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Campus News / News

For those of you who do not know, Beyer Stadium was home to the Rockford Peaches women’s baseball team that played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to 1954. If you have yet to do so, watch A League of Their Own which chronicles the ups and downs of their first year as a team. 

The International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC) is heading a project to build the International Women’s Baseball Center at the field. The Center’s mission statement says that “education is the cornerstone of our mission to protect, preserve, and promote all aspects of women’s baseball, both on and off the field.” Their goal is to “inspire the next generation of players by helping them realize their dreams not only of participating in the sport but also of passing on all they will learn and achieve for generations to come.”

In following this statement, the IWBC is planning on incorporating education and active participation in baseball into the center facility. This will include a women’s baseball museum next to the field and an activity center across the street from the field that will house batting cages, pitching cages, and other amenities that the community will have access to. It is the IWBCs hope that with these new buildings, the sport of baseball will continue to be an important part of the Rockford identity.  

Recently, a RHET 351 class worked on a Community-Based Learning project to conduct research on the community and develop a plan for the IWBC to build connections with the neighborhood around Beyer Stadium. The class looked into the demographics, community partners, resources, and other activity centers within the area. In addition to providing the research, they also developed materials including brochures, an infographic, and fundraising information that will be given to the people living within the Blackhawk Community to help spread awareness about the new center. These materials also include a survey developed by the students that will be administered to the Boys and Girls Clubs within the community to gain a sense of what the children want to see at a new center and to provide some data on what the kids in the Rockford area know about Beyer Stadium. This was an exciting collaboration for Rockford University and the IWBC to engage in, as it helped the students learn about the community alongside the IWBC and act as consultants for the organization. 

If you are interested in being involved in the IWBCs plans in the Blackhawk community or learning more about their endeavors, please contact for more information.

In September 2020, our Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement held its annual Day of Service. While following state and university COVID-19 safety protocols, our students were able to get out into the Rockford community to make a difference whether it was contactless, in-person, or virtually.

This year a total of 330 students, including 45 student-athletes, volunteered around Rockford. The locations included the mobile Northern Illinois Food Bank, the Ethnic Heritage Museum, and Rockford Rescue Mission.

Students worked on gardening and landscaping at Rockford Rescue Mission and the Ethnic Heritage Museum, in addition to serving families at the mobile Northern Illinois Food Bank that set up on campus. For virtual volunteering, students helped the Open Street Maps project and the Smithsonian Institution with a transcription project. Welsey Willows residents and RPS students received cards written by students on the Day of Service.

RU student-athlete Maurice Williams volunteered at the mobile food bank along with other teammates. Following the event, Maurice reflected on the day and talked with fellow student-athlete, Mykal Brown about the importance of volunteering and giving back to our local community.

Read his reflection below.

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

– Marian Wright Edelman.

On Sept. 11, 2020, Rockford University held a Day of Service where all students were encouraged to find a way to support and give back to the community. Out of all the students who participated in the Day of Service, there was an unspoken emphasis on the role of athletes in giving back. This year I am glad to say we had an amazing turnout of athletes to help on the Day of Service.

Now the question is after the Day of Service has come and gone, what is the athlete’s take on it? As a Rockford University athlete myself, I wanted to find another athlete to interview to explain the way athletes on campus felt about the Day of Service. I interviewed Mykal Brown, a sophomore receiver on the football team.

Before I touch on the interview with Mykal as well as my own personal experience, I would like to explain why it is so important to see Rockford University athletes giving back to the community. Rockford is a relatively small city, and they give their sports teams their full absolute support. That is one reason why when given a chance to help those who are less fortunate or the community as a whole, we as athletes should thrive on the opportunity to show that the support carries through to both sides of the coin. Service gives the athletic community a golden opportunity to show that we appreciate the support, and we would like to reciprocate the help.

