Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Press Releases
Millikin University graduate Sarah Smith '98, a Madison County assistant state's attorney, was recently promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard.

Smith is currently working in the Judge Advocate General's Office as an attorney for the Army. She also works as a state's attorney in the veterans' court and as a prosecutor in post-trial hearings.

Originally from Edwardsville, Ill., Smith attended classes at Millikin while serving with a reserve unit based in Wood River, Ill.

While at Millikin, Smith majored in political science. After graduating from Millikin in 1998, Smith entered Regent University Law School in Virginia and graduated in 2002. While in law school, she continued to commute between school and National Guard duties in Virginia.

Click here to read more about Smith's accomplishments in an article from the Alton Telegraph.

Millikin University's Long-Vanderburg Scholarship Program recently welcomed its newest cohort of first-year students to campus for a leadership academy July 22-26.

Hosted by the Millikin Office of Inclusion & Student Engagement, the five-day leadership academy focused on leadership and social justice, commitment and academics.

Throughout the week, students worked collaboratively on a social justice project led by Dr. Ngozi Onuora, Millikin assistant professor of education. The students also met some of Decatur's community leaders and Millikin faculty and staff.

Students also participated in a leadership workshop at Rock Springs and visited the Caterpillar Inc. Plant. The week ended with a speaking engagement featuring Millikin Trustee and Appellate Judge Lisa Holder White and presentations conducted by the scholars.

The Long-Vanderburg Scholars Program is an honors program that provides historically underrepresented students, and those interested in social justice and commitment to diversity and inclusion, the opportunity to uphold and contribute to the legacy of academic excellence, leadership and service at Millikin University through curricular and co-curricular activities.

The program honors Fred Long '18, the first African-American graduate of Millikin, and Marian Vanderburg '34, the first female African-American graduate of Millikin.

Click here to read more about Millikin's Long-Vanderburg Leadership Academy in an article from the Herald & Review.

Millikin University's Kirkland Fine Arts Center is pleased to announce its 2015-2016 Performing Arts Series. For over 40 years, Kirkland Fine Arts Center has been the place to be for live performing arts for Decatur and the surrounding area. The tradition continues this coming season with a diverse lineup that is not only family-friendly, but fun for all.

"I am very excited about the upcoming season," said Kirkland Fine Arts Center's Director Jan Traughber. "This season has very unique events that should appeal to not only our established patron base but hopefully attract new patrons as well."

Traughber added, "Working up to the 50th anniversary, the goal is to present some of the community's past favorite events during each of the upcoming seasons. Guests can share their favorite memories through e-mail at, on Facebook, or tweet us @kirklandFAC. Enjoy the magic of the arts at Kirkland and help celebrate the Center's wonderful heritage."

Early-order ticket options are available to all the events. If you purchase tickets for three to five separate events of your choice you receive 10 percent off your order. Purchase any six events or more and receive 15 percent off. Single tickets will go on sale to the public beginning Aug. 24 for all 2015 events. Single tickets for all 2016 events will go on sale to the public beginning Dec. 14.

For further information on purchasing tickets, contact the Kirkland Ticket Office at 217.424.6318 or visit The following is the lineup of events for the 2015-2016 season.

Brass Transit
Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$40, School Age $5

Does anyone really know what time it is? Brass Transit – Toronto's dynamic, crowd-pleasing, studio-tight Chicago tribute. The band's show includes all the hits from Chicago's golden age, 1969-1976. With world-class horns, a rocking rhythm section and vocals stacked sky high; Brass Transit transports the audience back to the freewheeling days of the 70s. The members' credits include platinum records, Emmy and Juno awards, and performances with Hall-of-Fame rock and soul acts including: The Drifters, Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, The Marvelettes, Frankie Valli, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Del Shannon and the Mamas & The Papas. With its international audience now numbering in the tens of thousands, Brass Transit has established itself as the world's foremost Chicago experience.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 (Homecoming) at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$20, School Age $5

Imagine the smooth soul of Stevie Wonder, the percussive power of Stomp, the funk and drive of Earth, Wind, & Fire, the hip licks of Take 6, and the brass bite of the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band, all created by the human voice alone.

Hailed "one of the best pop-jazz vocal groups in the world" by the San Francisco Chronicle, m-pact is respected worldwide as a cutting edge trailblazer in the realm of vocal music. Emerging from an age of auto-tune and overproduction, this Los Angeles-based sextet has cultivated a new generation of ears hungry for the fresh, raw power of nature's "first instrument" - the human voice.

