Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Press Releases

Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin University, was named the 2015 Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year at the Illinois PTA State Convention, held April 17-18 in East Peoria, Ill.

Presented annually at the state convention, the Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year Award is given to an individual whose dedication, leadership, and collaboration have positively affected the lives of children. The individual's work exemplifies the ability to further the mission and purposes of PTA to make every child's potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities.

Past recipients of the award include State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch, Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, and Journalist Jim Broadway.

"It's quite an honor to have received this recognition," said Ledford. "I accepted the award on behalf of all the faculty, students and staff who have worked so hard to take the arts out into the community. Many of these activities have been going on for years, so it's an award for the people at Millikin that put these programs together and have made them grow."

For the past two years, Millikin University and Illinois PTA partnered to host "Spotlight: A Children's Celebration of Art and Community" on Millikin's campus, most recently on March 28. The event celebrates children, from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, from across the state of Illinois including Reflections artists, scholarship winners, and students who serve their communities.

The spotlight event includes an art exhibit and workshops for children and adults in several categories including: Literature, Performing Arts, Music, Dance, and Visual Arts. Many of the workshops were developed and instructed by Millikin University students from the College of Fine Arts. Other workshops were conducted by Millikin faculty and Illinois PTA directors.

"Essentially, it's an event where we have workshops provided by faculty and students in different areas of the arts, including creative writing," said Ledford. "It's a great showcase for young students and their schools. We were pleased to have so many students and parents visit the Millikin campus."

Carolyn McCarty, director of the Illinois PTA Southern Region, said, "We felt that Laura was making a significant and relevant difference in the lives of children across the board, especially within the areas of art and education. We recognized Laura for what she has done in terms of embracing the Illinois PTA Spotlight event, and exposing fine arts to students across the state."

Ledford came to Millikin in 1991 upon completion of her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Indiana University. She has taught courses in theatre performance, voice production and stage dialects. She served the Millikin Department of Theatre and Dance as chair and artistic director from 2005 to 2011. Ledford's teaching and research interests are voice and speech, stage dialects, Shakespeare, acting theory, and directing. While at Millikin, she has directed numerous productions including "Richard III," "Sweeney Todd," and "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot."

When asked about giving back to the community from Millikin's perspective, Ledford says, "I think it's essential, especially in the arts. Students who are planning to have a career in the arts have to be very community-orientated. Giving students the opportunity to work with businesses and individuals in the community prepares them to go out and enter the world, and build a future audience."

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Project SEED summer research program has awarded Millikin University $7,000 in fellowship funds. The award, along with $500 from the Decatur-Springfield ACS Chapter, will allow three economically disadvantaged local high school chemistry students to participate in research activities alongside Millikin chemistry undergraduates and faculty starting in June 2015.

Established in 1968, the ACS Project SEED summer research program opens new doors for economically disadvantaged students to experience what it's like to be a chemist. The program provides opportunities for students who lack exposure to scientific careers to spend a summer conducting hands-on research with a scientist in academic, industry, and government research laboratories. Students receive a fellowship award for their efforts and a chance to receive a SEED college scholarship.

To be eligible for the Project SEED program, students must meet specific academic and family income requirements, and demonstrate the potential to work in a chemical laboratory. Students entering their junior or senior year in high school and who have completed at least one high school chemistry course are eligible to apply.

"Part of the reason why the ACS national society funds the Project SEED program is to try to get bright students into chemistry and give them opportunities for Performance Learning," said Dr. Anne Rammelsberg, Millikin associate professor of chemistry. "Project SEED has a very good success rate of getting students into science and helping them earn financial aid."

Millikin University will be offering Project SEED Summer Program I. For eight weeks, students will conduct research in chemistry or a related field, supervised by a scientist mentor, and will receive a fellowship award of $2,500.

