So Long, Farewell to You My Friends

It’s time to say goodbye to you, my WIU readers. I finished my last final on Thursday and now it’s time for winter break.

This week was bittersweet…my last day at the Alumni House was on Thursday and the time has come for me to sign off. The Alumni Programs staff threw some of the other student workers and me a celebratory lunch that day; we enjoyed eating Aurelio’s pizza (my favorite, yum!). I will miss seeing the staff every day; they all made me feel so welcomed from the very first day I started. Bev greeted me every day when I came in for work and Kim and I would always catch up when she passed my workstation. Each and every one of them always brought a smile to my face. I’ve had an amazing experience promoting this great university and interviewing many wonderful WIU staff, faculty, and students. Writing is my passion; being able to express myself and get experience with blogging and social media is a dream come true. I’m so thankful for this internship opportunity Western has given me.

I could not write a goodbye blog without thanking the Associate Director of Alumni Programs, Amanda Shoemaker. She has advised me throughout this internship and edited every blog I wrote. Every week she took time out of her busy schedule to meet with me. We discussed ideas for future blogs and talked about what I needed to work on for the next set of blogs. She has helped me improve my writing skills; her hard work has been greatly appreciated. I will take all the things I’ve learned through this internship and apply it to my next one.

Although I’m sad to leave the Alumni Association, when one door closes another door opens…as I’ve mentioned before, my next internship will be working under the advisement of Journalism Program Director Dr. Siddiqi. I will be interning for a nonprofit organization called the Parliament of World’s Religions and promoting the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions Conference in Salt Lake City.

I can’t wait to see where my future will take me in the public relations field. This spring, I will be a senior here at WIU. It feels like just yesterday I was a freshman. I’m going to make the most of this year on campus by being involved as much as I can.

Have a great holiday break!

Signing off, for the last time,

Your Fall 2014 WIU Alumni Association Online Communications Coordinator

Shani Belshaw


WIU Students are trying to Change the World

There has been a lot of buzz around campus about a movement called the “#WIUnselfie Movement”, so of course I had to see what it is all about. One of the creators of the movement, Brian Kocher, explained to me how it started. He is a first year grad student in the College Student Personnel (CSP) program. In his group dynamics class taught by Tracy Davis, the students were split into groups and given the assignment “to make the world a better place”. There was no other criterion for this assignment.

Kocher’s group had seven other students in it; Caitlyn Westfall, Melinda Daniels, Danielle Buckner, Kelly Severs, Brett Moody, Maggie Miller, and Amy Bumatai. They decided to promote unselfish acts on campus for their assignment and they wanted to do so by utilizing social media. Thus, the #WIUnselfie Movement was born. The movement encourages unselfish efforts like leaving positive messages written on sticky notes around campus or paying for a stranger’s meal at a fast food restaurant. This assignment reminded me a lot of one of my favorite movies, Pay It Forward. The difference between this movement and Pay It Forward was the emphasis on social media. “After brainstorming we decided how we are going to change the world, how we can as grad students. We decided to counteract the negative social media sites like Yik Yak and Fade that have become popular on campus,” said Kocher.

The students created #WIUnselfie Movement accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The #WIUnselfie Movement social media accounts were created so that when students saw someone doing something unselfish on campus, they could document the acts or “unselfie” them. In other words, students can snap a picture of the person and tweet it (with the hashtag) #WIUnselfiemovement; the movement’s account will then retweet the posted picture. Kocher explained some of the different ways they implemented the movement on campus. “We partnered with ‘Make a Difference Day’, on October 22nd. We made an Instagram sign out of cardboard that cost us a total (of) $3.50. This sign was a tangible thing for the movement to be recognized by,” said Kocher. The movement’s group members went around campus with their sign and had people take a picture with it if they were doing something great. This got a lot of attention on campus, but they wanted to get the word out even more so they made an educational video. You can view the video at

I think it is great that WIU students are promoting positive social media usage on campus and that we are recognizing people for doing great things. College can be very stressful; it’s important to take a step back and admire the amazing people we are surrounded by.

