Hidden Gems at Western Illinois University

While many of you know about the stellar programs, performances, concerts, lectures, athletics events and more that take place almost daily on the Western Illinois University campuses, there are some incredible “hidden gems” that campus and community members can enjoy.

One of the many programs at Horn Field include nature walks.

One of the many programs offered at Western’s Horn Field Campus includes nature walks.

The Leslie F. Malpass Library Archives and Special Collections Unit houses a treasure trove of University, community and regional history. From University yearbooks and newspapers to photographs to scholarly articles, Archives is the keeper of WIU history. The Special Collections document the cultural, economic and natural heritage of west central Illinois. Special-interest centers include the Center for Regional Authors, the Baxter-Snyder Center for Icarian Studies and the Center for Hancock County History including the Mormon Collection.

Publications of the Decker Press and a number of Civil War manuscripts are also part of Special Collections, along with collections related to naturalist Elton Fawkes, singer Burl Ives, historian Philip D. Jordan, and Congressmen Thomas Railsback and Lane Evans, among others. Regional materials, such as county and town histories, oral history tapes, diaries, letters, maps, photographs and newspaper clippings can be found in Archives and Special Collections. The unit is open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Archives also hosts a comprehensive digital image database, which can be found on its website, wiu.edu/libraries/archives.

The University Art Gallery, located directly behind Sherman Hall, is open to the public, including special Saturday hours. The Gallery provides a permanent collection of art, and maintains a full schedule of exhibits featuring the works of visiting artists, as well as those works done by our talented faculty and students. Current exhibits on display include Prints and Drawings from the University Art Gallery Collection and the Department of Art Juried Student Exhibition. Special art programs, such as the recently introduced family activity, Sock Monkey Saturdays, are also sponsored by the Art Gallery.

The Art Gallery is open from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and from 1-4 p.m. Saturdays.

Western’s Horn Field Campus, just south of Macomb, is a 92 acre retreat that includes woodlands, prairie, and several miles of nature trails, as well as a high ropes challenge course, a teams course and an accessible climbing and rapelling wall. Facilities, which include a lodge and cabins, are open year-round. Horn Field Campus provides a beautiful, peaceful setting for programs, events, research and relaxation. This year, Horn Field Campus will celebrate 50 years as part of the University, during which time it has served innumerable individuals as a place for learning and recreation.

Western Illinois University has so much to offer its students, faculty, staff, visitors and area residents. As the weather warms up and spring appears to be upon us, please take a moment to come out and take a walk around our beautiful campus. You are always welcome!


The Professional Hazards of Social Media

Years ago, when it came to applying for a job, one would submit his or her application and resume, along with references. Thjackfb2e usual process would be an interview, followed by reference checks, and then hopefully, a job offer. Today, that same process is typically the norm, but there is a new added twist: social media.

What you post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media outlets may seem private because you have marked your post as “Friends only” (if you have privacy settings set, that is!), but in this century, technological advances – and social media “investigators” – make it possible for a potential employer to find those posts you thought were “private.”

In a recent Forbes.com article by Peggy Drexler, “Don’t Let Social Media Be A Road To Career Trouble” (http://tinyurl.com/qjvkzc8), Drexler points out that “social media has provided a platform for just about anyone looking for one to project a certain image of themselves. It has made us, in many ways, more accessible to one another, and also more accountable. But social media can be a road to career trouble.”

Drexler points out that while Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like can be an excellent way for those searching for work to market themselves, social media can also be a way for employers to screen out employees. That is, while you are busy crafting your personal image, potential employers are busy using it to predict how you might be as an employee.

A survey by careerbuilder.com found that nearly half of all employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, rejecting those whose social media profiles include provocative photos, evidence of drug use or drinking, negative posts about previous employers or co-workers, or comments that might be perceived as racist, sexist, or ageist. Drexler goes on to state, that evidence of how much time you spend on social media could give employers reason to worry that the habit could get in the way of actual work.

She provides advice for career seekers (and those who are currently employed): Clean it up, and tailor what you can to the image you would like to craft for yourself as a professional. Drexler continues:

1. Keep it (more or less) positive. Keep it classy—and keep your problems to yourself. Whether you are looking for a job or simply looking to keep the one you have, it is important to remember what you write matters.

2. Think before you selfie.

3. Privatize. Not quite the point of social media, but if you are going to insist on being free to write or post whatever you would like, and want impunity, the only option is to make your accounts private.

4. Use social media for good, not evil.

I am new to using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram professionally, and I am still learning the nuances of posting on my social media sites. I appreciate the advice and guidance I have been given — including that from my college-age sons — in regard to Tweets and posts. While I have taken that advice to heart, and I am mindful of my posts (even on my personal page), I realized that as a University president who works closely with students I needed to stress the importance of maintaining a positive social media image. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more are fun tools to communicate with friends and family, but those communications in the form of Tweets, status updates, and photographs, can cause great harm to a person’s future or current professional career.