Student applications are due by June 1. For more information regarding Project SEED at Millikin University, contact the Chemistry Department at Millikin University at 217.424.3949, or by e-mail at

"I think this program can be life-changing for students," said Dr. Rammelsberg. "This is an opportunity for Millikin to build community relations, and showcase Performance Learning and show how it expands beyond the undergraduate level."

With more than 161,000 members, the American Chemical Society is the world's largest scientific society and one of the world's leading sources of authoritative scientific information. A nonprofit organization, chartered by Congress, ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions around the globe.

For more information on the ACS Project SEED program, visit

Millikin University students were recognized for their efforts at the 2015 Information Systems (IS) Project and Case Competition held April 10-12 at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Two teams of four Millikin IS students competed against 14 teams for the best real-world IS project, project presentation, and best IS case analysis.

Millikin earned 2nd place in the IS Case Competition and 3rd place for Best Project Presentation.

During the project presentations, one team of Millikin students presented their client project from last semester's database development course. As part of the project, the students delivered a working database application for BabyTALK to track donor activity. Based in Decatur, Ill., BabyTALK is a community family support agency, which provides the framework to guide parent educators in nurturing school readiness and optimal child development by supporting infants and toddlers and their parents. The Millikin database team earned 3rd place honors for their presentation.

The database team included the following students: Kenneth Albin, a senior finance major from Danville, Ill., Kort Branscome, a junior information systems major from Greenville, Ill., Heather Nigh, a junior accounting major from Thomasboro, Ill., and Taylor Wilson, a junior information systems major from Decatur, Ill.

"IS departments have been doing client projects for years – it's the best way for students to gain experience," said RJ Podeschi, Millikin assistant professor of information systems. "But there's something we do at Millikin that is fundamentally different, and I have to think it's the level of coaching and mentoring that we do as faculty. Our students connect the dots to what they're doing and they understand why they're doing it." 

The second team of Millikin students presented their client project from their analysis and web development courses. The students developed a dynamic, data-driven Millikin University organizational chart to be implemented in the myMillikin intranet system in 2015. The project was a collaborative effort between the students and Millikin University's Human Resources and Information Technology (IT) Departments.

The organizational chart team included the following students: Peyton Munch, a junior accounting major from Loves Park, Ill., Taylor Sanders, a senior information systems major from Marshall, Ill., Alex Tueth, a senior accounting major from Decatur, Ill., and Kameron Wilkins, a senior entrepreneurship major from Iuka, Ill.

Students were evaluated by a panel of five judges who all work as IT professionals or IT consultants in industry.

"After all the hard work we put in last semester, it was very satisfying to present the organizational chart project," said Taylor Sanders. "To represent Millikin and to show top level executives from multiple companies and other schools our work was a great experience."

During the case analysis competition, all teams were provided a case to analyze and provide a solution for, and then present their solutions to a panel of judges. Millikin's organizational chart team received 2nd place honors for their work during the competition.

Taylor Wilson added, "It was great to be able to get in front of a panel of professionals and receive feedback. The competition allowed us to see what it was like to present a real solution to a company's problem, and we did a great job of thoroughly answering all the questions from the panel and thinking on our feet."

The Information Systems Project and Case Competition serves as a venue for students to showcase projects that were completed earlier in their undergraduate careers as well as to utilize skills previously learned by solving a case study. This year's competition also gave students the opportunity to interact and network with individuals from several companies. Other institutions that participated in the competition included the University of Southern Indiana, Purdue University-Calumet, University of Toledo, University of Akron and Marietta College.

"It was a great experience and I think the students represented Millikin exceedingly well," said Ed Weber, Millikin assistant professor of information systems. "The students also recognized the opportunity of the learning experience above and beyond just the competition."
Millikin University will celebrate the scholastic and artistic achievements of students throughout the campus community during its Celebrations of Scholarship (COS) on Friday, April 24. The event will feature a full day of student presentations from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. on the Millikin campus.