Touring renowned fine arts halls and jazz festivals across four continents, m-pact has performed with pop superstars Sheryl Crow, Boyz II Men, Kenny G, Liza Minnelli, Babyface, Rick Springfield and Jackson Browne to name a few, as well as with jazz legends from Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Bobby McFerrin, Take 6, and the New York Voices to the Woody Herman Orchestra and the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. Over the last dozen years, their signature sound has been used in both TV themes and animated Disney feature films, and is enjoyed on syndicated radio worldwide.

Ian Hobson
Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20, School Age $5

Ian Hobson is a musician of tremendous versatility who has earned an international reputation as a pianist, conductor and educator. Hobson's programs consistently demonstrate a repertoire that spans the centuries and demands an extraordinary command of styles and scholarly vision, in addition to great keyboard prowess.

An Afternoon with Groucho
Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$30, School Age $5

Award-winning actor/director/playwright Frank Ferrante recreates his PBS, New York and London acclaimed portrayal of legendary comedian Groucho Marx in this fast paced 90 minutes of hilarity. The two-act comedy consists of the best Groucho one-liners, anecdotes and songs including "Hooray for Captain Spalding," and "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady." The audience literally becomes part of the show as Ferrante ad-libs his way throughout the performance in grand Groucho style. Accompanied by his onstage pianist, Ferrante portrays the young Groucho of stage and film and reacquaints the audience with the likes of brothers Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Marx foil, Margaret Dumont and MGM's Louis B. Mayer. 

Holiday Jazz
Saturday Dec. 12, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$25, School Age $5

They're back playing a jazzy holiday fusion. The Millikin University Faculty Jazz Sextet returns once again to get you in the Holiday spirit with their jazzy swing on Holiday classics. Upbeat and soothing favorites are sure to make everyone in the family tap their toes and sing along. Celebrate the sounds of the season during our 8th Annual Holiday concert with Millikin University's own School of Music faculty: Dave Burdick, Brian Justison, Chris Nolte, Perry Rask and Steve Widenhofer. The sextet will be joined on stage by guest vocalist and Millikin University alumni Angel Spiccia Slykas '03.

Step Afrika!
Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$30, School Age $5

Like a tap-dance without shoes or a band without instruments stepping is a rising art form and an important part of America's artistic and cultural heritage. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and the spoken word.

The stepping tradition in the United States grew out of song and dance rituals practiced by historically African-American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the early 1900s. In addition to step shows and competitions on college campuses, today stepping can also be found in schools, churches and community organizations around the country. The form is also spreading its wings to new venues and participants, such as Latino and Asian-American Greek-letter organizations.

Step Afrika!, as the first professional dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, is evolving the dance form to include other styles, such as tap, modern and hip hop, and introducing stepping to new audiences around the world.

Celtic Nights-Spirit of Freedom
Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$45, School Age $5

Direct from Ireland, Spirit of Freedom tells the story of Irish independence, beginning 100 years ago with the Easter Rising. Akin to America's 4th of July, the Easter Rising of 1916 created the Ireland we know and love today. Through music, song, dance and storytelling, Celtic Nights honors the struggle of people fighting to gain freedom, independence and true democracy through music, song, dance and storytelling with pride and passion.

The cast of three male vocalists and three female singers, six of Ireland's most talented and coveted international dancers and musicians will leave the theatre ringing with the sounds of Celtic Music old and new. Songs will be sung, dances will be danced, and music will be played. Celtic Nights will capture the essence of great people from a small Island and their journey of hope and desire.

Cinderella-The Ballet
Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$45, School Age $5

Don't miss the Minnesota Ballet as they bring to life this favorite fairy tale, set in the lush world of Renaissance Tuscany. Cinderella's life is difficult enough with all the work she is expected to do, and her step mother means very well, but, oh, those step sisters. They have all the gawkiness and evil tricks, but Cinderella has all the grace and sweetness. The step sisters flirt with the dancing master as they try to polish up their dance steps. At the ball they try to flirt with the Prince. All seems lost for Cinderella's chance to go to the ball until the Three Graces arrive to magically produce a gown fit for a future princess and a perfect little coach fit to take her to the ball. It isn't long before the Prince has eyes only for the new arrival, he then will search the kingdom over to find the beautiful maiden who left the ball so mysteriously.

Choreographer Allen Fields has created an appealing version of the Cinderella ballet, pared down to its essentials, the story sparkling with elegant dance and livened by the evil antics of the step sisters. Cinderella is performed by the Minnesota Ballet Company, all professional dancers, but the non-dancing roles of King and Queen are filled by local community celebrities.

