What do you call a ‘jungle gym’ when it’s actually in a …marsh? These RPTA students can tell you.

A group of Western Illinois University-Quad Cities students recently put the finishing touches on a project that gave them class credit for working outdoors, creating something for kids, and improving a part of the Quad Cities community.

And perhaps even more interesting for nature-lovers: they did the entire thing with almost 100-percent natural materials.

“My classmates and I were taking a geographic information system (GIS) class last fall (2016), Site Planning, and we had to design something for our final project,” explained Maddie Kull, a senior recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) major from Morrison, IL. “It just so happened that around the same time, Nahant Marsh received a donation to create a natural play area for children who visit the marsh.”

Kull and the rest of the group members worked from the beginning of their class in the fall semester, and into the summer, to create an all-natural “playscape.”

“Nahant wanted an area that was safe and engaging which would spotlight the area’s natural landscape,” added Jennifer Swofford, an RPTA major from Coal Valley, IL. “The request fit perfectly with our class’s emphasis on wise land-use¬†through inclusive community recreation and conservation.”

Maddie Kull at the Nahant Marsh “playscape”

What’s That Word?

“We use the word “playscape” instead of “playground” because, rather than this being an area separate from its surroundings in what it offers, it blends the natural elements of the marsh into a space that encourages free play and imaginative interaction with the environment,” Swofford explained. “Many of us on the project have very fond memories of playing in nature as children, so this allowed us tap into our experiences in a fun and creative way.”

photo of an outdoor playground made of all-natural materials

Wiki-up and wingspan: Nahant Marsh all-natural playscape created by WIU-QC students

What’s That Stuff?

The all-natural playscape consists of

  • a living fence made of different bushes all with edible fruits,
  • a large balance beam,
  • stepping stumps,
  • a wikki-up, which is a Native American hut made up of brushwood or covered with mats (“We created ours with willow saplings from the marsh,” Kull explained),
  • a loose play-area where children can play with cut-up pieces of small logs, and
  • bird silhouettes kids on which kids measure their “wingspan”

But Didn’t They Have to Kill Some Nature to Make Something out of Nature?

“Most of the materials used to make this project were gathered here at the marsh,” said Jevonnah Prashaw, Nahant Marsh Education Center natural resources manager, who oversaw the construction.They cut willows and used them to make the wikki, the stepping stones, and balance beam, and the loose play logs were all from trees here at the marsh that were taken down either because they were hazard trees or were non-native (a lot of it was mulberry, green ash, and boxelder). The ‘living border’ around the playscape is made of native shrubs, including aronia berry, hazelnut, serviceberry, and crab-apple.”

Prashaw noted the improvement that the playscape brings to the site. “It adds an enriching experience to the younger children that visit the marsh and gives them a chance to play with and experience natural materials in a safe learning environment,” she said.

Another fulfilling achievement from the project was working with RiverStone Group of Moline to secure a donation of crushed limestone to use as substrate, said Kull, who is also minoring in environmental studies.

“The best thing about this project for me was being part of it every step of the way,” Kull said. “I was there from the very beginning until the very end, and it’s wonderful seeing your ideas actually come to life!”

What RPTA Work Is All About, Inside and Outside the Classroom

“The class project was designed around wise land-use,” Swofford said. “There were so many things that I enjoyed both while in the class and while doing the project. The class is extremely helpful in focusing on all of the considerations that arise during park planning. Not only do you learn about the physical and technical aspects of planning through GIS, but you also incorporate the human and conservation side of planning that allows you better serve the community in a thoughtful and educated way.”

Swofford said she also enjoyed putting the classroom work into a collaborative, practical application.

“We worked as a team to create, work, and present our plan as would any company,” she said. “It was very helpful in shining a light on what we are able to do well and what considerations we should make in the future. Our professor, Rob Porter, did an excellent job of guiding us when necessary, but giving us enough freedom to experience the project from a professional point of view.”

Swofford reflected on what she’ll take away from the project overall.

“The greatest thing I learned from both the project and the class is that wise land use is really a balancing act wherein you must consider many different elements of planning,” she said. “Recreation is not always about what attracts the most people to an area, but how well both the community and environment is cared for when they do come. Effective planners have to take into account all aspects of a landscape and community to bring a service that will be both fun and functional, while being considerate of the surrounding environment.”

Summer Love

Even once the project was finished, Kull was happy to remain at the Marsh this summer as an intern doing animal care as an intern.

“We have a variety of reptiles and amphibians that call the education center their home,” she said. “I also work on the natural resource team, working on restoring prairie and making sure the marsh is a thriving healthy ecosystem. I’ve fallen too deeply in love with the animals and the marsh to leave!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

October COAP Employee Spotlight: Joe Roselieb

Joe Roselieb and Col. Rock III

Joe Roselieb and Col. Rock III

The Western Illinois University Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) employee featured in this month’s COAP Spotlight is usually the individual at the other end of Col. Rock III “Rocky‘s” leash…

In his day job, Joe Roselieb serves as the director of residential facilities for University Housing and Dining Services (UHDS). But at night–and at Western Illinois Athletics‘ games, and in parades, and at WIU AdmissionsDiscover Western open house events, and at many, many student activities, and at alumni events–his main job is to serve as Rocky’s person.

