Thursday, May 29, 2014

Plant artist Pearl Fryar to share his story at UIS

WHAT: The University of Illinois Springfield Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Speakers Series welcomes internationally recognized topiary artist Pearl Fryar, an expert on making plants into living art.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 6 p.m.

WHERE: UIS Brookens Auditorium, located on the lower level of Brookens Library

DETAILS: In 1976, Fryar and his family moved to Bishopville, South Carolina where he began to fight the racial stereotype that “black people don’t keep up their yards.” He bought a house in a black neighborhood and began cutting every bush and tree in his yard into unusual, abstract shapes.

Fryar’s artwork began to attract not only local, but national attention. He’s now transformed over 300 plants into living artwork and has his own Topiary Garden. His garden, recognized world-wide for its creativity, now attracts visitors from around the world. His effect on local social change has been grass roots, both literally and figuratively.

During his discussion, Fryar will share his story and detail how he turns plants into living sculptures. Many of the plants in his garden were rescued from the compost pile at local nurseries in South Carolina. With patience and skilled hands, these “throw aways” have thrived and have been transformed into wonderful abstract shapes.

Fryar’s artwork has been featured in national magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, as well as several television programs such as CBS Sunday Morning. He’s the subject of the 2006 documentary A Man Named Pearl, which aired on HGTV.

This presentation is sponsored by the University of Illinois at Springfield ECCE Speaker Series and University of Illinois Extension. This event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Girl Tech to teach middle schoolers about technology

WHAT: Join the University of Illinois Springfield’s Computer Science Department for two days of fun exploring technology during Girl Tech 2014. Hands-on activities include creating your own robot, fun ideas with electricity, design a game, and much more!

WHEN: Thursday, June 12 and Friday, June 13, 2014 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: University Hall Building (UHB) on the UIS campus

DETAILS: Studies show the number of women in higher education in computer science is falling drastically. Girl Tech is geared toward girls in middle school because interest seems to start decreasing around that age.

Highlighting the sessions this year is a multi-session activity where each girl will create her own robotic companion to take home. They will get to plan the robot, program the robot, and personalize their robot.

Other activities include, “Green Screen Dreams” where participants will use green screens and iPads to make their dreams a reality. During “Light Up Your Life!” students will use circuit pens to draw with conductive ink. Girls will make up their own computer game on a Raspberry Pi computer during a session called “Scratch”. They’ll also use hi-tech design tools to create a Girl Tech 2014 t-shirt to take home.

The registration fee is $30 per girl, which covers lunch both days, snacks and a participation t-shirt. To be eligible to participate, the girl must be entering 7th, 8th or 9th grade in the fall of 2014. For more information about the camp and to register visit The registration deadline is Thursday, June 5, 2014.

For more information, contact Mary Sheila Tracy, camp coordinator and UIS Computer Science instructor, at 217/206-7328 or

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

UIS Speakers Series to screen and discuss the documentary "Two Spirits"

WHAT: The University of Illinois Springfield Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE) Speakers Series will screen and discuss the documentary Two Spirits. The discussion will be moderated by Kerry Poynter, director of the UIS LGBTQA Resource Office. This event is free and open to the public.

WHEN: Monday, June 9, 2014 at 6 p.m.

WHERE: UIS Brookens Auditorium, located on the lower level of Brookens Library

DETAILS: Two Spirits tells the story of Fred Martinez, one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history, who was murdered at 16. The documentary explores the life and death of a boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender. Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to ancient Navajo culture.

The film interweaves the tragic story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at a time when the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female, and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.

Kerry Poynter has over fifteen years of experience working with LGBTQA students in higher education at a number of institutions including Duke University, Columbia University, New York University, and Western Michigan University. He has a master’s degree in Administration of College Student Affairs in Counselor Education & Counseling Psychology. He’s an adjunct instructor in the Women & Gender Studies Department at UIS and teaches a peer education course that trains LGBTQA & heterosexual allied students to facilitate interactive activities across campus on LGBTQA topics.

For more information on the ECCE Speakers Series event, contact Poynter at 217/206-8316 or