Dan Aykroyd, Judith Belushi and Music Director Paul Shaffer present "The Official Blue Brothers™ Revue"
Friday, April 8, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20-$35, School Age $5

The Official Blues Brothers™ Revue duo is sanctioned by Dan Aykroyd and Judith Belushi to don the official hat and sunglasses and walk in the legendary footsteps of Jake and Elwood Blues. Discovered in Las Vegas, performers Wayne Catania and Kieron Lafferty capture the infectious humor and unbridled spirit of the Blues Brothers like no one since John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd walked the stage. Backed by a powerhouse band, they'll give you a show to remember, packed with classic hits from the Blues Brothers catalog, including "Soul Man," "Rubber Biscuit," "Sweet Home Chicago," and more.

Rhythmic Circus-Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!
Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$40, School Age $5

Rhythmic Circus has quickly risen from an underground percussive-dance phenomenon to an innovative live performance company known for transforming their tap shoes into instruments of rhythm.

Home grown hoofers from Minneapolis hit the road with a trunk full of tap shoes, funky costumes and a big brass band, ready to burst onto the stage with Feet Don't Fail Me Now! "Heatbox" the human beatbox, joins the swinging' seven-piece funk band to accompany each tap, shuffle, and stomp with a clang, riff and refrain. It's easy to see why this troupe was a 2012 winner of the Edinburgh Festival "Spirit of the Fringe" Award. In this joyous parade of genre-hopping music and hard-hitting percussive dance, you'll be jumping out of your seat and dancing to the beat.

Kirkland Fine Arts Center

Millikin University believes that the arts are essential to the enrichment of society and a fundamental part of the educational process. Millikin's founder, James Millikin, declared that men and women should have both a classical and practical education to meet the demands of a changing society. The Kirkland Performing Arts Series supports this mission by encouraging both students and the community to participate in its programs and understand its multicultural heritage through performing arts events.

For 45 years Kirkland has been the place to be for the arts in the Decatur community and the surrounding area. Kirkland Fine Arts Center has presented amazing talent, hilarious comedy, and fascinating speakers. Some of the artists have included Pete Fountain, Duke Ellington, Patti Page, Ray Charles, Olivia Newton John and Bob Newhart. Touring companies have included RENT, CATS, Showboat, Master Class with Maria Callas, and Cirque Eloize. Speeches by distinguished guests like White House correspondent Helen Thomas, Leonard Nimoy and Colin L. Powell have been presented.

For more information on Kirkland Fine Arts Center, please visit Events at Kirkland Fine Arts Center are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Midwest Arts Council.
"How do we value the undervalued?" That was the general theme of this year's SMASH Camp, a collaborative venture between Decatur Public School District #61 (DPS) and Millikin University, held this past June.

The four-week program provided an educational platform for middle school students to focus on learning the elements of entrepreneurship.

"SMASH Camp is tied to Millikin's School of Education and Center for Entrepreneurship to help bring entrepreneurship education to middle schools," said Dr. Christie Magoulias, Millikin associate professor of education. "The theme for this year's camp was developed from the idea of repurposing rather than just recycling."

Throughout the camp, teams of students designed, manufactured and marketed products that were created from recycled, upcycled or repurposed items. The students sold their final products online. Millikin students, faculty and DPS teachers led the camp experience for 40 students.

"The students looked at items that were not being used and they reused them to create the products," said Dr. Magoulias. "We focused on examples of items that traditionally go into landfills and could be used in different ways."

The designed products included chairs converted from old tires, a desk made from an organ, a lounge chair on wheels made from pallets, wall art made from paper towel and toilet paper tubes and candles made from broken crayons.

The products sold for a total of $350 and the profits were divided evenly among the students; each receiving a $10 gift card.

Millikin first-year student and camp counselor Marrissa Drake, from Decatur, Ill., enjoyed the experience of working with the middle school students. "It was fun because the students wanted to go out and build products. The students wanted to go out in the community and get involved with activities. It was great that we could make connections with the school district."

Beginning in 2012, SMASH Camp was created to engage a high-potential group of Decatur Public School students, and to promote inquiry-based learning approaches for both students and adults.

In previous years, the camp offered hands-on learning experiences through various sectors including: energy, health, arts, food science and media.

Counselor Kamie Meador noted, "SMASH Camp has definitely evolved over the last couple of years. I've been involved with different versions of the camp and this year's camp provided a different mind-shift. Students entered camp not knowing what they would engage in, and in my opinion, that's when the best learning takes place."

