Southern Company and Apple Launch Propel Center, a New Digital Learning Hub for HBCUs

The center will provide HBCUs with shared resources to support their work of preparing leaders to improve our world. Apple and Southern Company are founding partners, both contributing $25 million dollars to the development of innovation hub.

( ENSPIRE Feature ) Southern Company Joins Apple In Announcing The Launch Of New Digital Learning And Global Innovation Hub Propel Center; Headquarters In Atlanta For HBCU Students

ENSPIRE Contributor: Re’Dreyona Walker

Southern Company, an Atlanta based gas and electric company, has recently joined Apple to announce a new partnership launch of the Propel Center—a new digital learning hub and business incubator that will foster global innovation. The hub will be headquartered in Atlanta for historically black colleges and university (HBCU) students.

The physical campus will be located at the Atlanta University Center, a consortium made up of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown, and Spelman College. The Propel Center will be both a physical and virtual campus designed to provide students from over 100 HBCUs resources like digital learning tools and one-of-a-kind global opportunities to support their work.

An architectural rendering of the Propel Center, a new digital learning hub, business incubator, and global innovation headquarters planned in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Propel Center is being made available not only to HBCU students in Atlanta but to students attending select HBCUs within the Southern Company system’s service footprint in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The effort will help in advancing STEM at these institutions and better prepare HBCU students for their future careers. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressed she was honored in this effort to expose the HBCU community to new technological resources.

“The Propel Center will be a tremendous asset to Atlanta’s thriving HBCU community and will advance the mission of these institutions in the United States, and around the world,” Bottoms said in a statement. “Thank you to Apple and Southern Company for investing in our youth and our communities. We are honored to join you in this monumental effort.”

The current Atlanta University Center and Robert W. Woodruff Library. Atlanta University Center is located west of Atlanta’s central business district.

The partnership is acknowledging the underrepresentation of people of color in STEM fields, and how the country’s diverse population of Black and brown professionals are not properly reflected in the workforce. Careers in tech and engineering offer many opportunities for college students and ensure job security and growth, but yet many leading tech and engineering companies are not actually working to improve the lack of diversity. Dr. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College, says that “Apple and Southern Company are committed to developing the talent found at HBCUs and are committing resources to help improve diversity in STEM.”

“Tech jobs offer lucrative salaries and among the best opportunities for growth, yet the workforce in the nation’s top firms still does not reflect the country’s diverse population,” Dr. Thomas said in a statement. “Black and Hispanic professionals continue to be underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers. What students need are more opportunities at the college level to show and grow their skills in coding, programming, and data analysis in partnership with industry leaders…”

The Propel Center continues the work that was established by Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power and Apple in February 2020 with the launch of Ed Farm, an education initiative that aims to equip educators and communities in Alabama with innovative tools and strategies that support active learning for all students. The goals of Ed Farm: increase educational equity, improve learning outcomes through technology, and prepare the future tech workforce.

“We know inequities exist in our society, and it’s up to each of us to be more intentional in our efforts to make a difference and bridge the gap,” said Thomas A. Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company. “We know more must be done, and the establishment of the Propel Center is another important demonstration of Southern Company fulfilling our commitment to move our communities to a more equitable future. Partnering with Apple in this initiative is an exciting way to connect future leaders with these critical resources.”

The center will provide HBCUs with shared resources to support their work of preparing leaders to improve our world. Apple and Southern Company are founding partners, both contributing $25 million to the development of the innovation hub.

Both Apple and Southern Company are founding partners, with the Southern Company Foundation and Apple each contributing $25 million to this effort. The $25 million investment from the Southern Company Foundation will be going towards growing Black entrepreneurship and providing much-needed technology resources to the workforce of the future. The $25 million contribution from Apple will enable more job and internship opportunities in STEM fields and is part of their $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) which was created to help dismantle systemic barriers to equal career opportunities for people of color.

This commitment is also part of the $50 million multi-year initiative Southern Company that was created in 2020 to provide scholarships, internships, leadership development, technology access and innovation to support career readiness at HBCUs.

The center will begin to provide its services to HBCU students in Fall 2021. To learn more about the partnership and please visit the Propel Center website.