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.

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