NIU hosts grand opening for code_orange program

October 5, 2018

DeKALB – Bradley Protano is a senior computer science major at Northern Illinois University and has had other internship opportunities during his collegiate career.

But he said nothing has compared to working at code_orange, a student employment program created by a partnership between Discover and NIU.

Protano, a DeKalb resident, said he initially heard about the program through his friends on campus and was intrigued about the concept of working for a company such as Discover without having to leave campus.

“It’s a big company, it’s a big name, and that’s a great opportunity,” Protano said.

NIU hosted a grand opening for the new program Wednesday afternoon at Founders Memorial Library on the DeKalb campus. That comes after the university announced the partnership program with Discover in May.

Thirty-seven students have been hired for the fall semester for the code_orange program after program officials received more than 100 applications. Those students have been working about 20 hours a week since August.

The program is running through a recently-renovated 5,900-square-foot part of “71 North,” the university’s space for hands-on learning and business collaborations centrally located on the bottom level of Founders Memorial Library. Discover leases part of the area and renovated its space this summer.

Protano said it’s been nice to make his own work schedule and to work in an environment with newer technologies available to use in project assignments. He said the experience may be daunting for someone who isn’t used to having a lot of guidance on what specific technology or parameters to use for projects assigned to your own team.

“But you do learn how to learn here, and it really prepares you for getting kind of thrown into the deep end elsewhere,” Protano said.

Joel Suchomel, vice president of application development at Discover and an NIU alumnus, had said in May that he had the idea for the partnership program a couple of years ago when he visited NIU to speak to the computer science club on campus. He said the program, which is the first partnership of its kind that Discover has with a university, was created because more and more companies are starting to need more tech-savvy people and those companies are competing for the same talent.

Discover will hire or rehire NIU students to create a new group of participants and a new round of projects every semester and during the summer to help develop new Discover technologies in mobile-software development, web-application coding, Bluetooth development and person-to-person direct payment systems.

The program is meant for students with a minimum 3.0 GPA who are developing skills in professional areas such as computer science, computer engineering, telecommunications, networking, informatics, information security and operations management and information systems.

Protano said he urges any students who may be thinking about applying for the code_orange program to go for it.

“Working an internship, and this one is no different – in fact, it may be even more so, prepares you in ways for the real world that just no class will,” Protano said.

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