URI program puts computers into hands
of disadvantaged students
KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 19, 2000 -- The University of Rhode Island
has launched a program that puts computers into the hands of disadvantaged
Bridging the Digital Divide is a pilot program providing seven
students enrolled in URI's Special Programs for Talent Development with
recycled computers at no cost. In addition, the program incorporates a
cross-cultural experience for the participants.
At the beginning of the fall semester, the students received recycled
computers through this program. They will keep the units through the completion
of their degrees and return them to the program 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 including word processing
and internet use.
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 assignments, and meet with mentors and program advisers
outside the classroom. Most importantly, the students become the mentors
the following academic year.
The program developed out of a university planning session over the summer
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.
"While working on a no-interest installment payment program for
computers, I realized that there were still a number of students that I
couldn't reach," Bell said. "I wanted to develop a program that
could fill that need."
Results from a survey conducted by Talent Development showed that only
32 percent of this year's freshman Talent Development students expected
to bring a computer to URI versus 87 percent of the remaining freshman class.
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 Digital
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, a professor in the Computer Science
Department and Lynn McGrath, a graduate assistant at the URI Multicultural
Center, to establish the curriculum for the community service course.
Melvin Wade, the director of the URI Multicultural Center, appointed
Lynn 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, also assisted Bell in the search for computers within
the University. Christman stated that a program has been in place for more
than three years to recycle computers removed from the University computer
labs and put them in the hands of faculty and staff who either do not have
computers or who are using outdated technology. Bridging the Digital Divide
is the beginning of such a program for disadvantaged students and will require
partnerships with external funding sources and vendors to obtain equipment.
Bell has already approached Apple & Dell for assistance and is also
seeking government and other business support for the program.
The program will double in size for the spring semester, putting computers
in the hands of 10 more students.
For Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116, Keith Marshall