Arena puts SIU on the esports map

By Jeff Wilson

Walking into Student Center’s northside entrance, the blue light is eye-catching. It draws attention to one of the university’s newest attractions – the SIU Esports Arena.

Esports feature competitive multiplayer video game matches. Already popular across the globe, the draw of esports is still growing. A February report from Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm, estimated global esports revenue would hit $1.1 billion in 2019. In July, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million playing Fortnite, one of the most popular video games featured in esports.

With the new arena, SIU has a spot at the forefront of the esports market.

“The Esports Arena adds a new opportunity for our students to engage with each other while playing competitive or recreational video games,” said Tena Bennett, Student Center director.

The arena’s entrance is located in the Bowling & Billiards area of the Student Center, and it’s open to students, faculty, staff and community members for a small fee. It can also be booked for groups or parties. For more information, email esports@siu.edu.

SIU Esports also has a registered student organization, which will compete with other universities. The hope is to expand the team and its ability to compete in the future.

Of course, as is the case with all technology, there is a constant need for upgrades.

“In efforts to keep the SIU Esports Arena competitive among other universities, schedules have been implemented for equipment replacements including arena digital displays, gaming PCs, peripherals, chairs and controllers,” said Brandon Macier, assistant marketing director for the Student Center. “Annual software upgrades and new game licensing are also a continual expense as new games are released.”

To support the esports initiative and help the arena thrive, visit siuf.org/esports.

“By donating to the Esports Arena, you are supporting students and adding to the dynamic culture we strive to build and maintain on our campus,” Bennett said.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Day of Giving Makes Library’s Digital Scanner Dream Come True

Student uses SIU Morris Library SIU Morris Library Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

Morris Library received 53 acts of kindness last March during SIU’s 3rd annual Day of Giving.

“We had gifts of all sizes, and we appreciated each and every one of them,” said Dean John Pollitz.

The total of those gifts amounted to $17,865, a steady increase in giving to the library since the university started the 24-hour online campaign in 2017. During that first year, the library received $4,000. Pollitz hopes the donations continue to rise as the event progresses.

“The SIU Day of Giving is an extraordinary event as it draws alumni, staff and students together for a unifying cause,” he said. “I’m not sure how we are going to top last year, but I’m sure hoping we can do it again this coming March.”

The increase in donations allowed for the purchase of a scanning machine that is drastically changing the way students and professors approach their research – free of charge.

With the Day of Giving funds, Morris Library purchased the Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system. Associate Professor of Reference and Instruction Josh Vossler said the versatile system makes digital scanning and organizing research very simple, while also being easy on original materials. Documents and books are placed face-up, and an overhead digital scanner takes a picture. It adjusts automatically for the natural curve of bound books so users won’t have to crush the spine of a book to get the full image.

“A typical scanner takes 40 seconds to scan one page. This machine can scan in 3.5 seconds per page,” Vossler said. “It’s a game changer as far as time goes. This will save students and community members thousands of hours each year.”

Using the touch screen, users can edit and convert the image into a variety of formats. More importantly, the system identifies all of the scanned characters and allows the image to become searchable.

“Another benefit is that it is compatible with accessibility software features,” said Vossler. “There are so many positives that this machine brings. We are beyond grateful to the donors who helped us purchase this station.”

Pollitz thanks all of the donors who made this acquisition a reality.

“This is what can be accomplished through collaboration and a giving heart. I believe this new system will help our students and faculty become more productive than ever before possible,” he said.

How to Give to Morris Library

If you would like to help maintain Morris Library as one of the top 100 research libraries in the nation, please visit siuf.org and make a gift today.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Money raised by kayak trip already being put into action

Nearly 300 donors contributed to $25,500 SalukiFunder campaign

By Jeff Wilson

Every journey has three parts – a beginning, middle and end.

With the presentation of a $25,500 check to the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature, it would be easy to assume a journey that began months ago had officially ended. Instead, it’s just another step of an ongoing process.

“If it wasn’t for this money, we’d have to rely on volunteers to run the program,” said Touch of Nature Director J.D. Tanner.

The funds were raised by Greg Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator, who hosted a Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder campaign while kayaking down the entire Mississippi River. Now, he’s working on putting that money to good use.

“We’re in the process of planning our events,” Nejmanowski said. “Not only do we provide the experience, we also provide food, transportation, necessary permits and guidance during each Veteran Adventures event.”

Two events are already planned. The first is a sporting clay event Oct. 26 at Rend Lake Shooting Complex in Whittington. The second is a pheasant hunt Nov. 30 at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. These events are open to all active military personnel and military veterans. For more information on these and future events, follow Veteran Adventures on Facebook.

“Greg’s journey represents his passion for outdoor education and serving veterans,” Tanner said. “His success speaks to the quality of outdoor education that SIU provides.”

