Campuses ride wireless wave

Students, faculty at local colleges enjoy freedom of Wi-Fi


Farmers Forecast

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Carl Sandburg College seems to be in the forefront of wireless Internet service, something some experts feel could even help Galesburg with economic development in the future.

Samuel Sudhakar, vice president of Technology Services at CSC, said the Galesburg campus went wireless in 2002. The wireless service at CSC and Knox College is for students and faculty.

"Carl Sandburg was the first community college in the state of Illinois to go all wireless," Sudhakar said.

The Educational Technology Center, Sandburg's downtown annex, and the Carthage and Bushnell campuses are wireless, as well.

Sudhakar explained that the college has "access points" scattered throughout the campus. The system was put together by the college's own information technology team.

"People now expect wireless networks," Sudhakar said. "Ninety-five percent of the laptops are made with a wireless card."

Sarah Hunt of Woodhull, who graduated from CSC on May 10, backed up Sudhakar's statement.

"If my computer is on, I'm on the wireless," Hunt said.

Tanja Dejanova, a Sandburg exchange student from Finland, said wireless technology is at a similar level in her country - especially in larger cities - compared to what is available in the U.S.

Dejanova has two cousins living in Bulgaria. She said that country is catching up, but because of its years in the Soviet Union is not as advanced as the U.S. and many other European countries.

"I know they are getting it more and more, but they still have mostly computer labs," she said.

While she feels technology will move ahead faster now that Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, "at that point, countries like America and Finland are going to be further ahead."

Dejanova, a freshman with hair slightly spiked on top, likes the convenience of wireless Internet.

"I can do my school work, if I want to do it, outside," she said.

Some distance west of the main building at CSC lies a pond.

"I was actually down there where there are benches and I could get a signal," she said.

The question of how Finland compares to the U.S. in terms of wireless Internet brings up how Galesburg stands compared to the rest of the country. Sudhakar thinks the answer is quite well.

"I think it's above average," he said. "For a city the size of Galesburg, you don't typically see as many innovations going on. ... We all have a collective, positive energy in this town."

Sudhakar believes a fairly large concentration of colleges in a small area - somewhat unusual for a part of the state with a small population base - is helping to drive technology in Galesburg. While it may not compare to North Carolina's Research Triangle, such havens of higher education traditionally do well in attracting high-tech business.

"With two educational institutions in town and one about 15 miles away, one about 45 miles away, it's like our president (Tom Schmidt) says, we are an educational stronghold in western Illinois," Sudhakar said, adding that "it's not that these are mediocre institutions."

In addition to CSC, the other colleges are Knox College in Galesburg, Monmouth College in Monmouth and Western Illinois University in Macomb.

Karrie Heartlein, director of public relations at Knox, said "Knox has been wireless for a few years now."

She said the entire campus is wireless, although there are spots where the signal is weaker.

"Students are so tech savvy and they communicate via their social network sites, like MySpace, text messaging, cell phones and also" other forms of wireless communication technology. "For them it's tremendous to have that access, where before they had to go to a computer lab or back to their dorm," she said.

Not only do young people seem to be more comfortable, in general, with technology, they may have bigger dreams about where technology, such as wireless Internet, can go from here.

"I know at Kaldi's I can always get a connection," Hunt said. "At Innkeeper's, I got a signal once, but it didn't last. I think it would be awesome if they could get all of Galesburg wireless."

Hunt was asked how she thinks her college experience would have been thus far if CSC did not have an advanced wireless network.

"I would have been very frustrated my past two years. I can be anywhere I want to do my homework. I can hide. I love it. If I knew they had it somewhere and I didn't have it, I'd be 'err,' " she said, making a sound somewhere between anger and frustration deep in her throat.

"Our students get spoiled," Lee said. "When they leave, they find they don't have the access (to wireless) they had here."

For Lee, even laptops seem antiquated for some tasks. She always has her PDA with her on campus.

"It has wireless built into it," she said. "I can take it anywhere on campus. Even when I'm walking around campus I can get e-mail. It has eliminated me from having to carry a laptop, for the most part.

"I still use my laptop if I'm doing a lot of typing," Lee said. "As far as a communication tool, it's (PDA) great. I know my daughter went here and got used to wireless and then she went to a small liberal arts college. They didn't have any wireless. They did have the Internet wired into the dorms."


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