Educational Exchange: Faculty Swap Lives for a Year of Scholarly Studies Abroad

Here in the Midwest U.S., it’s that time of year when people are taking advantage of the more leisurely summertime months. Area Midwesterners are happily planning and taking vacations, as well as enjoying the bounty of nature western Illinois offers for inhabitants and visitors, alike. One thing about time spent away from home–whether it’s a weekend a short distance from your house or a yearlong stint in a different country–it’s hard to argue with the fact a change of scenery can have a rejuvenating effect. Still, there’s nothing quite like that feeling of coming home.

Horstmann Family of Denmark

Horstmann Family of Denmark

For the Horstmann Family of Denmark and the Hancks Family of the United States, both are likely experiencing what can be a mixed bag of emotions that comes when you leave a special place–yet you are glad to be on your way home. The two families are about settle back into their home lives, in their home countries and, hopefully, reap the benefits of their living abroad experiences over the last year.

A “Scholar Swap”
Through WIU’s Center for International Studies and University Libraries, Jens has been a visiting scholar at Western since the summer of 2015. Through a unique “scholar swap” idea, Jens was able to “swap lives” with WIU Archivist and Professor at University Libraries Dr. Jeff Hancks. The exchange enabled Jens and his family to live in Macomb, and for Jeff and his family (with his wife, Meredith, who works in WIU’s Foundation and Development Office, and twin sons Anders and Torben and their little sister, Svea) to live in R?dding, Denmark for approximately one year.

Hancks Family of the U.S.

Hancks Family of the U.S.

On Saturday July 16, Jeff will share his experiences in Scandinavian culture in “A Taste of the Archives.” The event is set to start at 5:30 p.m. in the University Libraries’ Archives (located on the sixth floor of the Leslie F. Malpass Library), and the evening will feature a presentation by Jeff, who will talk about his sabbatical experiences at Denmark’s oldest folk high school, R?dding H?jskole. In addition, attendees will be able to enjoy a five-course Scandinavian meal (see www.wiu.edu/libraries/news/2010s/2016/tasteofarchives.php for the menu and how to register).

The Horstmanns, too, will share their living-abroad experiences with their fellow Danes when they return there; but before they left Macomb, they shared some of what they learned while living here.

Q. Tell me about your family and how you became a visiting scholar at WIU.

A. We are Signe and Jens Horstmann from Denmark, and we have been living in Macomb for the past year with our two daughters, Kamille, 7, and Selma, 5. I have been a visiting scholar with Western Illinois University, and Signe has been working part time for her company back home–she is an attorney–and has also been a stay-at-home mom over here.

Selma, 5 (in WIU headband), her mother, Signe, and her sister, Kamille (7), enjoy a Leatherneck Football Game at Western.

Selma, 5 (right, in WIU headband), her mother, Signe, and her sister, Kamille (7), enjoy a Leatherneck Football game at Western during Fall 2015.

We came to Macomb pretty much out of coincidence. Two years ago, Jeff Hancks, a professor at Western Illinois University Libraries, wrote a letter to my school in Denmark, asking if we would be interested in having him teach and conduct research for a year since he had a sabbatical coming up and wanted to explore our form of school (a Danish Folk School). He would need a place to stay with his family, too.

My school jumped at the idea right away, and a few days later, I sent Jeff an email basically asking: “Ok, so this may be crazy, but what do you say we swap lives for a year?” My wife and I had always been talking about staying abroad for a period of time, and I, too, had the possibility to apply for a sabbatical–and here was the opportunity to solve a lot of practical questions. Jeff was in on the idea, so was WIU, and 200 emails later, here we are.

Q.What has your family been doing since you arrived in Macomb?

A. Signe has been doing a few hours of work every day online for her company back home, and has been a mom a lot too. Our girls are in [first] grade and Pre-K, but we both wanted to have a lot more time together as a family during the sabbatical. I have been a visiting scholar with a work station at the Archives in University Libraries. My field is political science, so I have been guest lecturing different classes. I have been doing research on how the American college tradition with students living on campus, getting involved in sports, etc., affects the academic output… in other words: Do you get better students if you get the students engaged in activities outside class as you do here in the U.S.–compared to the European tradition of universities being strictly a place for academia? I am writing a report on the subject for an organization back home.

