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Lander Students Create Website to Assist Local Agency

CIS class
Lander University students majoring in computer information systems collaborate with Beth Bethel, standing, executive director of Community Initiatives in Greenwood, on the website they created to streamline her agency's delivery of services to clients. Pictured from left, Kristi Martin of Greenwood; Kerry Cooper of Bradley; Dylan Snyder and Kari Riddle of Greenwood; and Curtis Milner of Clover. Background right, assistant professor of computing Dr. Gilliean Lee, and computer science instructor Farha Ali.

When retired Lander University professor Beth Bethel wanted to create a web site for Community Initiatives (CI), the Greenwood social services agency she heads, she turned to Lander's computing faculty and students for help and advice.

Five students in the project implementation and management course taught by computer science instructor Farha Ali have been meeting three days a week since January to work on the project for academic credit. The course requires students, working as a team, to design and implement a significant information system.

Bethel, a professor emeritus of sociology and CI executive director, said the website will put the agency on the cutting edge. Clients will have electronic access to information about the organization's activities, including Free Clinic/Clinica Gratis, which provides medical services for low-income families and individuals.

The health center sees patients on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings and offers a once-a-month diabetes clinic. The medical staff treats 1,500 to 1,800 patients a year. The new electronic system will allow patients to use computers at the clinic to register and state the nature of their medical complaint. Bethel said that will speed up intake.

Overall, she said the site will streamline CI's ability to perform administrative tasks, deliver services and increase its capacity to reach the public. Among other features, it will offer users access to videos promoting health education and other information.

Administrators will be able to use the website to maintain medical records, which will be linked to Self Regional Healthcare. The clinic is staffed by physicians and residents from the Montgomery Center for Family Medicine, Lander's nursing faculty and students, and a nurse practitioner.

The first step in the website construction was a visit to Community Initiatives by Ali and Dr. Gilliean Lee, assistant professor of computing, to obtain an overview of the programs it offers and Bethel's expectations related to the site's capabilities. In the following months, each of the five students worked on different parts of the project independently then as a team to review their contributions and make adjustments.

The students, all seniors majoring in computer information systems, are Kari Riddle, Kristi Martin and Dylan Snyder of Greenwood; Kerry Cooper of Bradley and Curtis Milner of Clover. Snyder is the son of Lander psychology professor Timothy Snyder.

Ali and Lee said building the Community Initiatives website has given the students an opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom to a real world situation. Kristi Martin said it enabled her to gain more experience with computer programming and that, along the way, she and her classmates learned from each other.

Bethel said the students have been very creative. "They have never said 'We can't do that.'"

The project is nearing completion and the students have turned their attention to showing Bethel and the CI staff how the different components of the site work and to make changes or add features as necessary.

Bethel summed up her feelings about what the students have accomplished by saying, "They are making my dreams come true."