BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Serve IT, Indiana University's service-learning clinic that connects IU students who have in-demand technology skills with nonprofit organizations that require their expertise, has been a passion for IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie since she helped found it in 2011.
Now, it will bear her name.
Thanks to an endowment from Deb Allmayer and James Williams, the clinic will be known as the Laurie Burns McRobbie Serve IT Clinic. Allmayer and Williams made the naming gift in appreciation of McRobbie's drive to provide students with hands-on, real-world experience while still pursuing their degree and serving the community.
"Laurie is just so impressive," said Allmayer, who is a charter and current member of the Serve IT advisory board. "Her leadership makes things happen. Serve IT started so small, and it has grown exponentially. Laurie knows how to reach out to people at various levels within both IU and the broader community and motivate people, and it has been an incredible experience working with her. It's something we wanted to honor."
Serve IT is housed in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and is a joint project with the Kelley School of Business and the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The clinic applies the technology skills of undergraduate students to build capacity in the local nonprofit community and better serve their own missions by providing technical support.
Students work directly with nonprofits on specific projects. They are also required to provide 10 hours of direct service to the nonprofit, giving them a stake in the organization they're serving.
"I'm honored beyond belief," McRobbie said. "Jim and Deb's gift was gift enough as an endorsement of the power of what the clinic does, but to have my name on it -- it's going to take me years to absorb that. I'm so proud and honored to be more visibly a part of the legacy of this clinic and all that it has meant to the students who have come through it and the clients who benefited from its services."
The endowment will provide financial support for Serve IT students and faculty as well as the program itself. But the benefits of the clinic go far beyond the expansion of a student's technical skillset.
"During past celebrations when students got together and spoke about their projects, I would ask them how the Serve IT experience impacted them," Williams said. "Almost everyone had a story about how they were able to engage with an interviewer or recruiter about the experiences they had at the clinic and how much it helped them find the next step in their career.
"The students also learn about social services, something that perhaps some of them had no idea existed. Although there's a technology component to Serve IT, they're working with people in the social service area, and we hope some of the passion of the social services people rubs off on the students just as some of the technology will rub off on them."
Supporting Serve IT has been a passion for Allmayer and Williams, who previously established the Deborah A. Allmayer and James G. Williams Serve IT Bicentennial Scholarship.
They wanted to ensure continuing support for Serve IT in the future by expanding its resources, allowing more opportunities for students, while also showing their appreciation for McRobbie.
"Honoring Laurie in this manner is just about my deepest respect and admiration for her experience and the impact that she is making on students and our community," Allmayer said. "It's a commitment that needs to be recognized."
"Taking an idea and turning it into a very successful program is a rare thing," he said. "It's quite nice to find something where we can give back that actually touches all of the bases that are important to us, from technology to social services. Honoring Laurie is just one more positive of this endowment."
What they're saying
"Every single study we have shows that if you give students the opportunity to serve while they're in college, they'll do it for the rest of their lives. The endowment won't just impact the immediate community in which we live. It will be impacting the world everyplace these students go because they understand that they can use what they've learned to make the world a better place. To have Laurie's name and her legacy of leadership and dedication to students and community service synonymous with the powerful impact of this program is very moving." -- Lauren Robel, IU Bloomington provost and executive vice president
"We couldn't be more excited that the clinic will bear the name of Laurie Burns McRobbie. I live this mission each day with the students and am so proud of the work we are able to accomplish due to the guiding vision that originally stemmed from her. She is an inspiration to the students as well as to me. Thank you to Deb and James, who have so thoughtfully supported Serve IT in so many ways: strategically through years of service on our advisory council, educationally by showing up semester after semester to talk to the students at our events, and financially, which has helped us to provide scholarships and to enhance the clinic. Their genuine interest has been such a gift for the students." -- Una Thacker, Serve IT Clinic director