CIS updated computer labs open


Russell Hall

Northwestern State University’s Computer Information Systems program will host a reception to open its Mobile Applications and Networking computer labs, which was funded through a grant from State Farm Insurance. The $40,000 grant provided funds to update labs with new computers, laptops, Ipads and other devices to enhance learning for CIS students.

The reception will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, March 18 in the Natchitoches Room of Russell Hall. Tours of the labs in Rooms 101C and 104 will be available.

“For the Mobile Applications Lab, the equipment bought allows students to develop applications for mobile devices and then test those applications on a variety of mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones and Androids,” said Curtis Penrod, CIS coordinator. “In the Networking Lab, the equipment allows students to get a more hands-on look at hardware, such as taking apart a computer to see its components. Students will also be able to interact with some forensic components to test the security of various devices.” The Networking Lab has a component in which students can set up, wire and run the network in the room, added Eddie Horton, who, along with Sarah Wright, both CIS instructors, were principal investigators of the project.

“The mobile applications course allows students to code for several mobile operating systems, Wright said. “Right now we are focusing on iOS (Apple) and Android. Android development can be done using Java on any machine, so we bought devices like the Android phones so students could test and present their apps on devices, not just emulators. “Development through iOS can be accomplished in a couple of different ways but it is important the students get some experience using the Apple development tools and languages which are Objective-C and Swift. This must be done on an Apple computer, thus we purchased the Macs so the students could have this experience.

The program now has a classroom of 16 iMac desktop machines for teaching in the classroom and four laptop MacBook Airs for the students to use outside of the classroom. Faculty were also able to purchase one of the newer Apple devices, an iPad Pro, to allow students to develop and test for that type of device.

“All in all this grant allowed the Mobile Applications Lab to obtain the devices we did not yet have and fill the room with the computers we needed to expand this course offering,” Wright said.

Andy Baragona, a project manager with State Farm and 2003 Northwestern State CIS graduate, facilitated the grant. Since graduating, Baragona has been actively involved in building the relationship between State Farm and Northwestern State and is the campus manager tasked with recruiting new talent from NSU. He has assisted more than 40 NSU students in receiving summer internships and full-time employment opportunities at State Farm in the last 12 years and assists them through informal mentoring relationships throughout their careers. Baragona has aided the CIS program in receiving more than $90,000 in State Farm grants in the past three years and serves as a member of the CIS Advisory Council. Baragona has also helped the university by organizing an NSU Alumni group in Bloomington, Illinois, the headquarters of State Farm, that has grown to nearly 50 members.

“Preparing students for the digital workplace is vital for the future,” said State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Jeff Davis. “This mobile development lab will go a long ways towards making sure students from Northwestern State are able to step into the technological workplace that now exists.”

Northwestern State’s CIS degree program prepares individuals for high demand, lucrative careers as user support specialists, systems analysts, programmers, CIS managers, network and computer systems administrators, software developers and dozens of other related opportunities. CIS careers are ranked near the top for growth opportunities, career satisfaction and entry-level salaries.

Northwestern State’s CIS program is nationally recognized for excellence in systems analysis and design, database design and development, Internet web design and development and object-oriented programming.

NSU offers CIS concentrations in application development, networking and systems management and web development, as well as classes in mobile applications development, data analytics, network implementation and administration and cloud computing.

For more information on NSU’s CIS programs, visit or contact Penrod at