returned from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, where they took a deeper look at the history and politics behind nuclear technology and the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Global seminars are also being held in Greece, Spain, Cuba, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Egypt.

So, whether getting practical experience to build up their resumes, traveling the world to immerse themselves in other cultures, or both, Salukis aren’t resting on their laurels this summer. I can’t wait to hear about all your great experiences.

Insights into the reallocation proposal

Many of you may have seen the opinion piece that includes details about the development of a recent proposal to transfer funds from the Carbondale to the Edwardsville campus. (Ultimately, the board did not pass the proposal; shortly after the vote, some legislators proposed separating the SIU system.)

I will let the statements that have been shared speak for themselves. I am, of course, dismayed and disappointed by what appears to be an active, deliberate effort to undermine the Carbondale campus and, by extension, the entire SIU system. The process and lack of transparency did not serve us or our colleagues at Edwardsville. I must add that the disrespect to Carbondale’s faculty, staff and community is especially disturbing. However, these concerns are best addressed by the Board of Trustees and system leadership.

Our focus at SIU Carbondale remains firmly on our exciting future. We will continue the revitalization of our campus with strong, comprehensive academic programs, a vibrant student experience, and meaningful research. I am grateful to our many friends, faculty and staff members who are committed to our students and our mission. Thank you for your support.

A semester to remember

This weekend’s commencement ceremonies serve as our semiannual reminder to take a breath and reflect on the great things SIU is doing for its students and the community.

To all of our graduating seniors, congratulations and good luck. I hope that you leave us with a sense of purpose and fond memories. We look forward to seeing what you do with your potential.

Now, let’s take a moment to reflect on the spring semester. I talked about many of our achievements last week. But this was such a remarkable semester, I wanted to highlight a few other accomplishments.

New leadership helps SIU plan for the future

While we look toward SIU’s future, we’ve been working to appoint strong leaders to help us fulfill our mission. This semester, we filled four key roles:

SIU Research gets noticed

In February, SIU received what is believed to be the largest specimen of black carp ever analyzed from the Mississippi River. Our researchers are studying the invasive species to learn about issues like its range, health and reproductive potential.

Another SIU researcher analyzing the Mississippi River found that efforts to control flooding along the river have actually resulted in bigger floods. His findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature in April.

This important research could lead to new ways to preserve the river habitat for future generations, and SIU is leading the way.

Turning to the social sciences, a professor and his student in anthropology earned funding from the National Science Foundation to study the effects of Hurricane Harvey on Houston residents. They hope to show how socioeconomic status can affect the way people view disasters.

These are just a couple of the vital questions SIU faculty, graduates and undergraduates are looking to answer. Our research is helping to solve some of society’s most pressing problems, from sustainability to health and safety.

Day of Giving exceeds expectations

The community really went above and beyond in March to “Give the Gift of Experience,” during SIU’s annual Day of Giving. More than 1,800 donors gave more than $480,000 to students and programs during a 24-hour campaign.

Looking back at the amazing things we accomplished this semester, I am excited about what we can do in the upcoming school year. I hope you are, too.

Volunteer leaders help advance SIU

At commencement, our graduates celebrate their success and thank their families, professors and friends for making it possible.

Another group of people deserves thanks, as well: the alumni and donors who give back to the university. Among them are a very special group of volunteers.

Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting with our SIU Alumni Association board, the SIU Foundation board, and the committee leading the Forever SIU fundraising campaign. Working in partnership with our staff, these volunteer leaders meet regularly to provide guidance, share perspectives and offer ideas that help move their boards and the university forward.

Cheerleaders and challengers

While they are cheerleaders for SIU, our volunteer leaders also ask thoughtful, challenging questions that reflect their investment in SIU’s future. As representatives of our many alumni and friends, they want, quite simply, to help SIU be the best we can be.

While each member brings a unique perspective to the conversation, our volunteers also have much in common beyond their affinity with our university.

First, they model that hard-working, can-do attitude for which SIU is so well known. Many were first-generation college students who discovered themselves here. As one board member said: “SIU changed the trajectory of my life.” You could see heads nodding in agreement throughout the room.

Next, they attribute much of their ability to succeed at SIU to faculty and staff members who welcomed and supported them. The personal attention we give each and every student – past and present – is another hallmark of our university.

And finally, their commitment runs deep. When I first came to SIU, a number of people told me our alumni and friends are among the most loyal in higher education today, and I believe it. Our volunteer leaders and those they represent are willing to give back because they bleed maroon and love SIU.

A new generation

As a new generation of alumni walks across the stage this weekend, we should remember that each graduate is beginning a new phase of what we hope will be a lifelong relationship with SIU. Their success is made possible because those who came before them believe in this university.

I thank each of our volunteer leaders for your insights and dedication. We couldn’t do it without you.

Hands-on research and creative work at all levels give Salukis an edge

Student and teacher work at a lab

Ask any member of our faculty what they love about teaching at SIU, and I guarantee you’ll hear about their connection with students. Professors here have the immense advantage of working at a major research institution, and yet still having intimate classes that allow them to really bond with their students.

The result is amazing collaborations, not just between faculty and graduate students, but including undergraduates and members of the community.

Research links faculty, students and the community

Last month, the College of Applied Arts and Sciences hosted “Flashtalk 2,” a series of short lectures in which faculty from across campus introduced their research.

This great event not only introduced the attendees to the amazing research we do here at SIU, but provided opportunities for the community to get involved with these groundbreaking projects.

I love to see faculty members reaching out to form new partnerships and invite new ideas and perspectives. This sort of collaboration is what my proposed reorganization is all about, and is a way for SIU to remain relevant as the world advances.

Providing research opportunities starting freshman year

Small campuses across the country tout their small class sizes and individual attention. But few offer access to professors who are active, leading researchers in their field. SIU offers the best of both worlds.

This means that students are able to actively participate in meaningful, cutting-edge research from the very beginnings of their education.

SIU undergraduates are working to create more efficient renewable energy, develop better ways to make anti-venom, and determine the impact of invasive species on the Mississippi River, among many other projects.

Students are also taking the initiative to branch out into new areas. For instance, the Rocketeers of Southern Illinois just created a registered student organization dedicated to building and launching rockets. They placed second in their first Argonia Cup competition, and I expect they’ll continue to soar.

Creative opportunities abound

While I love STEM, I am also a firm believer in the importance of a comprehensive education. That means at SIU, we expand our research focus to include creative activities.

Our Department of Theater puts on six major productions a year, plus several smaller productions, allowing students the chance to perform, direct, design lighting and sets, and work on costumes and makeup.

Mass Communications and Media Arts offers students opportunities to produce films, photography, or a range of digital media.

School of Music lets students compose, perform, or teach a variety of musical skills, and School of Art and Design students work in more visual media than I can name, ranging from blacksmithing to water colors.

The outstanding work of our Art and Design students was on display in April, during the annual Rickert-Ziebold finalist exhibition at the Surplus Gallery. Congratulations to Kelly Carter, Timothy Miller and Lindsey Perry, who are sharing the prestigious 2018 Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award.

This all makes for a remarkable college experience with a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. Want to find out more? Take a virtual tour today.

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.