Cortez ready to serve on WIU-QC’s growing SGA

What’s the story behind a guy who says the love of a big river, and of museums, brought him to Western Illinois University-Quad Cities — and what’s he planning to do to bring more students together on the Quad Cities campus?

2017-05-SGA-president-Michael-Cortez-sitting-VPC-color-correctedMichael (“Mike) Cortez, a graduate student in Museum Studies at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, has been elected president of the WIU-QC Student Government Association (SGA). And he’s got big plans on where he wants to see SGA go.

Back Story:

  • hometown: Des Moines, IA
  • bachelor’s degree in history in May 2015, Grand View University
  • first-year graduate student in Museum Studies program

Why Does He Want to Lead?

Cortez was elected by the student body in April, after a two-day process, he says, of meeting as many people as he could by “…shaking hands with people, introducing myself, just poking into classrooms or the library and I think I walked the campus six or seven times, if not more, over a two-day period.

“I try to get the message out to students that ‘this is your campus,’” he continued. “As soon as you walk through the doors, you take control of your journey, educationally and intellectually, so why not have a voice? Why not get involved?”

Cortez previously served SGA as a senator for GEMS, the Graduate Experience in Museum Studies student organization.

“Now that I’ve had a year to settle in, I’m really excited to take this next big step,” he said.

As an undergraduate student at Grand View, Cortez served as vice president of the history club and and the president of the LGBTQ student organization.

“I’ve always been actively involved,” he said. “I enjoy talking with people, giving speeches, going to meetings, being hands-on and being part of something bigger than myself.”

Growing Student Government on a Commuter Campus – More Events for All

“In the past, SGA wasn’t getting the student involvement that it should, with maybe one executive officer attending meetings. We have about 10 people who come to meetings now. It has grown quite a bit in the last three to four years, and we’re on much more solid footing now.

“My first priority is to make sure that every student voice is heard,” he continued. Second, I’d like to see increased involvement with activities on campus, and third, to strengthen the bond and relationship with the Macomb campus. We’ll continue having wonderful events such as Casino Night. I’d love to see us add a fall concert, art shows, and a Multicultural Night.

“WIU-QC really embraces non-traditional students who have families and who work, and we have a lot of veterans, but we also have traditional-aged college students. So one of my big priorities over the summer is to be thinking about, ‘How do we involve all types of students and not just one group?”

Why Western?: Tuition, location, and….the Mighty Mississip.’

“A big factor was in-state tuition, because in-state tuition announcement,” he said. “But another reason is  I’m a huge water person — love large bodies of water. And the Mississippi River is a beautiful sight to see. Also, the Quad Cities is kind of a gateway to anywhere you need to go — Chicago, Des Moines, St. Louis. It’s kind of centralized to all these fantastic places.

“I also love the program, mostly because of Dr. Pamela J. White, the museum studies director. “She’s been a phenomenal advisor and mentor. I really think it’s because of her that the program is as big as it is.”

What’s After Western?

Cortez is pursuing the degree in museum studies with plans to work in visitor services.

“I’ve loved museums ever since I was a child,” he said. “In Des Moines, there was a state historical society museum downtown, and and I used to beg my mom to take me every week. I love history. I love reading history books, on many topics, including European history, U.S. history, even African history.”

More info:

Also elected:

  • Caroline Sipiera of Galena, IL, senior communication major, as vice president
  • Benjamin Brondos of Brookfield, IL, senior engineering major, as attorney general.
  • (…and a special goodbye to graduating past-president Nicholas “Nico” Moreno

“I’d like to give a shout-out to Nico for running a tight ship, and I’m incredibly thankful for what he did for SGA,” Cortez said.

More information on the WIU-QC SGA

Success by Design: Internship Adds to Graphic Communication Repertoire for New WIU Alumna

Mariah Bartz, a brand new alumna of Western Illinois University, with the Pokémon Go map she designed for WIU's Macomb campus.