Jens Horstmann at Western Illinois University, Fall 2015

Jens Horstmann at Western Illinois University, Fall 2015

I also have spent a lot of time being a dad, exploring the U.S., meeting interesting people and generally living life!

Q. What have you learned about the United States and the rural Midwest after living here for the last year? Was living here different than you expected it to be? Why or why not?

A. This is not our first time in the U.S., and back home, I even teach a class called “Understanding America,” so we didn’t come unprepared. But being able to actually live here and be part of a community (not just visiting) has taught us something about the American sense of participation and contribution. We realize it might be different in big cities, but we have come to appreciate very much how much you all seem to want to contribute to your communities. You are very involved, spend time and money on a lot of organizations, churches, etc.–it seems as if many Americans have a better understanding of having society resting on your shoulders, rather than the other way around, than most Danes. So this is definitely a generous society.

It is, however, also a somewhat irrational society compared to our country; as a society, it seems, you guys tend to make rules based more on intuition and gut feeling than on research and facts. It ranges from funny details, such as in traffic (“all-way stops” are a waste of everyone’s time and gas compared to roundabouts) or in office layout (in Denmark, it is illegal to have an office without windows, because daylight is proven to significantly enhance well being and productivity; here, it seems you try to stay away from daylight because you think it is a distraction), to more serious issues like minimum wage and gun control.

Living here has actually been easier than we expected–and the next answer will explain why…

Q. Tell me about your favorite experiences in Macomb and at WIU since you arrived here.

A. The one thing that comes to mind is definitely all the people we have met. Everyone has been so welcoming, so inclusive–it has been much easier than we thought it would be to feel as a part of the city and the community. The number of people who have offered help and invitations to everything is just fantastic, and we will miss them very much. We have never before experienced such a massive warm welcome that has stretched throughout the year. We feel encouraged to return to stay in the U.S. again sometime–and we are grateful and humble! Our kids, of course, were thrown into school and new friends without speaking a word of English, so it has been a lot more work for them, but that also worked out perfectly (and making them bilingual was a major reason for us going in the first place).

Q. How do you think your time spent living in Macomb and working at WIU will impact your professional and personal lives when you return home?

A. On a personal note, we have already discussed how we can transfer some of the sense of community back home. What can we do better to be more involved and meet more people? The stay here has been such an inspiration. We are also more focused on work and career not being the most important thing in life–we have spent so much time together as a family, which is much more rewarding. Not sure our coworkers are going to appreciate that change as much, though.

We just want to thank the people at WIU and in the community that made our stay possible–from being in on the idea from the beginning and welcoming us into their lives all along. It will be hard going home.

WIU Alum’s Cubs Victory Song Makes Final 4 Cut in Tribune Contest

Joey White - WIU Baseball 2013

Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU Baseball student athlete Joey White knows which song he’d like tried-and-true Cubs fans to sing. The song, “Raise the W,” composed by White and his brother, Jimmy, might just have a shot at being the one.

“What should we sing after a Cubs win?” asks Mark Caro in a March 23 Chicago Tribune article, “Go song go: Final four voting for the next Cubs hit.”

Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU Baseball student athlete Joey White knows which song he’d like tried-and-true Cubs fans to sing. The song, “Raise the W,” composed by White and his brother, Jimmy, might just have a shot at being the one.

The White brothers’ song is now in the “Final Four” of the Tribune’s Cubs victory song contest, which began in January.

White, who grew up in Downers Grove (IL) and graduated last May with his bachelor’s of business in marketing, is a lifelong Cubs fan, as are his family members “for a few generations,” he explained. (As a former North Side Chicagoan, I too have a fondness for the Cubbies; thus, I can appreciate the White family’s dedication to their team.) The contest’s final showdown–between the two final songs that garner the most votes–is slated to begin next Monday, March 30.

Joey, who works in the Chicagoland area, answered a few questions about his and his brother’s song via email the other day. (And you can vote through 9 a.m. this Sunday, March 29, on the Tribune’s website.)

