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L.A. County taps talent of Cal State LA technology students

March 6, 2018

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

Los Angeles County will expand a pilot program with California State University, Los Angeles that enlists students to solve real-world problems with information technology.

Through the partnership, teams of students have been working on projects to digitally track the Parks and Recreation Department’s fleet of vehicles, create an interactive directory to help the public navigate services in the Hall of Administration, and develop an online library card application system.

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who shepherded the program in October, made the motion to expand the pilot. Solis, whose First District includes Cal State LA, applauded the university and its students for their work.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted March 6 to expand the program to include other local universities, trade schools and technical institutions.

“I was eager to see what they were up to and to invite them to work with us to get out of the classroom and gain some real-life work experience,” Solis said. “There are multiple departments that we know are desperate to find new and innovative solutions to old problems.”

The Board of Supervisors also decided Tuesday to hold more IT civil service examinations and job fairs on local campuses to increase recruitment. The board will also track students to determine if those who participate in the partnerships go on to work for the county after graduation. The goal is for the program to serve as a pipeline for local students to launch careers in public service.

“This targeted partnership will help us to infuse the county with diverse, well-trained and cutting-edge IT talent,” County Director of Personnel Lisa M. Garrett said to the board in a report about the pilot program.

The pilot program was inspired by senior design projects, yearlong assignments that help prepare Cal State LA’s computer science and engineering students for the workforce. Teams of four to five students in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology work with the guidance of a faculty member and technical liaison on projects for private and public clients. Past clients have included the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin and the city of Los Angeles. 

“Our partnership is an important example of leveraging public resources,” Cal State LA President William A. Covino said. “Cal State LA students have benefitted from our collective investment in public education, and now our students are using their education for the public good.”

Emily Allen, dean of Cal State LA’s College of ECST, thanked Solis and the county for their support of the innovative partnership. Allen underscored the tremendous value for students and the wider Los Angeles region. 

“The College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology has as its motto: Commit to excellence, engage in community,” Allen told the board. “Our students take this injunction very seriously. They come to us from all over Los Angeles County and, after graduation, they mainly seek employment in L.A. County. They want to give back to the communities from which they came and have a firm commitment to making L.A. a better place to live.”

Cal State LA student Patrick Flinner explains his team's project to the Board of Supervisors as Dean Emily Allen looks onDozens of faculty members and students filled rows in the hearing room of the Board of Supervisors. Computer science students Patrick Flinner, Maurice Mejia and Matthew Gerlits explained their teams’ work on the county department projects and expressed their gratitude for the program.

“This project has given us the opportunity to work and collaborate with the county in a professional environment,” Gerlits said to the Board of Supervisors. “We also acquired industry-related knowledge and skills, gained practical experience and dealt with real business problems. We would like to extend our thanks to the Honorable Board of Supervisors, the people of Los Angeles and Cal State LA for this outstanding opportunity.”

County staff will report back to the board in May on the feasibility of creating additional agreements between county departments and academic institutions on projects as needed.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas congratulated Solis and the Cal State LA students at the meeting on the successful pilot program.

“This is how we will continue to improve county services and drive digital transformation in government,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Photos: Above, from left, Cal State LA students Matthew Gerlits and Patrick Flinner, Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Cal State LA President William A. Covino, College of ECST Dean Emily Allen and student Maurice Mejia. Bottom, Cal State LA student Patrick Flinner explains his team's project to the Board of Supervisors as Dean Emily Allen looks on. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit