The System Connection - November 29, 2017

President's Column


For those of you who took time to watch my videoed State of the System speech this fall, you already know that I am starting a comprehensive initiative at the system level that we’re calling Great Schools/Southern Illinois…or GS/SI for short.

I decided to spend a little time in the column today giving some background on why I believe this new program direction is important for us, and why I feel SIU has a special responsibility to serve and support the elementary and secondary schools within the footprint of our geographic region in a larger manner.

Admittedly, I’m still trying to settle on the most applicable framework for GS/SI which will optimally drive relationships and partnerships that build capacity for schools – many of which are important feeder institutions for SIUC and SIUE.

But I’m clearly convinced that given whatever form it takes, now is the right time for SIU to be leading on this sort of work in a reinvigorated fashion. There is a transformation taking place at present across public school systems nationally – including those in Illinois – which centers around the states’ renewed accountability for teaching and learning under the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act. As opposed to the federal government’s approach under the predecessor national education act, No Child Left Behind – which prescribed a one-size-fits-all structure for accountability in schools and districts – the new ESSA law instead demands maximum flexibility in the crafting of plans to meet the unique needs of P-12 students.

The overarching goal under ESSA is for states to champion those strategies which can help transform the lowest-performing schools and districts (of which we have our share in part due to our region’s family poverty and lack of property value for taxation) in ways that include growing state and local partnerships, empowering school and district innovation, and cutting red tape for bolder interventions that will benefit students.

Specifically, Illinois, in its ESSA state plan, establishes a college- and career-ready indicator for high schools to measure the readiness of students for college based on multiple indicators, including grade point average, performance on postsecondary readiness exams, and attendance…in addition to considering community service hours, undertaking summer employment, earning industry credentials, and participating in things like the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

The point of all this is to say the following: the operationalization and implementation of ESSA in many of our central and southern Illinois schools will require the expertise and involvement of SIU in multiple ways. And we have an obvious vested interest in the success of our region’s elementary and secondary institutions.

I think there are probably three broad areas where we can focus GS/SI efforts to help in this capacity-building for our schools and districts:

  • Working to ensure more rigorous academic content and learning experiences (primarily at the high school level), and fostering the application of knowledge through improved critical-thinking. We can also assist the building of foundational skills in the lower grades, including age-appropriate career exploration.
  • Smoothing transitions along the P-16 spectrum which we know must be navigated in improved ways, particularly the high school-to-college transition. However, the amazing work which has been done for years through the numerous Head Start programs which we support in various locations, and the renowned Southern Region Early Childhood Program at SIUC, have already made SIU a leader in the important preschool-to-early elementary transition period. There are many schools that can benefit from what we have learned through these examples, and much other educational outreach work done by SIU. 
  • Supporting schools as they continue to figure out creative and authentic approaches to assessment which are responsive to the accountability demands of parents, taxpayers, politicians, and other interest groups – particularly in the public sector.

In a word…I’m excited to see what we can accomplish around all of this in the coming years. We can take actions that will truly be a value-add to our schools and districts – and doing exactly that is part of being a steward of the place that we are called to serve as a state university system.

[As an aside, I had the good fortune a couple of weeks ago to listen to a talk by West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee – who served as president at Brown, Vanderbilt, and (The) Ohio State before returning to WVU, where he had previously served as president from 1981 to 1985. Gee is co-author of a new book coming out next year which argues that America’s land-grant universities have lost their way, walking away from their core and central responsibility to “make sure the people in their state and region were served very well and had access to American opportunity.”  Then, beyond this, as legislators slash support for public higher education, Americans are increasingly losing their faith in us. I would submit, however, that SIU is the “People’s University” for our state, and fulfills that historical land-grant role for a very large swath of territory in Illinois. Opportunities for access across our region are anchored in our schools, so we at SIU have some responsibility to be part of their growth and effectiveness.]

