These two years have been incredibly rewarding

Two years ago, I agreed to be acting chancellor at UIS. Given the university’s history of public service and its commitment to students and the community, I was all for it from the start. I knew there would be challenges we had to face together – from the pandemic, to many great social and cultural challenges, to the usual enrollment and budget challenges, to working with people with different opinions about the university.

Looking back on the past two years, I am filled with many emotions, and the first of them is pride. Together, we have more than met the challenges of COVID-19, all because we have stood together in safety. Managing the UIS response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the first of my top 10 priorities, and we have led the way in our response. We wore masks. We’ve tested. We got vaccinated. And we showed care and compassion for each other by extending grace and flexibility where we could.

After:51st Annual University of Illinois at Springfield Commencement

We also continued to competently manage the task of training our next generation of leaders! Just last week, I stood on the stage at the Bank of Springfield Center to congratulate 622 new ISU alumni who earned their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees. This is perhaps one of my favorite ISU memories because of the victories it represents – the personal victories of our students to get to this defining moment, the professional victories of our faculty and staff to persevering through unfamiliar times, and the victories that have been felt from waiting two years to celebrate together a traditional start to capping off another incredible academic year at ISU.

Other significant ‘points of pride’ that highlight the UIS’ main achievements since spring 2020 include:

We are preparing to launch new colleges and schools designed to best position ISU to better serve our students, our community, and our state. Beginning July 1, UIS will launch a new College of Health, Science and Technology, harnessing the incredible power of these areas of teaching and research in ways that best advance our mission in a world post-pandemic. Other notable results of this multi-year effort led by Provost Dennis Papini, with the incredible leadership of our Deans, Directors/Heads of Department and Professors, resulted in a new School of Education; School of Health Sciences; School of Integrated Sciences, Sustainability and Public Health; School of Communication and Mixed Media; School of Public Management and Policy and School of Politics and International Relations.

After:Union ISU professors vote overwhelmingly to ratify 4-year contract

Our Reaching Stellar campaign was a complete success! ISU’s most ambitious campaign surpassed our original goal of $40 million a year ahead of schedule and will have raised more than $42 million by the end of the campaign on June 30. This campaign was dedicated to funding scholarships, academic excellence, the Center for Lincoln Studies, and advancing our commitment to the public good.

Our commitment to downtown Springfield and leadership through innovation continues to grow. We are very grateful for system support from the University of Illinois and the State of Illinois, who have provided funding to support our economics and innovation work through Innovate Springfield. Expanding our programs, services, and physical footprint to downtown Springfield will advance our commitment as the capital’s public university dedicated to the public good.

With the appointment of the next ISU Chancellor, I am ready and excited to hand over the baton to new Chancellor-designate Janet L. Gooch, who officially takes office July 1. During my time with Chancellor-designate Gooch on her pre-boarding for the past few months, I have found her to be smart, innovative, and gracious. She is exactly what the UIS needs at this time in our university’s proud history.

These two years have been incredibly rewarding. I am very grateful to the ISU and Springfield communities for their trust and support. I will miss this beautiful campus, the colleagues who became friends, the inspiring students and so much more. What an amazing university and what an enduring experience!

Through it all, we have been and will continue to be UNITED at ISU.

I hope our paths will cross again in the future. I will always be a Prairie Star and always cheer for the ISU!

Go stars!

Karen Whitney is the interim chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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