Kocher’s class ends this semester so they are handing the movement over to Western’s All Volunteer Effort (WAVE), an organization on campus that provides students with volunteer opportunities. Kocher hopes that with the help of WAVE as well as the educational video the movement will continue to thrive. Let’s make a difference and continue to promote unselfishness with the #WIUnselfie Movement. You can like the movement on Facebook at or follow it on Twitter at

Tis’ the Season for Giving

The holiday season is supposed to be about giving and December has been full of WIU students, staff, faculty, and alumni giving to others.

Many organizations on campus gave back to the community this month. If you walk through the Union Concourse, you will see an “Angel Tree”. WIU’s Office of Student Activities (OSA), Volunteer Services and Western’s All Volunteer Effort (WAVE) sponsored an “Angel Tree”. This “Angel Tree” program is partnered with the Macomb Salvation Army to collect holiday gifts for children in the community. Participants chose one of the 50 angels from the tree in the Union Concourse and bought gifts for the children listed. This cause was a great way for students to give back to the community during the holidays.

The OSA/WAVE “Angel Tree” was not the only “Angel Tree” on campus. Another “Angle Tree” on campus was sponsored by WIU’s accountancy national honors fraternity Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) and the Department of Accounting and Finance. Beta Alpha Psi’s Reporting Administrator Taylor Elder explained that the holiday gifts collected from this “Angel Tree” go to foster care children and teenagers in McDonough, Fulton, Warren, Henderson and Hancock counties. “My favorite part is to see the WIU community come together to provide for the children and families in need within our region and brighten their holidays. The amount of support we see is astounding and it is great to see everyone contribute,” said Elder. I think it is important to give back to the community, especially during the holiday season.

The Delta Tau Delta fraternity also organized a holiday gift donation program. They sponsored “Toys for Tots”. All of the toys and money collected from this event will be donated to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation. “‘Toys for Tots’ is important to our chapter because we believe in giving back to the community. We are delighted to bring happiness and joy to the children who aren’t as fortunate as us, especially during the holiday season. Nothing beats putting a smile on a child’s face,” the secretary of Delta Tau Delta, Roman Angeles, said. I love seeing so many students taking on charitable work during the holiday season; it definitely makes me proud to be a Leatherneck.

WIU students have not been the only ones giving back this holiday season. Many WIU alumni, friends and donors gave gifts to Western on December 2nd. It was a day designated to giving back to the University called #GivingTuesday. This day was part of a global campaign which was the perfect time to make a year-end annual gift to WIU. You can still give an online gift to your alma mater at

December is definitely my favorite time of the year. During the holiday season, it’s like I turn into an elf; I’m always playing holiday tunes, decorating, baking, and shopping for the perfect present. I’m excited for finals to be over so that I can stop stressing and get more into the holiday spirit. One more test and I am free to go on Holiday Break. Happy Holidays to all!

Still Alive and Surviving “Dead Week”

“Dead week” is here. What is “dead week” you may be wondering…it is the unofficial name given to the week before finals. It is known to be an extremely stressful week where students cram for final exams. It got its name from the fact that most organizations are “dead” this week meaning there are no meetings scheduled. This allows students to focus on their studies.

As I have mentioned before, I am the president of Western’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). We had the last meeting of the semester last week so that all the members could focus on schoolwork this week. On the other hand, my sorority is still pretty active during “dead week”. We decided to still have chapter, our weekly meeting, so that we could install our new executive board officers. On Monday, I gave my first report as the new philanthropy chair; it went well.Then, Tuesday night, my sorority participated in the WIU Greek Life Holiday Lights Show. This Holiday Lights Show was a self-guided tour. The show started at my sorority’s (Phi Sigma Sigma) house, where people could pick up a map and ballot to vote on their favorite house’s showcase; then everyone drove to the 11 other Greek Chapter houses. The Holiday Lights Show ended at Cafe Aroma, where people could drop off their ballot and get some hot chocolate. After everyone watched the Holiday Light Show, they voted for their favorite decorated house. This year we won the People’s Choice Award. We also had a sisterhood paddle swap on Wednesday. This activity is similar to a Secret Santa exchange, but instead of buying gifts, we decorate a paddle for each other. We tell each other what we would like on our paddle; it can be anything. Everyone asks for something different. For example some girls will ask for a paddle with their favorite team’s mascot painted on it or some people will ask for their favorite celebrity to be painted on the paddle. I asked for a Taylor Swift paddle this exchange because she is one of my favorite musical artists. I am in love with her new album “1989” that came out in October. We also stayed busy over the weekend as my sorority spent last Saturday afternoon putting up holiday lights outside our house.

