State of Connecticut as part of its ongoing partnership with Eastern Connecticut State University, and as one of the Governor’s “First Five” program companies committed to advancing employment in Connecticut.
The goal of the “Eastern-Cigna STEM Accelerator” (ECSA) program is to provide greater access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers for the diverse student populations attending Connecticut community colleges.
Students at Capital, Manchester, Middlesex, Quinebaug Valley and Three Rivers Community Colleges who have completed at least 45 college credits with a GPA of 3.2 or above in a discipline related to computer science, information systems, computer security, digital design or information management are eligible to apply for the ECSA program. Selected students will receive scholarships to prepare for information technology careers at Cigna by completing their bachelor’s degree at Eastern.
Selected students will be awarded a paid internship in Cigna’s Technology Early Career Development Program (TECDP) on the Eastern campus, and a $2,000 tuition scholarship. Students who live on Eastern’s campus will also receive a $1,000 housing scholarship. Earnings from the internship along with the scholarships will cover part of the cost of tuition, room and board. Students will complete their Eastern credits over the course of five semesters or less, meeting the requirements of a bachelor’s degree from Eastern in computer science or business information systems.
“Eastern’s leadership team has been fantastic to work with, and we have created something special together,” said Mark Boxer, Cigna executive vice president and global chief information officer. “Cigna is excited about how this new opportunity can lead to greater diversity in STEM, and positively impact the lives of deserving and high-potential students. This program opens up a new chapter in our partnership with Eastern that will expand Cigna’s employment base in Connecticut, improve our state economy and positively impact deserving students. Targeting high-potential students transitioning from community college to a four-year program provides a new pool of STEM talent critically needed by the health services industry.”
The creation of the Eastern-Cigna STEM Accelerator program expands Cigna’s existing internship program and innovation center at Eastern, which began in 2011. That fall, Eastern opened a “Work Hub” on campus to allow students the opportunity to develop practical skills doing real-time work assignments without having to travel off campus, while providing Cigna with a secure computer network and dedicated facility where its staff could provide on-site guidance and support to Eastern student interns. Eastern is one of several Cigna’s campus innovation sites in Connecticut.
Now in its fourth year, the paid internship program provides computer science and business information systems majors with practical information technology work experience; many of the students have been hired by Cigna following graduation from Eastern. When the program started, seven interns worked for Cigna. This fall there are 16 interns. Over the four years, upwards of 50 Eastern students have gone through Cigna’s TECDP program, and a majority have been hired into full-time paid positions at the company following graduation.
To accommodate the evolution of the program, Cigna and University officials officially opened Cigna’s new, expanded TECDP Innovation Center on Oct. 17 on Eastern’s campus.
“The Eastern-Cigna STEM Accelerator program is a natural extension of the success we have seen these past four years working with Cigna to prepare Eastern students for information technology careers in the health services industry,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez at the opening of the new TECDP center.
“Having outgrown the initial space we created on campus, this new facility allows us to provide paid internship opportunities to more Eastern students pursuing information technology careers. At the same time, it has presented us with the means to providing access to STEM careers for community college students from diverse backgrounds. Through Cigna’s generosity and vision, we can contribute to strengthening our state’s economy while providing career opportunities to a broader spectrum of Connecticut residents.”
“Since 2011, the Work Hub has provided students in our business information systems and computer science programs with a meaningful, supervised internship experience right here on campus,” said Eastern Provost Rhona Free. “The expanded TECDP center and the new Eastern-Cigna STEM Accelerator program benefit both Eastern and Cigna—it is a wonderful partnership that continues to gain momentum. These programs are also a positive response to the Board of Regents’ goals of supporting Connecticut’s workforce development efforts; forging stronger relationships with the state’s business community; and providing students with seamless articulation options between our community colleges and our state universities. We are excited about the future of this important collaboration.”