#MyWordsMatter at WIU… Nationally syndicated columnist agrees

#MyWordsMatter at Western Illinois University

To raise awareness of the impact of the words we use, a group of WIU graduate students, who were charged with a mission to create a project that would make the world a better place, have created the #MyWordsMatter campaign at WIU.

“To raise awareness of the impact of the words we use, a group of WIU graduate students, who were charged with a mission to create a project that would make the world a better place, have created the #MyWordsMatter campaign at WIU. The campaign, which began last semester, is picking up momentum across campus.” — Western Illinois University

For a Western Illinois University press release in early March, University Relations Director Darcie Shinberger interviewed AJ Lutz, the assistant director of communication and marketing for Western Illinois University Housing and Dining Services, who provided the background of the grassroots campaign #MyWordsMatter at Western.

Last week, the release caught the attention of Suzette Martinez Standring, a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse News Service.

In her piece, “Word choice matters,” Standring reflected on her own experience when she didn’t think about the implications of a word she used:

Years ago while at a cafe, I complained about buying a jacket at full price, only to find it elsewhere at 75 percent off. “I got gypped on that deal,” I told my friend. Nearby, a stranger cut in on us, “You shouldn’t use ‘gypped,’ because it’s a racial slur. It suggests that all Gypsies cheat and steal. The term is offensive.”

I retorted, “You know what’s offensive? Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.” I left, annoyed at political correctness run amok. Yet once I realized the word had a racial element, I never used it again.

Suzette Martinez Standring

Suzette Martinez Standring is a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse News Service. Read more about her work at www.readsuzette.com.

In her column, Standring also noted the #MyWordsMatter buzz.

“Unknowingly, eight classmates created a campus-wide movement among 12,000 students who now promote taking responsibility for one’s words,” she wrote.

Standring also interviewed Lutz and noted that he suggested ways to speak up in a respectful way that doesn’t create shame or anger in others.

Use reflective questions. For example, ask, “Do you know what you’re saying when you say ‘that’s so gay?'” Often people will admit it’s something they’ve heard, or common slang, but it gets them thinking. Use a kind tone, and a meaningful conversation may emerge.

Read Standring’s column at www.norwichbulletin.com/columnist/x168224319/Suzette-Martinez-Standring-Word-choice-matters and follow the #MyWordsMatter campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MyWordsMatter.

School of Ag Faculty Gruver featured in Prairie Farmer

When it comes to cover crops, School of Agriculture Assistant Professor Joel Gruver is the go-to guy at WIU. This month, “Prairie Farmer,” features a large photo of Gruver and an article by Josh Flint, featuring commentary from Gruver. Flint’s article identifies key points about cover crops, including:

  • why cover crops have been discouraged in Illinois;
  • how 2011 highlighted the value of planting a cover crop before corn; and
  • reasons why Illinois farmers may be taking another look at planting cover crops.
WIU School of Ag's Joel Gruver Featured in Prairie Farmer

Joel Gruver, faculty in the School of Agriculture at WIU, is featured in an article about cover crops in Illinois in the Jan. 2012 issue of "Prairie Farmer."

In “Cover it up,” Flint writes:

Gruver says for the past several years, a number of factors have worked against cover crops across the state. [He] says wet seasons have pushed Illinois farmers toward intensive fall tillage in an attempt to alleviate compaction issues. [M]any Illinois landlords seem to have an obsession with squeezing every last cash-rent dollar out of tenants. With so many paying steep cash-rent rates, Gruver says it discourages tenants from adding the risk of a cover crop. “We have to be realistic. Cover crops can add more risk,” [Gruver noted]. “Over multiple seasons, cover crops help to weatherproof a farm by improving soil quality. In the short term, dry weather can be tough on establishment, and wet weather can cause termination challenges.”

Read more about cover crops from “Prairie Farmer” in the article, “Look For New Rules For Cover Crop Reimbursement In Mid-January.”

Learn more about Gruver’s research and work with cover crops at the School of Agriculture’s Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm at wiu.edu/ag/organicfarm/

McLeod featured in a major magazine

Congrats to Western Illinois University Assistant Professor of English professor Charles McLeod, who was recently featured in Poets & Writers magazine in an article about the somewhat unconventional path to publication of his novel, American Weather. The book is available from Amazon.co.UK, and was released earlier this month.

McLeod is also a popular professor at Western. Best of luck to Professor McLeod up on the release of this exciting new work of fiction!



WIU graduate puts nursing degree to work after (barely) surviving Joplin tornado

According to her hometown newspaper online, the Juneau (Alaska) Empire, Victoria “Torie” Powers, who just graduated from WIU with a degree in nursing, had “just settled into the Plaza Apartments after her graduation with honors from Western Illinois University’s School of Nursing” when the F5 tornado hit, in what is being called the worst tornado in the U.S. in 50 years.

