Automotive technology meeting growing demand

SIU Automotive Technology

By Jeff Wilson

Innovation thrives when students are engaged, and students are most engaged when they’re immersed in their passion to learn.

To that end, students in SIU’s automotive technology program are engaged in gaining valuable experience that will enhance their contributions to the industry.

“We’re known for the quality of the students we produce,” program chair Mike Behrmann says.

With one of just 12 automotive technology baccalaureate degree programs in the country – and the only one at a major research institution – SIU helps graduates become uniquely prepared for their profession.

Of the more than 280 students in SIU’s program, about 90 percent serve paid internships, and just under 90 percent will accept a job offer before graduation. The other 10 percent are likely weighing multiple options.

“We cannot produce enough graduates for the industry,” Behrmann says.

This incredible real-world preparation comes at a substantial investment from both the program and its students. For example, the toolboxes that line the corridors of the automotive technology workspaces inside the Transportation Education Center cost each student between $1,500 and $2,000, including the tools inside them.

Students put these tools to work right away on vehicles, engines, parts, service and safety equipment, and more.

Similarly, training successful graduates requires access to university-supplied vehicles, including hybrid, electric and diesel vehicles. Students need to spend time working with a plethora of components in each vehicle, including – but not limited to – battery packs, engines, transmissions and drivetrains, as well as electrical systems.

Students also spend time working with testing equipment, such as diagnostic software and emissions-testing tools.

Service equipment also is necessary to the learning mission. The equipment includes shop presses, engine hoists, heavy-duty workbenches, impact wrenches and sockets, exhaust ventilation fans and more.

The program’s continued success will rely on investments in, or donations of, the tools and equipment that will give students hands-on experience.

“Our industry is facing changing consumer needs,” Behrmann says. “There is a major demand for a properly trained workforce, and we are prepared to help meet it.”

To learn more about the automotive technology program, visit To learn more about the needs of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, visit

Library improvements would benefit recruitment, retention

SIU Morris Library

By Jeff Wilson

Morris Library is a bastion of SIU’s campus.

For students, its value is obvious, but it’s much more than just a library. In fact, the word “library” doesn’t mean what it once did.

The library is much more than just books – although there are more than three million of those. Students are looking for high-end technology, spaces to gather and study and opportunities to enrich their experience.

After undergoing major construction about a decade ago, the building accommodates more students and has more things to offer. Still, it lacks some of the upgrades and details students are seeking.

“They redid the building, and they did a fantastic job,” Karen Wolf, Morris Library events coordinator, said. “But there are many other important things the library needs to better accommodate students.”

A robust library is a selling point for potential students. While many see all the great things Morris Library has to offer, it’s also clear some areas need to be upgraded, refurbished or repaired.

There is a major need for new computers. After 10 years, computers are decommissioned for security purposes. Last year, the library lost 20 computers and will lose at least 40 this year.

Computers are missing in areas on the first, third and fifth floors. All of the empty spots are outfitted with power and Ethernet. Furthermore, the library hopes to offer the full complement of Adobe creative programs on at least four computers on the first floor.

“This software would give students from many colleges, with many majors the ability to work with this important creative software in a centralized location on campus,” Wolf said.

There is also hope to add touchscreen monitors at the library’s entrances. These monitors would share information about library and campus events.

“The library is one of the most frequently visited buildings on campus,” Wolf said. “These touchscreen monitors would be helpful for people looking for the location of an event or more information on where to look for information that they may need.”

There are also specific areas in need of upgrades. Room 174, which needs to be reconfigured with front-facing tables to accommodate its many users, is one such area.

“Students and instructors would both benefit from this project, as this is the largest computer lab we have in the building that is open for instructor use throughout the semester,” Wolf said.

The library also offers two living room-style study spaces, Rooms 550A and 580A.

“Students use these study room extensively throughout the semester and especially during finals week to study,” Wolf said. “These particular rooms offer a great place for group work and study sessions.”

Unfortunately, the furniture is worn and tearing from so much use, and the walls need to be painted.

The list of needs goes on:

  • Replacing about 40 red chairs that are in disrepair;
  • Improving displays in the Hall of President and Chancellors;
  • Upgrading the Lerner Music Studio, including a larger conference table;
  • Replacing a broken monitor used for collaborative projects on the seventh floor.

For more information about the Forever SIU campaign, visit For more information about Morris Library’s goals, visit

How encouragement changed the life of an SIU Carbondale alumnus

ryan gougisBy Rebecca Renshaw

Ryan Gougis is living proof of the adage, “Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.” Raised in south Chicago, Gougis did not come from a wealthy background.

“I faced adversity growing up and there weren’t a ton of resources in my community to help. But inside my household, my parents encouraged me. They always told me that education is the key to escaping hardship so they were very supportive of me attending SIU Carbondale,” he said.

During his junior year at SIU, Gougis came into contact with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute when someone encouraged him to apply for an internship. He knew it would be a great way to get a feel for the workforce and build up his resume, so he applied, interviewed, and ultimately accepted the Gene Callahan internship.

“The internship involved working at the state capitol in Springfield to gain experience working in state government. From day one, I was thrown into the mix of actual work. I would draft press releases, write letters to constituents, and assist in the process of government before legislation would be sent to the governor. It was eye opening and exciting,” Gougis said.

After graduating in May 2016 with a Criminal Justice degree, Gougis accepted a job as a program specialist with the Illinois House of Representatives. “Because of my affiliation with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, I am always running into a fellow Saluki in Springfield. It gives me a real sense of connection knowing that I am part of a family.”