Rocky joined the WIU family in May 2010 as a 10-week-old pup. Since then, Joe has been providing him with a loving home, teaching him tricks, making sure he’s healthy and chauffeuring him to numerous WIU and community events each year.

“It’s been a terrific experience taking care of WIU’s mascot,” Joe noted. “My day-to-day job isn’t always that glamorous, so it’s a real treat to get to be able to take Rocky around and see the positive impact around both the campus and community.”

Joe took time out his (and Rocky’s) busy schedule to provide a little bit of background about himself and he how strives for “paw”fection in his role at UHDS.

Q. Tell me a bit about your background. How did you end up working at Western Illinois University?

Joe and Rocky take a rest at the 2015 WIU Homecoming Leatherneck Football Game.

Joe and Rocky take a rest at the 2014 WIU Homecoming Leatherneck Football Game.

Joe: I’m originally from Prophetstown (IL). I came to WIU in 2003 to attend for my undergraduate degree and graduated in 2007 with my bachelor’s degree. All through college I worked in UHDS as a student worker and was offered an assistantship in housing following graduation, which I accepted and did for one year. In 2008, I had the rare opportunity to apply for an assistant director position for facilities and was selected, and I started my full-time career that July. I finished my master’s later that spring in 2009. In 2012, I was promoted to director of residential facilities.

Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you?

Joe: Every day is a little different and that is what makes it exciting. Most days start at 8 a.m. or a little before and are filled with meetings, walk-throughs of facilities, and a lot of planning. In my area, looking forward is essential, so I spend a lot of time working with members of Facilities Management, University Technology, and other campus entities mapping out things for the future.

Q. What is your favorite on-the-job memory?

Joe: My favorite job memory is probably finishing up renovation Corbin and Olson after three years of planning and construction. It taught me a lot about construction, communication, and just the overall process. When you have a project that big, there is a lot to keep track of and it was a great feeling when it was all done and completed.

Rocky and His Person, Joe Roselieb, in 2010

Rocky and His Person, Joe Roselieb, in 2010

Q. What has been your most rewarding professional experience in your career so far?

Joe: My most rewarding professional experience has been being selected as the 2011 Administrator of the Year from Western’s Division of Student Services.

Q. How do you juggle Rocky’s busy appearance schedule?

Joe: It can be very difficult at times, but we try to attend as much as possible. I’m pretty selective of the events we choose to attend, and I always make sure it coincides with the mission and values of the institution. Looking back at the last five years of the live-mascot program, it has been a gratifying experience to see how far it’s come and the amount of people it has impacted.

Q. Tell me a little about your favorite activities outside of your job (e.g., hobbies, family or friend activities, etc.).

Joe: I enjoy music and sports. I try to attend at least one or two Chicago Bears’ games a year, even though this year I think I’ll save my money. I also purchased a new house last March and work on it when I can. I also became an uncle for the first time on Sept. 28… to a niece.

Q. What is your favorite quote?

Joe: “Don’t let your failures define you, let them refine you.”

People of WIU

Dallas Boswell - People of WIU

In Fall 2014, Western Illinois University Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad asked her students to use “two of the ethnographic research tools that anthropologists use–cameras and talking to, or interviewing, people” to emulate the “Humans of New York” (HONY) project for a “People of WIU” assignment.

Last week, the new best-selling book “Humans of New York” was released. You may or may not know the blog–created by Brandon Stanton–upon which the book is based.

If you do, you may have encountered the Humans of New York (HONY) project behind the blog via its huge Facebook or Twitter following. (The HONY Facebook page has close to 16 million likes and the HONY Twitter feed has more than 360K followers.)

According to the Oct. 12 ABC news article “Humans of New York Creator Reveals How He Gets People to Share Life’s Intimate Details,” over the last five years, the blog has transformed from featuring only pictures [of New Yorkers] to also telling stories”–basically, an anthology (the definition, per Merriam-Webster Unabridged, “a usually representative collection of selected literary pieces or passages”).

Bre Bracey - People of WIUSuch a project was a natural fit for an assignment in two “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology FYE” (First Year Experience) classes taught by Western Illinois University Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad.

So in Fall 2014, she did just that–asked her students to use “two of the ethnographic research tools that anthropologists use–cameras and talking to, or interviewing, people” to emulate the project for a “People of WIU” assignment.

“Anthropology is about telling a story. Sometimes the story is written and sometimes it includes images. Your assignment is to tell a story about the People of WIU. The people–students, faculty, administration, individuals who work in the cafeteria, the Beu Health Center, the construction workers–are all fascinating, but we seldom take time to talk to them and find out their stories,” her instructions noted.

To complete the assignment, McIlvaine-Newsad asked her students to “write three questions that you will ask all of the people you photograph.”

Sawhney_Surya“You will need to photograph and interview a minimum of 10 people and take a minimum of 10 photos of each individual. Make sure you have your subjects complete and sign the Model Release Form, which will allow us to use their images on the WIU website. Select your three best photos and quotes, and put them in a PowerPoint presentation.”

McIlvaine-Newsad, who has been a faculty member for 15 years, said she is “constantly amazed at who my students are and what they bring to the classroom.”

“They have many stories to tell. In virtually all my classes, from study abroad courses to Germany and India or methods classes, we explore ways in which people can tell us what is important to them. Often we discover that people who may seem so very different than we are share similar powerful stories. I especially wanted to bring this message to first-year students, who are making adjusting to a new way of life as university students. Using a visual anthropology format that includes both the power of images and written word, like those from HONY, seemed like a great assignment for my students.