Meador added, "It's a great example of what true education looks like. We saw students in manufacturing sessions learning skills that they never had before and then combine those skills with things such as marketing. It was a powerful journey."

Brandi Marks, a sophomore secondary teaching major at Millikin, from Richton Park, Ill., said, "Getting involved with the camp was great because it's something I eventually want to do with my career. The students did everything themselves and our job was to make sure they had the resources to do it. The students took so much pride in their work."
Pixie Fennessey, Millikin University adjunct professor of psychology and sociology, has spent a decade working with children at the By Grace Disabled and Orphans Centre in Kayole, Kenya.

Fennessey, also a professor at Richland Community College, first became involved with the orphanage during an organized mission trip in 2005 for volunteer opportunities and to raise HIV and AIDS awareness through an Illinois Department of Public Health grant.

After her first visit, Fennessey began raising money for the center's needs and teaching a variety of classes to the children including creative arts, physical education and life skills.

Fennessey makes presentations throughout the Decatur community to spread awareness of the center's needs. Several community organizations have become involved with fundraising efforts.

Fennessey has worked in various mental health agencies as a psychotherapist and teaches several courses at Millikin including: Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Sociology and Social Psychology.

Click here to read more about Fennessey's work with the By Grace Disabled and Orphans Centre in an article from the Belleville News-Democrat.
Millikin University's 2015 International Summer Program, held July 10-17, provided many experiences for 12 college students, 10 from South Korea and two from China.

The students currently attend Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in Shanghai, China.

After spending a few days exploring Chicago, the students arrived in Decatur and took part in a number of activities such as visits to Long Creek Farm and Rock Springs Conservation Area.

The students also spent mornings taking classes at Millikin's English Language Center and engaged in subjects such as American Studies, Multiculturalism and Communicative Activities.

Brandy Barter-Storm, interim director of Millikin's English Language Center, led the program along with Millikin student-coordinators Brianne Barrett, a senior early childhood education major from Mount Zion, Ill., and Matthew Gremo, a junior English education major from Decatur.

Click here to read more about the International Program in an article from the Herald & Review.

The Millikin women's basketball team ranked 11th in the country in NCAA Division III on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for 2014-15.

The Millikin women's team had a combined team grade point average of 3.535 ranking them 11th in Division III.

The WBCA Academic Top 25 presented by AT&T annually recognizes NCAA Division I, II and III; NAIA; and junior\community college women's basketball teams across the nation that carry the highest combined grade point average inclusive of all student-athletes on their rosters for the entire season.

Founded in 1981, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) promotes women's basketball by unifying coaches at all levels to develop a reputable identity for the sport.

Click here to read more about the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll.

Guitarist Adam Wissman, a senior commercial music major at Millikin University, summed up his musical experience in Colombia this past June in one word, "Unbelievable."

Wissman, along with fellow Millikin Jazz Quartet members Michael Anderson (saxophone), Austin Myers (bass) and Jonathan Rodriguez (percussion), performed at the 6th Annual University Jazz Festival held June 16-19 in Medellin, Colombia; the second largest city in the country.

The quartet, led by Professor Randy Reyman, director of jazz activities at Millikin, spent a total of two weeks in Colombia performing concerts and working with student-musicians.

"The audiences were so appreciative of our music," said Wissman. "I believe they see jazz music as our culture, but they absolutely enjoyed hearing us play. It's such an amazing feeling to be held at such a high-level of appreciation. It was great to not only share what we do, but to learn about their culture."

The University Jazz Festival, held at the Metropolitan Theatre of Medellin, features some of the best national and international jazz musicians. This year's festival also included U.S. jazz groups from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and Emory University (Atlanta, Ga.). The Festival is part of an outreach program organized by the Centro Colombo Americano in Medellin.

"Our style of jazz music is a little more modern which is something they weren't exposed to yet," said Wissman. "We played certain songs that had a much more modern fusion between styles, and that fresh music seemed to go over really well with the audiences."

Aside from the University Jazz Festival, the Millikin Jazz Quartet took part in the Colombia Jazz Camp Program held in Medellin, Manizales and Pereira. The program is a series of workshops for young and talented music students who are interested in learning the American jazz art form.

"Eight years ago, the organization (Centro Colombo Americano) started bringing in college quartets to work with their university and high school students at the camps," said Reyman. "A few years later, they started the University Jazz Festival where they invited groups from the U.S., plus regional groups from Colombia, to perform."

