1890 HBCUs Partner Up With Microsoft & Others
HBCUs are strategically partnering with corporations in ways that are transformative for these colleges and universities, their students, and the communities they're located in
The 1890 Land Grant universities (1890s) and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are strategically partnering with corporations like Microsoft, IBM, Home Depot, and Diageo in ways that are transformative for these institutions, their students, and the communities they are located in.
This was the theme at the recent HBCU Virtual Partnership Luncheon held by Congressional HBCU Caucus Chair Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), a North Carolina A&T alum, and Rep. French Hill (R-AR), HBCU Caucus Co-Chair. Presenters from both 1890 HBCUs and their corporate partners described the work that was being accomplished through these collaborations.
Microsoft’s approach to collaborating with HBCUs highlights the role that working with nonprofits can play when forming relationships with schools such as North Carolina A&T and Prairie View A&M, both 1890 universities. Upon highlighting Microsoft’s new partnership with the 1890 Universities Foundation, leading Microsoft Technology Strategist Darrell Booker described how “… we work with over a thousand nonprofit think tanks. And some of those are developing our next pipeline of HBCU talent. One of these nonprofits that we really navigated towards is the 1890 Foundation.”
“Collectively our eyes really lit up because of the imminent multiplier effect of working with the 1890 Foundation,” Booker added. “That is one nonprofit, but that one nonprofit allows us to be able to work with nineteen HBCUs. Nineteen HBCUs that are mostly located in the Southeastern portion of the US and these are rural communities that are hit the most when we talk about the digital divide inequities and inequity in this country. So in true Microsoft Fashion … [we] came together to make this commitment to the 1890 Foundation.”
This commitment includes a digital transformation for the HBCUs that benefits administration, faculty and students, but it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft is using 1890 HBCUs as a foundation to transform the surrounding community, as well. For example, their Airband team is leading the charge to bring broadband access connectivity to the rural areas these HBCUs are located in.
“What began as a conversation a year ago during our 130th anniversary celebration has resulted in an impactful commitment made during one of the most challenging times for racial injustice and inequity in our nation,” said Dr. Makola Abdullah, President of Virginia State University, and Chairman of the 1890 Universities Foundation. “As Chairman of the 1890 HBCU Land Grant Universities, I applaud Microsoft on partnering with our 1890 Universities Foundation on a significant, multi-year collaboration to invest technology resources in support of racial equity and greater economic prosperity for communities of color. We are proud to be part of Microsoft’s Strengthening Communities initiative which is providing a range of resources from broadband access solutions, emerging tech acceleration support, workforce skill training and capacity building for the 1890 Universities Foundation. These resources will strengthen the collective effort of our 19-member universities who educate nearly 100,000 students annually, contribute more than $4.4 billion to their local economies and provide pathways of opportunity for thousands of Americans.”
Representatives from Diageo, a leading global beverage company, and Delaware State University (an 1890) highlighted how students directly benefit from collaborations between HBCUs and the private sector. As they described, in 2020, Diageo provided $250,000 to split between endowments and scholarships. As a result, three students were awarded $50,000 scholarships. Earlier this year, the company committed $10 million to 25 HBCUs and dedicated itself to the creation of permanent endowment funds to provide financial aid grants to thousands of their students across different disciplines.
Participants from IBM and Morgan State University described how partnerships between HBCUs and corporations can revolutionize the lives of faculty and students alike. As part of a $100 million investment in HBCUs, IBM has trained and certified over two hundred teachers who are now proficient in skills related to block chain, cyber security, and quantum computing. Their goal is to create certification programs for all HBCUs and to infuse this training and the software necessary to complete it across their campuses and throughout their disciplines. IBM’s partnership with Morgan State focuses on transdisciplinary teacher training, but they are also ensuring that campus computer labs have the software necessary for students to access analytic software.
As Dr. Silavanus Udoka, the Dean of the School of Business Administration at Clark Atlanta University explained: “We are in the business of preparing our students for the future of work.”
By combining access to technology, innovative work spaces, and opportunities for hands on learning, Home Depot and Clark Atlanta University are doing just that. Home Depot is working with HBCUs to train students to transform their campuses themselves. As part of their “Retool Your School” campaign, Home Depot has awarded $1 million to thirty HBCUs in order to “uplift” their campuses. At Clark Atlanta University, Home Depot is partnering with Dell Technologies to create an Innovation Lab for students to develop spaces where they have access to technology in an environment designed to inspire innovation. Home Depot also provides an eleven week paid internship program, brings leaders into classrooms to speak with students at HBCUs and uses these colleges and universities as sources for recruitment.
In their closing statements, Reps. Adams and Hill explained how working together can provide opportunities for HBCU students to access some of the most powerful rooms in the nation. Through their internship program, students have the rare honor of working on both sides of the aisle. For four weeks, interns work with Rep. Adams and then for four weeks they work with Rep. Hill. Throughout the process, they are exposed to the inner-workings of Congress from the position of both the majority and minority parties in Congress.
HBCUs like the 1890 Land Grant universities are institutions of learning, centers of knowledge distribution, pools of talent, and cornerstones of local and national communities. As clearly demonstrated by the presenters at the HBCU Virtual Partnership Luncheon, strategic partnerships between HBCUs and corporations can lead to revolutionary outcomes for students, faculty, administration and communities alike.