Mariah Bartz, a brand new alumna of Western Illinois University, with the Pokémon Go map she designed for WIU’s Macomb campus.

What experiences in an internship can help make it “awesome” for a college student?

Just ask Macomb native and brand new Western Illinois University alumna Mariah Bartz. This summer, those of us who work in University Relations had the great pleasure of working with Mariah—she has been in our office every morning since May 24 working to complete a design internship, the final requirement for her bachelor’s degree in graphic communication.

“Working with University Relations allowed me to utilize my skills in a real-world setting. I had to apply many things I had learned in my courses, and this served as both continued practice and as a reminder for the tips and tricks I needed to make something look the way I imagined it to be,” Mariah noted. “During this internship, I designed posters, postcards, birthday cards, advertisements, booklet pages, maps, and a social media directory webpage and a blog directory webpage for Western’s website. I was fortunate to be given such a wide variety of projects during my time there, and it was particularly awesome to get to work both with page layout and web design.”

Throughout much of her time at Western, Mariah has truly embraced the University’s core values of educational opportunity and personal growth and has the projects/creations now under her belt to prove it. Not only has she created a number of real-world projects this summer we’re using in University Relations—e.g., the Pokémon Go map for campus and she completed a much-needed update to our social media directory—but she also has been doing so since at least 2015 as a Western student.

Mariah with the Rocky statue she was selected to paint the 2015 edition of the Rocky on Parade campaign.

Mariah with the Rocky statue she was selected to paint the 2015 edition of the Rocky on Parade campaign.

In the fall last year, Mariah was selected to design the 2015 holiday card, which features an original watercolor lithograph of Sherman Hall. The card was sent to more than 750 friends of the WIU Foundation. Also in 2015, Mariah was chosen to design and paint the Foundation’s Rocky statue as a part of the 2015 Rocky on Parade campaign. Bartz’s “Molecule Dog,” featuring the chemical symbols for love and happiness, is now situated by the flagpole north of the University Union.

Mariah, who has also had her artwork featured at the Juried Student Exhibition at WIU, the Evanston Art Center (Evanston, IL), and the Figge Art Museum (Davenport, IA), shared a bit more about her background and her experiences at Western below…

Q. Where did you grow up? What are your interests outside of work/school?

Mariah: I grew up here in Macomb, so WIU has been a part of my life for a long time. Outside of work or school, my interests include doing small art projects, playing video games, and watching movies. I am very much a homebody.

Q. What have been some of your most memorable experiences as a student at WIU?

Rocky on Parade statue painted by WIU alumna Mariah Bartz (pictured here with Mariah's aunt, grandmother, and mother) on the north side of the Western Illinois University Union.

The 2015 Rocky on Parade statue painted by WIU alumna Mariah Bartz (pictured here with Mariah’s aunt, grandmother, and mother). The statue is located on the north side of the Western Illinois University Union.

Mariah: The most memorable experience was getting drafted by the WIU Foundation to paint their Rocky sculpture for Rocky on Parade in 2015. It was fun for me to paint it, and now that my “molecule dog” is under the flag post by the Union, it’s fun to see people interact with the dog and take photos of it.

Q. What are your career plans?

Mariah: For the future, I plan to move into a city to get a broader use for my degree, with either printed media or web design. I may also consider continuing my education—if I later feel that it would be a good direction for me to go.

Q. How do you think your studies have prepared you for your career?

Mariah: I feel like many of the courses I took benefitted me greatly, and I had some excellent instruction from a few teachers along the way. There are some good habits I have formed through my advanced design classes that have made me prepared to handle a variety of professional circumstances.

Q. What advice do you have for current and future WIU students?

Mariah: Between my sophomore and junior year, I ended up taking some time off from school. For me, this was a benefit, because I needed to sort of recharge my batteries. When I returned to WIU, I was more motivated and dedicated, and it absolutely paid off then.

If you are a student who feels stressed or pressured, please understand that everyone’s life is different, and that if you want to progress somewhere, you can do so when the time is right for you.

