State Farm

The State Farm Research and Development Center is a dynamic environment where creativity and innovation is not just a mantra - it's a culture.

Employing an average of 80 student interns per semester, the Research and Development Center is a place where talented Illinois students, guided by company staff, support the insurance giant's programs and initiatives.

A prime example of such innovation is a mobile application formulated by student interns to complement a long-standing program that helps drivers under age 25 receive a discount on their auto insurance.

Interns who had personal experience with the discount program provided assistance with the development of an application for smartphones or other wireless devices. The application collects data such as miles logged and provides other pertinent information like driving trips.

"This was an attempt to get a product more in line with where a youthful market would expect it to be," says John Quarton, Research and  Development Center Oversight Manager. "That research and that effort have opened our eyes into other types of mobile applications that could be even more relevant, not just to the young adult market but the market as a whole."

Scott Christensen was among the Center's first interns. The actuarial science major was hired by State Farm — based just 50 miles away from Champaign-Urbana, in Bloomington, Ill. — and later returned to the Research Park to work with students.

The emphasis, says Cristensen, is learning, teaching, and training — but that also comes with tangible results.

"We like to talk about how our interns helped out with a small line of insurance," he says. "We implemented a change they recommended and sent it out. It's pretty amazing that college students can do this type and quality of work for us, with some direction from corporate."

The State Farm Research and Development Center has employed 490 student interns in its six-plus years at the Research Park. The Center recruits students studying a wide variety of disciplines — among them actuarial science, business, and computer science.

Through its presence at the Research Park, State Farm has engaged with many elements of the university community. One example is its partnership with the College of Engineering to develop a mobile application for Engineering Open House, a popular annual campus event.

"We look at ourselves as a community," Quarton says. "In trying to be a good neighbor — to use our own State Farm vernacular — we want to be an active member of the vibrant campus population."