University of Illinois at Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch, in response to questions regarding Southern Illinois University’s (SIU) proposal to create a satellite campus for their law school in downtown Springfield, denied any potential for conflict or controversy between the two colleges over the issue.
“For the University of Illinois, and by extension, UIS, our focus is on moving forward successfully with the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and the Illinois Innovation Network.”
UIS acquired business incubator Innovate Springfield in August 2018. A business incubator is a type of company that specializes in helping startup companies develop and grow, with Innovate Springfield intended to be the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network. The University of Illinois has been appropriated $500 million to develop the DPI and the Innovation Network, with $15 million allotted for UIS. As of this writing, no money has been disbursed. This is partly due, Koch said, to the transition from the Rauner to the Pritzker administration.
Recently, however, State Senator Andy Manar introduced a new bill appropriating $50 million for SIU to establish a Springfield campus. According to Koch, Manar did not consult with UIS before introducing this legislation but the chancellor did note that Manar has been “a very strong supporter of higher ed, a strong supporter of UIS,” and that he had helped Innovate Springfield “become a reality.”
In regard to the SIU proposal specifically, Koch insisted that she could not speak for SIU but if they did follow through with that proposal, it “would be completely up to them and that would not be competing with anything that we’re doing, we’re not concerned with competition.” Koch further said that the goal is “for institutions to collaborate where they can” and that she was sure that there would be “a lot of opportunities” for the two schools to collaborate. Koch also stressed that UIS already collaborates with SIU’s medical school in Springfield and that this collaboration “contributes to the vitality of Springfield.” Again, the chancellor said that there is no conflict and that “these are all good dialogues.” Koch then reiterated the commitment of UIS to ensuring the success of the Springfield hub “wherever it’s going to be located,” and said that “there has been no final conclusion today about where it will be, except that it will be downtown.” As to why UIS is expanding downtown in the first place rather than putting its entire focus on its existing campus, the chancellor said that “this is not an either/ or situation” and that there were no plans to “empty out the campus.” UIS is “first and foremost an educational institution and students-first is absolutely what we’re focused on, but students need real-world experience.” Koch then said that it is in the interest of UIS to be “great citizens” and to have Springfield be “a vital, economic, and social success.”
In the interest of full-disclosure, it should be noted that the author of this article has previously worked for Senator Manar as part of his 2018 re-election campaign.