Grad assistant’s canoe trip down Mississippi to begin this weekend

Greg Nejmanowski Veteran Adventures coordinator

By Jeff Wilson

Greg Nejmanowski’s expedition down the Mississippi River is about to begin. Weather-permitting, he’ll drop his canoe into the Minnesota headwaters of the world’s third-largest river on May 24.

This Paddle for Patriots trip will act as a fundraiser and awareness campaign for Touch of Nature’s Veteran Adventures program. Donations can be made by visiting the Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder page at

“This project has been my baby,” said Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator. “It’s definitely been a lot of work, but I think it’ll be worth it and then some.”

Veteran Adventures offers outdoor activities to post-9/11 veterans, including hunting, hiking, backpacking trips, whitewater rafting and more. The program is funded through grants and private donations, and it just recently lost a large state grant.

The 2,300-mile trip down the mighty Mississippi will begin in Itasca State Park in Minnesota and end in the Gulf of Mexico. Nejmanowski expects it to take between two and three months to complete.

There are two planned events happening along the way.

The first will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 6 at The Loading Dock in Grafton, just north of St. Louis. There will be food and drink for sale and raffles, including a free chance at a Discovery Flight, which allows participants to briefly take the controls of an in-flight airplane.

The second will be from noon to 3 p.m. June 13 at Devil’s Backbone Park. Nejmanowski said he’s still working on having food provided, but the same raffle opportunities will be available.

Between these planned events and less formal stops along the way, Nejmanowski hopes he can raise awareness not only of Veteran Adventures, but of the needs to veterans everywhere, including the scourge of veteran suicides.

According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 20 veterans die each day from suicide. That’s approximately double the suicide rate of non-veterans.

“We all know from anecdotal evidence how going outside can help you,” Nejmanowski said. “I feel like sometimes medicine has advanced and progressed so far that we have left nature — some of the best medicine in the world — behind.”

To get involved or support the trip directly, send an email to To learn more about Veteran Adventures visit,


150 Stories of Philanthropy: Saluki Food Pantry going above and beyond


SIU Food Pantry Shannon Denman

Welcome to a series of stories celebrating SIU’s 150th anniversary.

By Jeff Wilson

Since opening in August 2016, the Saluki Food Pantry has served more than 2,400 SIU students and their families. That kind of community service requires support and a lot of hard work.

Recently, the food pantry assisted students after a fire at Evergreen Terrace by supplying food and toiletries to affected individuals.

Much of the work at the food pantry is done by graduate assistant Shannon Denman, said Student Center Associate Director Kent Epplin.

“Without Shannon, we would not be able to operate because there is no dedicated staff member for the location,” Epplin said. “As a result of her ongoing efforts to schedule food drives, we have been successful at supplying our students with the necessary food items.”

During the first two SIU Days of Giving, the Saluki Food Pantry has received $1,800 in donations. Most of those funds are used to pay overhead costs and fund the graduate assistant position.

“Initially, the chancellor funded the pantry, but for the current fiscal year, we are operating off of the SIU Foundation funding,” Epplin said. “The pantry runs on a very simple budget.”

The food pantry works with students both on and off campus, and networks with Saluki Cares and other campus organizations to ensure students are aware of the available resources.

The Saluki Food Pantry is located on the Lower Level of the Student Center and is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays. Any student with a valid student ID can access the pantry’s resources. To learn more, visit

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SIU Carbondale Day of Giving totals exceed $909,000

SIU Day of Giving Thank You

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The totals are in, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s March 6 Day of Giving raised more than $909,000 for scholarships, programs and other SIU priorities.

“We’re deeply grateful to our many donors – alumni, faculty, staff, students community members and more — for their generous support of our students and the university,” said Chancellor John Dunn. “You have made a very positive difference.”

The third annual 24-hour fundraising campaign far exceeded last year’s total of $480,000, said Rae Goldsmith, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation. This year, more than 2,900 gifts came from 45 states and 10 countries.

“The Day of Giving also served to launch our year-long celebration of our 150th anniversary,” she said. “Many donors wanted to be part of this historic event at the same time they wanted to invest in the university’s future.”

The day included a friendly competition among units and organizations for raising the most money or attracting the most gifts. This year, trophies will be given to both academic and non-academic units.

Among academic programs, the School of Medicine attracted the most gifts and also raised the most funds.

Among non-academic programs, a Facebook group raised the most gifts for the new “Balancing Education, Experience and Reality” Scholarship, while Saluki Athletics will take home the trophy for most dollars raised.

