With Anderson University’s mission to “educate for a life of faith and service” firmly in mind, the AU computer science department has taken the initiative to work with St. Mary’s Catholic Church and school in Muncie, Ind.
The relationship between the department and St. Mary’s began in the late 1990s when administrators and staff at the school worked with Chuck Koontz and Sam Blanchard, computer science professors, to solve minor technological problems and to answer questions from staff as needed. Shortly thereafter, the relationship began to grow into what it has become today: Blanchard leads a group of gifted computer science students in serving as an information technology staff for St. Mary’s.
In 1998, a former electrician in the Anderson area wanted to transition into the field of computer science, so he began taking classes with AU’s School of Adult Learning to pursue his career aspirations. Blanchard received a call from St. Mary’s concerning a wiring and networking issue, and he took the student along to Muncie for a learning experience. “St. Mary’s has technology needs,” Blanchard said, “and we have students who want to learn. It’s a great combination.”
St. Mary’s leaders thought so highly of the work that AU computer science students and professors were doing that the school hired the AU Software Research Center (SRC) to become the IT staff for the private elementary school. Evan Cottle, a senior double majoring in business/information systems and Bible and Religion, appreciates the time he spends working with St. Mary’s. “It is a great opportunity for me. Vocationally I want to work in a church setting and this has prepared me for my hopeful career path,” Cottle said.
Josh Stefee and Chris Siebold, also senior business/information systems majors, feel fortunate for this opportunity.
“This partnership allows us to take classroom knowledge out of the classroom and apply it to real-life situations,” Siebold said. AU facilitates opportunities to learn not only in the classroom, but also to apply that knowledge in the real world as well. Such training and integration of learning into real-life situations prepares students for their futures in a way that classroom learning alone does not.
“We provide systems support for St. Mary’s School, as well as the parsonage,” said Stefee. “We’ve installed printers, run their servers with grades and records, assisted with the Lotus email program, maintained computer labs, and installed fiber optic cables."
St. Mary’s leaders appreciate the assistance the AU students provide and work well with the AU student workers. “They’re really excited to have us there and understand that it is a work and learning experience,” said Steffee. “So if we make a mistake, they are understanding and work well with us.”
Blanchard spearheads this initiative with energy and enthusiasm that makes him easy to work with. “He has his cup of coffee and goes to town. He’s very enthusiastic about St. Mary’s,” Siebold said.
Stefee added, “He’s always available, very helpful, and passionate about the school.”
— Kyle Beckman is a senior from Auburn, Ind., double-majoring in communication arts and business-information systems and minoring in political science. Beckman is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.