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Chicago Tribune Cubs Victory Song Contest: "Raise the W" by Jimmy and Joey White

You can vote for the White brothers’ song on the Chicago Tribune website until 9 a.m. Sunday, March 29.

Q: Why did you enter the contest?

Joey: My uncle actually saw the competition while he was reading the ‘Chicago Tribune’ and took a picture and sent it to my brother and me and suggested we create a song and submit it. When I saw the text message, my brother and I both thought it would be fun to do, and we started the process. As lifelong Cubs’ fans, we knew this would be a fun project to complete and share with friends and family.

Q: Tell me about the process of composing the song with your brother.

Joey: My brother lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, now so it was a long-distance project. We have created songs in the past for fun and have a good time doing it. After we decided we were going to create a Cubs song, my brother went to work on the instrumental (guitar, drums, bass). He has always been more inclined with the instruments and composing a beat. When he came up with his idea of how he wanted the song to go, he sent me a rough draft recorded through a text message. When he completed the instrumental, which took about two days, he sent it to me so I could start on the lyrics. I watched some Cubs videos on YouTube and a DVD that I have to help me with some ideas.

The writing process took about another two days, and then I went to my friend Justin Harzich’s house and recorded the song. With the instrumental that my brother sent, we uploaded it onto the program we used to record the song, then sent it back to my brother. After the song was complete, my brother created a video to go along with the song and posted it onto YouTube and emailed the final product to the ‘Chicago Tribune.’

Q: What are you doing now that you’ve graduated from Western?

Joey: At the moment I am gaining professional experience in sales. My future career goals consist of working with Live Nation. I’ve heard it is a great company to work for, and I am very interested in that industry. I’m interested in entertainment, like professional sports and music, and this company works with both.

Q. Anything you would like to highlight about your time at Western?

Joey: I walked on to the baseball team and played in 2012-13. My time at Western was very enjoyable and cherish the experience and education I received from the institution. The years I attended came and went too fast, but are very memorable!

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Hope springs eternal, as the White brothers and all those who entered the contest have demonstrated with their songs. So those of us Leathernecks who are Cubs’ fans keep heart… in this “lucky” (?) “Year of the Goat” — and now with a WIU alumnus possibly the author of the Cubs victory song — just maybe the infamous curse will end its reign!

Meet One Tough (and Fun) Mudder: Tim Hallinan

If you were among the record-number of participants–509, who raised more than $20,000 for the Fallen Soldiers Scholarship Fund (October 2014)–in Western Illinois University’s third annual Fallen Soldiers 5k Run/Walk, you probably saw the guy in the gas mask. If you weren’t able to be there that beautiful autumn day at WIU, you may have come across the photo on the event’s Facebook page. Or, maybe, you’re seeing this photo for the first time.

Tim Hallinan particpating in the third annual Fallen Soldiers 5k at Western Illinois University October 2014

But no matter how you encountered it, after you have looked at it, one thought and/or question likely comes to mind: “Is this guy crazy?”

Crazy like a fox.

Underneath that MOPP (mission oriented protective posture) gear is Army National Guard Veteran Tim Hallinan, the director of annual giving at Western. Tim, who competes in obstacle course races for fun, knows the value of “creating a ruckus” to draw attention to a cause. Last year, when the WIU community was furiously participating in the NCAA’s “6th Fan” contest for $100K in scholarship funds, Tim spearheaded voting marathons/parties to help Western’s cause. Alas, we didn’t win… but the event–and Tim’s efforts to unite the campus through voting events–served as a rallying force for Fighting Leathernecks everywhere.

This month, as the inaugural installment of the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Employee Spotlight, we focus on Tim, one of Western’s many dedicated and talented COAP employees. He was gracious enough to be the first victim… ahem, subject… and answered a few questions about himself (the man who is also behind the chucklesome, “Things overheard at the Hallinan house“).

