Illinois State began with a vision. A few people dreamed of what could be. Just as Illinois State’s founders did 160 years ago, today’s Redbirds are pursuing a new vision.

ISU has launched Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. The campaign—which began in July 2013 and will continue through June 2020—has a $150 million goal.

The campaign launches at a time of strength and momentum for ISU. Enrollments are strong, students are talented, faculty and staff are dedicated and committed to excellence, programs are being strengthened and new initiatives are being launched.

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The success of Redbirds Rising will help elevate ISU to even greater heights, as noted by President Larry Dietz.

“This $150 million campaign is the most ambitious in the University’s history. It will provide the resources to ensure that today’s Redbirds—and those who will enroll in the future—will benefit from a unique and exceptional educational experience,” Dietz said.

Redbirds Rising The Campaign for Illinois State $150 million fundraising initiative began July 2013 $106 million progress into November 2017 areas of investment and timeline and progress

There are many statistics that provide evidence of Illinois State’s excellence as it impacts the state, nation and world. Among them is the U.S. News & World Report ranking that places ISU in the top 100 public universities in the nation. In addition, Illinois State remains in the top 10 percent nationally for freshman retention and maintains a graduation rate that exceeds the average of U.S. colleges and universities.

“Our rich history has positioned us well to continue a path to excellence despite unprecedented funding challenges. Illinois State has become a top choice of today’s students as demonstrated by three consecutive years of record-setting enrollment,” Dietz said. While many institutions faced declining enrollment this fall, ISU welcomed 20,784 students.

“Our focus on learning and scholarship through a personalized, student-centered approach steeped in experiential learning opportunities has proven successful,” Dietz said. It is because of the University’s strength and stability that this time was chosen to advance Illinois State to an even greater level through Redbirds Rising.

“While we have much to celebrate, there is more that we can do—and should. We have high standards and aspirations for what we can yet achieve at Illinois State,” Dietz said. “To accomplish our vision, we need the philanthropic partnership of alumni and friends.”

Private support will bolster the ISU experience for students in significant ways. Funds raised through Redbirds Rising will impact the entire campus, from each academic area to Athletics and WGLT to the Division of Student Affairs and Milner Library.

The primary campaign objectives are to help raise the level of scholarship, leadership and innovation at ISU.

Both student and faculty support are essential to having a first-rate scholarly enterprise. At the core of this is scholarship support for students. Having philanthropic resources that allow talented students to pursue their dreams of becoming Redbirds without financial need standing in the way is essential.

The University also needs to develop resources that enable it to have a faculty of teacher-scholars who will provide the kind of education that students seek when they come to ISU. They must also advance knowledge and creativity through their scholarly work—often in conjunction with their students.

One reason Illinois State is so special is the University’s commitment to keep students as the absolute focal point. The campus is committed to helping all Redbirds develop the leadership and professional skills needed to achieve their goals and impact their part of the world.

ISU prepares tomorrow’s leaders by providing students with high-quality programming that offers opportunities for them to learn and practice their skills from the day they arrive on campus. To enhance leadership development, Redbirds Rising is pursuing funding for career development, study abroad, experiential learning opportunities, and other programs that foster leadership skills.

Campaign kickoff event
Illinois State launched Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State at the September kickoff in Redbird Arena.

In today’s highly competitive world, it is imperative to make sure Illinois State has a campus environment that is centered on innovation. Whether that is through the technology used in learning spaces, academic programs offered, or in the application of theory into real-world practice, the University must acquire resources to foster an innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit throughout campus.

By investing substantially in scholarship, leadership and innovation, Illinois State will build on its past while acting for the future. Redbirds Rising is about calling individuals to be change agents to participate in a campaign that will turn aspirations and blueprints into accomplishments.

“Only with the philanthropic partnership of our alumni and friends can Illinois State continue to thrive,” Dietz said. “Together the community of benefactors will make certain that the University soars to even greater heights through Redbirds Rising.”

Campaign objectives


Ivan Korkes is the first in his family to pursue a degree.

“ISU was a big decision because my family could not cover the costs,” he said. “Receiving scholarship assistance allows me to study abroad, which is a requirement of my major. Without it, I could not pursue the career path I love. I’m forever thankful.”