One of the highlights of the academic year, the annual Celebrations of Scholarship recognizes the research, scholarship and creative efforts of students from all four colleges and the University-wide Honors Program, showing that an education focused on engaging students in the theory and practice of their disciplines develops accomplished scholars prepared for graduate and professional study or challenging positions in the workplace.

Millikin Provost Dr. Jeffery Aper says, "Celebrations of Scholarship is a time when the fruits of countless hours of student work, study, practice, attention, energy and striving are made public to recognize, instruct, enrich, and of course, celebrate."

Results from a Millikin student-built weather balloon will be one of the many projects presented at Celebrations of Scholarship. Millikin students launched the balloon on Dec. 18, 2014, from the roof of Leighty-Tabor Science Center. The students collected data on the atmospheric pressure, temperature inside and outside the balloon, and the altitude.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review that highlights the weather balloon project and Celebrations of Scholarship.
Millikin University alumna Sierra Boggess '04 is starring in a new Broadway musical entitled "It Shoulda Been You," which opened April 14 at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

USA Today says the musical is "this Broadway season's freshest and funniest to date." The musical is directed by Emmy and Tony Award-winner David Hyde Pierce.

Since her Broadway debut as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," 2004 Millikin graduate Sierra Boggess has become one of the most sought after young artists in the New York and London theatre markets. Referred to by Tony Award-winning Producer and Director Harold Price as "one of the most talented and intelligent artists in the musical theatre today," Sierra dazzles audiences with her unique brand of charm, humor and virtuosity.

Boggess recently finished a limited run in "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway. Her London credits include "Les Misérables," the 25th anniversary concerts of "The Phantom of the Opera" at Royal Albert Hall and "Love Never Dies."

Millikin University alumnus Kevin Mathews '91 has visited the Big Blue campus on a number of occasions to speak with students and faculty. However, during a visit on April 9, Mathews did more than just share his success story with a group of students. Mathews engaged in Performance Learning activities during a microbusiness course led by Julie Shields, Millikin instructor of entrepreneurship.

The course was part of a day that recognized Mathews for exemplifying the best in entrepreneurial thought and action. Mathews, founder and chief executive officer of GenOx Transportation, Inc., was awarded the Tabor School of Business Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award. The award was presented to Mathews during an evening ceremony at the Decatur Country Club on April 9. 

While addressing Millikin students, Mathews said, "It's important to remember that 90 percent of customers will tell you what you want to hear, and 10 percent will tell you what you need to hear. With my trucking business, it's important to develop good relationships with customers."

Mathews started GenOx Transportation, Inc. in La Porte, Texas, in 2001. Building on the lifetime experience of his father in the industrial gas industry, Mathews set out to design a business model for GenOx that would enable it to become a market leader in the transportation of liquid nitrogen gas and other frozen industrial gases. 

Operating in one of the smallest niches within the tank truck industry, Mathews' company is investing more than $5 million a year on new equipment in anticipation of increased customer demand in 2015. This past year, GenOx generated $62 million in revenue, up from $1.2 million in revenue when the company launched in 2001.

When asked about launching a business venture, Mathews said, "It's important to keep moving forward and not be fearful. Don't let the effects of fear hold you back as an entrepreneur. There's a lot to learn when running a business and plenty of multitasking."

Mathews received his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Millikin University in 1991 after earning his associate degree from Richland Community College. While at Millikin, Mathews was a member of the Millikin Marketing Association and Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity. 

Following graduation from Millikin, Mathews worked for Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and Matlack Systems, Inc. before becoming regional manager of Cryogenic Transportation, Inc., a company headquartered in Omaha, Neb.

"When you're a business owner, it takes time to learn and it's important to not take on too much," said Mathews. "Know your business and know yourself, and constant successes will help build momentum for your business."

Dr. Susan Kruml, dean of the Tabor School of Business said, "In a previous visit to Millikin, Kevin was captivating and the students enjoyed hearing his story. I think the key to his success is his value system, and the way he treats his customers and employees."

