David Johnson and Bryan Pumphrey

New equipment -- David Johnson (left) and Bryan Pumphrey, both Southern Illinois University Carbondale students from Chicago, work with computer routers and related equipment that ShawneeLink Corp. recently donated to the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. (Photo by Christi Mathis) Download Photo Here

March 04, 2009

ShawneeLink equipment donation aids students

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The world at your fingertips -- accessible with a few taps on a computer keyboard. But, it doesn’t happen without connectivity. Thanks to an equipment donation from ShawneeLink, some students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Applied Sciences and Arts are getting enhanced personal experience in making that connectivity happen.

The Internet service provider and communications company donated technology equipment valued at more than $37,000 to the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies for use by network security and wide area network installation and administration classes. In addition, the SIUC Cyber Defense Team, also known as the “Security Dawgs,” is utilizing it as well.

“Given that ShawneeLink believes today’s IT (information technologies) graduates need not only a strong theoretical foundation, but also practical, hands-on experience they can apply in industry from the first day on the job, we are donating these four ImageStream Gateway routers to SIUC’s Information Systems and Applied Technologies program to enable students to get that experience,” said David M. St. Pierre, Internet operations manager for ShawneeLink.

ShawneeLink, a regional Internet service provider, donated Linux-based equipment that complements the Microsoft operating system and Cisco hardware already in place at SIUC. Company officials said ShawneeLink simply outgrew the capabilities of these four routers, but they are still very current, available for purchase new and still carry six to 18 months of warranty.

“The support of industry is extremely important to my school,” said Will Devenport, director of the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies. “ShawneeLink’s very generous donation gives a great boost to our networking and security curriculum. No other program on campus provides students with the ‘hands-on’ experience now available with this wide area networking equipment. I truly appreciate the support of this Southern Illinois regional partner. Thank you, ShawneeLink!”

Essentially, the donated equipment gives students the chance to work in the classroom on a different connectivity system than they previously experienced.

“Really what this gift means is that we can stop being vendor-specific,” said Belle S. Woodward, ISAT assistant professor and Cyber Defense Team faculty adviser. She said students can now train using both Gateway and Cisco systems, giving them a well-rounded education that improves their range and employability.

“Any time you have more equipment to do hands-on work with, it promotes and improves our preparedness,” Woodward said.

During a recent wide area network installation and administration class, Bryan Pumphrey and David Johnson, both ISAT majors from Chicago, were attempting to “ping” the nearby computer Michael Woodside and Afton James were working on, thereby establishing communication between the computers.

“We’re trying to find out if these computers are connected over the gateway,” said Johnson, a senior.

A big smile spread on Pumphrey’s face as the junior found the correct IP address and established a network connection.

“It gives us more variety, more experience and connectivity speed,” Woodside said of the equipment donation. Woodside is a senior ISAT major from Pinckneyville.

“The more devices we have to work with, the more diverse experience we have that we can apply someday in the workplace,” added James, also a senior ISAT major from Pinckneyville.

“They’re able to use this equipment to demonstrate its functionality rather than just read about it,” said Tom Imboden, assistant ISAT professor. “They can implement it and create the functionality in our classroom. It allows our students to have hands-on experience that few institutions have the ability to duplicate. This is very sophisticated.”

St. Pierre is an SIUC alumnus, earning a bachelor of science in computer science in December 2006. With a previous career in healthcare, IT represents a mid-life career change for him. He began working at ShawneeLink two months before graduating from SIUC.

Headquartered in Equality, ShawneeLink Corp., along with its sister company Shawnee Telephone, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Shawnee Communications. When created in 1996, ShawneeLink Corp. initially offered long-distance telephone service. The following year, the company added dial-up Internet service for its service area and by 2003 ShawneeLink offered high-speed DSL.