As for “dead week”, I have a lot of final papers and projects due this week; almost everyday this week I have a large assignment due. After I get done with all my projects and papers, I will start preparing for next week’s finals.

Although “dead week” is very stressful, WIU offers several resources that can help students succeed. One resource is the University Writing Center; it offers students one-on-one consultation for writing projects. Appointments will be filling up quickly so get on the ball and schedule one by calling (309) 298-2815. I went to the Writing Center last year and it was quite helpful. I like to be able to bounce ideas off of someone.

It is also helpful that the Malpass Library extends its hours during finals week so students have a quiet place to go for a longer period of time; the library will stay open until 3 a.m. all next week.

Everyone has a different way of preparing for finals. I prefer to study alone at home. That works best for me because at home there is no one to distract me. Some students like to pull all-nighters, but I personally think getting a good night’s rest works better than staying up all night to study.

Before we know it, finals will be here and then we get to enjoy the much anticipated winter break. Good luck to everyone taking final exams next week… May the odds be ever in your favor.

The WIU Women’s Basketball Team Is Working Hard

Western’s women’s basketball team started the season at the beginning of November and now has a 4-4 record. Their last game was a loss to the UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) Flames by a score of 54-67; the game was quite the battle for our Leathernecks. Today our Leathernecks will take on Bradley in Peoria at 7 p.m. The team also has a home game this Friday versus Eastern Illinois at 7 p.m.

I interviewed Head Coach JD Gravina and he explained to me that he is excited for the team to take the next step. “The previous years we’ve showed a lot of improvement and now we are at the point where more improvement is where we want to be…a winning record, at the top tier of the conference, and making a post season tournament,” said Gravina. Anything is possible at the beginning of the season, so excitement and hopes for our Leathernecks are at an ultimate high right now.

Gravina explained the team’s strengths and weaknesses. “Strengths wise, we have the preseason player of the year, Ashley Luke. She’s a dominant post player. We have a couple really good players around her…Tori Niemann and Michelle Maher…who was also a preseason conference player. We have some good team depth. We have a lot of kids that can step in and play good roles. I’d say weakness, right now, we need to be better at being more consistent,” said Gravina. I have faith that our Leathernecks will continue to push forward and finish the season strong.

Junior post player Ashley Luke really enjoys being on the WIU basketball team. “The best part is having a second family away from home. My teammates are some outstanding girls and I’m so happy to get to work together with them, playing a sport we love,“ said Luke. After interviewing so many student athletes at WIU, I have noticed that they all have a strong sense of family. I think that a support system like this is very important during our college years. Luke also explained how being on the team has given her great pride for Western. “There is great camaraderie between the athletes and it makes school a lot more fun. Also, it connects me with other students who are invested in WIU Athletics as well as community members,” said Luke. I strongly believe networking in college is just as important as getting good grades. You make ties with people that can help you get your first professional job. It sounds like the WIU athletes have a strong network.

Luke currently ranks in Western’s top ten scoring average (2nd with 15.7). I asked Coach Gravina what makes her so successful on the court. “She’s a really hard worker and a great athlete. She can out jump most players. She’s really strong. She works really hard on her game off the court and so I think the combination of having that natural ability, but also being such a hard worker, has made her such a good player,” said Coach Gravina. I can attest to Luke being a hard worker because we have the same major, journalism (with a public relations focus), so I have seen her hard work in many classes. I honestly don’t know if I have ever met someone that works as hard as she does. It is no wonder that she is so successful both on and off the court.

For more information on WIU Women’s Basketball, visit

Wrap Up Something Purple for the Holidays

December is here, which means most of us our thinking about what gifts we are going to give to our friends and family this holiday season. Are any of your friends or family members WIU students or alumni? If so…you may want to “Think Purple” and give a WIU gift. Whether it’s WIU apparel, license plates, diploma frames, or class rings, there is something that just about anyone would like under their tree.

