Discover partners with NIU to create code_orange program

By Taher Zeitoun

DeKALB — NIU officials introduced its partnership with Discover Tuesday by unveiling the code_orange program space, which can be found in the lower level of the Founders Memorial Library.

The word “code” refers to the focus on software development and “orange” symbolizes Discover’s brand color. The program was created for students interested in the study of technology to offer them the opportunity to help research and work on new technological ideas for Discover, which is headquartered in Riverwood, according to a May 23 news release announcing the program.

The program seeks students with expertise in areas such as electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science and more. To participate, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Selected students will be given the chance to develop new technology in the areas of web-application coding, mobile-software development and person-to-person payment systems through a paid internship, according to an October Discover code_orange program fact sheet.

Karinne Bredberg, assistant director for commercialization and innovation, said the program was put in place to create a partnership with Discover to benefit technology savvy students.

“This program allows students interested in programming and technology to partner with a big company,” Bredberg said.

Bredberg also said this partnership is important because students are unaware of companies like Discover working with universities like NIU offering students paid internships to prepare them for the career world.

“Bringing programs like code_orange to universities is key because it allows students to take advantage of internships with high-profiting companies like Discover that they didn’t know existed,” Bredberg said.

Mayor Jerry Smith also attended the unveiling and said the benefits are crucial in preparing students for life after college, while providing them with real-world, problem-solving experience.

“The number of interns and the motivation of young students not only energizes me, but adds youth to this community,” Smith said.

Joseph Bonefas, vice president of business technology at Discover and alumni, said programs like code_orange provide fuel for students to engage and learn.

“Students are learning through programs like this [that are] set-up though the university, and it allows them to get ahead in the market place after graduation,” Bonefas said.

Bonefas talked about his excitement in seeing the program be put in place.

“I used to program for NIU and worked on the coding for the Huskie Bus Line and other projects, so it’s very awesome to see the innovation the university is working toward with programs like code_orange,” Bonefas said.

Nick Karonis, professor and chair of computer science department, worked with fellow alum and Discover Vice President Joel Suchomel to initiate the program.

Karonis said Suchomel visited the university to speak to computer science students. He said the idea for the program was developed during a conversation at lunch with Suchomel.

Karonis said Suchomel worked with Discover to sell them on the idea of the program. Suchomel then connected with Gerald Blazey, vice president for research and innovation partnerships, on creating the partnership.

Blazey said code_orange allows tech savvy students to take advantage of employment and use their creativity, social mobility and ambitions to recognize relationships with resources like Discover.

Glenn Schneider, executive vice president and chief information officer and NIU alumni, said programs like code_orange are vital in future success for students.

“This is an opportunity to tap into the potential of extremely talented young adults pursuing education in the technology field, and partnerships like code_orange unleash all of that innovation and passion,” Schneider said.

Schneider said Dennis Barsema and John Butler, Board of Trustees trustees, were also crucial in initiating the program.

Senior Manager Mike Brenner provided a tour of the new space for the program. Brenner said the unutilized space is being put to good use and is continuing to grow.

NIU President Lisa Freeman attended to show her support of the program. Freeman said partnerships like this offer students an opportunity to grow.

”It excites me to provide students with the opportunity to apply to businesses like Discover and offer them the opportunity to learn and grow,” Freeman said.