•••••••••

Although we’re proud that Mariah seemed to enjoy and benefit immensely her time with us here in University Relations this summer, we’re even more proud that she chose Western and she will go forth and represent her alma mater well… yet another WIU Success Story!

People of WIU

Dallas Boswell - People of WIU

In Fall 2014, Western Illinois University Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad asked her students to use “two of the ethnographic research tools that anthropologists use—cameras and talking to, or interviewing, people” to emulate the “Humans of New York” (HONY) project for a “People of WIU” assignment.

Last week, the new best-selling book “Humans of New York” was released. You may or may not know the blog—created by Brandon Stanton—upon which the book is based.

If you do, you may have encountered the Humans of New York (HONY) project behind the blog via its huge Facebook or Twitter following. (The HONY Facebook page has close to 16 million likes and the HONY Twitter feed has more than 360K followers.)

According to the Oct. 12 ABC news article “Humans of New York Creator Reveals How He Gets People to Share Life’s Intimate Details,” over the last five years, the blog has transformed from featuring only pictures [of New Yorkers] to also telling stories”—basically, an anthology (the definition, per Merriam-Webster Unabridged, “a usually representative collection of selected literary pieces or passages”).

Bre Bracey - People of WIUSuch a project was a natural fit for an assignment in two “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology FYE” (First Year Experience) classes taught by Western Illinois University Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad.

So in Fall 2014, she did just that—asked her students to use “two of the ethnographic research tools that anthropologists use—cameras and talking to, or interviewing, people” to emulate the project for a “People of WIU” assignment.

“Anthropology is about telling a story. Sometimes the story is written and sometimes it includes images. Your assignment is to tell a story about the People of WIU. The people—students, faculty, administration, individuals who work in the cafeteria, the Beu Health Center, the construction workers—are all fascinating, but we seldom take time to talk to them and find out their stories,” her instructions noted.

To complete the assignment, McIlvaine-Newsad asked her students to “write three questions that you will ask all of the people you photograph.”

Sawhney_Surya“You will need to photograph and interview a minimum of 10 people and take a minimum of 10 photos of each individual. Make sure you have your subjects complete and sign the Model Release Form, which will allow us to use their images on the WIU website. Select your three best photos and quotes, and put them in a PowerPoint presentation.”

McIlvaine-Newsad, who has been a faculty member for 15 years, said she is “constantly amazed at who my students are and what they bring to the classroom.”

“They have many stories to tell. In virtually all my classes, from study abroad courses to Germany and India or methods classes, we explore ways in which people can tell us what is important to them. Often we discover that people who may seem so very different than we are share similar powerful stories. I especially wanted to bring this message to first-year students, who are making adjusting to a new way of life as university students. Using a visual anthropology format that includes both the power of images and written word, like those from HONY, seemed like a great assignment for my students.

Kathy Clauson - People of WIUWhen asked why she had her students use the digital storytelling technique:

“The reasons for doing so vary with each course: sometimes it’s to focus a student’s research interest. Other times it’s to develop communication skills in visual or audio media. In another class, it may be to relate an experience that is more personal in nature—too personal for a more formal academic paper format,” she noted.

In this post are some of the results from her students’ completion of the assignment. These are just a smattering of the stories of the all of the “People of WIU.”

Feel free to share your story—about something that matters to you or share a lingering question you have about your life or something that is on your mind (no profanity or references to alcohol or drug use please; comments will be moderated)—in the comments below.

Imani Kutti - People of WIUDamien Pickens - People of WIU
Jodie Tan Qiu Yu - People of WIUMary Street - People of WIU

International Student Success Spotlight: Qi Qi

Qi Qi - WIU International Student

Qi Qi, an international graduate student in WIU’s MBA program, said her ability to study business abroad (outside of her home country of China) is a dream come true.