Q. Tell me a bit about your background… How did you wind up working at WIU?

I graduated from Western in 1995 with a B.A. in sociology and began working as an advocate for people with disabilities in Macomb. In that position, I had the opportunity to network with the local school district, as well as many social service and non-profit organizations in the area. In 2000, I was approached to head up the new Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, and I jumped at the chance to help build a new agency from the ground up. I gained a lot of experience with grants and fundraising in my eight years in this position. When the opportunity arose to come back to Western to raise funds for students in my alma mater, I saw it as a way to come “full circle” and was fortunate to have been selected as Director of Annual Giving.

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

My hours are a bit unconventional, as they mirror that of our Phonathon operations–mostly evenings and Sundays. I spend a lot of time collaborating with students and departments in preparing our direct mail outreach, designing solicitations, tracking our progress and researching trends and emerging technology in the area of annual giving that can benefit our university.

Tim Hallinan, WIU '95 and the director of annual giving in Western's Foundation and Development Office, earned "Trifecta" status in 2013 in the Spartan Race series.

Tim Hallinan, WIU ’95 and the director of annual giving in Western’s Foundation and Development Office, earned “Trifecta” status in 2013 in the Spartan Race series.

Q. What are some of the best aspects of your job? What are some of the most challenging aspects?

First and foremost, about 75 percent of the work I do is in cooperation with our students. Regardless if they are callers for our Phonathon or sharing their Western experiences in annual fund letters, I’m honored to be able to facilitate that connection between our students and alumni, and I feel rewarded in having the flexibility to showcase the impact of our donors’ collective giving on our students and our university. Alumni participation rates are declining industry-wide, and each year it is a challenge for me and others in the field to keep the need for alumni support in the forefront.

Q. What do you like to do in your time away from work?
In addition to as much “family time” as I can do with my wife, Jeri, and our three boys, I have served on several non-profit boards including – Western Illinois Service Coordination (WISC) and Big Brothers Big Sisters ? for many years. This year, I have also begun serving on the board for our local Roller Derby team ? The Macomb Bombshells. I admire this team for their hard work and dedication to themselves, the sport and our community, as well as their philanthropic efforts in donating their proceeds to local charities. But aside from my work and family, OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) is my passion.

Q. Tell me a little about your fitness activities (as I know you compete in those crazy obstacle course races), e.g., how and why did you get into this area of fitness? What is the next race you plan to compete in?

I served for 20 years in the Illinois National Guard, and I retired shortly before working for Western. In the military, even part time, there is the excitement, travel opportunities and challenges that appeal to me. I find that in OCR, as well as in fitness, benefits training for and competing in races. I have found it is a unique way to not only challenge myself, but also raise donations to fund a new scholarship at Western.

Impact and emotion certainly have a place in philanthropy, but I feel that adding an element of uniqueness or sensationalizing a philanthropic endeavor, to a degree, can also be beneficial and make it exciting. I can run a 5K and am grateful for a few that will sponsor me, but if I run a 5K in a gas mask or holding a Western flag, I find people are more inclined to be a part of the effort ? especially if they have no other connection to our university. The underlying message is basically, “If I can do ‘this’ for a cause, you can help with a modest donation.”
This year, both my wife and I will be running a Tough Mudder, a Spartan Race, two Warrior Dashes and a marathon in hopes of securing a place in the OCR World Championships in Ohio this October.

Q. What is your favorite quote?

“Doubt kills more dreams that failure ever has.”

The Making of the #WIUnselfie Movement

WIU Students taking part in the WIUnselfie Movement

Brett Moody, Caitlyn Westfall, and Brian Kocher, students in Western’s College Student Personnel (CSP) Program working on the #WIUnselfie Movement project. According to the CSP student group, the mission of the WIUnselfie Movement is to develop a culture of positive community built upon meaningful connections through social media. The student group responsible for the project aims to reverse selfie culture by promoting recognition of others through accountability and awareness of often overlooked qualities, achievements, and good will at Western.

A few weeks ago, two Western graduate students reached out to us for a brief meet up in the University Relations Office. They wanted help in promoting their “WIUnselfie movement,” a project that they, and some of their fellow master’s candidates in Western’s College Student Personnel Program (CSP), were involved in via one of their CSP courses.

