Illinois Public Media News
The economy may still be slowly improving in Illinois, but the author of a monthly gauge of the state's economic performance says it's far from healthy.
For the seventh consecutive month, the University of Illinois Flash Index went up. In December, the index measured 94.9, up .7 from November, but 100 is the break-even point between growth and contraction, and economist Fred Giertz said the slow growth has not been very noticeable.
Giertz said unemployment remains a problem, even though the state's jobless rate is slightly under the national average -- a rare occurrence.
"It may just be an aberration, or it may be that our industries, especially agriculture, are doing fairly well," Giertz said. "Some of the exporting industries are doing alright, and we were not really devastated by the crisis with real estate or things of that sort."
Giertz is also not too concerned that Illinois or the nation will see a return of inflation in the near term. Rising commodity prices, bailout legislation and the Federal Reserve's decision to enact "quantitative easing" have prompted some to warn of an effect on overall consumer prices. But Giertz does not detect any unwillingness in financial markets to lend money at the current very-low interest rates.
"The fact that people ware willing to lend money for the long term at relatively low interest rates suggests that people don't think there's going to be a lot inflation on the horizon," Giertz said. "The Federal Reserve is very wary of the possibility (of inflation). They've made mistakes in the past and I think their intention is to start reining things in once the economy gets going again."
Giertz said there is some good news in the weak Flash Index numbers. He said revenue from sales taxes was up in December, marking a better holiday shopping season than many retailers had expected. The Index uses revenue reports from state income, sales and business taxes to calculate its measurement.
The man now assigned with overseeing Illinois' colleges and universities says the change in jobs was a perfect fit for many reasons.
Before starting last week as Executive Director of the state Board of Higher Education, George Reid had just completed a kind of post-secondary blueprint for Maryland as part of that state's Higher Education Commission. And Reid says this new job will borrow from his background as both an administrator and an educator.
Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with Reid about the challenges that await him:
(Photo Courtesy of Illinois Board of Higher Education)
Mikel Leshoure ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns as Illinois earned its first bowl victory since 1999, beating Baylor 38-14 Wednesday night in the Texas Bowl.
The Illini spoiled the Bears' first bowl appearance in 16 seasons. Both teams finished at 7-6.
Leshoure had a 5-yard TD run in the second quarter, a 13-yard score in the third quarter and another 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth period. The performance gave him the school single-season rushing record with 1,697 yards.
The Illini built a 24-0 lead and Leshoure's last touchdown put the game out of reach.
Baylor's Robert Griffin III threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, but his two fumbles in the first half put the Bears behind.
Leshoure was chosen the most valuable player and wore a cowboy hat as he hoisted the trophy above his head after the game while the small but vocal group of Illinois fans cheered.
The Bears cut the lead to 24-14 when Griffin found a diving Kendall Wright on a 39-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 early in the fourth quarter. But Illinois continued its dominance in the rushing game after that and extended its lead to 31-14 on Leshoure's last touchdown.
Illinois finished with 291 yards rushing and 533 yards of total offense to give coach Ron Zook his first bowl win as a head coach in his fourth try.
Freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase got off to a sensational start, completing all of his 13 passes in the first half, and finished 18 of 23 for 242 yards. He scored on a 55-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds to play to make it 38-14.
Illinois opened the second half with an 87-yard drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Leshoure. Leshoure also scored the 2-point conversion to extend the lead to 24-0 and set the Illinois single-season scoring record.
Baylor finally found its offensive touch on its first possession of the second half. Griffin completed five of seven passes on that drive, which ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Jay Finley to get the Bears within 24-7 with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Illini held Finley in check for most of the night and Baylor's 1,000-yard rusher finished with 12 carries for 63 yards.
Illinois led 9-0 before a 5-yard touchdown run by Leshoure about 10 minutes before halftime stretched the lead to 16-0. That score was set up by a 52-yard reception by Ryan Lankford a play earlier.