Kathy Clauson - People of WIUWhen asked why she had her students use the digital storytelling technique:

“The reasons for doing so vary with each course: sometimes it’s to focus a student’s research interest. Other times it’s to develop communication skills in visual or audio media. In another class, it may be to relate an experience that is more personal in nature–too personal for a more formal academic paper format,” she noted.

In this post are some of the results from her students’ completion of the assignment. These are just a smattering of the stories of the all of the “People of WIU.”

Feel free to share your story–about something that matters to you or share a lingering question you have about your life or something that is on your mind (no profanity or references to alcohol or drug use please; comments will be moderated)–in the comments below.

Imani Kutti - People of WIUDamien Pickens - People of WIU
Jodie Tan Qiu Yu - People of WIUMary Street - People of WIU

Local ‘$5 doctor’ (and WIU alum) continues to give back to Western Illinois

A P Photo/Jeff Roberson - Dr. Russell Dohner, right, talks with nurse Rose Busby about a patient's prescription in Rushville, Ill.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, photo, Dr. Russell Dohner, right, talks with nurse Rose Busby about a patient’s prescription in Rushville, Ill. In an era of rising healthcare costs, the 87-year-old doctor only charges patients $5 per office visit and doesn’t take insurance saying it isn’t worth the bother. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

“I always just wanted to be a doctor to help people with their medical problems and that’s all it’s for,” the 87-year-old family physician says. “It was never intended to make a lot of money.” — Dr. Russell Dohner

In 2006, Dr. Russell Dohner, a Rushville (IL) physician for close to 60 years, was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during Western Illinois University’s Spring Commencement Exercises in Macomb. A member of the first pre-med group at Western after World War II, Dohner attended the Northwestern University Medical School, graduating in 1953. After practicing medicine for two years at St. Luke?’s Hospital in Chicago, Dohner returned to Rushville and has served as a doctor there ever since.

A recent Associated Press article, “The ‘$5 doctor’ practices medicine from bygone era,” recognizes Dr. Dohner’s contributions to the health care field, as well as to the people in the Western Illinois region.

Dr. Russell Dohner, WIU Photo

Dr. Russell Dohner, a Rushville (IL) physician for close to 60 years, was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during Western Illinois University?’s Spring 2006 Commencement Exercises.

“The only thing that has changed, really — other than the quickness of the doctor’s step or the color of his thinning hair — is his fee. When Dohner started practicing medicine in Rushville in 1955, he charged the going rate around town for an office visit: $2,” states the article’s author Martha Irvine. “Now it is $5. This in an era when the cost of healthcare has steadily risen, when those who don’t have medical insurance often forgo seeing a doctor. But not Dohner’s patients. He doesn’t even accept medical insurance — says it’s not worth the bother.”

Kudos to Dr. Dohner who continues to embody the core values of Western Illinois University! Read the entire article at news.yahoo.com/5-doctor-practices-medicine-bygone-era-180340207–finance.html

Visual effects pioneer, Western IL native, Tom G. Smith visits WIU

Thomas G. Smith, Visual Effects Pioneer, spoke at Western Illinois University in Macomb Oct. 17, 2012

Noted filmmaker and Canton, IL, native Thomas G. Smith–renowned for his special effects work on such iconic American films as E.T., Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark–spoke at Western Illinois University Sandburg Theatre in the University Union Oct. 17. His lecture, “Movie Magic–My Thirty Years in Visual Effects,” was illustrated with clips from his film career.

“I tell young people who ask me how to get into filmmaking: ‘Start making some movies.’ And it’s not an unreasonable request. If I said that 40 years ago to someone, that person would have asked: ‘Well, where am I going to get the $5,000 to make even make a short one?’ But nowadays, if you have a computer and a video camera, you can do it.”

This plain-dealing advice came from Thomas G. Smith, someone who knows about making and whose long career in film is anything but plain.

Renowned for his special effects work on such films as George Lucas’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Steven Spielberg’s E.T., Smith, a Canton, IL, native, recently treated students, faculty, and staff to an in-person account of his career in filmmaking and visual effects production. During his two-day tour of Western Illinois University last week, Smith gave students an insider’s insight into filmmaking and the use of visual effects in feature films in his presentations in a couple of introduction to film courses. He also presented “Movie Magic–My Thirty Years in Visual Effects” (on Oct. 17), a University-wide lecture replete with compelling still and video images that illustrated Smith’s long career in both educational and commercial moviemaking.

Smith also took time during his visit to Macomb to visit University Relations, where I had the opportunity to talk to him about his fascinating time working in “big” feature film production, a career that many creative types would consider to be a series of “dream” jobs.

An image slide that was presented in Tom G. Smith's "Movie Magic--My Thirty Years in Visual Effects" presentation at WIU Oct. 17

During his Oct. 17 presentation, “Movie Magic–My Thirty Years in Visual Effects” at WIU, Tom G. Smith showed images and movie clips from his long career in educational and commercial filmmaking. This image is of Smith working on a editing machine in the pre-digital editing software days.