Associate Director of Alumni Programs Amanda Shoemaker explained that there are a few different companies that the Alumni Association partners with to provide benefits to WIU alumni. “Our class rings are offered through Jostens, our diploma frames are offered through Church Hill Classics, and our license plates are through the state of Illinois. We also offer travel programs; that’s not something you can wrap up, but if someone wanted to invest in one of those and give it as a gift, that would also be an option. There are also Rec Center memberships, if you have an alumnus that wants to gain access to the Rec Center, that could also be something that they could purchase,” said Shoemaker. And when you buy one of these gifts, you are also helping your alma mater. For example, when you purchase a WIU license plate, it benefits the WIU scholarship program while you show your Western pride. And there are some great deals on these items. There is currently a promotion for certain class ring styles, offering up to 40 percent off. Recently, a new line of class rings was launched called the Luxe Ring Collection; these rings are more fashion-forward than the traditional class ring. For more information on these Alumni Benefits, visit

There are so many options when it comes to getting your hands on WIU memorabilia. I think it’s a great idea for the holidays. I never know what to get my mom during the holidays and since she is a WIU alumna, this year, I might look into getting her some WIU gear. My little brother always tries to steal my WIU Under Armour half zip jacket from me, so I may even get him some WIU gear of his own.

The WIU Bookstore also offers a lot of great potential gifts for the holidays; it has everything from apparel to coffee mugs and so much more. There is currently a holiday special on some of their items so check it out at If you’re bad at making decisions, the Bookstore offers gift certificates. But you better hurry. December 17th is the last day that the WIU Bookstore will be shipping orders, so make sure to get on your holiday shopping quickly!

The Visual Production Center (VPC) offers some great graphic services and products as well. They create posters, prints, WIU wall clings, and banners. I think all of these would make a great gift for a WIU student or alumnus. For more information, call (309) 298-1358.

I will definitely be thinking purple this holiday season!

Safety First

WIU’s Office of Public Safety (OPS) offers many resources to help keep students safe on campus. You might be wondering what some of those are…well, I interviewed Police Lieutenant Thomas Clark to learn more about what OPS does to help keep students safe.

There are 25 OPS officers. OPS patrols the campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by car, bicycle and on foot. They have two officers stationed in the residence halls to monitor for students’ safety there. They also provide educational programming for the university community such as alcohol awareness, theft awareness, and personal safety presentations. You can watch videos that provide safety tips and educate you on the resources that OPS provides at

Have you ever noticed the blue light call boxes on campus? “There are 48 emergency call boxes located on campus. Most of them are in the parking lots or in the main travel walkways through campus. They act as instant communication with the police dispatcher here on campus. Also once activated, they immediately give their location, so officers can instantly know what box went off and where it is to start responding that way,” said Lieutenant Clark. I’m glad WIU has this resource; it makes me feel much safer. Lieutenant Clark explained that there is no reason anyone should ever have to walk alone in the dark night hours because OPS provides escorts through student patrol; a student will come to the location where you’re at and walk with you to wherever you’re going on campus.

Lieutenant Clark also explained the emergency alert system. “The emergency alert system is going to be the way Western Illinois University contacts people in the event of a serious emergency. It is through texting, social media, email, and phone calls. In the event of a serious emergency, that message will go out to the campus community,” said Lieutenant Clark. He then told me how important it is for people to keep their information up-to-date because if a phone number or email has change, that change needs to be updated so that people continue to receive those alerts.

OPS also provides Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes, which are basic self defense classes for female students. These classes provide education both in a classroom setting and also in a gym where women learn defense moves hands on. You can sign up for a class by calling OPS at (309) 298-1949.

WIU cares about its students’ safety. “We’re constantly training, preparing and staying up to date on the most recent events going on to stay prepared for anything that might come our way. We’re dedicated to the protection of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors to campus,” said Lieutenant Clark.