Another reason why athletes should turn out to help is quite simply money. When I say money, I mean it not in the way of us getting paid for our work; however, I am addressing the money that is paid by the school for things like bus trips, jerseys, equipment, and so on. This, along with the money paid by people to support us and come to our games and even travel to our away games is reason enough to come out and give back.

The final reason for giving back is because Rockford is essentially your home now.

Whether a native Rockfordian or not, you still will spend four years of your life living here and as an athlete representing this city. Now, why would you not want to help the city you’re living in improve itself?

It is perplexing to think that someone would want to sit back and not want to help the city they represent go through hard times because like it or not it reflects a part of who they are as well.

I would like to take you through my interview with Mykal Brown before I give you my final thoughts on the Day of Service. The first question I asked Mykal was, how did he personally feel about helping out the community? He responded with, “It feels good to help out in the community especially being from Rockford. It makes me feel like I am doing my best to improve the community that helped mold me into the man I am.”  Next, I inquired into the reaction of his peers not from Rockford on the Day of Service. Mykal had this to say in response: “After having numerous conversations, I feel like now that they have been connected to the campus community, they have become a part of the greater Rockford community and essentially adopted it as their own.”

Lastly, I asked Mykal if he felt that athletes should participate in the Day of Service next year or should it be modified or just scrapped in general. Mykal’s response was “I think it is something that definitely needs to continue but it should be modified. I feel like we should have more of a variety for service choices to help gather more student help that way. It feels like even more of a day of serving the community.”

Now after I did my part in the Day of Service, interviewed Mykal Brown, and asked around campus to just get a general feel for how people felt, I have concluded that students did enjoy giving back. Even more so, the athletes were ecstatic to give back and wanted to give more. There were the few complaints about the cold but for the most part, people were just happy to give back and hear the joy in people’s voices while they were being helped. I also agree with Mykal in the sense that this event should return but it should be more widespread with more ways to help out.

Overall, I feel that the Day of Service was an outstanding event that as most things do, could have some improvements but was still a raving success especially amongst the athletic population. Hopefully, it will continue so that we as a campus can show our gratitude to the community that accepts us while we further our academic and athletic careers.

Article by Maurice Williams

Ashni’s Year in Review

07/29/2020 1:21 pm

As I near the end of my service year with AmeriCorps VISTA at Rockford University, I reflect on a year that was full of unpredictability, growth, and creation.

I arrived at Rockford University fresh from my undergrad studies, unfamiliar with the city of Rockford and the inner workings of smaller universities. At this new university in a new city, I began my new role as a VISTA. My job as a Vista entailed creating sustainable programs, attaining monetary and in-kind resources, and navigating between University departments. Ultimately, this role allowed me to expand on the skills gained from being an English and Spanish major at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

As a recent graduate, I was connected to the students by age and understanding. I began monitoring the success of low-income students and understanding RU’s demographics. From that student perspective, I articulated the need for change within the community and the university.

In that process of documenting and assessing need, RU’s forward-thinking team of faculty and staff supported me. Dr. Weaks-Baxter and Dr. Walker worked alongside me to aid students in-need. Through the Men of Color mentorship program (MCM) and the Rock Solid Success Workshop, I gave students the opportunity to seek help and grow through career fairs, workshops, and study sessions. Through the Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement (JACCE), I built infrastructure for partnerships and volunteerism. The two scopes of my VISTA year coalesced in beginning a partnership with a local elementary school, strengthening the pipeline between K-12 and Higher Education.  

MCM and JACCE gave me power to understand a diversity of student experiences, analyze retention efforts, and innovate solutions to common barriers such as hunger and homelessness. By analyzing need for a food pantry on campus, partnering with Men’s Warehouse to give students access to professional ware, and connecting students to the community, I sought ways to give students equal opportunities.

With the many successes of the year came unconventional circumstances. COVID-19 brought a quick transition to the virtual, unveiling the once hidden inequities in technology. But as we moved service opportunities, achievements celebrations, and webinars to zoom, protests over racial injustice erupted across the country. These manifestations, again, unveiled the larger systemic discrimination.