The Move to Making Movie Magic in Marin
Smith’s work as manager of the creative team at George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)–a visual effects production house located in Marin County in northern California–began in 1980. Under his direction, ILM created the innumerably breathtaking visual effects on some of the most beloved movies in the American cinema, including: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, E.T., Poltergeist, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Dragonslayer, and two Star Trek films. But before he got to ILM, Smith “paid his dues,” so to speak, working for several years on educational films for Encyclopedia Britannica.

One of his productions for EB, The Solar System, a 1977 film narrated by Richard Basehart, provided the necessary platform for him to step into the visual effects realm of Hollywood feature filmmaking.

Smith: At the time, I had worked in film for Encyclopedia Britannica [near Chicago] making educational films for about 15 to 20 years. And then I was assigned to make a film about the solar system, and since I couldn’t go on location to film it, I had to manufacture it. That’s what got me into that. It was so difficult, so prone to error–you had to do things over again. When I finished that film I told my wife, “I never want to do a visual effects film again.”

But that film was my opening, and George Lucas hired me a few years later to run his Industrial Light and Magic, which is where they make visual effects for his films.

TK: What was it like being interviewed by George Lucas?

Image from slideshow that Thomas G. Smith presented at Western Illinois University Oct. 17, 2012, from his lecture, "Movie Magic--My Thirty Years in Visual Effects"

Tom G. Smith’s presentation (at Western Illinois University Oct. 17) “Movie Magic–My Thirty Years in Visual Effects” included images from his career as the manager of George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic production facility in California. Here, Smith’s photo shows how the team filmed the opening sequence of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Smith:It was a person who worked at ILM who had seen The Solar System who recommended me. I went through six interviews, and then the last interview was with George Lucas himself. The president of the company talked to me before I met George, and he said, “George is kind of an introvert. He doesn’t talk a lot. Don’t worry if he isn’t very conversational. He’s a very quiet guy.” So I was ready for that, and the day I interviewed, he came in and started talking, and I never got a chance to tell him anything.

During the interview, I remember him telling me, “If you go bankrupt, I’m not going to bail you out. You gotta stand on your own legs.”

I guess he knew I was already hired. We actually got along very well, I think because of my experience with film–he knew I had done a lot of things he had done. So I knew 16-millimeter film and all the cameras used and the sound equipment, and all the problems you can have. So we had sort of a similar background, in that regard. Of course, his background–I mean, he went right to the top with his films, American Graffiti… and Star Wars was a spectacular success.

When I got to ILM, they had already made Star Wars, and they were working on The Empire Strikes Back. There had been a gap between those two films, where they had shut the place down. George [Lucas] said, “I don’t want to do that anymore, I want to continue it as a service to the industry. So when my next Star Wars film comes [which turned out to be Return of the Jedi], we’ll have something going and the continuity of the people.”

So I took over as manager of ILM, and that was the first time that company became an independent service company, rather than just an arm of a production. There we did some very interesting films–E.T., Poltergeist, Star Trek, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. And then we came along to Return of the Jedi. And then the second Indiana Jones movie…

About that time, I was getting a little tired of just doing visual effects and I told George [Lucas], “Nothing against you guys, but I want to make movies.” So he gave me an assignment, because he didn’t want me to leave, and I made two, two-hour long ABC special movies on the Ewoks [The Ewok Adventure and Caravan of Courage]. We did those in northern California.

People often think that ILM must be in Hollywood, but it’s not. It’s north of San Francisco. When I arrived, it had about 100 people working there, all of them very creative, energetic and independent, rebellious… I’m still just amazed when I think of what talent we had there. And many of them have gone to become film directors and to win many Academy Awards in visual effects.

TK: How did your background in educational film prepare you for that?

Tom G. Smith’s presentation (at Western Illinois University Oct. 17) “Movie Magic–My Thirty Years in Visual Effects” included images from his career as the manager of Industrial Light and Magic production facility in California. Here, Smith’s photo shows the miniature version of the house in Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist.

Smith: Because I had worked so much in film, I really understood all of it. I have worked in every area except the developing of the film. I’ve worked as a cameraman, director… everything.

But the trick was–when we started doing work for people on the outside, and for Lucas, too–to stay on budget. That was the main challenge, because creative people tend to want to keep doing it and doing it, until it’s absolutely perfect. And so sometimes you have to have them keep their eyes on what we could afford. And one of the biggest helps was George Lucas, who understood that. I remember asking him, “How do I get these guys to understand that we have to stay on budget?” And he said, “Involve them in it.” So, what we did… we would do a bit on a film, say on E.T. or Poltergeist, and when we were working on it every week, we would sit down and summarize how much we’d spent, how much we had left, and whether we were doing good (in terms of cost) or not. And we would review all the films. We usually did two or three films at once, and then we would review them with all those people. It was a bit of a competition then. “You know, this film is still doing well on budget. Theirs is a little over…” So that helped an awful lot.

But it is a difficult challenge, and as George Lucas said one time: “The visual effects are never done, they are just abandoned.”

TK: What were some of the processes of visual effects like in the pre-digital world?

Smith: The processes actually are no different in principle then when George M?li?s, back at the turn of the century, was making films. It was re-photography of images. So you take an image of a spaceship, say you want it flying toward you. You would suspend it, and the camera would race in on the spaceship–by race in, I mean one frame at a time, very slowly. You would take that image, and then have another image of, let’s say, a star field, and then you would use the first image with the matted background that was blue and then matte out everything and then expose the star field. And that portion of the star field would be covering where the spaceship was, you would matte that out.