Additionally, Lisa Mathews, chief financial officer of GenOx and Kevin's wife, spoke with Millikin students and faculty during a women's luncheon held in Richards Treat University Center. She shared aspects of her successful career in a question-and-answer format. 

Dr. Kruml added, "Kevin's a great example of someone who has seized opportunity, created opportunity, and done so in a way that is extremely ethical. In terms of the award, the Tabor School of Business looked at alumni who were successful and were great role models. We believed that there was not a better example of a successful entrepreneur than Kevin."
Millikin University hosted its seventh annual Edible Book Festival on April 14 in the Staley Library. The festival featured several culinary creations based on literary works including novels, biographies and more.

Millikin University held its first Edible Book Festival in 2009. Over the years, entries have come from Millikin University students, faculty, and staff, but have also been submitted by teams from Richland Community College, Garfield Montessori, Decatur Christian School, and Okaw Valley High School.

Entry fees and donations raised from the event are going to the Good Samaritan Inn of Decatur.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review that recaps Millikin University's Edible Book Festival.
The Millikin University Institute for Science Entrepreneurship, a signature program of Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship, will continue its 2014-2015 Speaker Series on Thursday, April 30, with keynote speaker Ken Smithmier, president and chief executive officer of Illinois Health and Science (IHS).

The presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the East Room of Lower Richards Treat University Center on Millikin's campus; the event is free and open to the public.

As part of his presentation, Smithmier will explain how Decatur Memorial Hospital (DMH) launched a business that will help address healthcare needs around the world.

Smithmier has been with Illinois Health and Science since 1993. IHS is the parent corporation of a number of companies including: Decatur Memorial Hospital, a 2000 employee organization including an owned physician multispecialty group, two imaging centers, and two surgery centers. DMH has frequently been cited by government and private organizations for high levels of performance in a variety of quality measurements including being named a Top 50 Heart Hospital for the fourth year in a row.

IHS also includes Zevacor Molecular, an Indianapolis-based firm started by IHS in 2013 for the production and distribution of radiopharmaceuticals important in nuclear medicine imaging. In fall 2015, Zevacor will install a 70 MeV cyclotron which will be the world's largest privately owned cyclotron devoted to medical isotopes.

Smithmier has spent his entire life in healthcare starting as an 18-year-old Navy corpsman. After the service, he was a 1978 graduate of the St. Louis University Physician Assistant program and worked as a physician assistant for five years. He subsequently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a master's degree in hospital administration.

Prior to joining IHS, Smithmier held a variety of executive positions in hospitals, from small rural facilities to major teaching hospital positions at BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, Mo.

Smithmier has extensive experience throughout the healthcare industry. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Hospital Association from 1998 to 2004 and served as chairman in 2003. He is a past member of the American Hospital Association's (AHA) Regional Policy Board and has served on many AHA committees and task forces.

The speaker series focuses on science entrepreneurship and how an increased emphasis on entrepreneurship can spark job creation and societal well-being. Throughout the academic year, executives from science ventures discuss particular aspects of their business. In addition, business leaders discuss broader topics of interest.

The Institute for Science Entrepreneurship was originally funded by a Millikin University Performance Learning Enhancement Grant in December 2012. Since that time, the institute has received funding from the Andreas Foundation, Coleman Foundation, 300 Below Inc., a private foundation and anonymous donors to develop the 2014-2015 Speaker Series and other institute programming.

Formed by Dr. David Horn, associate professor of biology, Dr. George Bennett, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Casey Watson, associate professor of physics and astronomy, the Institute for Science Entrepreneurship connects external clients with faculty and students of Millikin to provide high quality services to science companies and private practices.

In addition to the speaker series, the Institute for Science Entrepreneurship has recently garnered several accomplishments including external funding from Caterpillar Decatur to support a new course entitled "Introduction to Science Entrepreneurship," external funding and a collaboration between 300 Below Inc. and Millikin University, and a collaboration with the Community Foundation of Macon County to host a discussion on poverty.