Naturally, we wanted to know what it was all about–as you likely do, particularly if you have seen their various messages around campus. So, with the help of her fellow students, Caitlyn Westfall (Macomb, IL) provided me with the details of the project and how the students hope to use it to “reverse selfie culture” on social media these days.

Q: Tell me about how the #WIUnselfie project came about.

Caitlyn: This project came from one of the classes in Western’s CSP Program. We were given the project by one of our professors to “make the world a better place.” We were not given any other context other than that. We talked for a few weeks about some things we thought could make a change in the world around us (to the Western Illinois University/Macomb community).

One of our group members brought up an idea of doing something selfless, such as leaving sticky-notes with positive messages around WIU’s campus. From there, another member brought up an idea he had observed in his undergraduate experience–he and his friend tried to get an “unselfie” movement started. The purpose of that movement was to promote unselfish acts and recognize the people who perform them. Examples of this are such things as holding the door open for someone behind you or paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. From there, we worked out the details, and the hashtag #WIUnselfie was born, and we went from there!

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkVrrvgSeZY]
WIU College Student Personnel Master’s Degree Candidates made this video as part of their “WIUnselfie Movement” for a project in CSP Professor Tracy Davis’s group dynamics course.

Q: Who is involved with it here at Western?

Caitlyn: The people involved are primarily in Dr. Tracy Davis’s group dynamics class.

Q: What does the group hope to accomplish with this project?

Caitlyn: We have seen a rise in negative social media lately, and we wanted to find a way to spread positive social media. We are hoping that by creating a new outlet for positive social media to take over, we’ll be creating a new buzz on campus. Instead of sitting around the lunch table gossiping negatively about their peers, we are hoping students, faculty, staff, and community members talk about the great things going on.

WIUnselfies on Instagram

Follow the WIUnselfie Movement on Instagram at instagram.com/wiunselfies

Q: How will the group go about accomplishing these goals?

Caitlyn: We have created an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook page for people to submit pictures to. We also have these social media outlets so that we are able to promote the movement itself. We have gone around campus a few different times getting pictures of people or groups doing great things and also getting the word out. We have created a neat Instagram style frame for people to take pictures with. We have also promoted our movement as big campus events such as the Fall Leadership Conference and Make A Difference Day and we saw great feedback from that.

Q: Who are the other CSP students involved?

Caitlyn: Danielle Buckner (Lake Forest, CA), Amy Bumatai (Mililani, HI), Melinda Daniels (Milwaukee, WI), Brian Kocher (Henry, IL), Maggie Miller (Boone, IA), Brett Moody (Taylorville, IL), Kelly Severs (Macomb, IL), and our group facilitator Emily Simon (Moncolva, OH).

Q: Anything else I neglected to ask you about in the above-listed questions that would be important to include?

Caitlyn: Anyone can find us on Instagram at @wiunselfies, Facebook at www.facebook.com/wiunselfiemovement, Twitter at @wiunselfies, or we can be emailed at wiunselfiemovement@gmail.com.

WIU Grad Works on “Sharknado” Movie

Ryan Budds, WIU Alum in Sharknado in SyFy

Ryan Budds, a 2008 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in English, bills himself as a comedian, writer, trivia host and superhero on his website. Photo by Syfy (Syfy Media, LLC)

Ryan Budds, a 2008 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in English, bills himself as a comedian, writer, trivia host and superhero on his website. The Midwest native, who now lives in California, recently added actor to that list, working as an extra in the science fiction movie, “Sharknado.”

Budds played a “beach victim” in the recently aired television movie from the SyFy channel that has created quite a buzz. He also worked as a production assistant on the film.

“I got to be killed in the first few minutes of ‘Sharknado,’ he told the website, ‘UPROXX: the Culture of What’s Buzzing.'” (uproxx.com/tv/2013/07/i-was-killed-by-a-shark-in-sharknado-this-is-my-story/) “We started filming in January, and the days were long and hard. Lots of hauling stuff, unpacking/packing trucks and driving people around on errands. Not exactly glamorous, especially on a low budget movie. But I learned a lot about how to make a movie and eventually the day came where I got to drop the equipment and get in front of the camera for my cameo.”

Budds earned the right to act in the movie by winning a comedy contest at Flappers in Burbank, CA.

