UIS takes initiative with new program
Public policy focus of center
The University of Illinois at Springfield is poised to step onto the national — and most likely international — stage when it becomes the official academic arm of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
"This is one of the most exciting opportunities in the history of the institution," UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said last week. "This means a lot to lots of people."
Pending the U of I board of trustees’ approval, which is expected at the board’s July meeting, UIS’s Institute for Public Affairs will be renamed the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Center for Governmental Studies, and new programs geared to working with the Lincoln Presidential Library will be added to IPA’s current responsibilities.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly appropriated $1.5 million to UIS to begin implementing the new presidential center. It is expected to take a year or longer for all aspects of the new center to be up and running, although some parts should be in operation in time for the Nov. 18 opening of the library part of the new facility.
"We’ve been planning this for a couple years," said Ernest Cowles, interim director of the IPA. "The purpose (of the center) is to be the academic research arm of the Lincoln Library and Museum and to focus on public policy research and public affairs."
Cowles said several new initiatives are planned to start with. They are:
Nancy Ford, former director of the IPA, said planners looked at programs at existing presidential libraries to come up with initiatives for the new center. She said the center is not limited to the initiatives under development and could add other offerings later.
Paludan said the programs are important, in part, because they don’t focus solely on scholarly activity, significant as that might be.
"This gets at (Lincoln) from several directions … and engages students at all levels," he said.
Ringeisen said scholars in the Presidential Center will work closely with state government, functioning at times as "problem solvers and problem analysts" for the state.
Existing programs of the Institute for Public Affairs — the legislative internship program, the survey research office, publication of Illinois Issues magazine, operation of WUIS/WIPA public radio, and operation of the UIS television office — will all continue under the Presidential Center. However, money for the new initiatives will be separate from money appropriated for existing programs, Cowles said.
Initially, about 20 positions will be created at the university because of the new center, he said. Hiring is expected to begin in July. Cowles will become interim director of the presidential center, and a national search will be launched to fill the position permanently, he said.
Existing UIS faculty will be used for some programs, and outside advisers will be hired as needed, he said.
The center will need about 14 offices to house all its personnel.
"I would anticipate that we will use space at both UIS and at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum," Cowles said. "We’ll definitely have a presence downtown."
Elements of the new programs will be phased in, with the residential program for high school students scheduled to begin next week and the Lincoln Legacy Lectures set to begin with the presidential library’s opening in November. Other elements, such as the research fellowships, may not begin for a year or more.
The presidential library and museum will be an independent entity from the presidential center, and neither will have direct control over the other’s activities. The two facilities will work cooperatively, aided by the guidance of an advisory committee made up higher education leaders, scholars and other community leaders from across the state.
The foundation formed to support the presidential library also will raise money for the presidential center, as will the U of I Foundation.
Cowles said creation of the presidential center in conjunction with the presidential library and museum will provide UIS with "instant national visibility."
Ringeisen said that visibility likely will become international, as people from around the world come to associate the new center with the library and museum.
He said it is also nice to be working on building a major new program at a time when UIS and higher education in general are dismantling programs because of tough economic times.
Working on the center "helps us to work though the other issues," he said. As the presidential center grows, "it’s going to evolve, and that’s going to be fun to watch."
Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.