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UIC Student Project & Director of Network Engineering & Infrastructure Featured in EdTech Magazine

EdTech Magazine Screenshot

UIC Director of Network Engineering and Infrastructure, Jelene Crehan, was recently featured in an interview with Erika Gimbel in EdTech Magazine. The feature takes a look into how University Wi-Fi networks can support digital equity in surrounding communities, and how extending Wi-Fi reach to neighboring communities helps universities close the digital divide.

UIC-WiFi Extension Project Heading link

male student coding on computer

As noted in the article, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), 1 in 5 households across the U.S. does not have internet access. UIC is one of the nation’s universities leveraging resources and partnering with communities to create plans to increase internet access in households experiencing challenges with Wi-Fi.

The article highlighted a UIC-WiFi extension project for which Crehan guided students with insights into the school’s current network infrastructure and data centers. In collaboration with Cisco engineers, UIC students selected equipment such as routers, switches, and cloud management tools, and refined their design until both they and Cisco agreed on the outcomes, presenting their comprehensive plan to UIC executives.

For this project, students chose centrally located buildings such as a youth center, bank, medical center, and high school, to best serve the community at large. “Our biggest challenge now is finding funding and approval from the right people in Pilsen to make it happen,” Crehan says.

What I found interesting about the students’ proposal was that their solution helped bridge the digital divide between the university and the community, but it wasn’t just about education; it was about bridging the divide with healthcare resources, after-school activities, and small businesses in the Pilsen area.

Jelene Crehan  |  Director of Network Engineering and Infrastructure

Enhancing the Student Experience Heading link

“When five undergraduate engineering students from the University of Illinois Chicago began a project to narrow the digital divide in their community, they focused their efforts on the nearby neighborhood of Pilsen. Like many other areas on the south and west sides of Chicago, this vibrant, majority-Latino community significantly lags behind the rest of the city when it comes to high-speed internet access,” the article states.

UIC students worked with Break Through Tech Chicago, which seeks to advance the education and careers of women and nonbinary UIC students, increasing gender diversity in the IT field. Partnering with engineers from Cisco, students had three weeks to complete the in-depth project.

“‘I was actually curious to see what they could do in such a short amount of time,’ says Jelene Crehan, director of network engineering and infrastructure at UIC,'” the article states.