Six representatives from State Farm—Technology Director Collette Fung, Technology Manager Coleen Prewitt, Technology Analyst Allegra Thigpen, Infrastructure Analyst Chad Rodgers, Manager - Enterprise Research Gus Theofanis, and Technology Supervisor Eric Hughes—presented the Blacks and African Americans in Computing (BAAC) student club with a check for $5,500 in December. The gift was awarded to BAAC through the State Farm Foundation as a result of a grant proposal submitted during the previous summer to the Good Neighbor Citizenship® Company Grant program.
“For years, State Farm has proudly maintained strong relationships with our local educational institutions, including the University of Illinois,” said State Farm Senior Vice President Annette Martinez. “This is our latest effort to help support the professional and educational needs of our community and make a sustained, positive difference in the lives of our neighbors in the Champaign-Urbana area.”
BAAC is eager to use the funds to expand their outreach and community building efforts in the spirit of the group’s mission, which is to become a strong support system for minorities in computing-related fields that fosters scholarship, professional development, and a sense of community.
One key use of funds will be to send BAAC club members to tech conferences where they can not only learn about new technologies and applications, but also build their personal and professional networks.
“We love to connect with people who are passionate about the same issues as us,” said Joseph Sieger, BAAC president and co-founder. “Our members are looking forward to working with State Farm to build a future for underrepresented computing students in our club and in our community. I'm so excited to see how this relationship continues to develop.” Sieger was among the large group of BAAC members present to accept the check from State Farm.
BAAC’s other outreach efforts include hosting networking events with companies, a job-interview workshop series, and social events. The club’s outreach programs, which have included activities with middle school children from Chicago Public Schools, are also intended to encourage the next generation of students from underrepresented communities to pursue careers in computing fields.
Illinois Computer Science’s Associate Director of External Relations Cynthia “CJ” Coleman, who serves as an advisor for CS student clubs, said, “It’s just amazing how quickly the BAAC student club has become such an integral part of the CS community—they are making such an incredible difference in the lives of all our students.”