“I was to play Beach Victim #1,” he said. “They put me in beach clothes and covered my leg in prosthetics and makeup to make it look like a shark had chomped it off.”

Budds he has worked as a comedian, opening for comics such as Dennis Miller, Zach Galafinakis and the Wayans Brothers.

Spring Break on the Road Fulfills Students’ Dreams

A spring break road trip by college students is not unheard of, but when a group of Western Illinois University students piled into a rental car in mid-March it was to fulfill a life-long dream.

Chinese students Xin Tan, Shi Yong Li and Nolan Zuo are pictured with one of the shopkeepers they encountered on Route 66.

Chinese students Xin Tan, Shi Yong Li and Nolan Zuo are pictured with one of the shopkeepers they encountered on Route 66.Route66b

Three international students, spearheaded by the dream of visiting broadcasting scholar Nolan Zuo, of China, drove nearly the entire length on the historic Route 66, which stretches from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA. Zuo was joined on the trip by Western English as a Second Language (WESL) students Xin Tan and Zhi Yong Li, both also of China.

While Western was on spring break, March 11 ? 15, the three friends drove 3,000 miles of the route in six days, pausing at car museums and information stops along the way. Their section of the trip began in Springfield, IL.

“This was one of my biggest dreams in America,” said Zuo, who is studying in America through May. “I had heard about how important the route was to the area and a lot of people have never given up on this old road – we saw a lot of people trying to protect it. We really enjoyed talking to people along the way who had great stories.”

Route66dLi said he was interested in the trip because of his study of history and about how important Route 66 was to the expansion of the west. Tan said a popular car advertisement in China references Route 66, which piqued his interest in the trip.

During the trip, Tan took charge of navigation, and Li took most of the photographs.

Prior to departing on the trip, the trio spent many hours mapping out their route and the places they hoped to visit each day. During the final stop in Santa Monica, CA, Zuo said the three friends could reflect on everything they’d seen.

“When we got to Santa Monica, we could see the Pacific Ocean, and we just relaxed and enjoyed the view,” he said. “It was so interesting that on the other side of that ocean is our home in China.”

The three friends said they enjoyed a variety of American cuisine along the way but also looked for Chinese food in larger cities.

All three men said they would like to plan a return trip to enjoy Route 66. All three also have numerous other American sites they would like to see before their return to China.

For more information about stops along the route, visit historic66.com.

Vote for WIU alum in Phi Kappa Phi grad photo contest!

WIU 2012 Graduate Diesel Baldwin - Phi Kappa Phi Graduation Photo Contest

Diesel Baldwin finished his B.A. in anthropology and a double minor in law enforcement and justice administration and biological sciences–zoology in December 2012. He submitted this photo into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi Graduation Photo Contest, and it made the top 10. Vote for the photo through Feb. 22 at phikappaphi.wufoo.com/forms/graduation-photo-contest/.

His expression says it all…

That’s likely why the photo of 2012 graduate Diesel Baldwin (see above)–an image of him enthusiastically shaking Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ hand on the WIU Commencement stage last December–made the cut in The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi (PKP) Graduation Photo contest. It is in the top 10.

Diesel said his mother-in-law took the photo.

“They were calling for submissions on the PKP website, so I voluntarily submitted a couple of photos, and that is the one they chose,” he noted.

Diesel finished his B.A. in anthropology and a double minor in law enforcement and justice administration and biological sciences–zoology in December. To be a member of Phi Kappa Phi, as an undergraduate, he had to maintain, and graduate with, a high grade point average. He certainly accomplished that: he said his overall GPA was 3.99–a 4.0 in his major and in his LEJA minor and a 3.95 in his zoology minor.

He’s already back in school at Western, currently enrolled at WIU-Quad Cities as a graduate student in the biological sciences, zoo and aquarium studies post-baccalaureate certificate program. He also works as a student worker in the WIU Admissions Office.

He has plans to pursue his master’s degree in forensic anthropology (biological/physical anthropology) and has applied to several institutions that have such programs (Western does not).

