Big things are coming April 7

The Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service April 7

This Saturday, hundreds of Salukis will fan across Southern Illinois to participate in community service projects. The Big Event started last year as a way for the SIU students, faculty and staff to further our mission of making our community a better place.

Community service is at the heart of SIU’s mission

SIU is already a major economic driver for the region, providing jobs and attracting people from around the country to study, live and visit.

Our students also contribute more than 30,000 hours of community service every year through registered student organizations, coordinated drives and individual volunteerism. That’s in addition to the time our faculty and staff contribute on their own time.

The Big Event is a way to celebrate and expand that commitment to our community.

Making the Big Event even bigger

During last year’s Big Event, 772 Salukis served 2,316 hours for 15 local non-profit agencies. They helped agencies such as The Boys and Girls Club, Keep Carbondale Beautiful and the Jackson County Humane Society.

For many participants, this was their first exposure to volunteerism, and many also continued their service long after the day ended.

This year, our goal is to recruit even more volunteers to serve at least 16 nonprofits. Even one additional volunteer can go a long way.

Step up and help out

You can still join the excitement. They will be taking walk-in registrations the day of the event. Volunteers will be taken on a first come-first served basis.

Any student, faculty or staff member who is at least 18 years old is welcome.

Join me on April 7 to make BIG things happen.

Retention is magic

Growing enrollment isn’t only about recruiting new students. It’s about retaining those we have.

Enrollment growth on the recruitment side of the equation will take time as we revitalize SIU, so it’s critically important that we also immediately focus on retention.

A number of factors contribute to student persistence: the quality of our academic programs, mentoring by faculty members, strong advising, and the quality of campus life.

We can ensure every student has the support needed – through strong academic advising and faculty mentoring – to ensure that they will stay in school and graduate.

Retention plan

Several years ago, the university developed a retention plan that appeared to have some success in its first year. Unfortunately, the plan began to gather dust and we have lost our way.

I have asked the provost’s office to work with deans and others to revisit the plan, identifying what worked, what didn’t, what we might revive and what we want to add. I hope the campus community will engage in the effort.

Longer-term retention will also be positively affected by our revitalized academic programs, a revised core curriculum, and our attention to student life and the total SIU experience.

The retention cycle

Retention cycle chartThe retention cycle is indeed magic. If we focus on quality education and support, our students have greater success, which drives greater retention, allowing us to have larger classes of juniors and seniors, generating more resources that we can reinvest in our programs.

Currently, 27 percent of the freshmen who enroll at SIU graduate in four years, while 44 percent graduate in six years. If we dedicate ourselves to the magic of retention, we can change these rates to 55 percent for all students in four years and 65 percent in six years by 2025. I believe we can do it with the commitment of every faculty and staff member. Please join me in making that commitment.

It’s Greek to me

Members of the Kappa Alpha Order
From left: Clayton Bertoletti, Jacob Selsor, Brady Cummings, Peyton Boysen, Joe Locher, Evan Smith, Hunter Hill,  Jake Barker, and Jordan Mullen.

Congratulations to all members of our Kappa Alpha Order fraternity for earning five awards – including Samuel Zenas Ammen Award for Chapter Excellence – last month.

The award for chapter excellence is given to the top 10 percent of chapters nationally for excellence in all chapter functions:

  • academic programming,
  • academic achievement,
  • community service,
  • philanthropy,
  • public and fraternal communications/excellence in social media,
  • educational programming,
  • membership education,
  • chapter finances, and
  • recruitment and chapter growth.

The chapter also won awards for educational programming, scholastic achievement, and excellence in fraternal as well as social media communication.

I thank them for bringing pride to themselves, our Greek system, and SIU Carbondale.

An important aspect of student life

SIU’s first fraternity and sorority were established in 1923. Today, our 35 Greek fraternities and sororities provide leadership, service and social experiences that add value to their members and to the campus. Too often, we read about the negatives of Greek life on other campuses, so it’s easy to forget about the benefits and values of Greek organizations.

At SIU, for example, Greek students have higher graduate point averages, retention rates, and graduation rates than the student body as a whole. This is because they focus on academics through study hours, mentoring and other strategies. Members also rely on each other as part of a community.

