The Parkland College Blog

Staerkel Planetarium to Offer Fulldome Spanish Shows

Parkland Planetarium to Offer Spanish-Language Shows

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The Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College will be offering public Spanish-language shows in the dome for the first time this fall.

On Saturday, October 16 at 1 p.m., the planetarium will present "Un cielo, un mundo: La aventura de Big Bird", a Sesame Street show that offers an introduction to the night sky and takes a trip to the Moon with Big Bird, Elmo, and Hu Hu Zhu. Funded by a PNC Foundation grant, the show was produced by the Adler Planetarium, Sesame Workshop, the Beijing Planetarium, and Liberty Science Center.

Following a 30-minute break to sanitize and clean the area between shows, "De la tierra al universo" will begin at 2:30 p.m. Produced by the European Southern Observatory, this fulldome video offers a journey of celestial discovery from the theories of ancient astronomers to today's grandest telescopes. Presenter Ricardo Covarrubias Carreno, Ph.D., previously worked at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, and currently teaches astronomy at Parkland College.

Parkland College Ensembles Offer Free Fall Concerts

Parkland Music Ensembles to Offer Free Fall Concerts

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Parkland College's fall concert season opens with October performances by several ensembles. Performances will be livestreamed on Parkland's YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 10 at 3 p.m.
"Home Again!" A Joint Concert by the Parkland Orchestra and Wind Ensembles
. The Parkland Orchestra, directed by Dr. Rodney Mueller, will perform "Finlandia, Op. 26" by Jean Sibelius, "Valdres March" by Johannes Hanssen, "Peer Gynt Suite" by Edvard Grieg, "A Trumpeter's Lullaby" by Leroy Anderson, and "Nabucco Overture" by Giuseppe Verdi.

Parkland's Wind Ensemble, directed by Dr. Jonathan Beckett, will present a variety of sounds and musical landscapes appropriate for the Halloween season. Selections will include "The Witch and the Saint" by Steven Reineke, "The Golden Years" by Leroy Anderson, and selections from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" by John Williams, among others.

Sunday, October 17 at 3 p.m.
"A Musical Homecoming" A Joint Concert by the Concert Band, Chamber Singers, and Guitar Ensemble.
The Parkland Concert Band, directed by Dr. Matthew Dixon, will perform "Revival March" by John Philip Sousa, "March for the Sultan Abdul Medjid" by Gioacchino Rossini, "First Suite in E Flat" by Gustav Holst, and "Irish Tune from County Derry and Shepherd's Hey" by Percy Aldridge Grainger.

The Parkland Chamber Singers, directed by Dr. Franklin Gallo, will perform "The Meditations of My Heart" by Eline Hagenberg, "Fly Away Home" by Pinkzebra, "It Takes a Village" by Joan Szymko, "Hold Me, Rock Me" by Brian Tate, and "African American Folk Song" arranged by Andre Thomas.

Director Dr. Young Kim will lead the Guitar ensemble in performing "Mondinha" and "Marchinha de Carnaval" by Celso Machado, and "The Girl from Impanema" and "Quiet Nights and Quiet Stars" by Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others.

Parkland Students, Alumni to Present Research at Kaler Lecture

Staerkel Planetarium to host PRECS students for Kaler Lecture

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Parkland students and alumni will present their summer research work at the first James B. Kaler Science Lecture to return to the dome this fall at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium.

Friday, October 1 at 6:30 p.m., Brittney Bailey, Soohyun Lee, and Faith Smith will give a talk titled "Nature & Nurture: Examining How Diverse Organisms Adapt to Changes in their Everyday Environment," which includes their results in the 2021 Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students (PRECS) program. Admission for all Kaler Lectures are $2 or free for members of the Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium.

The PRECS program, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is a collaboration between Parkland College and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The ten-week program brings community college students from across the country to Parkland and UIUC to conduct research over the summer. Phenotypic plasticity describes how environmental conditions produce responses in genes that affect physical appearance or behavior.

Brittney Bailey is a Parkland graduate and UIUC student who investigated how the quality of honey bees' diet can mitigate the harmful effects of pesticides and viruses. Soohyun Lee is another Parkland grad and current UIUC student whose project, "Bioinformatics Protocol for Assessing Contamination Level and Quality on Genomics Data of Ensifer meliloti", focused on a species of bacteria. Faith Smith is a current Parkland student who monitored the effects of biofilm production in rhizobia, a soil bacteria, on how clover responds to drought conditions.

All Kaler Science Lectures will be filmed by PCTV for later viewing. The seating capacity is limited to 60 people for all planetarium shows at this time. After the talk, the seats will be cleaned in preparation for the 8 pm program, Birth of Planet Earth. Tickets for our fulldome shows range from $5 to $6 with discounts offered for large groups. For a show schedule, call 217/351-2446 or visit

New State Report Details Parkland's Impact on Local Economy

Parkland accounts for $85.7 million in economic output, gains students $600,000 in additional earnings

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Parkland College plays a key role in boosting the local Champaign-Urbana and greater Illinois economies, according to a new study from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).

The study, Illinois Community Colleges' Economic Impacts and Student Employment Outcomes, evaluates the Illinois community college system on its ability to meet the needs of business and industry and on equity, student outcomes, students' return on investment, and overall economic impact. The study estimates that, in the last fiscal year, Parkland College's total economic output on the statewide economy was $85.7 million.

During this period, Parkland employed 1,024 employees with a total payroll of $37.7 million in wages and benefits. This activity rippled through the state economy, creating 220 additional jobs, boosting payrolls, and promoting other economic activity, according to the study.