Voting ends Feb. 22. Vote for Diesel’s photo at https://phikappaphi.wufoo.com/forms/graduation-photo-contest/

Student’s design talent lands him summer TV gig

WIU Student Chris Taylor "Duct Tape" Design Segment on KHQA-TV

Chris Taylor, a senior fashion merchandising major in Western Illinois University’s Department of Dietetics, Fashion Merchandising and Hospitality, is bringing his creativity and love of design to the viewers of KHQA-TV (Channel 7) every Friday morning through this August.

For Chris Taylor, his love of fashion and design began at the early age of “6 or 7,” he says, with an auspicious task (assigned by his mom) that involved a stack of old clothes and some Barbie dolls.

Today, at 26, Taylor, a senior fashion merchandising major in Western Illinois University’s Department of Dietetics, Fashion Merchandising and Hospitality (DFMH), is bringing his creativity and love of design to the viewers of KHQA-TV, a Quincy (IL)-based station, every Friday morning through this August.

Taylor–whose designs are frequently based on using “reconsumed” (used), common household, and/or vintage materials (check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ReConsumed4U)–has been appearing on the station’s 5-7 a.m. news show since mid-May in a segment that focuses on “saving on style.” (Taylor said his segments typically air in three segments from 5:30-7 a.m.).

Videos of Taylors segments (so far) can be viewed on KHQA-TV’s YouTube channel.

Taylor took some time out of his busy summer designing schedule to answer a few questions about his background and his love of design, fashion, and making “old” things “new” again.

Q). What interested you in fashion and design before you started attending WIU and majoring in fashion merchandising?

I think it all started when I was about 6 or 7. We had a neighbor with a little girl that was a good friend of my parents. Our moms would take turns watching each of us, and she would tote around all her Barbies back and forth to our house. One day my mom needed a project to keep us busy. She gave us a stack of old clothes, and we decided to make clothes for her Barbies.

While I was in high school I took a job working for the Gap. I realized that I had a passion for fashion–working in fashion retail was more fun than work. I took a few years after high school to work and realized that I had hit a ceiling in my career and felt that I needed to do something different. I packed up and moved from Southern California to Quincy. My mother had shared the cost of living with me here, and it was a no-brainer. I didn’t quite know what I would do when I got here, but I soon decided. I earned my associates in science from JWCC [John Wood Community College]. I decided to continue and earn my bachelor’s degree. Knowing my background, my counselor suggested the fashion merchandising program at WIU.

Q). What kinds of projects do you produce/have you produced as a student in the DFMH dept. at WIU? Any favorites?

Every class has required a project. Each class’s projects vary in form, but all focus on topics related to fashion. Some of my favorites include: creating a trend board, creating a business plan, researching a fashion mart, analyzing the quality aspects of a textile product, constructing a garment, and building multiple visual displays.

Q). Where you do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere, but most of it comes from being CHEAP! I have always loved thrifting because it’s unpredictable; you never know what you are going to find. I refuse to pay full price for anything, and that has driven me to be creative in all aspects of interior furnishings and apparel.

Taylor’s Facebook page, “Reconsumed4U by Chris Taylor,” features photos of the design projects he undertakes, and he provides instructions about how to create similar designs. This t-shirt design project has a custom logo that Taylor applied with a stencil and spray paint.

Q). What interested you in working with “reconsumed” materials?

I have always loved repurposing things and updating them. Since I was young we have shopped thrift stores. I suffered a back injury last year and had some time on my hands, but little extra money. I really needed a creative outlet that would allow me to be product but that cost little-to-no money.

Q). You seem to like to work with a variety of materials and work on a variety of different types of projects. What is your favorite medium?

I can’t say that I have one “favorite” medium. To narrow it down, I will say that with paint or fabric can change anything! Mastering the use of the tools (sewing machines, staple guns, brushes, etc.) that manipulate different media can really encourage creativity.

Q). How did you first appear on KHQA’s morning show (how did the opportunity come about)?

In my visual merchandising class, we were put into groups to construct displays created out of recycled material. Because of some injury-related things, I could not be in class the week of creating the project. I volunteered to work from home and create our outfit and left everyone else to create the background display. After putting our components together I shared a photo with KHQA on Facebook. About a month later, a newscaster emailed me and asked to talk with the creator of the dress. She also wanted to see any other projects that I had made. After my first appearance, I was asked to come back again.

