From the HBCU Newsletter: PROPEL Center makes major new announcement

Adapted from this week’s HBCU newsletter. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss the next issue.

If you have been following this newsletter for some time, then you have likely read my deep dives into the multi-million dollar PROPEL Center, a global innovation and learning hub for HBCUs that has major backing from Apple and Southern Company.

Now, more than two years after launching, the PROPEL Center officially has a site for its future home: 635 Atlanta Student Movement Blvd. The 5.2-acre site is owned by Clark Atlanta University and the school has entered a long-term leasing agreement with PROPEL.

When PROPEL was first launched in January 2021, the initial announcement touted a 50,000-square-foot campus at the Atlanta University Center, which houses Spelman College, Morehouse College, the Morehouse School of Medicine and Clark Atlanta.

This site they have officially chosen seems to have been in the works for at least a year, according to records in the City of Atlanta online permitting portal. It is unclear when exactly groundbreaking will start since no building permit applications have been recently filed, but in the announcement, PROPEL said it is targeting early 2023.

“As with any ambitious building project, we are still in a design phase for the concept of the building, as well as when we will actually have the groundbreaking,” Waymond Jackson, interim CEO of PROPEL, told The Plug in July.

What will happen at the PROPEL Center

PROPEL aims to support the entire HBCU community through its programming, and its vision for the center echoes that.

“Conceived to provide innovative curricula, work-based learning experiences, advanced technology support and unprecedented career and leadership opportunities, the hub will further work to deliver an array of strategic resources, preparation and industry access across the Black collegiate community to support their work in producing the next generation of scholars who will champion equity, justice and entrepreneurship,” the announcement said.

There will be different curricula for agricultural tech, augmented reality, social justice, health, arts & entertainment, and hospitality, and energy, along with career preparation and entrepreneurship tracks, which lines up with the types of research grants and events PROPEL has created over the past two years.

“Once complete, the PROPEL Center will build upon those efforts by providing an innovative learning space for all HBCU students,” Jackson said in a statement.

Screenshot of the PROPEL Center homepage

There is also a curriculum component that has not yet been rolled out, which initially was explained in July as “in-person and remote coaching from industry professionals ranging from global scholars and startup founders, to policy leaders and renowned entertainers.” However, Jackson is hoping to launch a virtual curriculum to partner HBCUs at the top of next year, Q1 2023.

The PROPEL Center has the chance to be truly transformative for HBCUs and this physical site is a major step forward, but there are still many more steps to be accomplished.

Mirtha Donastorg

Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.