Qi Qi, a master’s of business administration (MBA) program graduate candidate at Western, is currently achieving one her dreams: studying outside of her home country (China) to pursue her advanced degree in business.

Before coming to WIU, she had worked in marketing and product management in China. Since enrolling in Western’s MBA program, she has found that she is particularly interested in supply chain management, so she has chose that area of concentration her advanced business administration studies.

For the March installment of the “International Student Success Spotlight” (sponsored by Western’s Center for International Studies), Qi Qi shared how and why she chose Western to achieve her dream of studying business abroad, as well as how the services and academic resources at WIU have helped her with her success so far as an international graduate student.

Q. How did you learn about WIU and why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Qi Qi: Studying business abroad was my dream, due to my working experience with various enterprises after graduating from a college in Beijing, China. However, I had to consider the most efficient and effective way to realize my dream, because I came from a working-class family. I have limited savings, and the tuition and living expenses are high in developed countries. My hope was that I could leverage my limited resources to achieve the best result for my studies, and my “dream” universities would have the best cost/effect ratio.

Then I started a comprehensive search, both online and offline. I finally narrowed it down to WIU, State University of New York, Texas A&M, Cleveland State University, and Pittsburg State University. With any effort and luck, I would be accepted by each school’s MBA program candidate.

Then, I compared the programs, environment, and the procedures at each school.

Firstly, WIU has been listed as a “Best Midwestern College” and “Top Tier Midwestern University” for many consecutive years. AACSB International [“the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business”] not only accredited WIU’s MBA program, but also ranked Western’s College of Business and Technology among the top 25 percent of business schools in the world.

I was also amazed by the many unique and creative arrangements for international students, i.e. Ambassadors Program, temporary housing, Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) Conversation Mentors program, Conversation Partners, American Culture Night, etc. WIU has become the ideal university for me. I also think Western has the best student services. I am so glad I made the correct decision and came to WIU!

Q. What do you hope to do with your master’s degree in business administration once you graduate?

Qi Qi: I plan to work as a supply chain analyst after graduation, once I get more experience in the area. I hope to become a supply chain manager.

I am very happy to have discovered my career direction here, so I can be equipped for my future.

Q. How did you adjust to your new home as a person who had never traveled to the U.S. before?

Qi Qi: When I first arrived, I was faced with new study challenges, a new living environment, new social relationships, and a totally different culture when I just came to Macomb.

First of all, the language issue impacted my performance, because I couldn’t get used to each instructor’s speed and tempo when he or she was lecturing.

Secondly, I experienced serious homesickness, because I had never been so far away from home before.

Thirdly, everything was new to me; however, I did not feel lonely and helpless at all. The friendly and responsible professors answered my questions patiently, gave me a lot of useful advice, and helped me pick up information more quickly. In addition, the international student services staff arranged a lot of activities for me to get familiar with the community, meet a lot of new friends, improve my English, and learn about the culture. The International Neighbors program, particularly, makes me feel that I have another home at Macomb. The host family has become my second home, and I feel I am the part of the community. I can’t believe I have become accustomed to my new life so quickly!

Q. What have been (or are) your favorite courses and instructors and why?

Qi Qi: My favorite course is in small business management. The course covers how to operate a small business. In this course, there are many guest speakers sharing the experiences about their businesses. Mrs. Gates, the instructor, also provides information and cases about various interesting small businesses.

Although the assignments in this course are challenging, Mrs. [Janice] Gates is one of my favorite instructors. She is very nice and helpful. She likes students to raise questions, and she replies to their email messages quickly. Even on the weekend, she still provides feedback to students’ concerns in time.

Another professor I adore is Dr. Deboeuf. I took his two courses, “Introduction to Finance” and “Financial Management.” His classes are well organized, and he helped me understand the complicated financial concepts presented.

Q. Any additional information that you would like to include?

Qi Qi: I have to mention Macomb when talking about my feeling about WIU. It provides me a welcoming, friendly, convenient, safe, hometown, and rich atmosphere to pursue my study objectives. I love Macomb!

