"Bridging the Digital
Divide" is a pilot program providing students enrolled
in URI's Special Programs for Talent Development with
recycled students at no cost. In addition, the program
incorporates a cross-cultural experience for the participants.
At the beginning of the fall semester 2000,
the students received recycled computers through this
program. They will keep the units through the completion
of their degrees, then return them for use by other students.
The Talent Development students now in the
program have each been paired with a mentor from a different
cultural group to foster cultural and ethnic learning
and to gain valuable computer skills.
The mentors receive credits for their participation
through a URI community service course that links computer
skills with cultural sensitivity.
To keep the computer, Talent Development
students must attend a weekly seminar, complete computer
assignments, and meet with mentors and program advisors
outside of class. Most importantly, the students become
the mentors the following academic year.
The program developed out of a university
planning session over the summer of 2000 during which
students, faculty, and staff discussed a strong need to
equip disadvantaged students with technology. This spawned
Bridging the Digital Divide, a program headed by Graham
Bell, the URI bookstore assistant administrator.
Results from a survey conducted by Talent
Development showed that only 32 percent of this year's
freshman (2000) Talent Development students expected to
bring a computer to URI versus 87 percent of the remaining
The results got
the attention of Gerald Williams, the director of Talent
Development. "I was astounded by these statistics
because the ability to compete in the current work force
rests in grasping and possessing the necessary computer
skills," Williams said. "Bridging the Digitial
Divide will provide this much-needed training."
Shirley Consuegra , a specialist for the
URI Feinstein Center for Service Learning, worked
with Bell to add a cultural learning aspect to the program.
Consuegra then collaborated with Mary Fetherston,
the Language Learning Resource Center supervisor, Joan
Peckham, professor in the Computer Science Department
and Lynn McGrath , a graduate assistant at the URI Multicultural
Center, to establish the curriculum for the community
Melvin Wade, the director of the URI Multicultural
Center, appointed McGrath as the instructor for the course,
and provided a computer lab for the program's weekly seminar.
Pamela Christman, manager of desktop computing
for Information and Instructional Technology Services,
has helped in the search for computers within the University.
Bell has already approached Apple and Dell for assistance
and is seeking government and other business support for