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October 7, 2009




UMFK student, André Léger, had one of the coolest jobs an undergraduate e-Commerce student could hope for this past summer when he won a paid internship to participate in the Google Summer of CodeTM program. 

The well-paid internship also earned Léger eight credits toward his Bachelor of Science in e-Commerce degree, which he expects to be conferred next May. 

During his three-month assignment, Léger, a senior, originally from Montreal, Quebec, developed a prototype discussion box for OpenSyllabus, a project of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Sakai Foundation, which has partners throughout the world. 

Sakai is an open-source collaboration and learning environment, which is in enterprise use at 200 universities around the world, with more than a million daily users for teaching and learning.  It is an alternative to other classroom teaching platforms, such as Web CT and Blackboard. 

Léger later built and implemented the discussion box as part of completing his summer project under the program.   

The Sakai open syllabus project, or Sakai3, sought to adapt an easy-to-use tool to create and publish model-based syllabi.  A fall 2010 launch date is anticipated for the syllabus. 

Sakai3 is a web-based system, which will be customized and run by universities around the world to support their staff, students and collaborators in their work.  

Léger, who already holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Commerce from McGill University in Montreal, and is a former investment banker, originally heard about the Google Summer of CodeTM program from UMFK Professor, Dr. Raymond T. Albert, who mentioned it to his students.    

Léger investigated the program, and, despite having little programming experience, decided to apply.  His participation in the summer project was conducted under the guidance of a mentor, Claude Coulombe, a Ph.D. student at the University of Montreal.  

“The project was a big challenge to me,” Léger said.  “It was not easy.  I learned to resolve many issues that I encountered on my own.  But I relied a lot on my mentor throughout the project,” he added. 

The Google Summer of CodeTM required applicants to apply to specific open source projects.  Léger chose the Sakai project.  His entire application was presented in an on-line webpage folio for review by a selection panel.  

Léger was selected. 

Google Summer of CodeTM is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects.  Since its inception in 2005, the program has brought together nearly 3,300 students and more than 5,000 mentors and co-mentors from nearly 100 countries. 

Through the Google Summer of CodeTM program, accepted student applicants are paired with a mentor or mentors from the participating projects.  They gain exposure to real-world software development scenarios, and the opportunity for employment in areas related to their academic pursuits.  

In turn, the participating projects are able to more easily identify and bring in new developers.  But perhaps best of all, more source code is created and released through the program, for the use and benefit of all. 

Throughout his summer-long internship, Léger worked from his home in Edmundston, New Brunswick, where he and his wife, an internist, have lived for the past six years.  They have two children.   

Before anyone gets the idea that Léger spent a leisurely summer, padding about his home, playing with his children, earning credits and a paycheck, think again.  

Léger worked a solid 40-hour week throughout the summer.  He also was required to submit weekly reports on his progress.  That work was, in turn, reviewed and commented upon by his mentor.  

Following the submission of his prototype, about half-way through the project, Léger and other students accepted in the program were given a mid-term evaluation: a pass or fail grade.  

The grade was based not on a student’s project outcomes up to that point, but rather on their commitment and willingness to resolve issues that came up during the course of their work. Léger passed his mid-term evaluation and continued his work to a successful completion. 

Google Summer of CodeTM for 2009 accepted 1,000 students from 70 countries to work on more than 150 free and open source software projects.  More than 85 percent of participating passed their final evaluations.   

The top five countries for accepted student applicants for the 2009 program were:  the United States (212), India (101), Germany (55), Canada (44) and Brazil (43).  Countries represented for the first time this year included one student each from the Dominican Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg and Nigeria. 

André’s summer project was an example of experiential learning opportunities available to UMFK students in UMFK’s Business program.   

UMFK’s Bachelor of Science degree programs in Business, e-Commerce, Rural Public Safety Administration, and Computer Applications have specialized international accreditation through the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.   

Although André Léger’s “Summer of Code” is over, he looks back on it as a building block toward future endeavors.

“The project was a great experience for me,” Léger noted.  “Although I did not have a programming background, I was able to work my way through many difficulties to resolve issues that I encountered along the way.  I now have a lot more confidence in my abilities,” he added. 

Léger hopes to return to apply to the Google Summer of CodeTM program yet again.  The idea of being a mentor one day has crossed his mind, as well.  Meanwhile, he looks forward to completing his degree at UMFK and to work for himself following graduation.   

But what he really looks forward to most at this point in time is receiving, and proudly wearing, his Google Summer of CodeTM t-shirt.