They volunteer on campus and regionally on projects. For instance, they work closely with Keep Carbondale Beautiful to support the Adopt-A-Spot program and clean-up initiatives, and they work with the American Red Cross to organize an annual Homecoming blood drive.

And Greek organizations help attract students who are looking for the type of experience Greek life can offer.

Greek houses on campus

The old Greek row on the west side of campus reminds us that at one time, many fraternities and sororities lived on campus. I’m pleased to report that several chapters are working with their national organizations to explore bringing their houses to campus. This will be a long process, but it is one more step in revitalizing campus life.

In the Dawg Pound


My favorite part of a Saluki basketball game, besides winning, is the Dawg Pound. Students gather in the stands on the south side of the arena – the Dawg Pound – to demonstrate their support of the team loudly. They cheer in full Saluki gear, follow the cues of our great pep band, and add their own form of entertainment to the game experience. One example: At the Bradley game, it was quite a sight as they threw confetti when the team was announced.

I love the Dawg Pound. It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s special to SIU. It is a community that comes together every game to say: “I’m proud to be a Saluki.”

Dawg Pound brings a positive energy to the SIU experience that I hope we can spread across campus. Let’s do it!

Support our teams

I hope to see a great turnout, both in the Dawg Pound and the rest of the arena, for the last home men’s basketball game of the season vs. Loyola at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in SIU Arena. It should be a great game, as the team is currently in second place in the conference standings behind Loyola. We also hope for a great showing at the Missouri Valley Conference championships in St. Louis March 1-4.

The women’s basketball team, also doing well and in fourth place in the conference, has two more home games: Thursday, March 1, at 6 p.m. against Indiana State and Saturday, March 3, at 2 p.m. vs. Evansville. Both games are in SIU Arena. The MVC championships follow March 8-11 in Moline.

Please come support our student athletes.

 

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.

Bleeding maroon while staying green

Woman pollinating a soybean

I recently spent some time traveling with my beautiful grandchildren. I can’t tell you how much I value getting to watch them play, laugh and learn. And, while I watch them grow and discover the world, I can’t help but think about the ways I can improve the world they will inherit.

That is one reason I am proud to call myself a Saluki. Our students’ commitment to environmental stewardship sets a high standard for the region and the country. We’ve earned a silver ranking from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), and have numerous ongoing initiatives to improve that ranking. We’ve also been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly University by The League of American Bicyclists and have been designated as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

In fact, many credit the late R. Buckminster Fuller, an SIU professor from 1959 to 1971, as the father of the modern sustainability movement. He published more than 30 books and lectured internationally but is perhaps best known for popularizing the geodesic dome.

Sustainability has long been a personal and professional interest. In fact, it was was a focus of the research we did at the Ingenuity Lab affiliated with the University of Alberta, my previous academic home. I’m pleased to see it front and center at SIU, as well.

Putting our money where our mouth is

Salukis don’t just talk the talk when it comes to sustainability. In 2009, students came forward to request the university create a new fund to help develop green initiatives. The result was the $10 Green Fee, which feeds the Green Fund. The fund in turn awards grants to support proposals that address the three pillars of sustainability (environmental health, social equity and economic prosperity) on campus.

More than $2.1 million has been allocated already in support of 169 diverse sustainability projects, and the Sustainability Council is now accepting proposals for a new round of grants, which will be announced in April. The deadline for proposals is March 1.

Sustainability in action

The projects supported by the Green Fund have had an impact across SIU campus. Many of these projects involve students, giving them real-world experience, and require collaboration from programs across campus.

Here are just a few of the many examples:

Salukis have kept approximately 1 million plastic bottles from landfills by using refill stations across campus, and worked with AIGA, a professional student design Registered Student Organization, to create signage to better communicate what is and what is not recyclable at our campus recycling stations.

The Green Fund has also brightened up the College of Agriculture building with a vertical garden that helps purify the air while using fewer resources than a typical garden. The Agriculture Building also hosts a green roof, which not only provides an excellent opportunity for hands-on research, but reduces heating and cooling costs and controls pollution from storm water runoff.

In the Department of Theater, the Green Fund helped with the installation of new lighting control consoles and LED light fixtures, which reduced energy usage for productions by 75 percent, and a new Steeldeck stage platform, which cuts down on the amount of lumber waste from theatrical sets. Both of these projects also give students the opportunity to develop their skills using industry-standard technology.