Nejmanowski began his journey in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota and finished in early August in the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, he met some alligators, new friends and inspired 289 donors to support his cause.

“A lot of people touched me during this process,” he said. “I’ve been inspired by those that supported my trip, supported the cause and supported veterans.”

Preparing for the excursion was just as taxing as the trip itself, even with support from the Touch of Nature staff and Wilderness Systems, an outdoors company that supported Nejmanowski from the beginning.

“Just as much went into the planning as the paddling,” he said.

Tanner and Nejmanowski were both thankful for the donations, but both are equally aware of the continued need for support.

“We encourage anyone interesting in contributing to take a look at what Touch of Nature has to offer,” Tanner said.

To support Veteran Adventures, email veteranadventures.siu.edu or call Nejmanowski at 618-453-1121.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Kayak trip ends; fundraiser continues

By Jeff Wilson

Nejmanowski reflects on his journey, the power of the great outdoors

Seventy-three days and a handful of alligators later, Greg Nejmanowski’s kayak trip down the Mississippi River was over.

He dropped his kayak in the water in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota, and it came out earlier this month in the Gulf of Mexico. The trip, called Paddle for Patriots, is a fundraiser for the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature. The goal is to raise $25,000, and there’s still time to donate at https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/15565.

“It’s been worth it,” said Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator. “This trip has inspired me to continue helping vets, to serve those who served us.”

Other than a couple of close calls with recreational boats – including one instance when he thought he was going to have to abandon ship – Nejmanowski said the trip went well. Floodwaters complicated things a bit and forced one of his planned events to be moved from Grand Tower to Chester, but he said the high water also led to less river traffic.

“It went smoothly, but it was hard,” he said. “Had I not had an inspiration, a passion, it would’ve been much harder.”

The expedition started slowly, but picked up steam as he passed St. Louis. From that point on, it was mostly open water. Nejmanowski set up camp each night on sandy beaches, largely in areas inaccessible by land because of the flooding.

“It was kind of nice living on the minimum, and the simplicity of it,” he said. “So much wisdom comes from simplicity.”

Making a few friends along the way

The vast majority of the time, Nejmanowski was by himself. He did, however, have run-ins with a few alligators and several people along the way, including one particularly special family.

“It’s such a rush being in the water with an alligator, at their level,” he said. “They’re not really all that interested in you, but they will come check you out.”

As he neared the final section of his trip, he met the Leedom family in Louisiana. It wasn’t a planned meeting. They saw Nejmanowski walking by the river and asked if he needed a ride. The father, wife and son took Nejmanowski back to his kayak and along the way, they struck up a conversation.

“I told him what I was doing, and come to find out, the father was a Vietnam veteran,” Nejmanowski said. “He told me to take his number and call him if I needed anything. The next day I needed some water, so I called, and ended up having lunch at their home.”

The Leedoms asked to be notified when he was about to finish his trip, and Nejmanowski obliged. They were waiting at his final stop to help him celebrate.

“The kindness of humans, ya know?” Nejmanowski said. “We’re now friends for life.”

The healing power of nature

After more than two months on the river, Nejmanowski entered the final stretch of his trip. He took the Atchafalaya River through southern Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico.

“It wasn’t something I could see for a long time,” he said. “I basically went around some trees, and then boom, there’s the Gulf of Mexico. It was so beautiful. There was the prettiest sunset that night.”

Nejmanowski is a firm believer in the healing power of nature. His kayak trip only strengthened that belief.

“Being outdoors has great therapeutic benefits,” he said. “That’s what Veteran Adventures is all about, and I wanted to put it on the map.”

The program offers outdoor activities to veterans, including hunting, hiking, backpacking trips, whitewater rafting and more. The program is funded through grants and private donations, and it recently lost a large state grant.

Through Paddle for Patriots, Nejmanowski hopes to not only fund Veteran Adventures, but bring awareness to the scourge of veteran suicide. 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.

“I feel empowered as an individual,” Nejmanowski said. “This trip inspired me to learn more about what nature and outdoor experiences can do to improve people’s quality of life.”

For more information about Paddle for Patriots and Veteran Adventures, search for Paddle for Patriots on Facebook or visit veteranadventures.siu.edu.

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: The power of “just a thought”

Group of donors to Balancing Education, Experience and Reality Scholarship.