So you would put it together in re-photography. But you didn’t always succeed. Every morning we would review what we did. Very often there would be a mistake, and we’d have to do it over again, sending small pieces of film to the lab because what we worked with were just little pieces. It was tedious. It is tedious now digitally, but tedious in a different way.

Industrial Light and Magic: The Art of Special Effects by Thomas G. Smith

The year Smith left ILM, his book Industrial Light and Magic: The Art of Special Effects (1986) was published. A classic in the field, it went through a dozen printings, selling 100,000 copies, and helped to give Smith an international reputation. The original manuscript for that work and other materials are part of the Western Illinois University Libraries’ Thomas G. Smith Collection, which reflects the filmmaker’s achievement. Contact WIU Archives and Special Collections at (309) 298-2717 (or via email at malpass-archives@wiu.edu) for more info. about this collection.

TK: You also worked for Disney, right?

Smith: Yes, in 1986. I was sent there by George Lucas, because he was working on Captain EO with Michael Jackson, and they were having big trouble with the movie, because the visual effects were very difficult to do.

When I was through with that movie, Jeffrey Katzenberg asked me to come work for Disney, and I still wanted to make movies, so I went to Disney and then consulted on some of the theme-park visual effects production work. But then I was the executive producer of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It was almost all visual effects and was a great idea for a movie. I did some other things while I was at Disney, too.

[Smith produced the visual effects for this high-budget, Disney theme-park 3D production, Captain EO, starring Jackson, which opened at Disney venues in California, Florida, France, and Japan. It is still showing as a theme park attraction after 26 years. Partly as a result of that acclaimed production, Smith was invited to join Walt Disney Studios as a feature film producer. His Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) won a BAFTA (British Academy Award) for outstanding special effects.]

Smith: While I was Disney, Jim Henson was going to a 3D theme park film for them. At that point, I sort of became “Mr. 3D”–before Captain EO I had never done it. So I produced Jim Henson’s movie, Muppet Vision 3D. He died while we were doing it–it was quite a shock… He was only 53 years old.

[In 1995, Smith left Disney to produce the science fiction film The Arrival starring Charlie Sheen. In 1999, he worked on the visual effects and directed second unit on the Jim Henson Co. film Muppets from Space. In 2001, he produced the Jim Henson Company/CBS’s, Jack and the Beanstalk , a four-hour movie of the week running in two parts on two successive CBS nights. His last feature film was as the visual effects producer and second unit director for Ted Turner’s Civil War epic, Gods and Generals (2003). The year he finished work on Gods and Generals, Tom wrote and published the civil war novel, Massacre At Baxter Springs (2004).]

Smith: I wrote a book on the Civil War, which after Gods and Generals I became more intimate with–I learned more about what it must of have been like to be a Civil War soldier. So I began thinking about my great grandfather, who died in Kansas in the Civil War, and I did a lot research on that. That is what the book is about… about his experience. He was about 17 years old , and he died about six weeks after he enlisted in Wisconsin. It is interesting what you can find out if you really dig. I actually got down to a handwritten description about what happened during the battle in which he died.

Gods and Generals was the very last feature film I worked on. After that, I went back and resurrected a film I worked on when I was working in 16 millimeter, which involves the geographic region of Western Illinois, the film Spoon River Anthology. It was pretty successful in 16 mm, but I wanted to do a bigger film, so I expanded the one I had, and it’s now being released by Phoenix [out of St. Louis]. It’s now around 90 minutes interactive–I designed it on the DVD so you can see the Spoon River part, or you can see a section on Edgar Lee Masters.

That project actually is what brought me in contact with WIU, because [Western Illinois University Distinguished Professor Emeritus] John Hallwas had written the introduction to the Spoon River Anthology book that came out, and he seemed to know a lot about it. So when I was expanding the project, I contacted him and interviewed him, and we’ve kept in contact ever since.

******

These days, Smith continues to write. Recently, he wrote the introduction to the new Oxford University Press book about educational movies, Learning with the Lights Off (2011), and he is currently writing a series of film history articles for “Insider” magazine.

View Smith’s Internet Movie Database (IMDb) bio at www.imdb.com/name/nm0810147/

Editor’ s Note: Notes from John Hallwas were used to help provide background information about Thomas G. Smith’s career. More information about Smith is also available in the University Relations’ press release that was disseminated prior to Smith’s Oct. 17 lecture at WIU.

Make it a win for wine! Alumna’s small retail biz gets some big-time attention

Susan Kaufman, WIU Alumna and Proprietor of Market Alley Wines in Monmouth, IL

Kaufman’s small Monmouth-IL based business has recently gotten some big-time attention. She entered a video about Market Alley Wines in the National Retail Federation’s “This Is Retail” nationwide video contest. Vote for Market Alley Wines at www.retailmeansjobs.com/ThisIsRetail/SusanKaufman_profile.

At age 45, Susan Kaufman found herself at a crossroads in her life. According to the Western alumna (Kaufman graduated from WIU in 1988 with her bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in professional writing), she worked for many years as a journalist, left that career for a job in marketing, and realized that she “worked very hard selling a product that I wasn’t that enthusiastic about.” She decided she would be much happier working for herself.