Baylor was driving with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half when a pass by Griffin was intercepted by Terry Hawthorne. But the Bears got a second chance when Corey Liuget was penalized for roughing the passer, giving Baylor the ball back.
The Bears still came away empty though when Griffin fumbled a few plays later to give Illinois the ball back on its own 32.
Baylor's problems started early with Griffin fumbling on the first possession. Travon Bellamy recovered that fumble and returned it 46 yards. The Illini couldn't get anything going on that drive and settled for a 38-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Illinois added a second field goal on their next drive to push the lead to 6-0 and a third field goal early in the second quarter made it 9-0.
The committee has been named, and a website is up and running for the search for a new vice president/chancellor for the University of Illinois Urbana campus.
U of I spokesman Tom Hardy said the website will be providing information to two different constituencies.
"One, it's a portal for those who might be interested in the position - getting information about the search and then going deeper into the website to learn more about the campus itself and the university itself," Hardy said. "And it's also a way to keep the very many constituents of the campus as to what's going on, who the members of the committee are."
Hardy said the website will eventually feature the formal position announcement and white paper describing the job duties and the U of I Urbana campus, and he said it will also include a Facebook link, and information about upcoming town-hall style meetings --- as ways to gather input from the university community.
"(The search committee) was done in the presidential search process earlier this year, that resulted in Mike Hogan coming on as president," Hardy said. "I think that the search committee for the president and everybody involved viewed those as beneficial. And again, it's just another kind of two-way communications tool that the committee can use."
With the announcement of the Urbana Chancellor Search committee, the U of I is now looking for two new vice-president/chancellors --- one at the Urbana campus, and another at Springfield. In Urbana, Richard Herman resigned last year, and interim Vice-President/Chancellor Robert Easter plans to retire once a successor is found. In Springfield, Harry J. Berman became interim vice-president/chancellor, after Richard Ringheisen stepped down at the end of October.
Hardy said the U of I hopes to have new chancellors in place at both campuses in time for the fall 2011 semester.
The members of the Urbana Chancellor Search Committee are:
FACULTY Douglas Beck, Physics (Chair) James D. Anderson, Educational Policy Studies Nicholas Burbules, Educational Policy Studies Andreas Cangellaris, Electrical/Computer Engineering Kim Graber, Kinesiology and Community Health Anne D. Hedeman, Art and Design William Maher, University Library/ Archives Robert Warrior, American Indian Studies Matthew Wheeler, Animal Sciences
ACADEMIC PROFESSIONAL: Tim Barnes, International Programs and Studies
STAFF Debbie Kemphues, Office of the Provost and VCAA
STUDENTS: Amy Allen, Engineering Carey Hawkins, Grad. (Law/Education) David Olsen, Business
DEAN Ruth Watkins, Liberal Arts and Sciences
Students Adopt StoryCorps Model to Learn English
Every week on NPR, people share their memories and stories on the long-running series, StoryCorps. As Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports, a Champaign elementary school is adopting the StoryCorps model - complete with musical backgrounds -- as a way to teach English.
A new $5.5 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to tackle childhood hunger.
The program will solicit research projects from across the country to study reasons people go hungry, and the effectiveness of food assistance programs.
Craig Gundersen, a consumer economics professor with the University of Illinois, will work with the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research to identify studies eligible for funding. Gundersen said he hopes this program will unlock some of the mysteries surrounding childhood hunger.
"We don't understand why some children are suffering from hunger and others are not," he said. "There really hasn't been any research on that. We're also trying to find out what causes all of a sudden a child to be in a household not suffering from hunger. Then all of a sudden, he or she is a household where they do suffer from hunger."
According to U.S. Census Data, within a four year period, the number of households in Illinois on food stamps went up by more than a hundred thousand. Around 60-percent of those households had children under the age of 18.
Local efforts to address childhood hunger with groups like the Eastern Illinois Food Bank have been successful, according to Gundersen. In 2009, the USDA devoted more than $60 billion to fight childhood hunger. This new grant seeks to help put an end to it by 2015, a deadline set by the Obama administration. However, Gundersen raised doubt over whether that is a realistic timetable.
