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Serve IT celebrates fifth year aiding nonprofit organizations with technology

Mar. 23, 2016

In the five years since Serve IT was created, the clinic has been reaching out to local nonprofit organizations and helping them to fulfill their information technology needs, providing an estimated $282,000 in technology services to its clients.

As their fifth anniversary approaches, Serve IT has continued to grow and expand, helping more and more organizations to stay up to date in the world of technology.

In honor of the anniversary, IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie and the IU School of Informatics and Computing will host “Technology for Social Good” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 31 at Henke Hall of Champions in Memorial Stadium. Attendees will listen to a panel discussion with students and agencies who have participated in Serve IT projects, visit poster presentations, and network with campus and community partners.

Serve IT was founded in the spring semester of 2010 by McRobbie, whose career background is in technology, and Maureen Biggers, assistant dean for diversity and education for the IU School of Informatics and Computing and director of the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology. They identified this model as a way to create a more inclusive IT culture through service learning, providing a critical point in student development.

"Serve IT works well for many reasons," McRobbie said. "The teams work across semesters, and the entire focus is on what the nonprofit needs, not the requirements of a course. The interns are also required to provide 10 hours of direct service, so they have a stake in the organization they’re serving. They're investing in the agency as they invest in their own education and career."

Director of Serve IT Matthew Hottell said the group helps with website design, tech support, social media and a host of other technology-based needs that nonprofit organizations have.

“They’re already there [online],” Hottell said.

Despite having an online presence, many nonprofit organizations can’t afford to hire web consultants to improve their look and functionality. That is where Serve IT steps in and offers assistance.

“We’ve basically modeled it after a consulting firm,” he said.

This semester, Serve IT has 87 for-credit interns and six clients. Compared to the 21 interns and four clients the group had originally, major progress has been made in everything from taking on more work to adding on more support teams.

Hottell said these support teams include interns that will focus on design, offer tech support and maintain work from previous years. All of this work happens with help from people in Bloomington.

“We accept donations of computers from the community,” he said.

After a dedicated tech support team legally refurbishes the computers, they are cycled back out into the community to benefit their clients.

Hottell said Serve ITs biggest advancement over the years has been Teach IT, a team of students that provides information technology related training to people in the community. Teach IT caters to young people, the elderly and everybody in between by offering them practical computer knowledge through hands-on training.

Students like junior Bailey Hamersly believe they are gaining as much from the experience as those clients Serve IT is reaching.

Hamersly said she was reluctant to join at first because of her lack of technology knowledge and experience. When people assured her that Serve IT was a great way to build those skills as well as put them to good use in the community, she applied and was accepted.

This semester, she is working on the Design and User Testing Team. She said she is glad to be working on making interesting and functional websites for community groups, such as independent film production company Bloom City Productions.

“I think it’s really important that we use our skills to help the community,” she said.

By becoming a part of Serve IT, Hamersly said she has been able to be more a part of the Bloomington community as a whole. She said her work is not only aiding nonprofit clients, but it is also helping her and other interns to become more proficient in technology, including visualizing a webpage from start to finish.

“I think it’s all around a great organization,” Hamersly said.

The program aligns with several priorities in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including student success and building a prosperous and innovative Indiana.

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