A Day Designated For “Thinking Purple”

Have you ever heard of Purple and Gold Day? It is a day to show your WIU school spirit by wearing Western’s colors—purple and gold. WIU first celebrated Purple and Gold Day on April 24, 2000 with the “Centennial Finale: A Celebration of Purple and Gold”. It was on April 24, 1899 that the Illinois Legislature approved the creation of WIU. We have been celebrating Purple and Gold Day ever since the first one in 2000. This year, WIU is taking Purple and Gold Day up a notch because on Friday April 24, 2015, there will be 15 simultaneous events around the world celebrating the WIU.

The fifteen locations include Macomb, Chicago, Moline, St. Louis, South Korea, Peoria, Naperville, Denver, Phoenix, Washington D.C., Dallas, Orlando, Seattle, Los Angeles and Northbrook. I asked Associate Director of Alumni Programs Amanda Shoemaker which event she will be hosting. “That hasn’t been finalized yet but the Alumni staff as well as alumni volunteers, such as those on the WIU Alumni Council, will be serving as hosts for the 15 simultaneous events. There are only seven members on the Alumni Programs staff so we will work with our Alumni Council members as well as other active alumni to help us host these events,” said Shoemaker.

Personally, I think it’s important to show your school spirit year round, but this day is a great way for all of the students and alumni to get together and “Think Purple”. I for one love our school colors; purple has always been one of my favorite colors so I take every opportunity to wear my WIU gear. “School spirit is at a high on Purple & Gold Day. It’s always great to see the campus community decked out in purple and showing their Western pride, but this year, we’re taking it to a whole other level. We’re very excited to celebrate Purple & Gold Day around the world,” said Shoemaker.

It is so exciting that Purple and Gold Day is becoming a global event this school year. The staff is still working on locations for each event but one item is already confirmed. A message from WIU will be streamed live at all 15 locations. “This is the first time we have organized something like this. It takes a lot of planning, organization and a lot of people, both staff and volunteers. It will be a lot of work but having WIU alumni and friends in 15 locations around the world celebrating all that is WIU, simultaneously, will be worth all the work we put into this great day,” said Shoemaker. I am confident that the Alumni Association and volunteers will organize a great celebration.

I asked Shoemaker if there was anything else she wanted the alumni and friends reading this blog to know. “They can keep up-to-date on all the activities planned for Purple & Gold Day on our web page at . While all the cities have been announced, we are still working on the details for each event. We’ll be sharing that information in the Western News, emails, social media and on our web site so we invite WIU alumni and friends to keep updated as details are announced and get ready to join us for a great Purple & Gold Day next spring,” said Shoemaker.

Good Eats on Campus

There are many good dining options on Western’s campus, including a number of chains in the newly renovated food court in the Union, like Einstein Bros Bagels, Burger King, and Sbarro. Another great dining option is Colonel Rock’s BISTRO located in the old Lamoine Room. I visited both earlier in the semester to talk about them in a previous blog at

You might be wondering…what are my other options on campus if my stomach is rumbling…well, WIU has three dining centers. Students have the option to eat at Corbin-Olson Dining Center, Bayliss-Henninger Dining Center, and Thompson Dining Center. For students on the go, WIU has two in-hall convenience stores; there is one in Linc/Wash/Grote and one in Tanner. I love that each of the dining centers has a salad bar; it helps me make healthier choices when it comes to my diet.

In my opinion, the way WIU has its meal plan set up works best for students because you pay for each individual item versus a buffet style; a buffet style meal plan charges you a fee at the beginning of the year and no matter how many meals you eat (or skip), you would still be charged the same rate. A buffet plan would subsidize other students’ meal programs. I like that you pay for what you are getting at Western dining centers. Read more about the WIU meal plan and the meal plan options at

Many of us take our college dining experience for granted. Unless you can someday afford to pay a chef at your home, when will we ever get the chance to have all our meals prepared for us? Plus, being able to have so many choices is great. Now that I have my own apartment and cook most of my own meals, I want to go back to the days where someone cooked for me. Another benefit to eating in a dining center is getting to eat with our peers for each meal. “I’ve met a lot of cool people in the dining center. I love being able to eat with my friends,” said freshman, broadcasting major Nathan Schnaak.