“The Day of Giving involved the entire SIU community. It was a great demonstration of the power of philanthropy bringing people together for the greater good,” Goldsmith said. “Thank you to everyone who helped us far exceed our goals.”

thank-you video is online, and photos highlighting the Day of Giving and anniversary launch can be found on SIU’s Facebook page.

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A place to create


By Rebecca Renshaw

During the 2018 SIU Day of Giving, Morris Library raised $7,455 from 36 gifts. That money was used to reach one of the library’s top fundraising goals – installing an Adobe Creative Cloud workstation.

“This workstation provides students access to Adobe Creative Cloud software, coupled with the computer hardware required to make the best use of it. Most student laptops are not sufficient, even if they purchased access to the software,” said Morris Library Dean John Pollitz.

The workstation features a Wacom Cintiq, a stylus-enabled, high-definition display used by design professionals. This interface allows for fast, precise interaction with digital content. It also supports the library’s 3D printing service by offering 3D modeling software.

These devices are cost-prohibitive for students to purchase, and they are rarely seen outside of design studios. This workstation represents one of the very few venues in which an aspiring designer can learn to use professional-grade tools.

“The workstation helps continue to position the library as a place where information is not just stored and retrieved, but created,” Pollitz said.

“The Day of Giving is one of my favorite days of the year,” Pollitz said. “The entire community, alumni, students and staff interact throughout the day across campus and there is just a great spirit of helping others.”

To learn about the needs of Morris Library and SIU Carbondale Library Affairs, visit

Design teams head to nationals, seek support

SIU Concrete Canoe Design Team

By Jeff Wilson

For members of SIU’s Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge teams, it’s all about the experience.

Both teams, made up of dozens of engineering students, earned spots in the national championships. The Steel Bridge team has already competed, finishing 36th overall, at the University of Illinois. The Concrete Canoe team will be traveling to San Diego State University for its competition June 23-25.

Each team represents the SIU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Technical jargon aside, the teams follow particular parameters to build their structures and are judged based on a number of factors.

SIU Steel Bridge Design Team

“The students get to do all the actual planning,” William Eichfeld, associate professor and faculty advisor for the teams, said. “They are in charge of the organizing, scheduling, design and creating. It allows them to face real-world issues, encourages teamwork and develops interpersonal and communication skills.”

Having teams that compete on a national level is important to student retention and recruitment.

“Visitors, including prospective students and parents, see the enthusiasm,” Eichfeld said. “These teams help us produce better engineers, and they can see that.”

The teams are mainstays within the College of Engineering, each having been active for decades. The knowledge gained each year is passed down from class to class.

For the Concrete Canoe team, this is only its third trip to the national competition. Of course, getting the team to San Diego is no small – or cheap – task.

“The department does what it can,” Eichfeld said. “The students use their own cars, and in many cases, pay for the trip themselves. There are some teams around the country that don’t attend nationals simply because they can’t afford it.”

The ASCE Design Teams are in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign powered by the SIU Foundation’s SalukiFunder website. The site allows secure gifts, of any amount, to be given in support of the teams. With about a week left in the campaign, they’re still striving to reach their $15,000 goal. The money raised will be used to help pay for registration fees and the cost of travel.

“Our alumni are wonderful,” Eichfeld said. “They come back and help judge competitions and regularly offer job applications to our students. Many stay very involved. By making even a small contribution to this cause, every alumni can help our students.”

To make a gift, click here.


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The power of crowdfunding at SIU

SIU Crowdfunding platform Salukifunder

The power of crowdfunding

Crowdfunding allows students, faculty and staff to secure funding for the projects that matter to them most. It connects donors to memories of their alma mater, what is currently happening on campus, and creates a sense of community and connectivity for everyone.

So who benefits from crowdfunding?

Everyone does.

Over a year ago, SIU Carbondale began SalukiFunder, a crowdfunding platform that helps SIU students, faculty and staff raise money to make an impact on campus, in the community and globally.

SIU Crowdfunding platform SalukifunderJust recently, a group started a fund to memorialize a longtime friend, SIU alum, and staunch supporter of SIU athletics – Remy Billips. They hoped to raise $1,100 to install a memorial bench at SIU Campus Lake to honor Billips.

In less than two weeks, the group raised $1,100, which was the amount needed to purchase the bench and memorial plaque.

