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EIU Media Relations

An Op-Ed by President Jay D. Gatrell


Eastern Illinois University:

Advancing Opportunity, Promoting Growth & Serving the Region

As I begin my new position as President of Eastern Illinois University, I am reminded every day of the special roles our faculty, staff, students, retirees, and campus visitors play in Charleston, Coles County, and our surrounding communities. For almost 130 years, EIU has been a driver of economic development and positive social change across our region and State. I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far and excited about the future.

While many community members mark the University calendar using the familiar milestones of move-in day and commencement in May, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the positive difference Eastern makes in our communities and neighborhoods year-round. Indeed, EIU’s impact on East Central Illinois goes above and beyond simple economics, as our staff and faculty are also community leaders who care deeply about rural communities. For example, Charleston’s Butterfly Initiative, known as the UBI, was driven by the passion and vision of biologist Dr. Paul Switzer, who has spearheaded partnerships with volunteers and other non-profits to install and maintain new habitat across the city and the county.

EIU’s campus is also a hub of activity throughout the summer, beginning with the annual IHSA State Track meets and followed by the prestigious partnerships EIU shares with the American Legion’s Illini Girls State and Illini Boys State programs. EIU has been home to these programs for nearly 40 and 50 years, respectively.  Eastern also hosts hundreds of middle school and high school students for music camps, athletic camps, and other programs facilitated by faculty and staff. Additionally, our campus partners with outside organizations such as the Phantom Regiment, Smith-Walbridge Clinics, and many others. When all combined campus, conferences, and events are considered, EIU hosts roughly 12,000 visitors between mid-May and August and contributes to the overall vibrancy of Coles County.

Eastern is also committed to contributing to the development of the region and deepening connections with the community.  To that end, campus is engaged with Charleston CAN, investing strategic resources to fund EIU’s Small Business Development Center at Elevate, and advancing the Illinois Innovation Network’s priorities in partnership with Lake Land College with the creation of the East-Central Illinois Hub that includes an investment of nearly $1m to enhance EIU’s CENCERE Center.  Hub renovations begin soon—and plans, as well as funding, for a new Science Building continue to move forward.

As the 2023-2024 year begins, campus activities will intensify and we invite members of our community to explore and participate in Panther athletic events and experience our campus’s many creative offerings, including performances at the Doudna Fine Arts Center and artist exhibitions at the Tarble Arts Center.  And this fall, I am confident that our positive trajectory will continue as EIU launches Plan 2028 (, a strategic framework for guiding EIU—its students, employees, and community members alike—toward achieving success for all learners, engaging with the community & world, creating a leading-edge campus and culture, and focusing on innovative and sustainable ways to resource EIU’s critical mission.

I am excited and passionate about the future of EIU, our students, and community.  For that reason, I invite you to explore Plan 2028, and to join us in enhancing the lives and opportunities of the people and businesses who call East Central Illinois home.

Jay D. Gatrell



Related Pages

Contact Information

Media Relations
Josh Reinhart,
Public Information Coordinator

Booth House
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920

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