The Millikin students spent one week in Medellin conducting workshops on aspects of jazz such as music theory, ear training and improvisation. The students engaged in jam sessions and also taught workshops in Manizales, a city based in the western region of Colombia.

"We worked with students all morning and afternoon," said Austin Myers. "It was so great to work with the students because a lot of them were very good. I was surprised by how authentically they were able to play American jazz music. They understood the music really well."

Adam Wissman noted, "The students were so eager to learn. They grasped every concept that we explained right away and we accomplished so much. We had one to two-hour Q&A sessions with the students, which was unexpected."

Reflecting back on his experience, Myers says, "This was the first time I ever went outside the U.S., so it was quite an experience. Touring Colombia with an ensemble was very exciting and it gave me confidence in myself as a musician. I hope to do it again someday."

Austin Myers and Jonathan Rodriguez are both recent 2015 Millikin graduates. Myers, from Jerseyville, Ill., earned his Bachelor of Music in Commercial Music, and Rodriguez, from Tucson, Ariz., earned his Bachelor of Music in Music Performance-Instrumental. Michael Anderson is a junior music performance-instrumental major from Wheaton, Ill.

"From both sides of the spectrum, being able to share musical cultures was incredible," said Reyman. "The students in Colombia learned so much from us and they were very happy with the experience. It was an exchange of cultures."

Several Millikin University alumni were recently recognized by the Business Journal of Midcentral Illinois for its list of 20 under 40 for 2015.

The Business Journal annually recognizes 20 young professionals under the age of 40 who live or work in Macon County and make a difference in the community through their jobs and participation in organizations.

The following Millikin alumni were recognized.

Christina Bolsen Baker '10 is assistant vice president of corporate cash management at Hickory Point Bank. Baker works with managers in Decatur, Ill., and Peoria, Ill., to develop, maintain and grow cash management relationships with businesses and institutions based in those areas.

Keith Creighton '00 is a middle school teacher and department head at Dennis Lab School in Decatur. Creighton hopes to continue to lead the development of the middle school so it can provide the best education for its students.

Olivia Heisner '13 is executive director of DIGG (Decatur is Growing Gardeners) where she handles public relations, marketing, volunteer coordination and grant writing for the organization. DIGG develops urban farms in Decatur and provides work and learning opportunities for residents.

Wes Hillen '13 is a financial services representative at Foster Financial Services, Inc., and the assistant men's golf coach at Millikin University. Hillen helps young professionals and families with life insurance and disability income insurance needs.

Tony Piraino MBA '09 is a new product introduction systems integration engineer for the Caterpillar motor grader product group. Piraino learns how customers use Caterpillar machines and then uses that information to come up with a better machine that ultimately helps their customers make more profit.

Mandi Landacre Podeschi '02 is senior director of development in the Alumni and Development Office at Millikin University. Podeschi supervises the development team and the team's efforts to raise support for the Millikin Fund for Student Scholarships campaign and the Transform MU capital campaign.

Wes Shade '05 is a broker placement specialist for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Shade works collaboratively with the company's account teams to find solutions that meet the needs of their clients' unique risks.

Kelli Smith Runyon '05 is an account executive at DCC Marketing where she has responsibilities ranging from project management, strategy development and implementation, brand development and more.

Click here to read more about the Millikin alumni who were recognized by the Business Journal of Midcentral Illinois.

Summer immersion courses at Millikin University provide many learning opportunities for students. As part of a new series of courses this summer, Millikin music business and commercial music majors are learning the audio production software Avid Pro Tools.

Avid Pro Tools has become the industry standard in terms of audio production. Kevin Guarnieri, director of Millikin University's Millitrax Recording Studio in the School of Music, is leading two courses this summer: Introduction to Pro Tools, which ended on June 26, and Intermediate Pro Tools, scheduled to finish on July 24.

Throughout the courses, students are learning the skills needed to operate the software in a professional environment and are becoming familiar with the recording, editing and mixing capabilities of Pro Tools.

Students are also learning editing workflows, navigation techniques, virtual instruments, real-time plug-ins, MIDI and automation.

Guarnieri plans to offer the students an opportunity to take the Avid Pro Tools User Certification Exam at the completion of the intermediate course.

Jordan Camp, a junior music business major from Decatur, Ill., says, "I want to be a recording engineer, and you need to be able to navigate Pro Tools."

Click here to read more about the Pro Tools summer immersion course in an article from the Herald & Review.
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL