A Family Atmosphere

Each year at Family Weekend, we honor the family of an SIU student selected from entries at new student orientation. I like this tradition because it highlights what SIU is all about – celebrating our connections as a Saluki family.

It also reminds us that there are many people behind every student who enrolls at SIU. They, too, are an extension of our Saluki family, and we welcome their engagement in our campus.

Meeting SIU’s 2018 Family of the Weekend: Student Anuj Pawar (right) and his mother, Geetanjali Maru.

Family of the Weekend

I had the pleasure of meeting Anuj Pawar, and his mother, Geetanjali Maru, when they were on campus last Saturday for Family Weekend. As the 2018 Family of the Weekend, they received complementary football tickets, meals and more for the honor.

Anju is a freshman zoology/pre-veterinary major from Mundelein, Illinois, who says he already feels at home at SIU. He got engaged right away as a member of the Marching Salukis and SIU’s Epsilon Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national professional musical fraternity.

His mother agrees that SIU is the right place for her son, praising the “campus ambiance” and crediting the engaging nature of students and faculty for his decision to attend.

Extending the family theme, Anuj invited his roommate, freshman plant biology major Derek Hartmann, and Derek’s parents as his guests for the weekend.

Nurturing the Atmosphere

SIU’s helpful, supportive family atmosphere is one of our trademarks. As we further nurture it by engaging and serving our students in the fulfillment our academic mission, word will spread. And as students and families connect with us, we will continue to build loyal alumni and friends who will remain committed to our future.

The definition of family is what we choose to make of it. At SIU, it includes everyone who has benefitted from what we do and has a stake in our future. Thanks to all who make sure make sure we continue to provide a welcoming environment to all members of our extended Saluki family.

Amazing discoveries and thought-provoking lectures

There’s no shortage of excitement on the SIU campus. Whether we’re organizing an interactive university experience for local high school students, hosting Saluki families from across the globe for an event-packed weekend, or revving up the Saluki Spirit for homecoming, we’ve always got something happening.

With so much to see and do, it’s easy to overlook some of the more thought-provoking lectures and speakers who come to campus. But I highly recommend taking time to hear about some truly awe-inspiring experiences.

Finding a lost city and surviving the Honduran jungle

Steve Elkins in Honduran jungle

After starting his career at SIU, Steve Elkins traveled to Honduras to find a legendary city lost to the jungle. His documentary and best-selling book about the expedition have earned him international recognition, and he’s coming back to SIU to tell his story.

Elkins will be presenting at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at the SIU Student Center Ballrooms. The event is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will follow the presentation in the Student Center International Lounge.

He will also take some time to speak to the students in the geomythology and geographic information system classes at SIU.

Focusing on Illinois and its history

From around the world to our own backyard, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute has an impressive lineup of speakers and presentations focused on Illinois history and the role of leadership in our state and nation.

Coming up next is the Morton-Kenney Public Affairs lecture featuring Ira Shapiro. Shapiro is a former U.S. trade ambassador and author of “The Last Great Senate” and “Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?”

His talk, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Student Center Auditorium, is titled “Where Have All the Statesmen and Stateswomen Gone?”

One-time-only performance of ‘Churchill’ comes to SIU

Ron Keaton as Winston Churchill

Ron Keaton earned national acclaim for his one-man performance of the play “Churchill,” both in New York and Chicago. His performances, which depict Winston Churchill shortly after the Allied victory in Europe during World War II, often played to sold-out crowds.

Tuesday, he will give a free performance of the play at Shryock Auditorium on the SIU campus. The performance starts at 7 p.m. and registration is not required to attend.

The student-centered university

Students playing in boats
Incoming new students play a real-life game of Battleship during Dawg Days last week.  The four-day, three-night retreat for new SIU freshmen and transfer students is filled with fun team activities led by returning SIU students.

There’s nothing like hearing from happy students and families as the school year begins. Last week’s move-in earned positive reviews, as usual, and welcome events such as “Light up the Lake” and the convocation for new students were full of positive energy.

As a campus and community, we have started the year by communicating strong and positive messages to students: We’re glad you’re here. You are important and welcome. Let us know how we can help.

These welcoming messages contribute to student success and retention. Let us all remember to thoughtfully and intentionally communicate these messages as the academic year progresses, even as we become focused on the demands of our work within or outside of the classroom.

Students are the reason each one of us is here. It is essential that we keep them firmly in our focus and remain student-centered throughout the year.

What does it mean to be student-centered?

I’ll offer my ideas and welcome yours. (Please note that I know that many of you already do these things every day.)

I think it means that we listen and respond, whether the question is about how to improve a grade or how to get a parking decal.

It means that we help students expand their knowledge by facilitating their participation in research, creative activity, internships, study abroad, community service opportunities and much more.

It means that we welcome their feedback, whether it comes to us in person, by email or through a course evaluation.

It means that we support them with services that address individual needs and concerns, whether they are homesick, struggling academically or seeking career advice.

It means that we engage them in campus life, whether they live in a residence hall or off campus, by encouraging them to participate in student organizations, attend a concert or cheer on the football team.

It means that we celebrate their personal and academic successes and help them learn from their failures.

It means that we tell them throughout the year that we are glad they are here.

What else?

I could go on, but I’m hoping I’ve sparked your own ideas about what it means to be a student-centered university, what we can do to deliver on the promise, and how you can adopt or build on student-centered practices in your own role. Please send your ideas and feedback so we can continue this important conversation related to retention and student success.

Plan now for great fall events

Part of our mission to nurture student success involves creating a vibrant campus life for our students. With that in mind, I want to take a moment to look ahead to two really great fall events that help connect Salukis to their campus and encourage school spirit— Family Weekend and Homecoming.

While you might think it’s a bit early to be talking about events for late September and October, people are already making their travel plans. I encourage anyone from out of town to book their reservations early — hotels and other accommodations consistently sell out every year during these events.

Family Weekend, Sept. 28-30

Family Weekend is an annual event that allows current students to show their families all the wonderful things Southern Illinois has to offer. While planning is still in the works for this fun-filled weekend, there are two major events already scheduled:

On Sept. 29, the Saluki football team will take on the Missouri Valley Football Conference opponent and 2017 NCAA Football Championship subdivision playoff qualifier University of South Dakota Coyotes.

The 2018 Saluki Comic Con will also take place over the weekend. There is already an amazing lineup of presentations and speakers, including Samantha Newark, the voice of Jem and Jerica from the classic Jem and the Holograms cartoon, and Trevor Von Eeden, the co-creator of the first original black superhero to have his own title.

Homecoming Week, Oct. 14-20

Later in the semester, SIU will host Indiana State University for its annual Homecoming game on Oct. 20. The week leading up to the game will be full of fun activities, including a parade, tailgating and more.

This year, Jason Seaman, a four-year Saluki letterman and elementary education graduate and heroic teacher who received praise for his actions during a school shooting in Noblesville, Indiana, will return to SIU to serve as grand marshal.

I’m already updating my collection of Saluki gear so I can show my pride in this great institution and have a little fun with the Dawg Pound. I hope to see you there.