And so Market Alley Wines was established.

Kaufman’s small wine retail business, based in Monmouth, IL, has recently received some big-time attention. She entered a video about Market Alley Wines in the National Retail Federation’s “This Is Retail” nationwide video contest, and, as of this week, her video is a top ten finalist. The winning video will garner the retailer a $25,000 prize. You can vote for Market Alley Wines, through Sunday, April 15, at www.retailmeansjobs.com/ThisIsRetail/Matchup/14.

During all the excitement and, of course, running her busy small retail business, she was kind enough to take time of out her schedule and answer some questions about her retail venture and the video contest.

Q). When and why did you open Market Alley Wines?

I have always been a wine enthusiast, love working with people, and had retail experience, so it seemed like the right choice. I made the decision in February of last year to move forward with Market Alley Wines and opened June 7, 2011.

Q). Were you at all daunted by the fact you were opening a small business in a difficult economy and in, what some would call, an even more difficult market in west central Illinois?

A small business in a small town in a bad economy. What could go wrong? Actually, not much has. I did a considerable amount of research in both the wine industry and the local economy, and both showed signs of potential. Monmouth was lacking a “destination” spot… a place where people gather, visit, and relax. I certainly did not enter into this business lightly. But Monmouth is like so many other small communities. We once had many thriving businesses downtown, and now there are very few businesses. I think people now get the reality that, to keep businesses in their communities, they have to support them. It doesn’t hurt that my wine shop is beautiful and comfortable.

Q). What do you consider the most challenging aspects of operating a small business like yours in a rural region?

There is often a perception that a small-town business will be “hill-billy” or crappy, but that isn’t always the case. So many times when people walk through the door for the first time, I hear them say they can’t believe the store is in Monmouth. It is an environment that beckons a big city, but with the charm of a rural downtown. Just because we are small town doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice quality.

Q). What did you do before opening your business in Monmouth?

I counted about 30 jobs from my first at age 13 as a corn detasseler to the present. It isn’t like I can’t keep a job, rather I kept struggling to find one that could hold all my interests. I love a job where every day is different and you never know what the day will bring. I love being creative. I love learning something new every day and sharing that knowledge. I love people and enjoy it so much when people leave my store happy. This job has all of those qualities, plus I am my own boss so my success depends on me. And I don’t have a dress code.

Susan Kaufman, WIU Alumna and Proprietor of Market Alley Wines in Monmouth, IL

Visit Market Alley Wines online at marketalleywines.com.

Q). Why did you decide to enter your business into the “This Is Retail” video contest?

My entire life philosophy the past few years has been “What do I have to lose?” And after I heard about the contest, I thought my story had some legs.

Q). If you win the contest, what will you do with the money you win?

I would love to start a yearly wine and music festival in downtown Monmouth. Something that could give back to this awesome community but also bring new people into our town that could help other businesses.

Q). Anything else you think is important to highlight?

I tried to model my business on those places that I love frequenting. The kind of place where every time you go in, there is something new. A place where the owner or workers know me and know what I like. A place that is inviting, clean, smells nice and plays great music.

I think I’ve done so well in this contest because we are in a small community in the Midwest. We stick together and support our own. I’ve really been so touched by all the support I’ve received.

WIU history major creates rural school database during internship

A recent story in the Quincy Herald Whig illustrates how Western students get hands-on experience during their studies at WIU.

Joel Koch, a senior history major at Western Illinois University, shows a couple of the photos of old rural schools in Adams County that he's found during his internship at the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

Quincy Herald-Whig photo at left: Joel Koch, a senior history major at Western Illinois University, shows a couple of the photos of old rural schools in Adams County that he’s found during his internship at the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

“There [are] a lot of people who went to these schools, and many of them have died already,” Koch said. “If their children or grandchildren are doing family research and they run across a reference that they went to a certain school but don’t know where it was, they can refer to our list and get that information.”

According to Edward Husar’s, “Historical Society intern compiles database of old rural schools in Adams County” posted in late November, Joel Koch, a senior history major from Quincy (IL), has compiled a database of nearly 200 rural schools that once operated in Adams County during his internship with the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

Read more at www.whig.com/story/16083102/historical-society-intern-compiles-database-of-former-rural-schools.

Learn more about WIU’s Department of History at www.wiu.edu/cas/history/.

Alum designs 2nd album cover for popular hip hop/rock group, Gym Class Heroes

WIU alum Evan Leake's album cover designs for Gym Class Heroes

Evan Leake's designs for Gym Class Heroes' debut album, "The Papercut Chronicles" (left) and the band's sequel "The Papercut Chronicles II"

When Evan Leake designed his first album cover for Gym Class Heroes‘ debut album “The Papercut Chronicles” back in 2005, he said the Geneva, NY-based rock/hip hop group had “just been freshly signed” to its label, Decaydance Records. Six years and a few albums later, Gym Class Heroes’ sequel to its debut album is number 10 on Billboard’s Rap Album chart (week ending December 3, 2011), and Leake has yet another dynamic cover design to his credit.

Recently, Leake–who earned his bachelor of fine arts from Western Illinois University’s Department of Art in 2006–was tapped to produce an album cover for Gym Class Heroes’ sequel to its debut album, “The Papercut Chronicles II.” According to Leake, he designed this second album cover so that “the artwork flowed seamlessly between the two albums, side by side.”

