11/29/04

A $250,000 grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation is giving a boost to plans at Saint Mary's College to improve use of the Internet as a research and learning tool. Together with $640,000 in funds the College is already providing, the gift will help complete a major upgrade of Internet access and security. All residence halls now will have high-speed fiber-optic connections to the Internet, and the campus-wide data network known as "ResNet" will have greater protection from destructive worms and viruses.

The Fletcher Jones funds will pay for new servers, Internet switches, and network security systems. Faculty members will be able to more confidently adapt Web-based learning materials to their courses. Students will be able search and download crucial research materials as well as work collaboratively and communicate electronically with their professors as part of their classes.

"Our goal is that students will see reliable, seamless connections to our networks and, through them, to the Internet and World Wide Web," said Ed Biglin, chief technology officer at Saint Mary's College. "We expect that students won't have to think about our networks any more than they now have to think about the phone system or the electric system."

During the 2003-2004 academic year, the campus experienced Internet service interruptions, particularly when new and returning students arrived in September and reconnected their computers to the campus network. Worms and viruses were introduced to the system, and their removal required many staff hours.

The new network security system has a self-defending capability to counter attacks from viruses and worms. These network components will automatically check whether attached computers have installed up-to-date security "patches" from Microsoft and have current anti-virus software programs. Those without patches will be shunted to an isolated network, preventing transmittal of viruses and worms to other computers on the main network. These systems also automatically detect programs behaving like viruses or worms in network computers and instruct computers attached to the network not to accept or run those programs until they have been declared safe.

"The Fletcher Jones Foundation has a long history of support for California private colleges in general and specifically Saint Mary's," said Elizabeth Gallagher, director of corporate and foundation relations at Saint Mary's College. "Between 1987 and 1992, the foundation funded chemistry, physiology, and psychology equipment, and library resources. In the mid-1990s, it provided for the Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair, currently held by Gerald Capriulo, professor of biology. And in 2000, the foundation awarded a grant for equipment in the science center. These grants have benefited thousands of Saint Mary's students, and we are grateful for their support."

-- by Joseph Wakelee-Lynch
Office of College Communications

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