Even now, with living off campus, I love eating in the campus dining centers because I’m someone who likes to have a little bit of everything; it’s nice to go to a dining center because there is a much better selection than what’s in my bare refrigerator at home. Plus, when you have such a busy schedule like I do, you really don’t have time to plan, prep, and cook meals. I eat much healthier when I just stop into the dining center because at home I will just throw some pizza rolls in the microwave and eat them. The dining centers really are the most convenient way to enjoy a healthy meal.

Junior, supply chain management major Haley Calvert explained how she loves going to the dining centers. “I’ve always had great experience at the dining centers. The workers are super helpful and the food is delicious. I’m on a budget so I appreciate that it is all for a reasonable price.” The dining centers’ staff is always putting out new items and having specials to keep the menu exciting and different for the students. This week the dining centers are offering a “Soup and Sub Extravaganza”. Sounds yummy to me!

Thanksgiving Break Flew By

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving Break this year. Sometimes I get bored on break, but this year I stayed very busy. As soon as break started, I spent my Saturday waitressing at The Forum for the 5th Annual VIBE (Volunteers Interested in Benefiting Everyone) Fundraising Auction. Although I was just there for work, it was great seeing everyone come together to raise money for such a good cause; it made me proud to be a part of the Macomb community.

A few of my friends hadn’t left for break yet so on Sunday I went to the Sports Corner and had dinner with them. I finally headed home to see my family on Monday and had to help my mom get our house ready for Thanksgiving; we had to make many trips to the grocery store.

On Tuesday night, I pulled an all-nighter finishing my research paper for my journalism class. It wasn’t due until Thursday, but once I started on it, I couldn’t stop. Then on Wednesday, I caught up with my high school friends. It’s fun talking to them and hearing how they are doing in school; it’s interesting to see how their paths have changed since they graduated from high school. My path changed extremely because when I was a freshman I was a psychology major and now I’m a broadcasting and journalism major.

Thursday was the big turkey day!! My aunt came all the way from Florida to have Thanksgiving with us; I hadn’t seen her in a few years so that was exciting. We all had a great time enjoying the food, laughter and conversation. My favorite part about Thanksgiving is getting to see all my little cousins; every time I see them, they’ve grown a ton.

After the Thanksgiving feast at our house, we left for our grandma’s house where we had Thanksgiving with her. This meant we missed out on the early Black Friday sales….that started on Thanksgiving day. I’m really disappointed with the Black Friday sales now starting on Thursday; many sales started at 6 p.m. Thursday evening and at that time, I was still spending time with my family. It’s sad that people will now miss out on family time to try and get a good deal; however, my mom and I did venture out for Black Friday shopping after our family celebrations concluded. We headed Quincy around 10 p.m. I bought a few presents for my friends and family. There were some good deals so I’m glad we went. Since the sales started at 6 p.m., the stores weren’t that busy. I didn’t see the Black Friday craziness that everyone talks about. Everyone was super friendly, although, I did feel bad for the workers having to work on Thanksgiving Day.

When Thanksgiving was over, I started work on my sorority’s philanthropic event, the 5th annual Phi Singled Out which is scheduled for February 18th. It’s one of the most attended philanthropic events on campus because it is such a fun time. The event is based off a 90’s MTV dating game. We will have three mystery girls answering questions behind a sheet; no one will know who they are. Each female contestant will be asked a question and she has to select one of the two pre-determined answers. Before she does, a group of guys will then choose the answer they think the girl will select and go stand on that side of the stage. The young lady then chooses her answer and only the guys on the side that she picked get to stay in the game. It gets narrowed down until there is one guy left standing and they then have to go on a blind date. I was one of the mystery dates last year and ironically the guy who ended up winning a date with me was one of my good friends. I always joke that I didn’t find true love through my sorority’s philanthropic event, but I did have a good time. Plus we raised more than $2,000 to donate to the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation, which provides scholarships and educational grants for Phi Sigma Sigma collegians and alumnae sisters.

The Thanksgiving break was much needed because we have three weeks left before Christmas break and they are going to be very stressful. I have a ton of projects due this week, final projects due next week, and then final exams the next week. But don’t worry; I will still be blogging so keep checking in on this site.