April 15, 2008

Donation enhances SIUC’s technology programs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The State Farm® Companies Foundation has donated more than $44,000 to update and enhance technology programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“We are thankful for our association with State Farm. Their ongoing generosity has fostered growth at SIU Carbondale on many levels,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation

“These grants greatly assist our mission to move forward and maintain a standard of excellence at this institution,” McCurry said.

University officials accepted a symbolic check from State Farm representatives at a news conference and lab tour today (April 15) at the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

“State Farm Companies Foundation is very pleased to provide this financial contribution to SIUC,” said Pete Oglesby, the company’s Marion agency field executive and supervisor of 26 Southern Illinois State Farm agents. “This grant will provide updated resources for students in the mathematics, information systems and business management departments. State Farm has been a huge supporter of our education system and it’s great to see some of that support focused right here in Southern Illinois. This is just another example of the ‘Good Neighbor’ philosophy that this company was founded on in 1922.”

The grant is going to three different departments within SIUC. The information systems and applied technologies school in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts is getting $23,360, while $20,000 is going to the College of Business and Administration for its global e-commerce back-end technology integration lab. The mathematics department receives $1,000 for a classroom response “clicker” system for its Introduction to Contemporary Mathematics course.

“We greatly appreciate the continued support of State Farm Companies Foundation for our Management Information Systems faculty and students,” said Gregory P. White, professor and chair of the management department in the business college. “Significant changes are occurring in the information systems area as companies become more global in their operations. The management department is responding to those changes by transforming its management information systems specialization into a global e-business specialization. This grant from State Farm Companies Foundation will support that change by enabling us to provide students with hands-on experience in setting up and operating the type of information system that is used to process transactions in a global e-business environment.”

Both undergraduate and graduate management students utilize the e-commerce lab. The donation brings to the lab five new workstations, along with networking and interfacing equipment for their utilization. Essentially, the enhanced lab allows students to explore development of web software, enterprise resource management systems and databases as well as simulate the entire supply chain from initial supplies to end users, and much more.

“The purpose of the lab is to give students hands-on experience in working with information systems used for global e-commerce,” said J. Dennis Cradit, dean of the College of Business and Administration. “We live in a rapidly changing global economy and this grant will help our students keep up with the latest innovations in e-commerce.”

Paul D. Sarvela, dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, said the new funding for Management Information Systems is but the latest example of State Farm’s support through the years. In fact, State Farm Companies Foundation donated more than $70,000 in cash and equipment to SIUC in September 2004 to create a new computer lab, purchase eight new computer workstations and provide nine new computer technology major scholarships.

“They have been important partners in the development of our information systems programs and have invested professional time, talent and resources to help us continually refine our curricula,” Sarvela said. “Their investment allows us to provide an up-to-date educational experience for our students and ensures that we provide the network security profession with a pool of talented and skilled employees.”

Will Devenport, director of the School of Information Systems and Technologies, said his school is “very appreciative of the continued support of the State Farm Companies Foundation. For years our partners at State Farm have provided internship experiences for our students, hosted company visits for faculty and students, served on our advisory committees, hired our graduates and provided much-needed financial support for scholarships and equipment. Their generous donation this year has given a very good boost to our network security laboratory curriculum.”

Devenport said Belle S. Woodward, assistant professor, and 14 of her students recently visited the State Farm facilities in Bloomington, where they attended presentations by the security division and company executives. The SIUC students responded enthusiastically to their visit and are now in turn anxious to show off their new equipment in use.

The State Farm Companies Foundation’s donation is providing six new firewalls, 18 personal computers and other technological upgrades to the SIUC cyber defense technology program. The donation came just in time to help the University’s “Security Dawgs” claim second place in the Indiana/Illinois Collegiate cyber Defense Competition recently at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Ind. Woodward is the team’s faculty adviser and said she anticipates even greater benefits in future years as the students will have more time to practice with the new state-of-the-art equipment.

In the math department, hundreds of students will quickly see the benefit of the donation.

“This funding will assist the Department of Mathematics in integrating classroom response system technology into its instruction of the Introduction to Contemporary Mathematics course,” said Andrew G. Earnest, professor and chair of the math department.

He said more than 700 students each semester participate in the class, a key component within the foundation skills area of the University’s Core Curriculum. Due to the large demand for the course and high enrollment, a large lecture format is utilized, Earnest said. But, thanks to the State Farm Companies Foundation funding, the new technology is making the class more interactive.

“The technology will enable each student in the lecture hall to register answers to multiple-choice questions posed by the lecturer, and will then compile and display the answers given by the entire class so that both the instructor and the students will have immediate feedback as a basis for further discussion,” Earnest said.