The university’s Physical Plant has chipped in by installing a 28kW photovoltaic solar array, installed more than 6,000 energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, added LED lights to almost 1,000 exit signs, and upgraded old fluorescent lighting to more efficient technology in 82 buildings.

I could go on, but there are too many projects to fit into one blog. I encourage you to check out all of SIU’s sustainability program on the campus Sustainability website. They are truly a shining example of our commitment to environmental stewardship.

Get involved

Salukis are digging in and getting involved in a number of ways. The Saluki Green Action Team — a collaborative group of students, faculty and staff — work to inform the SIU community about ways to measurably reduce our carbon footprint. Anyone can join for free.

SIU will also again be participating in the national RecycleMania competition and benchmarking event in February and March, joining other institutions of higher learning in reporting their recycling, composting and waste statistics for an eight-week period, with ranks determined accordingly. Our goal this year is to increase recycling and reduce waste.

First Friday Green Tours will also resume this spring, offering anyone the opportunity to tour campus and learn more about existing green projects and initiatives. Tours begin at noon on Feb. 2, March 2, April 6 and May 4 at the Innovation and Sustainability Hub, located in the Student Center.

A growing team

Geory Kurtzhals has been leading sustainability at SIU since the fall 2015 semester. During this time, the program has grown and SIU has received additional national recognition for its sustainability endeavors. This year, I am happy to welcome Karen Schauwecker, a 2015 SIU alumna with a master’s degree in geography and environmental resources. She is joining Geory’s team as our new sustainability program coordinator. After spending several years in agriculture education at the K-8 and university levels, Karen is returning to SIU.

There are also two new “Sustainability Fellows” on campus: Jesse Galaway, a senior mechanical engineering student from Monticello, Ill., and Samantha Griffin, a junior geography and environmental resources major from Chicago. These amazing students are gaining practical experience as they assist SIU’s Sustainability Office in supporting events and outreach, as well as recycling and other initiatives, and working to improve the campus-wide STARS sustainability score.

Learn more

Learn more about SIU’s nationally recognized sustainability efforts at www.sustainability.siu.edu, by emailing sustainability@siu.edu or by calling 618/453-2846.

Making the Video: SIU Day of Giving

When I came to SIU, I didn’t expect to get my big break into show business. But here I am, starring in my very own video to help promote SIU’s Day of Giving, March 7. I don’t know that I am ready for Hollywood quite yet, but it may be time to start working on my IMDB page.

While I wait for a call from Spielberg, I should take the time to thank everyone who helped me in my production career. I continue to be amazed by the talent and dedication I see every day in the students, faculty and staff here at SIU.

Without further ado, here’s an inside look at the amazing team that helped me make my video debut:

Planes, robots and cyber security

In my state of the university address, I suggested that intercollegiate competition adds to the complete student experience. Students gain hands-on experience – as well as teamwork and leadership skills – that will make them winners throughout their careers and lives. Successful teams help build the university’s reputation in the academic world.

At SIU, our success in regional and national academic competition is a point of pride. For example, our student web development team placed third in the nation in April, and SIU’s debate team has earned multiple national championships.

Here are three more examples from the fall semester you may have missed.

FLYING TO NATIONALS

The Flying Salukis won all eight events – and their seventh straight regional title – at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region VIII competition in October. Connor Schlottman won honors as top pilot, and seven team members were among the event’s top eight individual scorers. Now the team moves on to the national competition in May.

A ROBOT NAMED WINSTON

The mission for SIU’s robotics team was to get a robot named “Winston” (after Carbondale’s recently retired bagel man) to retrieve hacky sacks on an obstacle course. No problem. In November, the five-member team accomplished its mission to win the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering’s annual robotics competition.

GO SECURITY DAWGS!

The 10-member Security Dawgs, our cyber security team, placed fifth overall out of 179 teams competing in a December National Cyber League event. They earned second place in three additional categories. The team is positioned for the 2018 Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in February.

Please join me in congratulating all of our winning teams and please provide me with ideas for other intercollegiate competitions. These are activities that let the world know why it is special to be a Saluki!