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Sept. 10, 2003

Partnership helps city develop system,
ISU fight brain drain

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. ó Business, computer science and information technology students at Indiana State University are gaining valuable real world experience while helping City Hall develop a state-of-the-art computer system.

Emily Kixmiller is dealing with software licensing and budget issues while Michael Kibler is busy building and installing personal computers for various city offices.

A partnership between the city and Indiana State allows Kixmiller, an accounting major from Terre Haute, and Kibler, an information technology student from Dieterich, Ill., to work as interns for the city. The city benefits because it is able to draw upon the expertise of the students and the university as it undertakes such a major project.

"Itís a good working relationship between the city and Indiana State," said Greg Lankston, the cityís data processing manager. "There are several valuable students that have an IT background and this is a huge growing experience for the city. Itís been a very good help to me to get this department off the ground and going in the right direction."

The city of Terre Haute is the first of several planned partners for the universityís program aimed at fighting the "brain drain" by keeping talented graduates in Indiana. The university also intends to work with Vigo County government and provide opportunities for students to work with not-for-profit agencies through the United Way of the Wabash Valley and the Vigo County Public Library.

Launched in fall 2002, Indiana Stateís information technology program is unique because it includes students from a wide range of disciplines, said Richard Easton, chair of the department of mathematics and computer science and the programís coordinator.

"It gives the students a taste of the hardware, the business aspect and the programming and then allows them to do a concentration in networking, database management, web design or software design. Itís really flexible and quite exciting," Easton said.

The information technology program is the fourth computer-related major to be offered by Indiana State. It complements the School of Businessí management information systems program, the School of Technologyís electronic and computer technology major and a computer science program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The three schools went to together to create the IT program, said Easton, who secured a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to fund scholarships for up to 30 students majoring in one of those fields. In addition, the university has set up 10 internships per year for students in the program.

The program also benefits from transfer agreements Indiana State has with Vincennes University, Ivy Tech State College and four community college systems in Illinois, where students from 20 counties are now eligible for a substantial waiver of out-of-state tuition.

"You get more hands on experience," said Kibler, a senior who began working with the city over the summer as the first student to benefit from the IT internship program. "You actually deal with problems instead of hearing, ĎOh, this sometimes happens to people.í It does happen. Iíve learned that you have to very patient and calm and understanding with users that might not be as advanced. Itís a good experience."

Kixmiller, also a senior, has been working with the city since November under a separate program.

"Iíve learned a lot more than I could just from reading a textbook and listening to lectures," Kixmiller said of her internship. "From an accounting aspect, Iíve learned more about the computer side of it and more technical applications. I can learn more by actually going through the process than by reading it."

While the job market in information technology may have softened in the wake of the dot com collapses of the late 1990s, demand is now rebounding, Easton said.

"Indiana is still hurting for computer people," he said. "The emphasis is to try to get these students to seek jobs in Indiana."

Within two to three years, "the job market should be back to where 90 percent of the students can get a job." Easton said.

NOTE: Photos and video for this story are available by contacting ISU Public Affairs at (812) 237-3773.

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Contact:
Richard Easton, chair, ISU department of mathematics and computer science,
(812) 237-2130 or maeaston@isugw.indstate.edu ; Greg Lankston, data processing manager,
city of Terre Haute, (812) 242-9254 or greg.lankston@terrehaute.in.gov

Writer:
Dave Taylor, assistant director of public affairs, (812) 237-3743 or devtaylo@isugw.indstate.edu

ISU Public Affairs:
(812) 237-3773 or http://isunews.indstate.edu