Charles Wright, art department chair at WIU, and I sent Evan some questions about his latest vision and creation for Gym Class Heroes. Following are Evan’s answers he sent to us via email.

Pale Bird Design Studio | Evan Leake

Pale Bird Design Studio | You can see more of Evan's work at www.facebook.com/palebird

Q: How did you first come to be involved with the album cover project for Gym Class Heroes?

Leake: I did the original “The Papercut Chronicles” album back in 2005, when Gym Class Heroes had just been freshly signed to their label. I had worked my way up to getting gigs with major and large independent record labels, and this project was given to me randomly. When the latest album, “The Papercut Chonricles II” came around, they contacted me to do the artwork once again.

Q: How did you conceptualize the first album cover for the band? Can you explain how the creative process works, between you and the band members?

Leake: I usually send artwork to the management and label people, who then, in turn, send the art to the band, so I don’t always get in touch with the band members themselves. This time around we had a couple phone conferences with Travie McCoy [lead vocals] up front to talk about art and photography before we began to get everyone on the same page. After that, we collaborated through management.

I don’t think the band had much in mind when we developed the original artwork. I know we wanted something brightly colored but “urban” and interesting. I took some of the standard iconography of hip hop culture, street art, etc., and made art that resembled stencil graffiti or something to that effect. We also incorporated photos of the band into a sort of collage.

For this most recent album, it was very important to the band’s lead Travie McCoy that the artwork for both albums fit together side by side, like puzzle pieces. I created the new artwork with similar, yet refined techniques and developed the cover for the album to match up directly next to the original.

We then fleshed out the inside of the booklet using portraits of the band again, but this time we gave each member a “totem,” featuring photos of them through childhood, a picture of them from the era of the original album, and then a modern portrait, stacked up to represent growth and reflection.

I was also able to create three single covers for songs that should be hitting the airwaves soon. These covers are designed so that they fit side by side with the cover and match up seamlessly as well. I am very excited for the success of this album, more than anything else I’ve worked on yet and am grateful for the opportunity to work with such talented musicians.

Q: Does the creative work (music) of the band influence your album cover design(s)? If so, how?

Leake: I always consider the band’s music when developing artwork for the band. I like to try new techniques for each CD I do. Sometimes bands will request a style similar to what I’ve done in the past, but I usually try to differentiate each layout so each CD has its own tone that suits the music. I usually like to listen to the record while working on the artwork, but sometimes it’s not so easy. It took a while for me to get a few watermarked MP3s for this latest release, and I didn’t hear the full album until it was released, but when I was working on the original, I had the full album 6 months or more before it came out. But that was a while ago, before the all the early leaks and filesharing.

Q: How did you create the album cover designs?

Leake: I used Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create the artwork. The original “Papercut” layout was entirely created in Photoshop, but this time I created the artwork as a 100 percent vector graphic, so that it could be easily adapted to other kinds of merchandise and stage backdrops, etc.

I feel like I was able to create a more interesting layout this time around, using photo collage based on photos the band provided me. I feel like the newest package is much more intentional than the original release. We were kind of just messing around back then, and so was the band. So I think the growth musically and visually really go hand in hand.

………

Evan is the owner and lead designer of Pale Bird Design Studios. He is a native of Macomb and lives in Macomb. For more about Evan and his work for other bands, like Fallout Boy, Alkaline Trio, Atreyu, The Academy Is and Trapt, check out, “Local artist designs hit album covers,” which appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of the McDonough County Voice.

Bruce Walters, professor of art at WIU, contributed to this post

An up-lift-ing achievement: student sets world records in international competition

Like many college students, Sophie Simmons found herself feeling a bit restless during a break from school.

But instead of channel-surfing or sleeping in, she got involved in a new sport. And not long after that she set a world record in it.

Simmons, a senior exercise science major at WIU, recently brought home the record for her age division and weight class at the American Drug Free Powerlifting Federation (ADFPF) World Championships held in Castleblayney, Ireland. Simmons was among 300 competitors from 20 nations competing to lift the most total weight over a set of three lifts, a squat, a bench press, and a “dead lift.” The 21-year-old in the 58.5-kilos (or 123-129-pound) weight class lifted a total of 656 lbs.

“It was incredible,” she said of the experience. And as if that weren’t stunning enough, the Macomb native dropped this tidbit of information: “I’ve only been doing the sport for a little under a year.”

Find out how she got into the sport–(more after the photos)–below.

 

photo of Sophie Simmons in the national power lifting competition

at nationals in June 2010

photo of Sophie Simmons lifting a weight in a power lifting competition

Simmons displays her strenghts at nationals in June 2010

photo of Sophie Simmons at the World Championships

Sophie Simmons at the World Championships in November 2010

While Simmons may have mastered the art of power lifting in record time, she has been competing in athletic endeavors since childhood, starting with gymnastics at age seven, which would lead her to winning national titles in power tumbling.

“I’ve done track and pole vaulting, I love dance, cycling, swimming…I like to do everything,” she said.

Still, she had never heard of power lifting until last fall, when she was looking for motivation and happened to visit the workout room at the Salvation Army Community Center in Macomb as part of a kinesiology class. There, she met two retired WIU physical education professors, Judy Gedney and Roger Gedney, who introduced her to the sport. Judy is not only a WIU Athletic Hall of Fame coach, but also has competed in power lifting for 40 years.