"This study quantifies what we already know, which is that Parkland provides life-changing opportunities for students and that community colleges are vehicles for economic prosperity," said Parkland president Thomas Ramage. "Investing in a degree or long-term certificate program is an investment not only in your own future and that of your family; it contributes substantially to the economic vitality of the region and the state of Illinois. Recent events have deepened and reaffirmed our commitment to serving all who wish to learn and train for a new career."

"Parkland College is a key partner in the work we do to advance the central Illinois region, and that is especially true in Champaign County," said Carly McCrory-McKay, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

"Their collaboration on workforce development initiatives, supporting entrepreneurs, and engagement in attracting employers to our community is absolutely critical in improving the economic well-being of our region. From the ICATT Apprenticeship program and Early College and Career Academy to CobraVenture and AgTech initiatives, Parkland College always stands ready to meet the needs of our region, and we're truly thankful for the partnership and impact."

Parkland College's economic impact is not limited to the local or statewide economy. The study found that more than 80 percent of Parkland's long-term certificate and associate's degree graduates obtained jobs in their career field within one year of graduation. Employment rates improved over time, with 90 percent of graduates employed after 10 years. Parkland Health Professions degree completers saw the highest employment rate at 88.6 percent.

The study also measured the return on investment for students obtaining credentials at a community college, compared to someone not completing or attending community college. The increased earnings for a degree completer were estimated to total more than $620,000 over the course of a 40-year working life.

COVID Impact. The report also looked at the economic impact of COVID on the industries of Illinois. While many industries are experiencing permanent job closures or position eliminations, others, such as healthcare and social assistance, transportation and warehousing, and waste management and remediation services, are expected to increase their demand for trained and/or certified workers.

"For Parkland, this is an opportunity to help displaced workers retrain, retool, and get back into the workforce," said Pamela Lau, executive vice president. "Getting workers back on track, ready for a new career, and ready to support themselves and their families with opportunities they might not have been able to access otherwise is our goal."

Workforce Organization Assessment. Community workforce leaders, including Dr. Justin Arnold, director of workforce development at Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, agree with the study's estimate of Parkland College's worth to the community, calling the college the regional leader for job training.

"We work with Parkland College to connect our clients—youth, adults, and employers—to a variety of educational resources: noncredit corporate training, apprenticeship curriculum design, industry-recognized credentials, and remedial support, such as GED-prep and adult literacy," Arnold said.

Equity Efforts. All Illinois community colleges are committed to continuing growth in short-term certificate opportunities, particularly in high-need communities. The ICCB study found that employment rates varied by race and ethnicity for those who completed Parkland College programs in fiscal year 2018 (latest full year available). African American completers represented the largest minority group by share of completers, with a career-job employment rate of 93.1 percent.

In 2019, Illinois created the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI)—a grant program designed to increase workforce opportunities for African Americans, a group severely underrepresented among Career and Technical education (CTE) programs. Over the last two years, the WEI program has granted nearly $40 million to address education and unemployment gaps in the African American and other minority communities throughout Illinois. Locally, the Workforce Equity Initiative has been championed by State Representative Carol Ammons.

Parkland College has been participating in the WEI through its Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) program since the WEI's inception. This program provides funding for short-term (one year or less) in careers such as healthcare, transportation and distribution, business and IT services, or construction and manufacturing. Students' tuition and fees are covered through the grant in addition to a weekly stipend. The program also integrates career-specific adult education bridge programs for those who are still developing English language skills or are preparing for college-level coursework.

"SWFT has given Parkland the opportunity to implement a new workforce development from an equity lens and help students overcome longstanding barriers to succeeding in higher education," said Stephanie Stuart, vice president for communications and external affairs and the SWFT grant administrator. "We have served more than 250 students and counting in the program who would have otherwise been unable to access training in high-demand career fields. Its development is having a long-term impact on how our institution serves our diverse, vibrant community."

"When you invest in Parkland College, you are investing in much more than 'just a degree,'" said President Ramage. "You are believing in the worth and value of not only yourself, but the community you call home."

Parkland College Updates COVID-19 Safety Protocols

New COVID-19 Monitoring System at Parkland College

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Parkland College has implemented new COVID-19 safety standards and procedures this week to comply with the recent executive order from Gov. Pritzker for higher education.

In letters to the campus community late last week, Vice President for Student Services Mike Trame announced that phase one of the college's new COVID-19 Monitoring System would begin today. The system includes safety measures such as restricting access to certain entrances around campus, using entry checkers, and tracking vaccination status or weekly testing requirements through the Safer Community app.

"We are continuing to make rapid progress in rolling out the new monitoring system," Trame said, noting that the college is employing a phase-in approach. "We believe that moving through these new requirements in phases is the best way to stay in compliance with the governor's order, build new internal systems, and transition our community smoothly into these new requirements."

In phase one, the college has been gathering vaccination status information from students and employees and has begun utilizing the Safer Community app to verify compliance status. While no student, employee, or visitor is being turned away at any entrance for noncompliance in this phase, the college is restricting the number of entrances to campus in preparation for a comprehensive entry-checking system that will utilize the Safer Community app for students and employees. A map is available for reference.

Administrators say that phase two, the monitoring and facility-access restriction phase, will begin early to mid-October. Available entrances will be restricted to those who are either fully vaccinated or have had a negative COVID-19 test within the last week. Parkland College offers free SHIELD CU COVID-19 testing in room D244.

Parkland College will use the Safer Community app to monitor access to campus facilities. Door checkers posted at the available entrances will determine an individual's access to buildings by checking their app status. Visitors will still be allowed to enter the campus for limited purposes in accordance with the Executive Order.

To help answer questions about the new monitoring system, the college has created an FAQ page at