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Apple-backed HBCU Innovation Center To Call Atlanta University Center Home

by Maija Ehlinger

Atlanta is set to be home to yet another HQ.

The Atlanta University Center (AUC) will soon house The Propel Center’s innovation campus, which will focus on building tech talent within the country’s 100+ HBCUs. 

The Propel Center, started by Birmingham-based Ed Farm, offers in-person and online courses in technology and business. It will include an on-campus accelerator along with a Scholar-in-Residence program.

The Atlanta University Center is a consortium of HBCUs which includes Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, Spellman, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. The new 50,000 square foot center will ultimately serve as a hub for the over HBCUs across the United States. Apple and Southern Company are both investing $25 million in the center.

Apple says its partnership with the Propel Center is part of a $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). On the entrepreneurial and tech side, the Center will have educational tracks to teach AI and machine learning, agricultural technologies, app development, augmented reality, career preparation, and entrepreneurship that will be available to students at HBCUs across the country. In a statement, Apple also said the experts from the company will be developing the curriculum.

“The HBCU community is a tremendous engine of Black creativity, entrepreneurship, and inclusive opportunity,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, in a statement. “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.”

Rendering of the new innovation center

George T. French Jr., Ph.D, President of Clark Atlanta University, calls the initiative with Apple a “game-changer” for the University. “This gives our students the opportunity to be on the cutting edge technology…augmented reality, machine learning, coding….everything that will make the United States what she used to be.”

French told Hypepotamus that the current plan is to break ground on the project later in 2021, but the curriculum will be rolled out prior to that in a virtual setting. 

Atlanta is a natural fit for such a building on several fronts. Not only does the city have one of the highest concentrations of HBCU students in the country, but Georgia also has the third-highest concentration of Black female founders in the country, according to data collected by digitalundivided

Apple is not the only Fortune 500 tech company to invest in Atlanta over the past few months. Over the summer Google for Startup’s Black Founders Fund deployed $2.35 million into 35 startups in the Metro Atlanta area.

The new partnership has garnered praise from across the tech leadership community.

“It’s great to see Apple’s continued efforts to dismantle systemic barriers and promote racial equality with its latest set of donations, specifically its efforts to support those students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said Marlon Evans, CEO, Nex Cubed. With the historic appointments of Madame Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator-Elect Reverend Raphael Warnock (both HBCU alumni), it is now more clear than ever how instrumental these institutions are to the growth and empowerment of future black leaders, requiring substantial support and investment in these students, especially those in the tech sector.”

“Major corporations such as Apple and the like have a critical role to play when it comes to empowering current and aspiring Black entrepreneurs, and we hope this is the first of many steps taken to acknowledge and address the racial tech and entrepreneurship disparity.”


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