“I feel like I’m on Oprah,” said Allison Wright, a PACE early childhood education major on the receiving end of a laptop computer for the duration of the program. State Farm Insurance Companies made an in-kind gift of 175 gently used Compaq HP Nc6400 laptops in January 2011.
“I completely underestimated the magnitude of the gift when I announced it happily to the class that they were each receiving a laptop for their use,” says Dr. Christie Magoulias, assistant professor in the School of Education.
“I joyfully gave them the news,” she said, “but what I should have done was exuberantly announce it followed with ‘You get a laptop! You get a laptop! You get a laptop!’ pointing to each student Oprah-style.”
As a corporation, State Farm is moving toward more mobility among its employees in the workplace. When the laptops were no longer viable in this environment, the company made several in-kind gifts to various charitable organizations in central Illinois, including Millikin.
PACE (Professional Adult Comprehensive Education) at Millikin is designed for adults with work experience who want to earn a bachelor’s degree. The accelerated program requires students to be highly motivated and dedicated. Many PACE students juggle family, work and school, and the format is designed to make this possible. Being able to use the same laptop computer 24/7 during the entire early childhood education experience is viewed as a huge bonus among the students enrolled in the program, Magoulias says.
Bridget Beals, another PACE early childhood student, says the laptop helps her maximize her time.
“I am able to use this laptop now for the multiple hours of work each week outside of the classroom without interrupting family members using the home computer,” says Beals. “I really appreciate being able to use it in class for taking notes as well as accessing [campus]resources such as Staley Library when necessary.”
Magoulias adds, “Many of these students do not have access to a home computer at all, while some share a computer among an entire family, so the laptops mean they have the ability to complete assignments, communicate with peers and faculty through email, complete online quizzes, participate in forums and find information exactly when they need to.”
“These laptops will serve as a tool for work completion as well as motivation to continue through the most challenging times in the program,” she says.
“State Farm, and in particular its systems department, has been a generous supporter of Millikin for many years,” says Dave Brandon, MU director of development. Most recently, the company’s charitable support has come in the form of grants in support of technology needs and student scholarships at the university. Since 2005, State Farm has provided $150,000 in grants, which have been used to establish a computer networking laboratory, purchase updated hardware and software, and fund many student merit awards recognizing outstanding academic accomplishment in information technology. In addition, State Farm matches charitable gifts made to the university by State Farm employees.
“The relationship between State Farm and Millikin University is strong and rewarding for both parties,” says John Cardamone ’86, a manager with State Farm’s online and mobile unified solutions.
“We are pleased to hear that our laptop donations and grants are directly benefiting the students, many of whom bring their talents to State Farm as interns and full-time employees after receiving a Millikin education.”