Small School, Big Opportunities
DECATUR, Ill. – Millikin University’s Jake Shumaker doesn’t let an opportunity pass him by.
The Computer Science major is entering his senior year this fall but has already built an impressive resume of activities in and out of the classroom that often fill his days from sunrise to sunset.
Early mornings are typically spent on the track as a Big Blue All-American runner, while his days could be spent on his coursework, serving as a Senior Consultant for the student-run venture Millikin University Performance Consulting (MUPC) or at either of his two internships at State Farm Insurance and Boost Microgravity Treadmills.
“At first, when I came to Millikin, it was just about being involved in sports. Now it is being involved in a student business and having two internships,” Jake said. “Now, it is helping the Pi Mu Epsilon Honors Society and making an impact on campus in a couple of different groups. I feel like I have made an impact all over campus, and I’m trying to be a leader for those around me.”
Originally from Mount Zion, Ill., Jake initially came to Millikin to play soccer for the Big Blue. He did that for his first year and then made the move to run full-time for track and field, where he excelled.
Shumaker set school records in the 800 meters at the 2023 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in March, finishing fifth overall in the nation to become an All-American.
He was also critical to the landmark 2023 outdoor season for the Big Blue Men’s Track and Field team. Shumaker ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay that captured the gold at the 2023 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Big Blue finished second overall, their best team finish since 1963.
Academically, Shumaker has always been interested in engineering, be it civil or software, and he gets to put those skills to work in his Performance Learning experiences with MUPC, State Farm and Boost.
Shumaker’s first project with MUPC centered around Decatur’s PawPrint Ministries, a non-profit group that brings registered therapy/comfort dogs to individuals in healthcare facilities, schools and senior homes. The MUPC project installed a new email system and a more vibrant website for the group.
“Having the opportunity to work with an organization in the community gave me a sense of pride to know that this non-profit is helping those around the community and helping with mental health,” Jake said. “It was special to me to build that connection with the client, and it allowed me to get my feet wet and get into the IT consulting world.”
At State Farm, Jake is gaining Performance Learning experience in software and app development focused on user experience. His internship at Boost resulted from a perfect storm of ingenuity and a desire to improve athletically.
“At first, when I came to Millikin, it was just about being involved in sports. Now it is being involved in a student business and having two internships. I feel like I have made an impact all over campus, and I’m trying to be a leader for those around me.”
--Jake Shumaker, Class of 2024.
Boost treadmills can help athletes train and recover from injuries by creating a pressure-filled cage encompassing the runner from the waist down. Changing the pressure in the cage makes the runner feel like they are running in lower gravity.
“The sensation is almost like running on the Moon. The pressure on the hips allows you to lift up, giving you less pressure on your legs,” Jake said. “We use it for training, and there is less impact on the ground, saving your legs and improving recovery time. For someone returning from an ankle injury or a tight knee, it allows them to go through the running motion without the pressure.”
While using the device, Jake noticed a flaw in the design and decided to reach out to Boost to suggest a fix. It was another opportunity that Jake couldn’t pass up.
“When the plastic cage is down, it is crinkled and can deteriorate more quickly. When it is up, it is active and being used. I suggested an improvement to this to have a timer system. When there isn’t any weight on the treadmill after some time, the cage would automatically rise, which extends the life of the cage,” Jake said.
Jake contacted customer service about his suggestion, and after talking with a Boost engineer, he now has an internship with the company to continue to improve the design.
“It was a shot in the dark. They thought the idea was good and we set up a Zoom call with the inventor of the Boost,” Jake said. “We talked about future projects they were working on and how I could fit into that role as an intern.”
Just as he’s succeeded on the track, the accolades have followed Jake in his academic pursuits. During the 2022-23 Honors Convocation, he was selected as one of eight student recipients of the Scovill Prize, the highest award for overall excellence at Millikin University. He also received the Podeschi-Landacre Management Information Systems Award, honoring a student that has shown excellence and leadership in Performance Learning experiences.
“Coming to Millikin, I didn’t know about these opportunities. Internships had never crossed my mind. MUPC was something I never thought I would become a part of. I think I have leaned on my professors and mentors – be it (Millikin Track and Field Head Coach) Andrew Craycraft or (Assistant Coach) Ben Kuxmann – to show me that all of these things can be done,” Jake said. “None of this would be possible on my own and I needed the support of my peers, professors and coaches. They have been super impactful and special for me to create this small school environment that has allowed me to do big school things.”