Community stakeholders and industry partners announced the launch of Propel Center, a virtual and physical campus that will serve as a global hub for leadership and career development for over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). P
Propel Center was designed by Ed Farm, a nonprofit committed to transforming classrooms to uplift communities, with Apple and Southern Company supporting the project as founding partners.
The first-of-its kind global headquarters is designed to provide innovative curriculum, technology support, career opportunities, and resources across the HBCU community to support their work in preparing the next generation of leaders who work to advance equity and justice. Curriculum options will include app development, augmented reality, machine learning, agricultural technologies, social justice, entertainment arts, design and creativity, career preparation, and entrepreneurship tracks.
Propel Center will support the entire HBCU community through a robust virtual platform, a physical campus in Atlanta, as well as on-campus activations at partner institutions that will bring labs and technology to participating schools. Construction of the Propel Center’s physical campus — a 50,000 square-foot campus equipped with state-of-the-art lecture halls, learning labs, and on-site living for a scholars-in-residence program — is planned to begin in the winter of 2021.
As the program’s technology partner, Apple will provide ongoing support for Propel Center’s curriculum development, technology for in-person and virtual learning spaces, and mentorship and internship opportunities for students across the HBCU community.
“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. “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.”
For Southern Company and its subsidiaries, this commitment is part of a $50 million multi-year initiative announced in January 2020 to provide scholarships, internships, leadership development, access to technology and innovation to support career readiness for students attending HBCUs within the Southern Company system’s service footprint in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
“Learning is most valuable when it is connected to application. Southern Company is committed to giving students who emerge from Propel Center a place to apply their skills and leadership. Our world is changing, so we must do what we can to change the way our students develop as leaders. Along with Apple our investment will yield a return that makes the world a stronger and more equitable place,” said Thomas A. Fanning, chairman, president and CEO, Southern Company.
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Southern Company believes the $25 million investment from its charitable foundation will help grow Black entrepreneurship and provide much-needed technology resources to the workforce of the future.
“These investments are critical as we begin to truly scale Black innovation ecosystems,” said Anthony Oni, chairman, Ed Farm, and vice president, Southern Company Gas. “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.”
The board of directors at Ed Farm and the founding members of Propel Center will use the first quarter of 2021 to assemble Propel’s leadership team. Engagement is underway with academic and institutional partners.
“Propel represents the most inclusive, game changing and collaborative partnership that I have witnessed within my 17 years as both college and university president,” said CAU President and Chair of the Atlanta University Center Consortium Council of Presidents George T. French Jr. “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. Additionally, Propel will serve HBCUs across the country in an unprecedented collaborative. This multi-million-dollar public-private partnership will serve as exemplar, with reverberations affecting generations.”