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.

Saluki success

Everywhere I turn, I am hearing great stories about Salukis doing amazing things. Fostering student success is at the core of our mission, and our many student achievements demonstrate that we are achieving that goal.

Here are some recent examples.

Helping prevent a global food crisis

Student in a laboratory
Lindsey McKinzie working in a laboratory at SIU.

With the global demand for food higher than ever, Lindsey McKinzie knows that farmers don’t have time to struggle with plant diseases and crop failures. That’s why she is hard at work using drones to conduct cutting-edge research on plant diseases.

McKinzie, a first-year graduate student in plant, soil and agricultural systems, received her drone pilot license last year and is now set on making life easier for farmers. Working with SIU faculty members, she is using drones to fly over row crop plots and evaluate the rate of diseases in the plants.

While drones in agriculture are becoming more popular, this study is unique in its purpose and design. The Illinois Farm Bureau recently conducted a video recording of McKinzie and her work that will be aired at its annual meeting in December.

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker

Kelechi Agwuncha
Kelechi Agwuncha

Kelechi Agwuncha earned national recognition for a film she created as a class assignment.

Her film, “Super Predator: Preludes of the Black Fish,” was one of 25 independent short films featured in the 2018 PBS Online Film Festival. It was also a recent finalist in the Toronto International Film Festival’s TIFFXInstagram Short Film Festival.

The film, which was initially inspired by a photograph, explores prejudice in society.

Fishing revolutionized thanks to Saluki innovation

When Cain Hassim, an industrial design junior, first heard about the opportunity to design a product that would transform basic fishing practices, he was ready to jump in. Working with an idea from a local community member, Hassim experimented with 3D printing, metal casting and vacuum forming to perfect a light-up fishing line strike indicator.

The small device works rather simply. First, you strap the bite lite onto the rod, right under the first guide. After casting the line, you place the cast line in between the clamps. At this point, all you have to do is wait for the device to light up, and you will know you’ve got a fish.

Constantly striving for diversity and inclusion

Cynthia Sims and Eboni Moore
Cynthia Sims and Eboni Moore

Eboni Moore, a senior elementary education major, and recipient of the inaugural Dr. Cy

nthia Howard Sims Diversity and Inclusion Award, advocates for equality and social justice on campus and everywhere she goes.

Last summer, she taught math and reading to disadvantaged youth through the Memphis Teacher Residency Summer Internship program, and she’s currently completing her student teaching at Carbondale’s Lewis School. She plans to graduate in December.

Athletes of a higher caliber

Hanna Netisingha playing golf
Hanna Netisingha

Hanna Netisingha earned national recognition as a 2018 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar. She was one of just 20 female semi-finalists from across the country, selected from about 1,000 nominated athletes.

She graduated magna cum laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, earning a 4.0 GPA while serving as co-captain of the women’s golf team and twice earning honors as MVC player of the week her senior season.

She was also chosen to attend the University of Oxford, where she participated in a 1:1 fellow tutorial, receiving a top mark for “Genetic Mutations within Animals” and she donated numerous hours of community service to Toys for Tots, the Women’s Crisis Center and St. Francis Animal Hospital, also earning the MVC State Farm Good Neighbor Award. She is currently continuing her education in veterinary school.

Researching cleaner, more efficient energy

Nelson Fernandes
Nelson Fernandes

Nelson Fernandes is a new student who built an impressive research portfolio in high school. and earned the university’s first Energy Boost Scholarship for energy engineering to attend SIU.

He earned a gold award at state science fair competitions for two of his projects and was the Top Student in Research at Niles North High School for his class. As a sophomore, Fernandes was also a founding member of RISE, a STEM program for underrepresented middle school students.

During Nelson’s senior year of high school, he worked with SIU’s mechanical engineering faculty member Kanchan Mondal on a project to remove oxygen from carbon dioxide to reduce pollution while creating an alternative fuel source.

Discouraging bigotry and celebrating diversity

You may have seen media reports of fliers and other communication appearing across southern Illinois and nearby areas – including on campuses – that promote white supremacy groups or call out individuals who share their views. This is happening on campuses across the country, including SIU.