The Making of the #WIUnselfie Movement

WIU Students taking part in the WIUnselfie Movement

Brett Moody, Caitlyn Westfall, and Brian Kocher, students in Western’s College Student Personnel (CSP) Program working on the #WIUnselfie Movement project. According to the CSP student group, the mission of the WIUnselfie Movement is to develop a culture of positive community built upon meaningful connections through social media. The student group responsible for the project aims to reverse selfie culture by promoting recognition of others through accountability and awareness of often overlooked qualities, achievements, and good will at Western.

A few weeks ago, two Western graduate students reached out to us for a brief meet up in the University Relations Office. They wanted help in promoting their “WIUnselfie movement,” a project that they, and some of their fellow master’s candidates in Western’s College Student Personnel Program (CSP), were involved in via one of their CSP courses.

Naturally, we wanted to know what it was all about—as you likely do, particularly if you have seen their various messages around campus. So, with the help of her fellow students, Caitlyn Westfall (Macomb, IL) provided me with the details of the project and how the students hope to use it to “reverse selfie culture” on social media these days.

Q: Tell me about how the #WIUnselfie project came about.

Caitlyn: This project came from one of the classes in Western’s CSP Program. We were given the project by one of our professors to “make the world a better place.” We were not given any other context other than that. We talked for a few weeks about some things we thought could make a change in the world around us (to the Western Illinois University/Macomb community).

One of our group members brought up an idea of doing something selfless, such as leaving sticky-notes with positive messages around WIU’s campus. From there, another member brought up an idea he had observed in his undergraduate experience—he and his friend tried to get an “unselfie” movement started. The purpose of that movement was to promote unselfish acts and recognize the people who perform them. Examples of this are such things as holding the door open for someone behind you or paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. From there, we worked out the details, and the hashtag #WIUnselfie was born, and we went from there!


WIU College Student Personnel Master’s Degree Candidates made this video as part of their “WIUnselfie Movement” for a project in CSP Professor Tracy Davis’s group dynamics course.

Q: Who is involved with it here at Western?

Caitlyn: The people involved are primarily in Dr. Tracy Davis’s group dynamics class.

Q: What does the group hope to accomplish with this project?

Caitlyn: We have seen a rise in negative social media lately, and we wanted to find a way to spread positive social media. We are hoping that by creating a new outlet for positive social media to take over, we’ll be creating a new buzz on campus. Instead of sitting around the lunch table gossiping negatively about their peers, we are hoping students, faculty, staff, and community members talk about the great things going on.

WIUnselfies on Instagram

Follow the WIUnselfie Movement on Instagram at instagram.com/wiunselfies

Q: How will the group go about accomplishing these goals?

Caitlyn: We have created an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook page for people to submit pictures to. We also have these social media outlets so that we are able to promote the movement itself. We have gone around campus a few different times getting pictures of people or groups doing great things and also getting the word out. We have created a neat Instagram style frame for people to take pictures with. We have also promoted our movement as big campus events such as the Fall Leadership Conference and Make A Difference Day and we saw great feedback from that.

Q: Who are the other CSP students involved?

Caitlyn: Danielle Buckner (Lake Forest, CA), Amy Bumatai (Mililani, HI), Melinda Daniels (Milwaukee, WI), Brian Kocher (Henry, IL), Maggie Miller (Boone, IA), Brett Moody (Taylorville, IL), Kelly Severs (Macomb, IL), and our group facilitator Emily Simon (Moncolva, OH).

Q: Anything else I neglected to ask you about in the above-listed questions that would be important to include?

Caitlyn: Anyone can find us on Instagram at @wiunselfies, Facebook at www.facebook.com/wiunselfiemovement, Twitter at @wiunselfies, or we can be emailed at wiunselfiemovement@gmail.com.

WIU’s Thai Scholars traveling, adjusting to life in U.S.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University. They are pictured here after they first arrived in the U.S.

