Maverick Software Consulting Offers Real-World Experience

News | Thursday, October 04,2007

Project Maverick employees Mitch Vaneps, left, and Dave Erichsen, right, agree their skills have improved since joining the program, which offers students a chance to work with computer software.

All too often in college, "real world" experience appears to take a back seat to note taking and paper writing. Based in University Square, Project Maverick is a program that allows students to get a taste of real-world experience while developing and testing software.

The programs developed in Aug. 2006 when Minnesota State signed a contract with Maverick Software Consulting, which has a contract with Thomson-West.

The students in this program mostly work with the software Westlaw. Westlaw is an application that contains easy access to court cases, statutes and other public records. Project Maverick is used as an alternative to off-shoring or hiring workers in India.

The project provides many opportunities for students that they may not find elsewhere.

"Most programs like this go in the summer for three months and it's over. Here we ask for a one-year commitment," said the director of Project Maverick, Dr. Michael Wells.

All work is done in University Square and the students' work schedules are set up around their class times. Students involved in the project also have the chance to work at Thomson in Eagan, Minn., during the summer months. This gives the students a taste of what life would be like working for Thomson.

Although the program is barely a year old, it has gained prestige and is growing incredibly fast.

"The contract signed with MSC won MSU's 2007 Research and Sponsored Program's External Funding Incentive Excellence Award for generating the most indirect cost return for MSU," Wells said. Thomson-West also received the national award Law Technology News Award for Knowledge Management Systems.

The software that won the award was an application that interns for Project Maverick worked on diligently. In 2006, Project Maverick had only 10 interns. This year it has expanded to 20 interns.

To be hired as an intern for Project Maverick, students must meet some basic requirements: They must have two semesters of programming courses and make a one-year commitment to the program. The students can work up to 20 hours per week during the school year and 40 hours per week during various breaks.

It is also beneficial for MCS to have programs like this because the future employee's are trained already. There is a similar program affiliated with MCS in Madison, Wisc. These programs give the industry a highly skilled group to recruit from for new hires.

The students also receive a number of benefits while working for Project Maverick.

"The thing I most enjoy about the program is the connection to the professional field," said Dave Erichsen, an employee of six months.

Students also work close to campus, become marketable to recruiters and often have full-time job offers before graduation.

"I have already received an offer from Thomson," said senior Mitch Vaneps.

In Project Maverick, students work both individually as well as in groups of two to four.

"You get matched up with great people. MCS is willing to take it slowly but they do have high expectations," Erichsen said.

Both Erichsen and Vaneps agreed their skills have improved since joining the program.

"They want you to grow here. As they begin to trust us more, the work gets more complex," Erichsen said.