Most Influential Projects 2021

26 Propel Center

Propel Cener Image 1

For challenging systemic racism by fueling next-gen thinking at Black universities

As protests for racial justice echoed around the world last year, Silicon Valley's biggest players vowed to increase the disturbingly low number of people of color in tech. In January, Apple took action, joining forces with energy company Southern Co. to build the Propel Center. Funded with US$25 million from each company, the project will deliver a first-of-its-kind 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) campus in the historic Atlanta University Center district as well as a digital learning platform for students and faculty at more than 100 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States.

The center is being "imagined and designed" by Ed Farm, building on the nonprofit's partnership with the tech giant. The "extraordinary project" will help "cultivate leadership and drive innovation in tech and beyond, acting as a springboard for change in communities across America," says Anthony Oni, Ed Farm's founder and chairman of the board.

The Propel Center will employ custom curriculum across myriad education tracks—from AI and augmented reality to social justice and entertainment arts—as well as learning labs tricked out with the latest tech to foster innovation. Students can also participate through on-site HBCU ideation labs at partner institutions nationwide.

And to make sure that education leads to employment—and moves the needle on building a more equitable workforce—the Propel Center's plans include fellowship, internship and mentorship opportunities, as well as career prep courses.