The Institute for Science Entrepreneurship also offers Performance Learning opportunities for students through its new Science Entrepreneurship Research Fellow Program. The program matches student interest with needs of private practices and companies in the health and natural sciences.

For more information on the speaker series or the Millikin Institute for Science Entrepreneurship, call 217.424.6392 or visit
Millikin University students have been volunteering to help community members prepare and file federal and state tax forms at the Decatur Public Library.

The students are providing the service as part of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

According to Dr. Michael Brown, Millikin associate professor of accounting, the program has helped over 800 people this year, and has provided practical work experiences for the students.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review recapping the work of the Millikin students.
Millikin University biology students took top honors at the 2015 Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society North Central District 1 Convention, held March 28 at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill. The convention gave students and faculty members opportunities to share current research and discuss scientific topics.

The convention featured 38 presentations (nine oral presentations and 29 posters) from students representing 11 institutions in the Midwest.

Millikin student Spencer Hudson, a senior biology major from Wilmington, Del., won the Richard G. Brooks Award for Best Oral Presentation. Senior biology majors Ashley Fulk, from Altamont, Ill., and Elizabeth Wrobel, from Tinley Park, Ill., each received John C. Johnson Awards for Best Student Poster.

Jade Becker, a senior biology major from Decatur, Ill., won a 2nd Place Poster Award, and Kendra Peterson, a senior biology major from Batavia, Ill., received an Honorable Mention Poster Award.

"The overall environment at the convention was very welcoming," said Ashley Fulk. "It was nice to be able to speak with judges and people interested in my research one-on-one."

In addition to individual accomplishments, Millikin's Tri-Beta Chapter, Iota Epsilon, won the Travel Gavel Award for bringing the most participants the greatest distance to the convention. Dr. Travis Wilcoxen, Millikin assistant professor of biology, was also named North Central District 1 Outstanding Advisor for the 2014-2015 academic year.

"It's apparent that when we are at these type of conferences, our students are prepared to present their facts and they think like scientists," said Dr. Wilcoxen. "When people look at the work from our students and compliment it, it shows the value of a Millikin education. Everyone gets an opportunity to perform real research, and I think the students gain an appreciation for doing real science before they graduate."

Spencer Hudson's presentation covered how different amounts of blue coloration in Indigo Bunting feathers relate to the health of the birds. Ashley Fulk's research covered how tadpoles respond to environmental stress and protect their skin with antioxidants, and Elizabeth Wrobel's research covered incidence of diseases in songbirds and birds of prey, as well as the health impacts of the diseases on the birds.

"I truly valued presenting my research at the Tri-Beta Convention," said Wrobel. "Through these conventions, I have the opportunity to share my research with so many people. Also, I am able to learn about other projects being completed by students from other schools, which is always interesting."

Jade Becker's research covered the impacts of elevated testosterone on growth and jumping performance in frogs, and Kendra Peterson's research covered molecular and gene responses of soy bean plants to caterpillar's consuming parts of their leaves.

Other Millikin students who presented at the convention included: Jessica Kerr, a senior biology major from Saint Johns, Fla., and Olivia Waszczuk, a senior biology major from Roselle, Ill. Kerr's presentation covered strategies for developing green techniques for plant growth on the roof of buildings. Waszczuk's poster covered strategies for using nanoparticles in breast cancer research.

Spencer Hudson added, "My experience as a member of Tri-Beta has been highlighted by the way science and people come together. I've come to realize that many of our research projects build over long periods of time in our careers, with crucial input from colleagues at meetings and key observations from other colleagues along the way. The science grows while careers grow and Tri-Beta provides that critical meeting place where one might seek out input from colleagues."

Tri-Beta is a society for students, particularly undergraduates, dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study and extending boundaries of human knowledge through scientific research. Since its founding in 1922, more than 200,000 persons have been accepted into lifetime membership, and more than 670 chapters have been established throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. For more information on Tri-Beta, visit
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL