Chancellor Koch’s first year, looking back and moving forward

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Chancellor Koch’s first year, looking back and moving forward

Chancellor Koch applauds graduates at the 2012 UIS Commencement Ceremony.

Chancellor Koch applauds graduates at the 2012 UIS Commencement Ceremony.

Photographs courtesy of Kati Maseman

Chancellor Koch applauds graduates at the 2012 UIS Commencement Ceremony.

Photographs courtesy of Kati Maseman

Photographs courtesy of Kati Maseman

Chancellor Koch applauds graduates at the 2012 UIS Commencement Ceremony.

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Almost a year ago, Susan Koch became chancellor of the University of Illinois Springfield.  It was important for Koch to learn as much as possible about UIS, and she describes this past year as a year of listening.

“I promised myself and the community that I would spend this year getting to know our campus and our community, the University of Illinois and the state of Illinois,” Koch said.

More than anything else this year she has been listening to people: faculty, students, Springfield citizens, University investors, and the administration.  She feels positive about the past year

One of the many highlights over these past two semesters for Koch is her student interactions.  With the help of the Student Government Association, Koch held socializing events called Chocolate with the Chancellor and Chili with the Chancellor.  “Those were certainly highlights for me because they really gave me the opportunity to be involved with students,” Koch said.

During these interactions, and others, Koch found that she was impressed by the student leadership from all groups on campus and hopes to continue these relationships.

“These are young leaders in action, and one of the things I will be doing for the fall is creating a new campus leadership group that I can interact with on a regular basis that will be a very diverse group of students because I need to hear those voices more,” Koch said.  “I feel very good about the interactions I have had with students so far.  It’s something I really want to stay close to in the future.”

Koch also enjoyed the success of the men’s basketball and women’s softball teams, as well as every other event and student performance as she has attended.  “It has just been wonderful to be part of those elements of our community,” Koch said.

Koch considers being one of the items for students to find in the Scavenger Hunt during Springfest another highlight.  “I probably had 200 students coming in and out of my office that night, and it was great,” Koch said.  “We had a good time.”

She has also appreciated every departmental meeting with faculty because she said it allowed her to dig deeper into what UIS is in the various disciplines, and she considers it important for her to understand that.

“I also appreciated the opportunity to get to know some of the retired faculty who really represent the history of the University,” Koch said.  “They have given me a window into the past that is very much informing my thinking about our future.”

For the future, Koch hopes the student population at UIS will increase to 6,000.  “I would like to see us continue to grow and be accessible to a diverse group of highly qualified students,” Koch said.

With this goal in mind, Koch would like to significantly increase scholarships for students so the University will become more accessible, especially for those with financial challenges.  Koch also hopes to add new majors to the curriculum as well as to make UIS more connected with the state capital and the healthcare community in order to allow students to gain experiences outside the curriculum.

Koch is also excited about the prospect of a Student Union on campus and believes that the recent student vote passing the Student Union was a clear mandate from the students that they recognize the importance of creating the space.

“I am going to bring my shovel from the garage and lean it against the wall so we will be ready to put that shovel in the ground,” Koch said.

According to Koch, the University is moving forward with meetings with central administration to begin planning.  While Koch said it will be challenging financially, but she plans on doing some major fundraising to make it happen, the goal is to open the doors to that Student Union in the fall of 2015.

Although Koch has found many highlights over the past year, she does recognize some of the setbacks and considers them learning experiences; starting with the resignation of President Michael Hogan.

“I want to say that I really appreciated President Hogan’s support of the Springfield campus,” Koch said.  “That having been said, I certainly understand his decision to step back and I support his decision.”

Koch is confident in the smooth leadership transition that is going on currently.  “I know Bob Easter very well, and I have the greatest regard for him as he has already been to our campus many times,” Koch said.  “We are communicating with each other almost daily and I am very confident that this leadership is going to work out very well for the Springfield campus as well as the University as a whole.”

Another issue that faced UIS was the Chick-fil-A restaurant proposal.  After students spoke out against the proposal, Koch believes the student leadership has been very effective and she supports the task force that will be appointed in the fall to study the issue.  Koch looks forward to see what kind of recommendations this task force brings forward.

“When something like this comes up it’s a great educational opportunity and I don’t want to miss that opportunity,” Koch said.  “One of the reasons that I have not intervened is because I appreciate the process.  I want our students to have this educational opportunity, and I think the dialogue is very healthy.  I think it is really important that these dialogues be respectful and that we appreciate and respect all the different points of view and I think that will happen.”

As Koch respects the learning process at all levels, she received the opportunity to congratulate her first group of UIS graduates during her first UIS commencement ceremony.  She hopes all of the most recent alumni will pause and congratulate themselves on this achievement and to understand that this marks the beginning, not the end.

“I would advise all graduates to always be a learner and not to be afraid to stretch and take risks,” Koch said.  “My own greatest achievements and the most fun I’ve had has always been when I tried something that I didn’t think I could do or when I stretched what I thought the boundaries really were.  So I hope the education at the UIS has enabled our graduates to have the confidence to stretch and take risks and keep learning because that is a lifelong experience.”