Employers will look for (and look at) your social media sites. Many large employers have teams dedicated to scouring social media sites of individuals they may wish to hire. The photo of you at a party surrounded by beer bottles, compared to a photo of the individual who is in a volunteer setting, will speak volumes to a potential employer. A racist or sexist Tweet will not endear you to a hiring manager, just as negative posts will not.

As Drexler said, “It’s okay to be a person who likes to have fun, or is sarcastic, maybe even a little subversive at times; people are complex. But it’s important to balance such posts with observations, comments, or photos of a more serious nature, and to keep in mind, always, that how you present yourself through social media is no different than how you present yourself in a job interview, or at the office.”

Words to remember.

Western Pride

As we approach Fall 2014 Commencement ceremonies this weekend, I would like to take a moment to congratulate our students who have completed their degree programs at Western Illinois University! It is with great pleasure that I welcome our students, their families, and their friends to our ceremonies Friday and Saturday.

graduationI am proud of our students for their commitment to being a part of a distinct community of engaged learners who embrace education. Western Illinois University is dedicated to providing students with outstanding experiences that reflect our core values: Academic Excellence, Educational Opportunity, Personal Growth, and Social Responsibility. Guided by the faculty, WIU places an emphasis on developing culturally relevant problem-solving and effective communication strategies designed to help students become successful and innovative leaders in the global society. Whether our students choose to continue their education, enter the workforce, or undertake other worthwhile endeavors, they will continue to be positively influenced by their experiences at Western.

As the newest members of the Western Illinois University Alumni Association, I encourage our recent graduates to take an active role in their alma mater. We encourage all of our graduates and friends to come back to visit us often, as they are forever a permanent part of this institution’s history. Our loyal alumni and their successes reflect the exceptional education they received at Western Illinois University.

Our students and alumni should take pride in knowing they have earned a degree from an institution known regionally, nationally, and internationally as an exceptional institution of higher learning. Graduation day marks the culmination of our students’ academic, personal, and career aspirations. They have accomplished one phase, and they will continue to move forward to the next phase of their life, whether it is graduate education, military commissioning, or a career. I charge all of our graduates to continue accomplishing their life goals, and I wish each graduate of Western Illinois University continued success.





Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas

Western Illinois University
President Jack Thomas

Welcome to my first blog post! It is my intent to use this forum as a way to communicate all of the great things we have happening at Western Illinois University.

First, let me take a moment to introduce myself. I am Jack Thomas, the 11th president of Western Illinois University. I have served at the helm of the University since July 1, 2011. Previously, I had the privilege of serving as provost and academic vice president at WIU for three years. My wife, Linda, and I are the parents of two college-age sons, Patrick and Darius.

My academic background consists of English, which means this blog may be a bit more formal than others you may have read! As a former track athlete and collegiate-level track coach, I manage to incorporate running into my daily fitness routine (you can usually find me at WIU’s Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center very early in the morning).

Since assuming the presidency a few years ago, I set several goals and initiatives for Western Illinois University. As I recently shared in my 2014 State of the University address, as the leader of Western Illinois University, I refuse to allow this university to be viewed as anything less than a first-rate institution of the highest quality. We must be certain that our institution has the ability to remain relevant in this ever-changing world.

We have a great story to tell. Did you know that Western has moved from 53rd to 39th place out of 109 public and private schools on the top tier list of “Best Regional Universities” in the U.S. News and World Report? Or how about that Western is one of 159 regional universities, and one of three Illinois public institutions, named to the “Best in the Midwest” list by The Princeton Review? Our retention rate continues to rise. The rate rose from 63.3% in Fall 2013 to 72.2% in Fall 2014. We also continue to be recognized by G.I. Jobs and Military Times Edge magazine as a military friendly institution. These and many of our other accomplishments continue to raise the profile of Western Illinois University.

As president of WIU, I support initiatives that build on the University’s existing strengths, and I will continue to utilize the Strategic Plan as a base to make decisions for the University. My vision is for WIU to become a leading Midwestern public university serving a diverse student population. Under my leadership, Western continues to be favorably recognized by the Carnegie Foundation, and The Chronicle of Higher Education recently named Western a Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars for master’s-level institutions.

I have focused my efforts on developing and strengthening initiatives in five primary areas at Western, which include: academic programs, facilities, overall outreach and resources, professional development for faculty and staff, and shared governance through campus-wide committees. Also, I have placed a special emphasis on enrollment management in an effort to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students, both native and international, at WIU. These recognitions and many of our institutional accomplishments tie in—and reinforce—my presidential initiatives.

We should all be working together to continue to move this University forward. If you have questions, concerns, or ideas to share, please email me at J-Thomas2@wiu.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter @StudentPres and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WIUPresident.