The power of crowdfunding at the SIU Carbondale campus serves as a reminder that this valuable resource is available and open to students, staff, and the community. For more information visit

The story of Remy Billips

Remy Billups was a loyal two-degree SIU alumnus who loved his alma mater.  From his days as a Saluki Cheerleader and team mascot in school, to serving in leadership roles for the SIU Carbondale & SIU Edwardsville Alumni Associations, Saluki Maroon was in his blood.  A devoted sports fan, Remy rooted hard for his Salukis and beloved Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks & Chicago Bulls.  He also held a position in merchandise sales for the latter three organizations: a role Remy truly thrived in.  Most important, Remy was a beloved friend to so many.  So many of us were blessed to have known Remy and call him ‘friend.’  And quite a few people would refer to him as their ‘best friend.’  His quick wit, humor and good nature made him a joy to be around.

SIU injects friendly competition into the second SIU Day of Giving

Front row: Dean Andy Wang, College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, and Dean Matthew Keefer, College of Education and Human Services
Second row: Matt McCoy, director of constituent relations, and Jim Salmo, CEO and vice chancellor for development and alumni relations for the SIU foundation.

After the success of last year’s inaugural SIU Day of Giving, there was added buzz around this year’s event.

Beyond the excitement of raising much-needed funds and increasing awareness of the university’s philanthropic mission, there were two traveling trophies on the line. One would be awarded to the college/unit that raised the most money, and the other would go to the one that received the most individual donations.

Even before the Day of Giving on March 7, many deans embraced the competition, even participated in good-natured banter. Many colleges set up booths to encourage donations. Word of the competition spread, and some colleges extended their booth hours to increase their chances.

For most of the day, it was unclear who would earn the trophies and the bragging rights that come with them.

In the end, the College of Education and Human Services raised the most money with a whopping $96,996. The College of Applied Sciences and Arts had the most individual donors, totaling 306.

CASA Dean Andy Ju An Wang and COEHS Dean Matthew Keefer accepted the awards from Chancellor Carlo Montemagno on March 26.

 “This day of philanthropy is great for the university. The outcome has made it clear that participation is more important than the amount of dollars raised,” Dean Wong said with a wink.

Keefer was happy his college earned the monetary title, but was quick to point out the value of reaching as many donors as possible.

 “This was a huge morale boost for our staff, and I have to hand it to Dean Wang for the number of gifts he brought in,” he said. “That is really what it is all about is getting first-time donors and students engaged in giving back.”

Montemagno thanked the deans and their staff for their efforts.

“The SIU Day of Giving is a reflection of the community’s commitment to ensure the future of the next generation,” he said. “It’s great to know that we understand the importance of paying it forward and that giving today is giving for tomorrow’s students.”

While the statistics are still being analyzed, Matt McCoy, the SIU Foundation’s director of constituent relations, said he expects that the number of first-time donors and the number of students who gave to far exceed last year’s totals.

SIU raises over $475,000 on Day of Giving

by Rebecca Renshaw

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The second annual Day of Giving for Southern Illinois University Carbondale raised more than $475,000 from more than 1,800 donors, and the donations are still rolling in.

With the theme of “Give the Gift of Experience” as its call to action, the 24-hour fundraising campaign rallied SIU supporters across the country and the globe in support of SIU students and programs.

The SIU Day of Giving website at shows where funds were donated.

Many small donations made a big difference

SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno thanked the many alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff who supported the campaign.

“The 24-hour campaign model provides a mechanism for people to connect with their giving,” Montemagno said. “It provides a framework so that everybody says, ‘My $50 gift or $20 gift is going to make a difference, because we’re all giving together as a community.’”

“These donations not only help the university with key projects, but also reveal the deep affection that many have for SIU Carbondale.”

Looking forward to SIU’s 150th anniversary

Jim Salmo, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation, said the funds will make an immediate impact on the areas designated by donors. Another goal is to attract first-time donors.

“This event once again exceeded our expectations,” Salmo said, noting that the first Day of Giving raised $341,121. “We are already looking forward to next year as the kick-off to SIU Carbondale’s 150 anniversary celebration.”

Student involvement drove donations

Salmo said students played a pivotal role in the event’s success. Many students connected with the campaign through information booths at Morris Library, the Student Center and many colleges and units.

Trophies headed to CASA and Education and Human Services

Traveling trophies will be presented to the college or unit with the highest number of participants and for the college or unit that raised the most dollars.

“There was a tremendous amount of participation this year over last year and I think it came from a friendly competition among the colleges,” Salmo said. “I’m very pleased to announce that SIU’s College of Applied Sciences and Arts will be awarded the trophy for receiving the highest number of gifts at 306. SIU’s College of Education and Human Services raised the most dollars at $96,996.”

