SIC Board Learns of 3 Major Grants and Diversity Initiatives

October 29, 2018

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, Oct. 23, in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room where they discussed three new grants and what that means for the college.

The first and largest grant from the state is more than $100,000 for renovation of the Melba Patton Learning Resource Center and the Dana Keating Student Success Center. The two will join in creating a Learning Commons Area with major updates to meet the needs of current day students.

“We need an upgrade to that part of our learning commons area – physically and conceptually. We have to change with what’s best for students in this day and age,” said Dr. Karen Weiss, Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Board Chairman Dr. Pat York voiced his backing to enhance student support in this project.

Weiss also referred to the reorganization of the Learning Commons Area, including a new Associate Dean of Learning Commons, a new full-time Southeastern Illinois College Education Association (SICEA) faculty Academic Resource Specialist position, a revised Distance Learning Specialist faculty position and part-time professional tutor positions for Math and English.

“We appointed as associate dean, Ms. Karla Lewis, who brings with her over 10 years of experience in that area,” said Weiss. 

Lewis’ new position, effective Jan. 1, will provide strategic leadership, administrative supervision and day-to-day management of the Learning Commons Area. This position oversees the operation of the area that is designed to integrate educational functions to assist and support students. The associate dean collaborates with faculty to assess evolving user needs, provides for the informational needs of students and faculty, encourages integration of technology and instruction and advocates for academic support services that promote the learning process.

Weiss said that the organizational restructuring will be discussed in the coming months as to how the Learning Commons approach will unfold. The college will conduct searches with the other positions later in the year.

“It’s an exciting time and we’ve had great ideas from all the staff in the library and online learning and educational technology center,” said Executive Dean of Academic Services Gina Sirach. “Students have also had great input as to how this area will be reshaped.” 

Two additional grants are also coming to Southeastern – an approximately $90,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority for fire safety training, and a $25,000 Brookwood-Sago Mine Safety Grant to help with coal mine fire brigade training, part of a co-application with Rend Lake College.

“Rend Lake College invited us to be co-applicants on this grant—a great sign of partnership and cooperation from a great ally and neighbor,” said SIC President Dr. Jonah Rice.

Board member Jim Ellis said that the grants will help serve hundreds of coal miners. Other members agreed.

As a means to promote diversity at the college, the board appointed a pair of Diversity and Inclusion Co-Coordinators – Sky Fowler and Erica Griffin. They will help lead the charge to form a Diversity Advisory Committee to foster greater awareness and documentation of the efforts by SIC to promote diversity and inclusion. They will research and recommend training initiatives and assessments on a variety of relevant topics. These duties are in addition to their current full-time positions.

The board also learned about how the state may make becoming a teacher easier by by-passing many education teacher preparation courses due to the teacher shortage.

Administrators updated the board on strategic planning results from fiscal year 2018, including nursing accreditation, grants and other progress.

In action, the board approved a pay rate increase for adjunct instructors to begin in January 2019, increasing from $445 per credit hour to $500 per credit hour.


The board also reviewed multiple minor revisions to policies such as security clearance, retiree benefits and public access to the campus, among others.


President Rice also informed the board of his new presidential colloquium series with small groups on campus to discuss general issues along with question and answer sessions.

“This is another means of getting feedback from staff and reaching out for input and guidance,” said Rice. “I hope to have meaningful discussions about anything that folks want to engage.”

Faculty reported news from a variety of departments, including music instructor Cory Garmane being chosen to lead a regional choir and coach and advisor Maggie Calcaterra sponsoring a high school softball workshop.

Ben Ross, Career and Technical Education & Special Projects Coordinator, will be getting a new job description to reflect added safety training responsibilities. He will be coordinating safety training for the institution.

A number of adjunct faculty were also approved.

The next meeting of the board will be Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room at SIC. More information about SIC can be found at