Let me share a couple of additional points to close. Some of you are aware that I represent the Illinois public university presidents on the statutorily created Illinois P-20 Council, so I have some sense of ongoing and successful projects and initiatives taking place around the state. (I might note here that NIU in DeKalb has especially led the way in this regard.) It is not my intention to reinvent the wheel if there are tested change models that translate well to the schools in our region seeking similar kinds of improvement. Nor is anything about GS/SI intended to disrupt or interfere with the meaningful and creative work that has been underway in schools for many years – and will be in the future – by any individual, group, class, RSO, team, or administrative unit from across the SIU System. 

Rather, in some of the nascent meetings I’ve had to think about how to build-out GS/SI, the conversations have been focused on how we can use Great Schools to invest in extant programs and expand ongoing initiatives. As you would guess, these kinds of projects are already well-established and connected to virtually every SIU campus and location…so we don’t want to do anything to mess those up. Finally, we will not be diverting university resources to fund any GS/SI program or service. It so happens that we are in the process of talking to two foundations about support for a planning grant and possibly one or two small-scale projects. 

Certainly, I’ll use this forum and others to keep you updated as green sprouts start coming out of the ground, and we have some early wins to share. In the meantime, I welcome your continued ideas on the technical or programmatic aspects of this undertaking, as well as your broader thinking about the appropriate role for SIU to play in strengthening the schools of the region we serve.

Randy Dunn

Tax Action Affecting HIED Moves to the U.S. Senate

US Capitol

Federal legislators are now back from the Thanksgiving break and, as many of you who’ve been following the machinations of the tax bill now in front of Congress know, the push is on in the Senate to take a floor vote on the proposal as early as this week. A Senate committee approved the bill along party lines yesterday.

If there is any good news for us on the higher education front, it’s the fact that the Senate bill generally keeps safe the important student benefits which were eliminated in the House version earlier this month. As an example, the student loan interest deduction is preserved, as are tuition exemptions for employees and graduate assistants, and other employer-provided education assistance – something that’s especially critical to keeping SIU enrollments strong in key areas, such as SIUE’s nursing programs.

Unfortunately, though, the Senate tax plan still negatively impacts the HIED sector in some big ways. While neither of SIU’s campus-based foundations’ endowments are large enough to get hit with the proposed 1.4% excise tax on investment income, the doubling of the standard deduction will reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize – thus reducing the value of the gift deduction and potentially leading to a drop off in donations.

Another major area for a large number of colleges and universities is a change in the treatment of something known as the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) which is significant for many institutions. The most notable examples of this sort of income for postsecondary schools include royalties from name and logo licensing, as well as income from various auxiliary campus operations. A clinical research project at the SIU School of Medicine would even be impacted as well. So for the SIU System as a whole, we have estimated that minimally an additional $2 million or so of UBIT income would be taxed at a 20% rate.

Taken together, these changes would trigger the so-called “PAYGO” provision in federal statute that basically says any new spending or tax changes cannot add to the federal debt; under PAYGO, then, any new tax bill must either be budget-neutral or offset with savings held back from existing programs through sequestration. Under current discussions in Washington, one of those offsets would come from federally subsidized bonds, some of which were issued by SIU in previous years. The loss of those subsidies – which come to SIU in the form of a direct payment from the IRS – could cost us as much as $8.5 million over the 12 years remaining before the bonds in question are paid off.

This all may be more background than anyone wants, but if you would like more information on the Senate’s version of the tax bill, and its implications for higher education, the American Council on Education has put together a one-pager that you can access here.

Federal Study Abroad Bill Introduced Honoring Paul Simon

Cheri Bustos with John Charles and Randy Dunn

A member of the Illinois congressional delegation has introduced a piece of bipartisan legislation that has a close tie to SIU and which, if enacted, could be important for future Cougar and Saluki students who desire a study abroad experience during their undergraduate years, although they may not have the means to pay for it.

Meeting in her Washington office recently, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.-17th District) briefed SIU representatives on the bill that she had just introduced – the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act. The bill, which is co-sponsored in the House by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.-27th District), would establish a grant program run by the U.S. Department of Education for colleges and universities to expand study abroad and related foreign travel opportunities for undergraduate students. The SIU connection, of course, rests in the fact the legislation is named after the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon, who served as the founding director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC and was also a member of the Carbondale faculty when he left the Senate in 1997. One of Simon’s key values was the importance of preparing the next generation of Americans with the global knowledge and skills needed in an increasingly interconnected world.