The event would not have been successful without several online ambassadors and on-campus volunteers, including students and alumni who shared fundraising progress and messaging on various social platforms, Salmo said. A video highlighting the many exciting experiences students have on campus had nearly 50,000 views.

2018 SIU Day of Giving Thank You

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Connecting Through Crowdfunding

SIU College of Agricultural Sciences Greenhouse

SIU’s University Farms greenhouse had a problem two summers ago: too many plants and not enough space.

Over the years, a separate teaching greenhouse had fallen into so much disrepair that the department had to consolidate activities in the University Farms greenhouse. The cramped conditions put a crimp in teaching and research efforts, and no funds were available to fix the problem.

Karen Jones, chair of SIU’s Department of Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems, determined that if the department could grow plants by vertically laying them above the ground, it could ease space issues. To do this, she realized the plants would require light-emitting diodes, commonly referred to as LED lights.

The next problem Jones faced was how to pay for the lights. Determined to find a solution, she turned to SIU’s network of alumni and students for help.

Jones and her team launched a fundraising project on SIU’s new SalukiFunder, a crowdfunding web platform for campus organizations that is administered by the SIU Foundation, and set a goal of raising $3,000.

They met their goal – and then some. Alumni and other supporters gave $3,105, which helped to buy several new LED lights.

“We were really surprised,” said Matt McCoy, director of constituent relations for the SIU Foundation, who spearheaded this first-ever effort of raising funds through crowdfunding. “I don’t think any of us appreciated how effective fundraising through a crowdfunding platform would be. We definitely were pleasantly surprised to meet and achieve our goal so quickly.”

Since SalukiFunder launched in May 2016, 14 groups have raised more than $42,000. The money has supported a variety of causes, such as the Touch of Nature mountain bike trails, the Strong Survivors program for cancer survivors and caregivers, the National Association of Black Journalists Convention and the SAE International Saluki Baja team.

A growing number of universities have launched crowdfunding platforms similar to SIU’s, which works like this: once an organization’s application to participate has been chosen, the group meets with a mentor from the foundation’s Development and Alumni Relations office to develop project descriptions, social media posts and emails. Campaigns usually run between 30 and 45 days.

Each group posts a description of its project on the SalukiFunder site, along with a video clip or photo. The group then promotes the project through social media and emails to supporters. With just a few clicks, supporters can make their donations directly to the causes they most care about.

McCoy said that a big benefit of crowdfunding is that it gives students, faculty, alumni and the community a way to connect.

“It’s an opportunity for donors to connect with a cause or project they believe in,” he said. “Instead of donating to a general fund, donors can choose a specific project and see exactly where their donations are going.”

Dave Baer, a 1975 SIU graduate, donated through SalukiFunder to the College of Agricultural Science’s LED lighting project. As a loyal Saluki and major contributor, Baer said he makes a point of promoting SalukiFunder when he’s talking with other alumni.

“I’m a big Saluki fan,” he said. “It’s a great way to support students directly, and that is really what so many alumni are trying to do: help the next generation succeed.”

Check out current SalukiFunder projects:

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SIU Crowdfunding: AFS Campus Lake Fish Habitat Improvement Project

SIU-C American Fisheries Society Student Subunit

By Rebecca Renshaw

While the campus lake beautification project will benefit humans, a group of students want to make sure the lake’s aquatic inhabitants will also benefit.  That’s the goal of SIU’s chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

After the lake was dredged to eliminate toxic algae, it left little to no cover for bluegill and crappie spawn. According to recent fish population assessments, campus lake contains a large number of largemouth bass which are preying on baby bluegill and crappie that have no cover or refuge in the shallow lake. The group of students from the American Fisheries Society want to add artificial fish habitat structures in the lake so that the baby fish will have a chance to grow. These structures include PVC pieces that mimic downed trees and vegetation, but will last longer than natural structures that decay.

SIU-C American Fisheries Society Student Subunit

Aaron Schiller, a graduate student in the SIU College of Science, says they need about 20 structures, which costs $2,000.  Local businesses have donated pvc to build two structures, but the group needs more pvc materials.  “We are really hoping our Salukifunder project will help us raise the rest of the funds we need to complete this project. This is a project that will have lasting benefits on the fish population and on campus lake itself,” said Schiller.

SIU-C American Fisheries Society Student Subunit

The project is also part of a larger habitat improvement project the group is organizing for the lake. The group currently submitted an application to the Green Fund to plant vegetation in the lake, which will help the fish community and serve to beautify the lake at the same time.

If you would like to learn more and help these students realize their goal, please donate by visiting  The deadline for raising funds for this project is April 21, 2017.

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