“It came right for us,” Torie said. “We were on the northern edge of the vortex. One minute, I was talking to my dad and then I was screaming for God to save me in the bathroom.”

Authentic Lincoln signature discovered at WIU

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in the United States. And a Western Illinois University staff member recently discovered that a document found on a campus–that appeared to be signed by President Abraham Lincoln–is indeed authentic. The document will now be housed in the archives at Western Illinois University’s Malpass Library, as explained in an article in from McDonough County Voice.

Look for more information soon at wiu.edu/news!

Thunderstruck? Not these guys!

Five WIU students were recently featured on WQAD News for their attempt to chase down a tornado–and they explained why storm spotters are helpful to the National Weather Service, too.

(More, below the image)

screen shot of WQAD news clip

Learn more the meteorology program at WIU, and what makes it one of the very few of its kind in the Midwest.

MAPPING new directions for small communities

Recent studies have shown that rural populations are declining. But citizens of some small towns across the state are taking community development into their own hands, with the help of a group of experts from the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), which is housed at Western Illinois University. A recent article from the Herald-Review.com (Decatur, Ill.), describes how, in the community of Shelbyville, residents are working together–and with the IIRA–to help sustain and improve their town.

(More, below the image)

screen shot of IIRA MAPPING image

Just what does the IIRA do? Find out more on their website, or read about IIRA staff member Fred Iutzi’s recent appointment to the Alternative Fuels Commission board by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Award-winning research: a family tradition

One of the high school students featured in a story on WSIL-TV yesterday (March 28) is pretty lucky when it comes to having a dad who can help with homework, so to speak.

WSIL, a TV station in southern Illinois, profiled some of best high school students in the state, who had gathered at Southern Illinois University over the past weekend for the 33rd Annual Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. One of those students was Macomb High School senior Prem Thottumkara. As the story explains, students delivered presentations based on their summer research projects and a written thesis, and one rule for the symposium was that “students must conduct their experiments and research under the watchful eye of a mentor.” This student didn’t have to look too far to find a scientist who could guide his work. Prem happens to be the son of WIU chemistry professor Vinod Thottumkara (who goes by T.K. Vinod). As the story says,

Thottumkara said he is glad that his mentor is his father because it makes asking questions an easy task, even if the answer is not what he wants to hear. “I can say, “hey dad, how does this work?” and he’s quick to give me a response and even when there’s something he knows I should know yet, he’ll say “this is advanced organic chemistry, you don’t need to know this yet” Thottumkara said.

And Prem’s participation in the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is just another chapter in the family history of father-son collaboration. Professor T.K. Vinod even earned a patent on a project that was initially sparked by his elder son during a junior high school project. Learn more about Professor Vinod here.

picture of Professor T.K. Vinod with his son and other students

Professor T.K. Vinod with his son Arun and other students (2005)


WIU professor helps bring comic strip to the stage

WIU professor helps bring comic strip to the stage

One father’s love for his son has gone from a pent and paper (a cartoon strip), to Facebook fans, to a touring production. And he has a WIU theatre and dance professor to thank, in part, for taking his show on the road.

Jason Platt, a single dad who lives and works in the Quad Cities, (IL/IA), was featured in a story in the Quad City Times over the weekend. The story details how Platt’s comic strip about him and his son, Mister & Me, has been turned into a play for kids, thanks to Platt’s partnership with Ray Gabica, professor in the theatre and dance department at WIU. (And to add to the WIU connection to this story, Platt works for LinguiSystems, which happens to have been founded by two WIU alumnae!)

Screen shot QC Times story

a screen shot QC Times story

Professor profile: Ray Gabica

As the QC Times‘ story explains, children in the area got to enjoy the comic-turned play through a performance by the Western Illinois University Regional Touring Theatre Company (RTTC), which is known for putting on touring productions of kids’ shows like The Lion and the Mouse, The Tree House, and Free to Be…You and Me.

Gabica not only leads and designs the RTTC shows, but, in addition, designs from four to six productions a year, and can count among his accomplishments the more than 48 Summer Music Theatre productions, plus more than 60 main-stage shows. Gabica, who has an M.F.A in costume and make-up design from Michigan State University, teaches the costume design sequences on the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as theatrical make-up and visual concepts for the stage.

As the story points out, Platt is also involved in local theater, which is how he connected with Gabica, who adapted and directed the play:

“I kind of let him run amok with it,” Platt said. “I love and trust Ray so much that I knew he would handle the material with respect. I had no problem with how he was going to adapt the comic.”