Social Justice Computing Program Launched
A new program at the John Cook School of Business is partnering two key SLU philosophies - service to others and sustainability - to provide home computers to area students who don't have them.
The idea began with Craig Van Slyke, Ph.D., associate professor of decision sciences and information technology management and associate dean of the business school, while he was involved in a year-long seminar on the Jesuit mission.
|John Cook School of Business service leadership students Thanh Truong (left) and Taoran Li (right) deliver a computer to area student Darrion Stevens.|
"During that same time period, my colleague, Don Hardaway, Ph.D., and I were having ongoing discussions about open-source software. It was one of those moments when different streams of thought converge," Van Slyke said.
"The opportunity to take advantage of the open-source software while providing learning for our students and improving the lives of those around us just seemed like a natural."
Those discussions between Van Slyke and Hardaway, an associate professor in the decision sciences and information technology management department, were just the beginning, and the program now known as the "Social Justice Computing Project" began to take shape.
"Once Craig and I decided to move forward with this idea, the operational details were fairly simple to deploy, given the ease of installing Linux today," Hardaway said. "Students who had never worked with the technical aspects of PCs could easily be trained through a simple demonstration to install the leading desktop Linux distribution known as Ubuntu."
Getting students involved has been pivotal in making the project successful. Rob Boyle, Ph.D., manager of leadership programs at Cook, said it seemed a perfect fit for the school's service leadership certificate program.
"The Social Justice Computing Project has been a great way for service leaders from the School of Business to combine their technological savvy with their altruistic values," Boyle said. "Each time a computer is updated and delivered, there is a real sense of satisfaction that a significant difference has been made in the academic life of a young person in mid-town St. Louis."
Hardaway adds that student involvement goes far beyond just dropping off a computer at someone's house or setting it up at a youth center. From getting the word out to those who have computer equipment to donate to erasing all the data from the old hard drive and installing programs, it's a hands-on experience.
"Teaching students to install Ubuntu is just a matter of demonstrating it," Hardaway said. "Only one CD is used and on the majority of the PCs it is just a matter of plugging the CD into the PC and rebooting it. From there the software on the CD takes over and leads the students through a very simple series of graphical screens to install the system. It is basically a point-and-click process and is much easier than installing Windows. Any novice can do it."
And what does the project mean to the SLU students? Thanh Truong, a junior majoring in accounting, feels it is an integral part of the University's mission.
"To me, the Social Justice Computing Project helps SLU live up to the culture of being men and women for and with others by helping those in need," Truong said. "Every time I finish a computer delivery, it is very exciting for me. It only takes a little of our time to make such an impact on someone's life."
The project currently involves four students whose efforts have helped provide 15 computers to area students. Leaders at various service leadership sites proide referrals.
As part of the Sixth Annual John Cook School of Business Service Day Friday, April 1, students also will donate and install computers in the pre-school facility and teen center at Hope House, a transitional housing complex for homeless families in the St. Louis area.
A good program often needs some financial backing and a $50,000 contribution from AT&T has been instrumental in helping the Social Justice Computing Project.
If you have a CPU, monitor or keyboard (no printers or speakers please; PC's only, no Macs) that is less than six years old, please contact Rob Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange drop off or pickup.