Discover, NIU announce partnership for new student innovation program

DeKALB, ILLINOIS – Students soon will have the opportunity to help develop new technologies through a new partnership between Northern Illinois University and Discover Financial Services on NIU’s DeKalb campus.

Starting in the fall, 40 to 50 students will be paid an hourly wage for no more than 19 hours a week to work on and help develop new Discover technologies in mobile-software development, web-application coding and person-to-person direct payment systems through the Discover Campus Innovator Program.

Joel Suchomel, vice president of application development at Discover and an NIU alumnus, said 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 it’s getting more and more challenging to hire technical people since more companies than ever need that kind of talent.

“We’re all competing for the same tech talent,” Suchomel said.

The program will run through a newly renovated 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.

Karinne Bredberg, innovative partnership specialist with NIU, said Discover took more than 100 applications from students for the program and completed interviews before the last semester ended.

Bredberg said NIU has a lot of partnerships with off-campus companies currently. However, she said, the announced partnership between Discover and NIU, which was finalized in March, is unique and will be much larger and more engaging for students.

Bredberg said selected students have the option of receiving internship credit, but the partnership is really about experiential learning for students. She said it’s about encouraging students to think outside of the box.

“It really broadens the scope to what students are learning in the classroom and applying it to business setting,” Bredberg said.

Suchomel said this is the first partnership of its kind Discover has entered into with a university. He said the company wanted to do a program such as this so students can have a large company such as Discover on their resume during their academic career.

“Instead of working at the local pizza place, they’re working at Discover,” Suchomel said.

Students interested in the program for future semesters must have a 3.0 GPA. The program is meant for students who are developing expertise in professional areas such as computer science, computer engineering, telecommunications, networking, informatics, information security and operations management, and information systems.

Bredberg said the hope is to have this collaboration open the door for similar programs.

“It really highlights how our alumni are thinking of innovative ways to give back to the university,” Bredberg said.

*Story courtesy of the Daily Chronicle.