Congresswoman Bustos released the following statement when she introduced her bill:

Senator Paul Simon dedicated his life to improving the lives of hardworking Illinoisans and creating new opportunities for our young people, and I’m proud to honor his legacy of service by introducing the Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act. Since Paul Simon’s time in public life, study abroad programs have become even more important tools for colleges and universities to prepare students to succeed in our connected world. This bill will help our next generation of leaders to learn how to operate in our modern global society. Paul Simon was an important person in my life and I work hard every day to uphold his tradition of bipartisan leadership, so I am very proud to introduce this legislation with my friend, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The legislative goals of the bill include:

  • Increasing the overall number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within ten years
  • Increasing the number of nontraditional and minority students studying abroad so that the demographics of study abroad participation reflect the demographics of the undergraduate population
  • Increasing the number of students who study abroad in nontraditional destinations, with an emphasis on study abroad in developing countries

In addition to SIU’s support, the bill has already garnered sign-ons from such groups as the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, and the American Councils for International Education.

Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.). We’ll be watching the progress of this bill and advocating accordingly for its passage.

(Pictured with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos outside her Capitol Hill office are John Charles, SIU executive director of government and public affairs, and SIU President Randy Dunn.)

Illinois Bicentennial Kicks Off This Weekend

Illinois Bicentennial

This Sunday – Illinois’ 199th birthday – marks the official launch of the yearlong Illinois Bicentennial Celebration with Illinois Bicentennial Day during Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier in Chicago. A parallel kickoff event is also being held in Springfield as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library gives a sneak peek of its Illinois Bicentennial Exhibit and the Illinois Symphony provides music.

Under the theme of Born, Built & Grown, the Illinois Bicentennial will highlight and honor the people, places, and things that are born, built, and grown here, contributing to the many ways that Illinois has influenced American history, achievement, culture, and innovation.

Not surprisingly, given the fiscal stresses of the state, the Illinois Bicentennial has only a small staff and minimal budget to organize a year’s worth of celebratory activities and happenings. As such, beyond some signature events that will be put on by the Bicentennial Commission and funded by corporate sponsors, much of what will occur throughout 2018 on a statewide basis will be a co-branding and expansion of ongoing activities sponsored by communities, local governments, civic groups, nonprofit organizations, museums, educational entities, and other agencies to ensure access to different celebrations by all citizens from across the state.

Beyond the major events planned by the commission, there is a user-friendly, online process for any organization planning activities during the Bicentennial Year to become an official part of the statewide celebration. Once approved, local event and project leaders will receive an Official Bicentennial Seal of Endorsement for use on their marketing materials, in addition to statewide promotional support.

Numerous local events and projects are already being planned and can be found under the tabs on the Illinois Bicentennial website:

Then on Monday, Dec. 4, counties and municipalities across all of Illinois will host simultaneous Illinois Bicentennial Flag-Raising Ceremonies at their primary municipal buildings. The Illinois Bicentennial Commission will also host a ceremony at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Aug. 26, 2018 – Illinois’ Constitution Day - will see another series of big events across the state, including an Illinois Bicentennial Community Rock Concert in Madison County, not far from the SIUE campus and sponsored by KSHE 95 in St. Louis. SIU will also look at providing a couple of system-wide celebration events under the aegis of the Illinois Bicentennial during the year (seeking sponsors to underwrite any expenses that would accrue to the university for those). More details will be forthcoming in the Connection as plans are finalized.

The Illinois Bicentennial Commission was established by Executive Order 2016-11 and SIU President Randy Dunn serves as one of three co-chairs. The commission advises the Bicentennial Office in planning and implementing the state’s yearlong celebration. The Executive Order can be accessed at and the list of commissioners is online at

Connection Goes on Hiatus for the Holidays

Please be aware of a couple of changes in the publication schedule for The System Connection over the coming weeks.

The final issue of our e-newsletter for 2017 will be pushed back from its normal schedule by a week - to Wednesday, Dec. 20 - due to logistical issues and to follow the upcoming meetings of the SIU Board of Trustees on Dec. 13 and 14 in Carbondale.