The deadline to submit research proposals for the grant program is March 10.
University of Illinois administrators want its Extension service to develop a campus-level location to better promote its mission and fundraising.
The campus review of Extension has been completed, in a year when some offices have closed and jobs have been cut. But the report does not suggest eliminating any more jobs. In the latest of cost cutting measures entitled 'Stewarding Excellence', Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard Wheeler said Extension should consider moving from its current location within the school of ACES to a campus level position.
The letter co-signed by Vice President and Interim Chancellor Robert Easter also suggests that would increase U of I Extension's visibility and opportunities for funding. But Wheeler says a lot has yet to be determined, including making sure that any further re-structuring be done while considering USDA regulations.
"Making sure that we are staying within the permissible ranges of that extensive regulatory system, and the funding mechanism for that matter," Wheeler said. "Most of extension money comes from outside the campus, and will be very crucial. But I don't think any of us can anticipate exactly what organization will emerge at the end."
The 'next steps' for U of I Extension also asks that its Interim Dean Robert Hoeft and Associate Chancellor Bill Adams generate a plan to implement these recommendations, which include combining the functions of Public Engagement and Extension into one office to 'bring coherence to an outreach portfolio that has traditionally been diffuse and poorly aligned.'
They are to develop a preliminary report by early spring. Wheeler says there's no clear-cut model from other states for running the extension service. He said the present model has just worked for Illinois, since the programs involve more than agriculture.
An omnibus spending bill was voted down in the U.S. Senate Thursday, because of Republican opposition to earmarks. Those earmarks included funding for three projects at the University of Illinois. Terry McLennand with the university's Office of Federal Relations said they are preparing to try again to get the funding from the new congress to be sworn in next month.
The largest of the three funding requests was $3.2 million to help pay for a cyber-security project the U of I is working on with the U-S Navy. McLennand said partnering with other agencies like the Navy could help in efforts to win federal funding through the authorization process, rather than through an appropriations process such as earmarks. But he added that it is easier in times when, in his words, "the money is cheap".
"Institutions such as the University of Illinois have tremendous faculty, and tools that can be brought to bear on national defense needs," McLennand said. "But it's a question of, is funding going to be available to do these things. You certainly would think so, but those are going to be the challenges going forward."
Besides the cyber-security project, the U of I also had earmarks in the failed spending bill to provide $617,000 for a new crop breeding program at the College of ACES; and $500,000 in continuing funding for "Cease Fire", a neighborhood crime prevention program based at the university's Chicago campus.
McLennand said the university will be working with both Democratic and Republican members of the Illinois delegation to secure funding for the projects in the new congress. And while he says the use of earmarks may decline under the new Republican leadership in the House, he still thinks Senator Dick Durbin will be able to help the university in the Democrat-led Senate.
"Senator Durbin has been very strong in his support of congressionally directed funding," said McLennand, using a term he prefers to describe earmarks. "That's how a delegation can support their state and their districts."
McLennand said funding from earmarks accounts for only about five to eight million dollars of federal funding for University of Illinois projects --- compared to $650 million secured through federal grants and contracts. As for the three projects that failed to win earmarked funding this week, McLennand said they will continue next year in smaller forms, with funding from other sources.
Wind Turbine Project Gets Smaller As Urbana Residents Learn About Energy Plan
A plan to generate renewable energy by constructing three wind turbines on the University of Illinois' South Farms site has been scaled down to one turbine located on the corner of Old Church Road and Philo Road.
The project is estimated to cost $4.5 million, and the university said it can only afford to support one tower with that budget.
"It's unlikely we'll be able to do more than one at this time," said Morgan Johnston, the University of Illinois' sustainability and transportation coordinator.
Many people think of Latin as a dead language, even though it's the source of modern languages from French and Spanish to Portuguese and even parts of English. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports that Latin is not dead yet - even among grade schoolers -- as he pays a visit to Champaign's Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Page 107 of 153 pages ‹ First < 105 106 107 108 109 > Last ›