Besides his parents support, Gougis credits the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute with giving him the keys to opening doors of opportunity for his career.

“There are so many students who are pursuing success but they just don’t have the key. Paul Simon Public Policy Institute gave me that key. The people there were and still are supportive of my career. It’s like a family model. Once you are a part of them, wherever you are in life, even outside the walls of SIU, they are always there to support you. I still get calls from people like Dr. Baker or Carol Greenlee checking in to see how I’m doing.”

Gougis is also active with his fraternity, Phi Rho Eta, a group that promotes the principles of pride, respect, and excellence. Their national program, Mentor Teacher Brother engages youth from single-parent homes or disadvantaged backgrounds and helps mentor them to set the standard of manhood and exemplary positive behavior.

“I really want to pay it forward and give to those who may not have come from the best environment. Because I had encouragement from my family and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, I am a living testament as to how philanthropy can change the life of a young man. I would highly encourage donors to give to the Institute.”

To learn more about the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, visit To learn more about the needs of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, visit

Theater injects life, art into community

SIU McLeod Summer Playhouse Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat Pick Ups

As a venue for multiple shows each summer, the McLeod Summer Playhouse brings thousands of visitors to SIU. This longstanding pillar of SIU recently wrapped up its 2017 season, bringing to a close another successful performance for a program that helps fulfill the university’s goal of providing the best for SIU students and the community at large.

“It’s a window into what we do at the university,” said J. Thomas Kidd, associate professor of theater/directing and chair of the Department of Theater at SIU.

According to Kidd, the McLeod Summer Playhouse is the only professional theater in Southern Illinois.

“It helps bring artistic life and increases the quality of life in the community,” he said.

Students also benefit greatly from the presence of a high-end theater production, and those enrolled in particular courses are offered credit for working with the playhouse. They often earn internships, which can lead to jobs within the production.

Being part of the playhouse offers important experience for graduates who plan to work in theater, film, advertising and more.

“This is a gateway degree into the entertainment industry,” Kidd said. “For many, (the McLeod Summer Playhouse) is their first professional experience.”

While the program does have an annual budget allotment, the funds don’t fully cover the costs of updating and maintaining the theater.

Kidd said the theater is in need of major upgrades, including new seats and a new sound system. Much of the backstage infrastructure has been brought up to date, but it’s the front of the house that requires improvement now.

“It’s in need of upgrades to bring it up to standards,” he said. “It needs to reflect where we are going.”

To support an endowment that fund and sustain the performing arts for students and the region, including the McLeod Summer Playhouse, visit

Grace Handlos grateful for dean scholarship

SIU College of Agricultural Sciences student Grace Handlos

By Rebecca Renshaw

Grace Handlos has set her sights high.

The junior from Salsbury, Indiana is majoring in animal science production. Throughout her life, Handlos has worked with horses. Now, she wants to become a show horse trainer.

“I love horses and always have,” Handlos said. “The College of Agricultural Sciences has made it so easy for me to achieve my dreams.”

Handlos is a dean scholarship recipient. She says she will never forget opening the envelope from SIU informing her of the scholarship award.

“When I read I received the scholarship, I was ecstatic. I never thought college could be affordable without going deep into debt,” Handlos said.

Like so many other students and faculty, Handlos says the college feels like one big family.

“Even when I first visited SIU and the college when I was trying to decide where to go to school, I sensed that they were like family,” she said.

Handlos serves as an Ag Council representative for the live-stock judging team, is a member of the honors program, and conducts research in the plant pathology program.

Earlier this year, the SIU Foundation launched Forever SIU: The Campaign for Students. The three-year campaign set a $75 million fundraising goal. Most of the money received through the campaign will go toward student scholarships.

For more information, visit For information on how to donate to the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences, visit

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Jeanne Hurley Simon Memorial Library Endowment scholarship expands horizon

Student Spotlight: SIU Morris Library Dave Whitfield

By Rebecca Renshaw

Dave Whitfield, a graduate student from Cairo, Illinois, and a Morris Library student employee, was awarded the Jeanne Hurley scholarship in May 2017. Whitfield said the scholarship has him leaning toward pursuing a master’s degree in library science after he receives his doctorate in communication studies.

Morris Library administers the endowment, created to celebrate the life and longstanding commitment to libraries and education of Jeanne Hurley Simon, wife of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon. The endowment provides up to three scholarships each year to Morris Library student employees, and the goal is fostering the development of ethnic, racial, cultural and gender diversity.

Whitfield said he thoroughly enjoys his job at the information desk, especially when he gets to help community patrons and those with disabilities.

“I was a medic in the Air Force from 1990 until 1998,” he said. “In that timeframe, my work revolved around helping people. Now, 10 years later, I’m still helping people, but just in a different environment.

“Working in the library is so fulfilling because people often don’t have the vocabulary to ask how to find the things they know little about yet. It forces me to become a good listener and to establish a positive connection with people who are trying to find something in the library. If I can make them feel welcome and comfortable, we will always end up finding out what they need,” he added.

Whitfield hopes more individuals will give to Morris Library.

“This place is transformative,” he said. “When donors give to this great library, they are opening the doors of opportunity to everyone – students, faculty, alumni and the entire community. It’s just a great place of expanding minds and forging relationships.”

For more information about Morris Library’s fundraising goals, visit