I have always been someone who has taken every opportunity by the horns and guided it in my direction. I talked with a few people and worked out a trial segment that focuses on saving on style that will air during every Friday’s broadcast through August.

Q). What do you hope to do when you graduate?

I had always hoped that upon graduation I would become a visual merchandiser for a large retailer. After my injury, this does not look like it will be a possibility. I am staying positive and researching other options within my field.

Q). Anything else you’d like to highlight (that I didn’t ask you about above)?

The most important thing you can do in school is to really try at every project you are asked to complete, even if you aren’t particularly enthusiastic about. These projects will teach you interpersonal skills that are irreplaceable!

Alum’s life’s work is up in the air

Mike Vondruska is the founder of the Illinois Juggling Institute in Bolingbrook.

Mike Vondruska is the founder of the Illinois Juggling Institute in Bolingbrook.

Mike Vondruska, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Western in 1978, is the founder of the Illinois Juggling Institute in Bolingbrook, according to an article in “The Joliet Herald-News” by Denise Baran-Unland.

Baran-Unland’s piece notes: “[The] llinois Juggling Institute offers motivational assembly programs, student participation workshops, entertaining performances and juggling supplies for beginners.”

Baran-Unland writes: “The [juggling] skill amused Vondruska for awhile, then he forgot about it until he was a sophomore college student at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Another student was teaching a community course at the school on juggling. Vondruska, intrigued, took the class, befriended the teacher, and later became the class’s teacher.”

Read more about Vondruska, and his scheduled performance for the Saturday (April 7, 2012) Timbers of Shorewood annual 10,000-egg Easter Egg Hunt, in “Man’s life is a juggling act” at http://heraldnews.suntimes.com/lifestyles/11616564-423/mans-life-is-a-juggling-act.html.

WIU English major ‘Transforms’ for summer blockbuster

Typically, when Alan Cale is in uniform, he’s serving his country as a Military Police officer. This past summer, however, his Army gear served as more of a costume, as Cale and several other “extras” appeared on the silver screen in Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, which debuted in theaters in June.

photo of WIU student and soldier Alan Cale

WIU student and soldier Alan Cale on his security mission in Afghanistan

photo of Alan Cale with movie extras

Cale, in the front row, poses with star Josh Duhamel and fellow extras on the set

So, how did he get this gig?

“One of my buddies in my unit from Chicago (and who is with me on this deployment) was the one who hooked me up with the opportunity,” he explained. “He has a friend who works as a liaison between Hollywood and the military, and she asked him to find a couple of volunteers with military gear who could come to Chicago in order to be military extras in the film. He called me and asked me if I wanted to be in ‘Transformers 3.’ I of course said yes without any hesitation.”

What were his duties as a big-time movie star?

“My only responsibilities for the film were to wear my uniform and gear, carry a gun, and look like a soldier. Fortunately that was something I have some experience in,” he said. “The Afghans don’t have the same regulations on pirating movies that we do in the States, so I have been able to see the movie. There are about 3-5 seconds towards the end of the movie where [actor] Tyrese Gibson runs around the corner of the Chicago Tribune building to link up with the military in the city. I am the second one standing as he runs by.”

Still, even though his role was a small one,

“The experience was one of a kind,” he said. “It’s one thing to see the finished product up on the big screen, and completely different to be behind the scenes seeing it in the making.

It was interesting to spend time with the stars of the film,” he continued. “I spent several hours just sitting on the set while they set up for the next shot chatting with Josh Duhamel. It was pretty cool to get to know them, and I came to the realization that they are regular people like the rest of us just with a really cool job.”

When he’s back in his role as a WIU student, Cale is a proud Peach Blossom, a.k.a. member of the WIU Veterans Club.

photo of WIU Veterans Club members dressed as "Peach Blossoms"

“Any current student or alumni can come check out one of our meetings,” he said. For more information, contact Derrick Bernabei, club president, or visit WIU Vets Club on Facebook.