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.

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.