“Any interest in this group in starting up a scholarship fund to help current students? (Tuition is a lot higher than it was when we were there and I am sure that some students could use the help.) Even if we averaged just a $10 donation per member, that would still be a decent amount of money. And just think of the name(s) that we could assign to the scholarship fund. Just a thought.” – Dan Giedeman, Facebook comment on January 29

“Any interest in this group in starting up a scholarship fund to help current students? (Tuition is a lot higher than it was when we were there and I am sure that some students could use the help.)
Even if we averaged just a $10 donation per member, that would still be a decent amount of money.
And just think of the name(s) that we could assign to the scholarship fund.
Just a thought.” – Dan Giedeman, Facebook comment on January 29, 2019

By Rebecca Renshaw

In January 2019, Dan Giedeman, a three-degree SIU alumnus, posted this now-famous comment in the private Facebook group called “Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s.” The group, started by Craig S. Wilson in November 2018, swelled to nearly 15,000 members within three months.

Giedeman’s idea to raise money for a scholarship dovetailed perfectly into SIU’s Day of Giving on March 6. With the added excitement of the university’s 150th anniversary kickoff celebration, members of the group banded together and donated. The outpouring was phenomenal.

Jim Raffensperger, a member of the Facebook group, named the scholarship as a joke that brought a smile to many alums — The Balancing Education, Experience and Reality (BEER) Scholarship.

“I mean, what college kid doesn’t drink beer?” Raffensperger joked. The name stuck, and the group rallied behind it in a viral fashion. Nearly 1,100 people from the group donated more than $50,000 to create two endowed scholarships for students.

A ceremony on the steps of Shryock Auditorium held Friday, March 29, commemorated the creation of the scholarship. Many members of the group traveled from other states. One person who hadn’t been back to campus in over 28 years traveled from South Carolina to be part of the ceremony.

Giedeman, who traveled from Michigan, presented Chancellor John M. Dunn with a check for $50,000 from the group. Weeks after the presentation, donations continued to pour in.

Dunn presented the group of about 100 people with the Day of Giving trophy for most individual gifts for a non-academic unit. Dunn said he has always been impressed by the amount of pride at SIU, and it was evident in this group’s turnout.

“In the history of humankind, the really great people — the Mother Theresas, the Albert Schweitzers — have always reminded us that true happiness can only be obtained through giving,” Dunn said. “You represent that in spades, and I’m very, very proud of you. Thank you.”

Raffensperger said alumni came to the university for the education but left with memorable experiences, lifelong friends, and sometimes their soulmates.

“We’re all back because we came to love SIU and southern Illinois,” Raffensperger said.

Many who came to witness the celebration also took a tour of the campus, and some brought their high school children to take a look at all that SIU has to offer. That evening, a group took the trophy to several Carbondale establishments for bragging rights.

As well as raising funds for the university, Giedeman and Raffensperger said the Facebook group created a space for alumni to find opportunities to support current students with mentors and internships. The group also encourages former students to finish their degrees at the university.

The trophy will be shared among the group throughout the upcoming year. The trophy was scheduled to travel to SIU Days at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field in June.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Heck or high water: Philanthropic canoer will persevere

Greg Nejmanwoski with Paddling for Patriots

Greg Nejmanwoski with Paddling for PatriotsBy Jeff Wilson

Rising waters on the Mississippi River won’t stop Greg Nejmanwoski, but they may slow him down.

“There are some closures to all recreational boating along some of the sections of the Mississippi,” he said via email on June 5. “Fingers crossed, I’m hoping they will be lifted as I approach in the later days of June. If there are sections of the river closed by the time I paddle to them, I’ll wait it out.”

Nejmanowski is canoeing the entire length of the Mississippi to raise funds for Touch of Nature’s Veteran Adventures program and bring awareness to other issues that affect veterans.

Donations can be made by visiting the Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder page at https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/15565.

As of June 5, his expedition down the Mississippi River had taken him a good distance through Minnesota. The 2,300-mile trip down the mighty Mississippi began in Itasca State Park in Minnesota and will end in the Gulf of Mexico.

“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.”

Greg Nejmanwoski with Paddling for PatriotsVeteran 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.

There are two planned events happening along the way, floodwaters permitting.

The first will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 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. July 13 at Devil’s Backbone Park. The same raffle opportunities will be available.

“There are no back-up plans for the two events if they don’t happen because of water issues,” he said. “There is a potential for pushing them back, but I’m not too sure about that yet.”

Greg Nejmanwoski with Paddling for PatriotsNejmanowski hopes he can raise awareness not only of Veteran Adventures, but of the needs to veterans everywhere, including the scourge of veteran suicides.

According 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 paddle4patriots@gmail.com. To learn more about Veteran Adventures visit, ton.siu.edu/program-areas/veteran-adventures.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: 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 https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/15565.

“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 paddle4patriots@gmail.com. To learn more about Veteran Adventures visit, ton.siu.edu/program-areas/veteran-adventures.

 

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 www.studentcenter.siu.edu/services/saluki-food-pantry.php.

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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

DAY OF GIVING ENSURES MORRIS LIBRARY STAYS AHEAD OF THE CURVE

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 foreversiu.org/lib.