Western Illinois University’s College of Business and Technology received a $50,000 grant from State Farm Insurance Thursday to build a new high-tech computer laboratory.
The money will pay for computers and work stations in an advanced applications lab focusing on digital media, 3D graphics and app development for the students in the Computer Science program.
The Dean of the College of Business and Technology Dr. Tom Erekson said the new facility will be a bragging point for the department. Erekson said they’re about $25,000 short of the total cost of the lab. He's hopeful the additional funds will be available soon and the lab will be built by the fall 2014 semester.
State Farm is one of the top employers of Western Illinois University graduates. The company has donated more than $600,000 to the university since the relationship began in the mid 1980’s.
WIU graduate and Assistant Vice President for Corporate Systems with State Farm, Bill Miller, said the partnership serves two purposes.
“We want to identify students from Western Illinois that are potential State Farm employees and can make a difference for State Farm customers. On the same hand, we also want to prepare students for post-graduation,” Miller said.
Miller said he wants WIU students preparing to enter the IT workforce to know of the available opportunities with his company.
State Farm grants are not unique to WIU. In the past few years, the company has made several hefty donations to other higher education institutions including a $1.9 million donation to Illinois State University and a $60 million gift to the University of Illinois which prompted the renaming of the Assembly Hall to the State Farm Center.
Western’s Vice President for Advancement Brad Bainter says these corporate partnerships are likely to become even more common as state funding for higher education continues to decline.