Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read Jan 2021 — Technology innovation in Atlanta’s higher education sector is experiencing tailwinds thanks to a major contribution by household name tech giants and collaborators. Apple and the Southern Company, along with community stakeholders, joined forces to launch the Propel Center, a first-of-its-kind digital learning hub, business incubator and innovation headquarters to serve the needs of local and national historically Black colleges and university (HBCU) students.
With each company pledging a $25 million investment, the Propel Center will be housed at the historic Atlanta University Center campus. Locally, the Propel Center will support students and faculty from Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, Spelman College, Morehouse College and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
The center will support the development of the next generation of diverse leaders by providing innovative curricula, technology support, career opportunities and fellowship programs, Apple said in a press release. The Propel Center is slated to offer different educational tracks centered around AI, machine learning, agriculture technologies, social justice and more while Apple experts will aid in curriculum development and provide ongoing mentorship for students.
“Propel represents the most inclusive, game changing and collaborative partnership that I have witnessed within my 17 years as both college and university president. Propel will provide HBCU student-scholars across the country access to cutting-edge technology, resources, and programming to be globally competitive across multidisciplinary disciplines and career trajectories, Clark Atlanta University President George T. French Jr. said in a press release. “Propel will serve HBCUs across the country in an unprecedented collaboration. This multi-million-dollar public-private partnership will serve as exemplar, with reverberations affecting generations.”
The Propel Center announcement is the latest in Apple’s efforts to advance educational equity. Last July, the tech giant announced the deepening of existing partnerships with HBCUs by adding more than 10 regional coding centers slated to serve as tech hubs for students and the local community. “The HBCU community is a tremendous engine of Black creativity, entrepreneurship, and inclusive opportunity,” Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson said about the announcement of the Propel Center. “We are thrilled to join with partners and community stakeholders to support the Propel Center and be part of this groundbreaking new global hub for HBCU innovation and learning, devoted to helping faculty create best-in-class curriculum and ensuring students have access to cutting-edge skills.”
Propel Center was imagined and designed by Ed Farm, an organization keen on promoting innovation and educational equity with Apple and Southern Company supporting the project as founding partners.“These investments are critical as we begin to truly scale Black innovation ecosystems,” Ed Farm Chairman Anthony Oni said in a press release. “By leveraging technology and partnerships to connect students with unique learning opportunities, we can lift up the talent that already exists at these institutions of higher learning and accelerate their development. In doing so, we will have a hand in shaping the workforce of the future — and the leaders of tomorrow.”
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