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Presentation, lab tours will be April 26 in Russell Hall.
State Farm funds support AR/VR Lab
Technology gives CIS, busines students an edge in marketability
Leah Jackson

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s Computer Information Systems program has been awarded a grant from State Farm Insurance that will fund the creation of an augmented reality/virtual reality computer lab. State Farm officials will be on campus to award the grant at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 26 in the Natchitoches Room of Russell Hall. Area State Farm Agents and the public are invited to join students, faculty and administrators for the presentation.

 The AR/VR lab will provide a quality classroom environment for current and prospective students in the CIS degree program in NSU’s School of Business. 

“This lab will help us leap into the high-tech, leading-edge hardware and software needed in the AR/VR environment,” said Curtis Penrod, coordinator of NSU’s CIS program. “With this lab, CIS faculty will remain ahead of the technology innovation curve to provide CIS and Business students with new and innovative technology instruction that will bring leading edge knowledge value to any company hiring our graduates.”

VR/AR is making its way not only into computer information systems but also into all aspects of business, including marketing, simulations, training, customer service and support and general management.

“Several of the top 10 technology companies in the world have invested heavily on this clearly disruptive technology such as Facebook with Oculus Rift, Google with Cardboard and Microsoft with HoloLens,” Penrod said. “We expect this technology to become an integral part of any company in the next five years with claim assessment training for insurance agents, automobile accident simulations and risk assessment among others. Our students have to be prepared to create, modify and deliver solutions to keep their future employers ahead.”

Andy Baragona, a project manager with State Farm and 2003 Northwestern State CIS graduate, facilitated the grant. Since graduating, Baragona has been actively involved in building the relationship between State Farm and Northwestern State and is the campus manager tasked with recruiting new talent from NSU.  He has assisted dozens of NSU students in receiving summer internships and full-time employment opportunities at State Farm and assists them through informal mentoring relationships throughout their careers.  

Last year, NSU’s CIS program earned a $40,000 State Farm grant that funded the creation of mobile application and networking labs updated with new computers, laptops, iPads and other devices.

Northwestern State’s CIS degree program prepares individuals for high demand, lucrative careers as user support specialists, systems analysts, programmers, CIS managers, network and computer systems administrators, software developers and dozens of other related opportunities. CIS careers are ranked near the top for growth opportunities, career satisfaction and entry-level salaries. The program is nationally recognized for excellence in systems analysis and design, database design and development, Internet web design and development and object-oriented programming.

The mission of State Farm is to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto, home and individual life insurance in the United States. Its 18,000 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve more than 83 million policies and accounts – nearly 81 million auto, home, life, health and commercial policies, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 35 on the 2016 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit

For more information on NSU’s CIS programs or the April 26 presentation, visit or contact Penrod at