A flier appearing on campus and on social media over the last several days describes an SIU student as a Nazi. This student’s expression of his views has raised a number of questions and concerns, including requests that we remove the student and revoke any scholarship that has been awarded. We absolutely understand and value this feedback.

The views of white supremacists, any other group promoting hate, and all those who seek to demean and marginalize others are abhorrent. They do not align with the university’s mission or values, and they do not represent what we stand for as a campus community.

In fact, we ask all students on campus to follow the Saluki creed: “As a Saluki, I pledge to forward these ideas and ideals: I discourage bigotry and celebrate diversity by striving to learn from differences in people’s ideas and opinions. I will embrace the ideals of freedom of civilized expression, intellectual inquiry and respect for others.”

Free speech

In spite of our strong disagreement with the views and statements advocated by these groups, their perspectives are considered to be free speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All students share the right of free speech, even speech with which we strongly disagree. The right to free speech includes the right to hold and express views that most of us would condemn.

Further, scholarships and financial aid are awarded based on a student’s academic achievements or financial need. As a public institution, we cannot and do not ask about political or social views when admitting students or awarding any type of financial aid. Doing so could lead to perceptions of bias and illegal discrimination.

Again, SIU is not alone in facing the serious societal issues reflected in the messages espoused by hate groups. As has been said elsewhere, the best antidote for hate speech is more speech that counters the views we disagree with – a concept that relates very much to our role as an educational institution.

Carol Christ, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, put it this way: “[t]he most popular argument for free speech is not one of legal constraint – that we’re required to allow it – but of value. The public expression of many sharply divergent points of view is fundamental both to our democracy and to our mission as a university.”

Learn and participate

Our obligation to comply with and respect the law does not prevent any of us from proactively speaking out against racism and bias, and it does not prevent us from focusing on education and dialog about addressing these serious issues. Here are just a few ways you can learn more and participate in the conversation:

  • Next Thursday, Sept. 27, you are invited to attend the play The Defamation Experience, a play exploring how race, religion, class and gender intersect. It takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Lesar Law Building Auditorium.
  • Staff, students and departments can participate in diversity workshops, which focus on maintaining the inclusive excellence of our campus and cover the concepts of diversity, privilege, intersectionality, inclusivity and being an ally. Visit the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Diversity training website to explore training opportunities and to learn how to request training.
  • University Housing’s Office of Residence Life provides programs for residents that span a broad spectrum of diversity-related topics. Residence Life staff host a series of town hall meetings to address more specific topics, including current events relating to issues of diversity. The first town hall meetings will be held throughout the month of October and will include opportunities for students to discuss incidents from this fall semester.
  • Explore the resources across campus, including the Student Multicultural Resource Center dedicated to helping all students think, grow and succeed.

The university has been expanding diversity-related programming in order to give everyone an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to be a Saluki. A new diversity event calendar, housed on the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Diversity website, is being developed to help you stay up-to-date on events and activities.

Staying attuned

The university is continually assessing all information we receive to ensure that our students, faculty and staff can work, live and learn in a supportive, welcoming and safe environment.

Students who are concerned about these issues and fliers should reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students, Saluki Cares or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for assistance.

As always, any individual who is threatened or aware of threatening statements or behaviors should report them to the SIU Department of Public Safety immediately.

With your help, we can work together to fulfill our mission as a university committed to diversity and inclusive excellence.

Student success begins here

As I have said before, students are at the heart of everything we do here at SIU. Our mission to nurture student success means that we must provide unparalleled opportunity to explore all of the many academic, research and campus life activities our university has to offer. That means eliminating barriers and supporting our students in any way we can.

I take great pride in the many financial aid opportunities we offer to all of our students, as they make it possible for students from all backgrounds to obtain a world-class education at a major research institution.

But, I am particularly delighted by the wide variety of robust scholarship and assistantship programs made possible by the support of our amazing donors. These programs help students pay for their tuition and other direct costs, support innovative and interesting research and creative projects, and connect students with faculty and staff mentors to guide their education.

Chancellor’s Scholars shine bright

I am delighted every year to be involved with the pinnacle of these programs, the Chancellor’s Scholarship. Awarded each year to the most promising incoming freshmen and transfer students, these scholarships help students achieve their highest potential.

