Free said that the university hopes to attract other businesses and organizations — including local small businesses and community organizations — that could provide experience for the interns but may not be able to host them at their own sites.

If the program grows, Nuñez said, Eastern could expand the workspace into other areas on campus. Free said the existing space was renovated, furnished, and equipped with a combination of school and ECSU Foundation funds, though Cigna did provide some equipment for its own interns’ use.

The school also worked with Cigna to beef up security in the hub to protect the company’s data, and Nuñez said the same could be done for other employers who deal with sensitive information.

Citurs said the Cigna interns are paid, but Fee said that the program could include unpaid internships as well.

Boisjolie said Cigna is “eager to invest in young talent” in information technology.

“Investing the time and the money into an internship at ECSU or other schools that we’re looking into is really going to position Cigna to find the talent we’re looking for in the future to lead the different business areas, the IT areas,” Boisjolie said.

Citurs said the students are excited about their internships and he is excited about the program.

“You do it because it’s right for the students, and it’s right for Connecticut,” Citurs said. “It’s great when I see alumni students come back and tell our current students about all the cool projects and initiatives they’ve been involved with.

“In this economy,” he added, “when most of my students walk across the stage at graduation, they’ve got jobs. And good jobs.”