Just about five months ago, 10 high-achieving students from Thailand began a new adventure at Western.

The students (all from rural districts in Thailand) are part of the One-District-One-Scholarship (ODOS) program, sponsored by their government, the Kingdom of Thailand. They arrived at WIU in February and were immediately enrolled in a specially developed Western program, Royal Thai Newcomers, which helped prepare them for their English-language studies through the WESL (Western English as a Second Language) Institute.

According to David Bell, WESL director, all 10 of the students have matriculated into the regular WESL program and are now studying English six hours per day.

“They continue to live in University housing, and several of them have requested to have U.S. roommates beginning this fall semester,” Bell said. “They have adjusted well, and their English-language skills have improved greatly in the short time they have been here.”

Once the students are competent in their English-language skills, they will begin their studies in their chosen majors.

This past weekend, Western's Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies, to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

This past weekend, Western’s Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. (They are pictured here with Thai Scholars who are attending other Midwestern universities.) The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

“The plan is to provide them with the skills they need to succeed so they can start in their major programs in Spring 2014,” noted Richard Carter, executive director of Western’s School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach.

This past weekend, the students traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies.

“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the ODOS scholars to the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars. After the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture,” Carter explained.

Western Illinois University English as a Second Language Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

WESL Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

At the June 15 meeting, in addition to the Thai Scholars from Western, Thai students from several universities in the Midwest region were present, as well as the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand, Dr. Nontigorn Kanchanachitra. Also present were the Minister Counselor of the Royal Thai Consulate, Dr. Nantawan Sangton, and the Guidance Office of the Office of Educational Affairs, Dr. Korn Thepnorarat, Carter added.

Learn more about the One-District-One-Scholarship program at thainewsupdate24.blogspot.com/2013/03/one-district-one-scholarship-program.html and more about how the Thai Scholars came to Western at www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10514.

eXtreme Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is taken eXtremely seriously at WIU. It’s one of the University’s four core values (academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth, and social responsibility), and throughout each academic year, many students and student organizations put innumerable hours into planning, publicizing, and implementing an array of events that raise funds for good causes.

From Big Pink Volleyball (also known at BPV, a breast cancer fundraiser held every fall semester at Western) and eXtreme Dodgeball for Diabetes held in the spring (both held at the WIU Campus Recreation Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center) to such fundraisers as St. Baldrick’s and Haunted Higgins 19 (planned through students and staff working in University Housing and Dining Services) and community service and philanthropy via the University’s Greek organizations (in Fall 2011, 28 Greek organizations performed 3,530 hours of community service and contributed nearly $18,875 in chapter philanthropy), the events generate thousands of dollars and provide students with fun ways to contribute to many causes that go way “beyond the bell tower.”

9th Annual eXtreme Dodgeball for Diabetes

See more photos from WIU’s 9th Annual eXtreme Dodgeball for Diabetes at on.fb.me/13bzY0O.

At last month’s 9th annual Dodgeball for Diabetes, 45 students participated, resulting in some awesome photos on the Western Illinois University Rec Events Facebook page.

According to Amber Bedee, who is studying in Western’s College Student Personnel program and serves as a graduate assistant at Campus Recreation, this year’s event raised $295 for the Illinois Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“This foundation conducts research surrounding three facets of diabetes, including a cure, treatment, and prevention. Finding a cure for type 1 diabetes is the highest priority. In addition to funding research, the funds donated will also go toward education,” Bedee noted. “For this year’s event, Campus Recreation collaborated with the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH). Campus Recreation coordinated the marketing and t-shirt design, as well as sign-up and logistics of the event. NRHH was key to promoting the event in the residence halls and coordinated prizes for the top two teams. This year they sponsored purchasing t-shirts for the winning team.”

The events also enable students to hone their professional skills.

“Helping to organize this year’s Dodgeball for Diabetes enabled me to work on my skills in regard to planning and implementing a program of this size,” Bedee said.