A $500,000 donation that honors the legacy of a Cal Poly Pomona alumnus will transform hands-on learning opportunities and diversity initiatives for students studying information technology in the College of Business Administration.
With the gift, Avanade, a global business technology solutions and managed services provider, has provided seed money to establish the Mitchell C. Hill Memorial Endowment, named after its former CEO. The donation will create a new academic center for applied business information technology, which will oversee several projects including a student-managed cloud computing data center, faculty research and student scholarships as well as outreach efforts to women and other underrepresented groups.
The College of Business Administration plans to raise $2.5 million overall to support the endowment.
“Technology is constantly evolving, and if we want to stay current, we have to invest,” says University President Michael Ortiz. “This gift and the center it will fund are a key part of preparing our students to be workforce-ready well into the future.”
Hill, who graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in computer information systems, was Avanade’s founding CEO and worked with several other tech startups before his untimely death last year.
Larry Taff, an accounting alumnus who graduated in 1980, became lifelong friends with Hill after rooming together their freshman year. Taff says that when he started discussing ways to honor Hill’s memory with university officials and Hill’s wife, Cherie, the concept of something tech-related began to germinate.
“We started thinking about applied technology,” he says. “It fell into place and it made so much sense because that’s what Mitch did.”
Avanade CEO Adam Warby envisions “an ecosystem” of ideas developing from the endowment and the university’s partnership with Avanade.
“We see this donation not only as an investment in Cal Poly Pomona, but also as an investment in the future of technology innovation,” he says. “We’re honored to support the legacy of our former CEO, Mitch Hill with this gift. It’s encouraging to think we can help students come up with ideas to change the world through the cloud.”
The gift not only expands opportunities, but it is helping to change the face of IT.
With money designated for increasing diversity, the CIS department will enhance and expand its outreach efforts. The department already has a three-year partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the largest and most ethnically diverse school districts in the country. CIS professors and students have encouraged and helped LAUSD students compete in CyberPatriot, a national cybersecurity competition. The benefits of the collaboration paid off when LAUSD’s North Hollywood High won the national competition earlier this year.
The CIS department also recently hosted CyberGirlz Summit, a girls-only tech event, which encouraged young women to pursue tech careers. More than 100 girls attended the event that was co-sponsored by Microsoft and Facebook.
The funding of a cloud computing center will also put Cal Poly Pomona on the cutting edge of applied learning, says Assistant CIS Professor Ron Pike.
“There are very few places in academia where students can get this kind of experience,” he says. “They’ll get to experience IT in a way that will be fundamentally transformative for our students and their careers,” he says.
And that’s exactly what Hill would have wanted, Taff says.
“I think he would be thrilled with what is happening. Not just that he’s having an impact, but that it’s in an area that was so interesting and intriguing to him.”
To learn more about and to contribute to the Mitchell C. Hill Memorial Endowment, visit www.mitchhillendowment.org.