Nearly 400 students participated in the scholarship interview weekend earlier this year. The selections are based on the students’ ACT or SAT scores, academic credentials submitted at the time of admission, and personal interviews.

This year’s freshman and transfer recipients came from a variety of backgrounds and are entering a diverse selection of programs throughout the university, including accounting, aviation, chemistry, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering. They each bring something unique and special to SIU, and I am proud to call each of them a Saluki.

Opportunities available for varied interests

Scholarships are available for many programs, interests and goals and are awarded throughout the year. If you are a student or have been recently accepted for admission, please take a moment to view the many scholarships available and fill out our SIU General Scholarship Application.

Also, don’t forget about the numerous other types of financial aid we offer to help students achieve their dreams, including grants, assistantships and student employment.

In addition, our Saluki Cents program helps students manage their money, make smart financial decisions and prepare for their futures. Plan now to attend one of the many fall 2018 events.

Helping Salukis build careers

People reviewing a resume

I strongly believe that the college years are about finding your passion. SIU provides lots of opportunities to explore multiple disciplines as well as to learn new skills that will serve students well whether they go on to a job or graduate school once they earn an undergraduate degree.

And while we recognize that not every passion can or should make a career, we also know that our students cannot live their best lives without ultimately finding the right opportunity that provides financial support for their dreams.

That is why we have the Career Development Center. The wonderful staff there help students and alumni achieve their career goals through education, assessment and counseling, assistance with resumes, graduate and professional school applications, mock interviews and more.

Upcoming events

Want to connect with employers? Need to update your professional wardrobe? Interested in polishing your interview skills? The Career Development Center sponsors events throughout the year to help in a variety of ways.

In September and October alone, the center has plans for job fairs, walk-up resume critiques, workshops, and a “Suit-Up” event at J.C. Penney. It also runs the Professional Clothing Closet, where students can get an outfit for attending interviews at no cost.

Saluki Mentor Network helps students and faculty connect

The center just launched the Saluki Mentor Network, a new program that helps students connect with  faculty, staff and alumni who can provide guidance and support with their studies and while building their careers. In October, it will also host the Extern Program.

If you’re interested in being a mentor, or finding a mentor, sign up at siu.wisr.io.

Support on-campus and beyond

This support doesn’t end once you earn your degree. Alumni have access to the same career assistance available to current students, including advising and assessment, access to Handshake, our job search and recruiting tool, workshops and career fairs.

So, whether you’re a current student or alumnus don’t miss out on these great opportunities to develop professional skills and land a good job.

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.

Discoveries and inventions demonstrate the Saluki spirit

Two men work at a computer
Southern Illinois University Carbondale computer science senior Ayush Kohli, seated, and Amiangshu Bosu, assistant professor of computer science, work in a computer lab. Kohli recently won third place at the Association of Computer Machinery’s Student Research Competition world final, a prestigious, international event, featuring the work of 17 regional ACM student research competition champions.

Our mission statement refers to “innovation in research and activity” and “nurturing student success.” We accomplish both through emphasis on student research.

In fact, studying at a major research institution confers a wealth of benefits upon our students. They are constantly pushed to explore real-world problems and come up with practical solutions.

The result is a level of leadership and innovation that never fails to impress.

Innovation recognized on a national level

For instance, two Salukis were recently recognized for their creations.

Ayush Kohli, a senior earning a degree in computer science, earned an award from the Association of Computer Machinery’s Student Research Competition for an app he designed. The app, DecisionDroid, uses machine learning to help identify malicious and pirated apps for Android devices.

Tessa Barnes, a junior in industrial design, gained recognition for her design of a prosthetic device that could be used by musicians to play brass instruments. Her device would give its users much better mobility than similar devices currently on the market.

New revelations about our history

SIU students were at the forefront of the discovery of a new American fort on the site of Fort Kaskaskia. Archeology classes have been conducting hands-on research in the area since last year, and had trouble reconciling their findings with the historical record, which said that U.S. troops inhabited a French fort five decades after it was abandoned.

This year, they found that the U.S. troops had, in fact, built a completely new fort approximately 300 meters from the French fort. The discovery opens a whole new avenue of research on the site.

These are just a few examples of the recent contributions SIU students have made. Our campus is full of inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders. I’m excited to hear about the next big breakthrough.

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.

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.

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.