“I had been doing triathlons, but triathlon season ends when it gets cold, so I started working out there,” Simmons explained. “I was like, I need something to do, something to compete in.

I’m just really competitive by nature. I love working out, but I need a goal, something to look forward to.”

Aside from her experience with weight training as an athlete, and seeing weight-lifting competitions on TV during the Olympics, she only knew the stereotype of the bulging-muscled female body builders in tiny bikinis. With her slight frame, Simmons acknowledges, “I don’t look like a power lifter. I look like a runner.”

But Roger Gedney recognized something in her, she said.

“I was a gymnast for about 10 years, and so were Roger and Judy back in the day. Gymnasts just have a natural base strength, and the movements are similar in power lifting, so I caught on to the form on my first lift. I was like, ‘I think I can do this.'”

Judy Gedney taught Simmons each of the three lifts and explained other elements of competition, including the one-rep maximum lifts in three attempts and how the totals are added up. The organization is one of the only federations that’s explicitly drug-free and determined by drug testing, she said. At their encouragement, she began training for competition in November 2009, working out at the Salvation Army center for two hours a day, three days a week from December through April. (That’s in addition to her student-worker position at Western’s Spencer Student Recreation Center as a personal trainer and group fitness teacher.) She found satisfaction in the process as her strength began to build.

“It’s a process where you can visibly see your results as you improve along the way,” she said. “I have a notebook filled with every workout I’ve done since the first day I was in there, and you can see, as your weights go up, the strength you’re attaining. It’s rewarding to see your progress.”

She stepped up to five days a week for the summer, and “this summer was the strongest I’ve ever felt,” she said.

And it wasn’t just a feeling. In June, Simmons competed in nationals held in Columbia, Mo., where she set qualifying totals to compete on the international level. Once she knew she was going to the world championships, she said, “my only goal was to do the dead lift, 140 kilos. That’s 309 pounds.”

A shoulder injury set back her training. But she kept at it.

“Roger definitely had the biggest influence on me to stick with it and keep it going,” she said. “They’re 70 and 75 years old (respectively) and they’re still both in incredible shape,” she added. “It’s inspiring.”

And at the international meet, she lifted 92.5 kilos (or 203 pounds) for the squat; 65 kilos (or 143 pounds) in the bench press; and 140 kilos (309 pounds) for the dead lift.

Despite this show of physical strength, Simmons says one of the things she’s most proud of actually happened after the competition: she traveled around Ireland on her own.

“It was the first time I’d traveled out of the country,” she said. “It was really humbling going to a different country, realizing how much I didn’t know about the world. At the meet, I had to make an effort to meet people and go out of my way to talk to the other athletes, who were from places like Ireland, England, Italy, Sweden, Poland, and Germany–I’m friends with some of them on Facebook now. I also got to spend a day in Dublin, which was so exciting. I really was proud and surprised at myself.”

So, now that she’s conquered the world (or at least the world championships in her sport), what’s next?

“For the next semester, I just want to concentrate on figuring out where I’m going to graduate school!” she laughed.

For now she is concentrating on readying her application materials for Arizona State, where she hopes to study exercise and wellness programming. She hopes to prepare for a career in corporate/workplace health and wellness teams.

“I want to work with people and make a difference by coming up with practical ways to incorporate fitness into peoples’ lives,” she said. “I’m enthusiastic about it because fitness and exercise is my life.”

And despite her success, Simmons says she won’t be returning to power lifting training right away.

“I’m proud and happy about it, but honestly…it’s a sport you can do your whole life. I might pick it back up, but not for awhile. I do still weight-train, but I’m not sure what my next endeavor will be. If you’d told me five years ago ‘you’re going be a world champion at power lifting,’ I’d be like ‘no way.’ So who knows where I’ll be in five years.

“I like challenges,” she continued. “Everything I do is 110 percent. I don’t go halfway into something.”

Students purchase more than $300 in groceries for local food pantries

If you happened to shopping for groceries at a local store yesterday, you might have gotten in line behind a group of shoppers with six carts, and who were trying to calculate their expenses with a calculator–but they were actually working for a great cause, not just holding up the line!

[More, after these photos]

photo of WIU Management students with food donation

photo of Management class delivering food

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, nine WIU freshmen and their instructors shopped together at a grocery store in Macomb, filling carts with more than $300 worth of groceries including canned vegetables, peanut butter and other staples.

But it wasn’t to stock up their own residence hall rooms for the winter months.

Beginning in late October, students in four sections of Management 125Y, Business and Technology in a Global Society–a class offered through Western’s First Year Experience (FYE) program–sold 50/50 raffle tickets to benefit local food pantries. These nine students (above) volunteered to take the proceeds to the store and purchase groceries for disadvantaged families in the area. And as the holiday season approaches, this project was in addition to the Black Student Association’s ongoing Thanksgiving Basket Project, in conjunction with the annual Cans Across America Drive.

Instructors Jeri Harper, Becky Mahr and Cathy Onion came up with the idea for the raffle project.

“Considering the current economic climate, the students involved are receptive to the idea of giving back to the community they live in,” Mahr said. “Since a majority of today’s businesses stress social responsibility, this project prepares students to volunteer and assume an active role in making a difference.”

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