Publication then takes a break for the holidays and the Connection will be back for 2018 starting on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

As always, an “all-users” email will be utilized if urgent news or some other development warrants a notification to SIU employees during the interim period.

Faces of SIU

Karen Broquet

Wonderful physicians don’t just happen by accident.

Dr. Karen Broquet is one of the incredible people at the SIU School of Medicine who work closely with our physicians-in-training to help assure they become caring, excellent medical providers when they graduate and launch their careers.

As the associate dean for graduate medical education, Karen has a number of responsibilities, including overseeing the 28 different residency programs located in Springfield, Decatur, Quincy and Carbondale to make sure they meet accreditation standards, incorporate the best curriculum and are providing the appropriate training for SIU trainees. She works closely with residents as well as with the partner facilities that sponsor them and pay their salaries as they train. And, she deals with logistical things like assuring proper licenses are in place.

“There are a lot of frustrating things about medicine and the education system but every day I walk around and talk with our residents and with our partner medical facilities and know I’m making a difference,” Karen said. “I’m also very proud that we are able to keep so many of the physicians we train in the region. It’s very gratifying to see them caring so well for their patients.”

A board-certified psychiatrist, Karen also continues to counsel patients and works closely with the medical residents who share her specialization, supervising and mentoring them. She also advises the SOM House Staff Board of Directors and handles a variety of other tasks. She’s quick to say that she’s “never bored, but that’s a good thing” and likewise quick to acknowledge her favorite part of the job.

“Hands-on teaching and education is definitely the most fun,” she said. “Working with individual learners is the most rewarding part of my job.”

Although Karen has held her current position since 2001, her connection to SIU actually goes back much farther. She and her husband Greg celebrated their 35th anniversary this fall and they actually met while both were undergraduates at SIU Carbondale. Karen completed her bachelor’s degree in physiology there in 1981 and three years later, earned her medical degree at the SIU School of Medicine.

She completed her residency in psychiatry at the University of South Alabama in Mobile but by 1988, she was back at SIU, this time on staff. She’s held a variety of positions, including the psychiatry clerkship director, overseeing third year student rotations and serving for about a decade as the director of the psychiatry training program.

“SIU will always have a special place in my heart,” Karen said. “I spent many happy hours on the Carbondale campus and in the Shawnee and met my husband there. But that is not why I’ve chosen to spend my career at SIU.”

“There are many facets of an excellent medical school: clinical care, research, community involvement and teaching,” she added. “In some medical schools, the teaching mission is given lip service because it does not typically generate income. The SIU SOM treats education with the same level of respect as research or clinical service, and faculty are recognized and rewarded in the promotion process. This is not true everywhere. Whenever I meet with colleagues at national meetings, I come home appreciating what we have here.”

Oddly enough, Karen didn’t plan to become a doctor or a teacher. At various times during her early years, she pondered a career in ministry, owning a restaurant, or even becoming a standup comic.

“Growing up, I never really knew anyone who was a doctor. None of my family were physicians and I was rarely sick,” she explains. “I didn’t seriously consider a career in medicine until I was in college. As I went through my medical training though, I realized that my passion and my talents both found a home in medical education.”

Karen was born in Detroit and lived in American Samoa and Huntington, W. Va., as a child. She and Greg are longtime Springfield residents and the parents of grown daughters, Roxane and Lillian.

Nowadays, when Karen isn’t immersed in her work or family, you’re likely to find her bike riding, lost in a great book, or cooking.

“I make the best seafood gumbo outside of New Orleans,” she proudly proclaims.

For all you do for your patients, your students and SIU, we say “Thank you, Karen.”

Other Voices in HIED

The Houston Chronicle:
Male students ‘uncomfortable’ on Texas campuses, education official says

The Washington Post:
Government analysis shows House tax bill would increase the cost of college by $71 billion over a decade

Congress speeds toward shutdown over Dreamers

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Nicklaus: Republican tax bills put a big bull’s-eye on higher education

The Washington Post:
Elitists, crybabies and junk degrees

The death of the MBA

The New York Times:
Op Ed: Free Speech, Personified