Ivan Korkes, senior
International business and human resources


Students seeking leadership and civic engagement opportunities find what they are looking for at Illinois State.

“I was really interested in service before I came to the University, and furthering my leadership skills. That’s why I joined ISULeads,” Christine Gesell said. “It has impacted my life. I’ve grown so much as a person and as a professional.”

Christine Gesell, junior
Graphic communications and business


Mennonite College of Nursing appeals to students like Hannah Murdock because of its innovative Simulation Laboratory that mirrors hospital settings. “I chose nursing because I am inspired to help people. I chose Illinois State because its nursing program is prestigious,” she said. “Now I am taking care of critically ill premature infants.”

Hannah Murdock ’17
Registered nurse, Carle Foundation Hospital

Campaign chairs


Campaign volunteers

Brent Alsman
Bob Augustine
Kathy Augustine
Thomas Barger
Jim Bennett
Leslie Bertagnolli
Hank Campbell
Frank Chiodo
Clyde Coombs
Jacalyn Ferree
John Freese
Marilyn Freese
Gary Gemberling
Al Goldfarb
Beverly Grimes
Sandra Groves
Paul Harmon
Sandra Harmon
Mark Hauptman
Ed Hines
Judy Hines
Matt Johanson
Sue Johanson
Wonsook Kim
Thomas Clement
Emily Kimmey
Betty Kinser
Donna Koch
Jim Koch
Vickie Lannie
John Lawrence
Tamara Lemke
Rick Lewis
Joanne Maitland
Edward Manley
Dave Martin
Frances Owen
Kevin Petschow
Keith Powell
Joseph Rives
Cinda Roth
Michael Schermer
Stan Shingles
Connie Fako Shoemake
Kelley Smith
Steve Smith
Sharon Tarvin
Thomas Tegtmeyer
Heidi Voorhees
Robert Walling
Susan Lee Walling
Jeanne Wroan
John Wroan

Campaign priorities within each college

Redbirds Rising is an initiative for Illinois State to elevate the level of scholarship, leadership and innovation across campus. The fundraising goal of $150 million was derived based on the specific needs and priorities within the University’s six colleges—as well as Athletics, the Division of Student Affairs, Milner Library, and WGLT.

Given the University’s commitment to students, it is not surprising that an emphasis on raising scholarship dollars is a key objective within each area. Increased funding to recruit and retain faculty is another goal all of the colleges have established.

Student doing lab work

College of Applied science and Technology
A campaign goal of $14 million propels forward a teaching model that emphasizes hands-on learning in the college, which offers majors that include agriculture, computer science, engineering technology, construction management and athletic training. Students will have the technology to tackle growing societal issues, such as cybersecurity and sustainable energy sources with campaign funds.

“Within the college, dynamic programs and people focus on translating classroom learning into real-world situations,” Dean Todd McLoda said. “Instruction with an emphasis on application allows college graduates to transfer theoretical and practical knowledge from the classroom to their profession.”

To support the College of Applied Science and Technology, contact Katelyn Jacobs at (309) 438-3134 or email

TV-10 studio

College of Arts and Sciences
The humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences and mathematics fall within the college, which seeks $20 million. The support will help the college prepare students to enter a global society evolving so quickly that tomorrow’s jobs may not even exist today.

“An arts and sciences education encourages students to think about the possibilities, building a foundation that they need to change lives, starting with their own,” Dean Greg Simpson said. “Faculty seek new ways to challenge, inspire and guide students, preparing them to leave as informed, well-educated, engaged citizens.”

To support the College of Arts and Sciences, contact Stephanie Sellers at (309) 438-7725 or email

Students in College of Business working at tables

College of Business
A total of $28 million is the goal for the college, where students are prepared to provide ethical leadership in business. They are challenged to develop an innovative mindset, entrepreneurial approach, and ethical and creative solutions to complex problems while leveraging technology for organizational success.

“Nurturing a fundamental trait of ethical leadership drives the teaching and learning within the college, where students are our most treasured asset,” Dean Ajay Samant said. “In today’s fast-paced world of business, we want to do more to ensure our students’ professional success.”

