Dell EMC employee Jake Medford, a UW-Stout alumnus, installs new equipment from the company at a UW-Stout lab for computer networking students.

To the untrained eye, they may not look like much — rows upon rows of sleek-looking metal boxes stacked high inside another metal box in a small room.

To the students in the computer networking and information technology undergraduate program at University of Wisconsin-Stout, they represent the future of computer storage, networking and servers.

That future arrived in early September when two Dell EMC employees from Eden Prairie, Minn., installed about a dozen pieces of high-tech equipment — new computer storage units with about 65 terabytes of space, servers, fiber channel switches and ethernet switches in part of the CNIT lab in Fryklund Hall.

Seniors in the CNIT capstone class began using the cutting-edge equipment Friday, Sept. 8, the first day of class, just a week after it was installed. It will help prepare them to enter the workforce for high-demand jobs when they graduate in December and beyond.

“It’s such a great opportunity for students. We’re educating the future workforce,” said Michelle Dingwall, a senior development officer with Stout University Foundation, which helped coordinate the gift-in-kind from Dell to the university.

The equipment, the latest made by Dell EMC, is valued at about $540,000, a price that wouldn’t have fit into UW-Stout’s budget.

“This is the most cutting-edge, emerging technology,” said Associate Professor Holly Yuan, CNIT program director. “Dell is really interested in seeing the program develop and grow. We couldn’t ask for more support.”

Chancellor Bob Meyer said the public-private partnership with Dell EMC is the wave of the future for public universities like UW-Stout during an era of tight state budgets.

“The generosity of Dell — and other companies — is very important. It’s a partnership that’s working well. Students really need state-of-the-art technology. It’s all about our students and the talent we put out on the street. With cutting-edge labs and our extraordinary faculty, graduates can plug right into the workforce,” Meyer said.

The CNIT program traditionally has had 100 percent employment of its graduates within six months — part of UW-Stout’s overall 97.4 percent graduate employment rate. Starting salaries for CNIT graduates range from $53,000 to $78,000.

Two of those recent CNIT graduates, Jake Medford, 2010, and Steve Holm, 2011, were the Dell EMC employees installing the new equipment. Their Dell facility in Eden Prairie employs about 40 UW-Stout graduates, they said.

Medford, originally from Osseo in west-central Wisconsin, is a product engineer. Holm, a native of Shoreview, Minn., is a master engineer in customer support.

“This is enterprise-grade equipment. These devices are prohibitively expensive for universities,” Holm said.

Capstone support

Dell’s support for the program goes even further. Dell sponsors a capstone project for CNIT seniors, with employees providing a lecture, mentoring and project feedback. Students also tour the Dell facility in Eden Prairie.

This year, the capstone class will challenge students to troubleshoot a disaster scenario, such as Hurricane Harvey. Medford and Holm fielded calls recently from companies in Houston that faced emergency situations as the waters rose because they didn’t have their system’s files backed up.

“The capstone project is about life lessons. We work in support. We see (computer) disasters,” Holm said.

Dell EMC, part of Dell Technologies, “provides the foundation to help modernize, automate and transform your data center with industry-leading servers, storage, cloud computing solutions, and converged infrastructure technology,” according to its website,

To learn more about the CNIT program, go to UW-Stout also offers a program in information and communication technologies,, and a master’s in information and communication technologies,


Dunn County News Editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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