University, State Farm Strengthen Partnership with Internship Program
When State Farm at CityLine opened less than 5 miles from UT Dallas, it was only a matter of time before students connected directly with the insurance giant. This summer, eight students, predominantly computer science majors, were selected to participate in a remote internship program that engages them in corporate projects while allowing them to remain on campus.
“We can look out the window and see State Farm. State Farm can look out the window and see us, but that’s not close enough,” said Dr. Mark W. Spong, dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering and the Excellence in Education Chair, at a event marking the program launch. “It’s very important that State Farm is here on our campus, working closely with our students.”
The interns work in the Synergy Park North building. Nicklaus McClendon, a computer science sophomore, is collaborating on quality assurance and automation projects.
“It’s super-flexible,” McClendon said. “You can walk over and work for a couple hours and then go back to class.”
Since State Farm started moving into the new hub location in Richardson 18 months ago, the corporation and UT Dallas have partnered to improve financial literacy among college students and expand computer science outreach to K-12 students. The company also has supported cybersecurity and information technology learning experiences, as well as other academic programs across campus. These initiatives, coupled with the successful recruitment of Jonsson School and Naveen Jindal School of Management graduates, have cultivated an affiliation that led to this cooperative working space — the first space of its kind at UT Dallas.
“We can look out the window and see State Farm. State Farm can look out the window and see us, but that’s not close enough. It’s very important that State Farm is here on our campus, working closely with our students.”
“If we can bring in some top talent at an internship level, have them experience the State Farm culture and business acumen … it helps them by giving them world experience,” said Rob Stogsdill, a service manager at State Farm. “It helps us by building that talent pipeline, and it reinforces State Farm’s commitment to education.”
Students are managed by State Farm employees and connected with teams of mentors based out of the company’s local offices.
“In the world of business, it’s not about what you know,” said Mike Miller, assistant vice president of workforce at State Farm. “It’s about how you interact.”
The pilot program allows for plenty of interaction between students and State Farm employees, whether in person or via video chat, email and phone. The proximity to the local offices ensures corporate standards and quality are met before work is released into production.
“We benefit from the diverse talent pool of students that UTD provides,” Miller said. “Giving back and helping people — it’s in our DNA at State Farm. Our mentors will benefit as well.”
State Farm, headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, has one other similar collegiate partnership with the University of Illinois where students support company programs with high-level research. But this is the first time State Farm has involved students in production work at an off-site location.
“We are working on production software. I’m just helping out my team with what they do every day. My code — assuming it works — will eventually be put into production,” McClendon said. “Instead of having research and development experience, I have on my résumé real work experience I can talk about.”
Projects are assigned based on student interest and experience.
“We want to give students the ability to have real-world experience while utilizing their technical skills,” said Chris Holman, campus development team leader for State Farm.
Citlali Galera, a junior and president of UT Dallas’ Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, is working on cybersecurity projects. The internship allows her to work on newer systems and larger projects, which she translates into greater learning opportunities.
“As students, what we’re trying to gain is experience,” Galera said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].