To support the College of Business, contact Liz Adams at (309) 438-2903 or email

Teacher and student talking to each other

College of Education
The college is working to raise $14.25 million to continue the mission of training teachers as both educators and agents of change. The college is recognized nationally for preparing teachers and administrators in all aspects of learning and teaching.

“The college’s mission is to mold educators who are globally-minded, socially and culturally competent, capable of integrating technology to enhance learning, and proficient in outcome-driven instruction,” Dean Perry Schoon said.

To support the College of Education, contact Lauren Dodge at (309) 438-2297 or email

Dance concert two dancers

College of Fine Arts
The college’s campaign goal is $12.5 million, which will strengthen the cultivation of innovation and expression. Both are hallmarks of the college, whose graduates impact the culture and quality of life.

“Students expand and share their inherent abilities with a liberal arts education emphasizing critical thinking and practice. Awareness sparks action as students apply their talent in opportunities that reach people at every life stage,” Dean Jean Miller said. “The arts empower students to problem-solve, enrich communities, and engage as active citizens.”

To support the College of Fine Arts, contact Mark Wunder at (309) 438-5725 or email

Nursing student with patient and mother

Mennonite College of Nursing
MCN’s goal of $7.5 million is essential in providing innovative teaching—which is key to having greater impact in the field—and addressing the national shortage of nursing professionals.

“The important work of the college is contingent on adequate funding to keep pace with the changing health care climate,” Dean Judy Neubrander said. “Through the campaign, the college will be able to offset the cost of preparing nurses to meet society’s health care needs with care and compassion, while increasing leadership in the health care field.”

To support Mennonite College of Nursing, contact Jennifer Sedbrook at (309) 438-7178 or email

football team playing quarterback center and running back

Intercollegiate Athletics has a $34 million goal. Athletics connects students, alumni, donors and friends as a proud Redbird community. The University’s 19 teams have a legacy of excellence with winning records, stellar classroom performance and continual community service.

“It takes more than the raw talent of individual student-athletes to achieve such a record of accomplishment,” Athletics Director Larry Lyons said. “Top-notch training facilities and academic support are among the ingredients essential to peak performance.”

To support Athletics, contact Matt Lyons at (309) 438-3264 or email

Two people talking at table

Division of Student Affairs
The campaign goal for Student Affairs is $2 million. Donor support will advance the division’s work of enriching the Redbird experience.

“Student Affairs promises to create an engaging, inclusive and active campus environment that prepares a pipeline of leaders—one student at a time—to improve communities, industry and the world,” Vice President Levester Johnson said. “In a complex society where the future is unknown yet limitless, communities and industry are looking for college graduates who can ethically navigate uncertainty and multifaceted issues.”

To support the Division of Student Affairs, contact Erin Thomas at (309) 438-2170 or email

Milner Library inside

Milner Library
A goal of $500,000 has been set for Milner Library, ISU’s resource center with a rich heritage and bright future. The library is at the heart and soul of academic endeavors. Milner is working hard to meet the challenges of changing teaching and learning styles in the 21st century.

“Technologies have dramatically changed how students learn and how they use the library,” Interim Dean Shari Zeck said. “Maintaining Milner’s vitality—and its service to the entire university community—requires significant upgrades and investments in staff expertise and 21st century tools.”

To support Milner Library, contact Lora Wey at (309) 438-2592 or email

WGLT studios

WGLT public radio
The University’s public radio station, WGLT, is also participating in the campaign. A service of Illinois State, WGLT provides national news from NPR and unbiased, in-depth local news from a team of award-winning journalists.

“Independent journalism has never been more important. News outlets in Illinois and across the nation are struggling in the face of dwindling budgets and shrinking staff,” General Manager R.C. McBride ’99 said. “WGLT’s aging equipment and an inadequate facility hinder the mission to provide a deeper understanding of diverse issues, people and cultures.”

More details can be found at To support WGLT, contact Melissa Libert ’00 at (309) 438-2257 or email

Editor’s note: The $150 million also includes $14.5 million designated to bolster programs and scholarships that benefit the entire campus community. Because of such a broad reach, these funds are not tied to a college or unit. 

To learn more about Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, visit and