Through each challenge, I navigated ways to problem-solve and think critically. During the move to virtual learning upon the pandemic, I put together a webinar showcasing success-tools; In response to the outcry of racial discrimination and injustice, I assisted the MCM group in drafting a statement and devising an action-plan; With the student’s need to continue service, I worked to create virtual volunteer opportunities. These real-world experiences impacted the way I think, act, and adapt on supporting students.  

As I’m at the end of my service year, I reflect on the memories made and their impact on my present and future. I know that Rockford University will always be with me, inspiring me to expand my reach and support those in need. And I hope RU does that for you, too.

This past fall Semester, Maria Diemer, First Year Seminar instructor and Assistant Director of Global Affairs taught her First Year Seminar (FYS) with the topic “you are what you eat.” This topic explored when one eats, who one eats with, and how one eats, examining how each difference contributes to one’s culture.

With the FYS classes rooted in a Community Based Learning (CBL) project, Diemer immediately designed a connection between the topic of food and refugees. Partnering with the Catholic Charities in Rockford, Professor Diemer and her students talked one-on-one with refugees from various countries and asked them to find a meaningful recipe from their culture. Their recipe from their home country served as the base of a cultural discussion.

“The refugees talked about the significance of the recipe, their typical day eating that food at home, how that recipe has changed since moving to America, and how they adapt to finding ingredients for that recipe,” said Diemer.  

After, Diemer’s students went on to compile a cookbook full of these traditional ethnic recipes. Their goal was to create a cookbook of cultural memories.

According to Diemer, this experience united her Freshman class. “It was such a lovely experience because a lot of the kids this year have never met an immigrant or refugee…this was an opportunity to expand their horizons beyond Rockford, IL.”

Celia Rothermel, an incoming Sophomore, reflects on her First Year Seminar class. “This experience made me realize that refugees are people just like me, people who love their family and home but were forced to leave everything they knew behind to escape the violence of their country,” Rothermel said.

Ultimately, this FYS class experience is just one example of the power community outreach has on students’ learning. Diemer concludes that “one-hour meeting with the refugees was more powerful than any video could have watched, any book they could have read. Seeing kids from an inner-city with tears in their eyes, you know you’ve touched them.”

For more information on Community Based Learning or CBL, contact Mary Weaks-Baxter and The Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement.

Care Packs for the Homeless

04/29/2020 1:10 pm

Sarah Irvin, a Rockford University Senior in Dance, uses her influence to give hope to Rockford’s homeless community. Through her project called “Care Packs for the Homeless,” Irvine works to lift the strain on Rockford homeless shelters and population.

Rockford has a few shelter locations. These include Carpenter’s Place, MELD at Trinity House, and Rockford Rescue Mission. However, many shelters have to turn away patrons due to meeting capacity. Sarah Irvin’s project aims to provide the resources necessary to those who are unable to stay the night.

Irvin explains how her inspiration stems from her experience back home in Virginia. “There’s a girl who made blankets for the homeless. She got a mini-van and loaded it up with extra blankets from the community coat drive,” Irvin said.

With the mindset of giving back to the Rockford community, Irvin works to create portable comfort packs for the homeless. Handmade scarves, personal hygiene, and non-perishable food items will be included in 50 individually packed bags. She asks Rockford University students, faculty, and staff to participate and give back to her cause.

“Being able to see someone do something to address this problem was inspiring, showing me that you really can make a difference, and there are ways to help. Everyone has such a busy schedule and it’s a process to volunteer, but you don’t need any qualifications to donate,” Irvin said.

Before Spring Break, Sarah Irvin dropped off the care packs to those in need. She created change using the Jane Ashcraft Alexander Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship that gives students an incentive to create community service projects. Contact the Jane Addams Center of Civic Engagement for more information on how you can reach people in need.