PVAMU breaks ground on new $70M engineering building, receives major gifts from Google, Apple
The $70 million engineering facility will be built at the intersection of E. E. O’Banion Street and D. W. Martin Street on the north end of campus. Construction will begin in June and should be completed by August of 2023.

PVAMU breaks ground on new state-of-the-art engineering building

With more than a dozen gleaming shovels festooned with purple-and-gold bows, more than a dozen university and system administrators, donors, and student representatives ceremonially broke ground on June 8 on a $70 million classroom and research building for the Roy G. Perry College of Engineering. Designed by Stantec Architecture and to be built by Vaughn Construction, the 106,000 square-foot facility will offer lab spaces designed to support multidisciplinary research, a maker space to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and classroom spaces for direct instruction.

“I’ve launched engineering building projects at every campus that I’ve led,” remarked Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) President Ruth J. Simmons at the groundbreaking ceremony, “but none of those buildings, at Brown or at Smith or even at Princeton, was as pivotal as the one we set out today to erect here at Prairie View. That’s because the intersection of the nation’s needs and these times, and what Prairie View can produce uniquely well, is represented in this project. If Prairie View could manage to excel and have such an impact for so many years with less than state-of-the-art facilities, imagine what it might achieve with facilities of the kind envisioned here.”

Among those voices heard at the ceremony (and a member of the group wielding shovels) was Joseph Dowell, a PVAMU doctoral student in the College of Engineering who earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Prairie View.

“For us, this new building is a symbol of continued growth and evolution for our students and for the College of Engineering,” Dowell said. “This building will provide engineering students with the space and the tools necessary to stay at the forefront of meeting societal challenges, to stay in the position where Prairie View students like to be: on top of our game, and ahead of the game.”

Pamela Obiomon, dean of the Roy G. Perry College of Engineering, briefly touched on PVAMU’s “firmly planted roots” in industrial education in her opening remarks and said that the new building would “build on that legacy of innovation and technology.” Her thoughts were amplified by Elaine Mendoza, the immediate past chair of the Board of Regents for Texas A&M System, who predicted that new, high-tech facilities “will draw even more top talent to Prairie View’s already renowned engineering program.” “Investing in Prairie View’s future has been the priority of our system leadership, and today’s groundbreaking is evidence of that. It’s because we all rally around the vision that Prairie View will compete with the Ivies for top academic talent, faculty, and research dollars and that Prairie View is recognized not only as the top HBCU in Texas but as a top university in Texas, period.”

Chancellor John Sharp of the TAMU System listed Prairie View’s many building projects undertaken over the past decade (an investment of more than $300 million since 2009) and the skyward trajectory of per-student funding during that time. “So much has happened over the TAMU system, but speaking for myself and the regents assembled here today, the most important thing to the system as a whole has been Prairie View A&M University,” Sharp said. “As state support has dropped, the board of regents has stepped up, and they have helped take Prairie View to the next level.”

Much of the credit belongs to President Simmons, Sharp made clear, saying that her decision to come to Prairie View was “the shot heard round the world” and that the “psychological boost” to the university “cannot be overstated.” Simmons, though, preferred to keep the focus on the regents as well as to alumnus Roy G. Perry, another of the honored guests at the groundbreaking. “Your presence confirms the magnitude of this undertaking,” Simmons said.

“We are one of the largest producers of African American engineers in the country, that is well known, and it’s a source of pride, and we aspire to produce engineers of all backgrounds, and increasingly it’s evident we are doing just that,” Simmons continued. “It’s why our students are much sought-after and why our corporate partnerships and funding are expanding rapidly and robustly. I insisted, at some point early in my time at Prairie View, that this building be a near-term priority, and as soon as I said it, we received immediate support from the Chancellor, his staff, and the board of regents.”

Simmons gestured to the line of shovels. “Now, let’s get this show on the road!”

Google addresses diversity gap in tech with its largest financial commitment to date for HBCUs

Google is committed to investing in the future of tomorrow’s Black leaders and professionals, and its latest initiative is directly addressing the diversity gap in tech.

Today, the tech giant has announced a new $50 million grant for 10 chosen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to help fund scholarships, invest in technical infrastructure to support in-class and remote learning, as well as develop curriculum and career support programs for these students.

“As Google’s Chief Diversity Officer and an HBCU alum, I am proud to continue our long-standing partnership with HBCUs and help provide Black students with access to opportunities in tech,” Melonie Parker told AfroTech exclusively over email. “This work is deeply important to me and the amazing talent, unique perspectives and lived experiences of these students embody the true meaning of diversity. This grant will help to fund the important work needed to further prepare students for the tech industry.”

HBCUs have been long regarded as strong pillars of our community showcasing Black excellence across the arts and STEM areas for over 180 years. These educational institutions provide a direct pipeline to Black talent pursuing higher education and ambitious career goals, which will ultimately help them continue to diversify the workforce across all industries — including tech.

Although these colleges and universities have been successful in graduating the best of their student bodies, Black professionals are still gravely underrepresented in the tech industry. Google’s hope is that this grant and effort of working with these HBCUs will help them close the gap together.

“Earlier this week I met with our HBCU Presidents’ Council to talk about ways we can work together to expand access to opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said to AfroTech. “I always leave these meetings inspired and energized — and this week, I was proud to share our new $50 million commitment will help support scholarships, invest in technology for classrooms, and develop curriculum and career readiness for the next generation of tech leaders.”

According to Google, its $50 million grant marks the company’s largest financial commitment to date for HBCUs. Each institution will receive a “one-time unrestricted financial grant of $5 million” that will give them the flexibility to pour back in their communities and invest in the future workforce how they see fit.

The 10 HBCUs receiving funds from the grant include:

    • Claflin University (SC)
    • Clark Atlanta University (GA)
    • Florida A&M University (FL)
    • Howard University (DC)
    • Morgan State University (MD)
    • NC A&T State University (NC)
    • Prairie View A&M University (TX)
    • Spelman College (GA)
    • Tuskegee University (AL)
    • Xavier University (LA)

Google’s grant follows its previous work to support HBCUs over the last few years, including its Pathways to Tech initiative. All of these initiatives were designed to “build equity for HBCU computing education, help job seekers find tech roles, and provide opportunities to accelerate their careers,” the tech giant says.

This new grant and Google’s HBCU partnerships is what will solidify the company’s commitment to allow more access and generate more opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech.

Several of Google’s HBCU partners — including Dr. Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund — shared their sentiments about how the new grant will help support their STEM programs and hopefully set a new standard for corporate philanthropy that will tackle the racial inequities undermining Black professionals.

“Google’s leadership gift of $50 [million] signifies an investment that will enable UNCF and TMCF to build on the great work we have implemented on our respective campuses,” Dr. Lomax shares, “to enhance their competitiveness in computer science and technology, provide professional development opportunities for our computer science faculty to innovate the curriculum, and prepare our students for a bright future with careers in the tech industry, specifically, at places like Google.”

PVAMU one of four HBCUs to receive $5 million ‘Innovation Grant’ from Apple

PVAMU is one of four HBCUs to be awarded a $5 million “Innovation Grant” from tech giant Apple.

The other HBCUs receiving these grants are Alabama A&M University, Howard University and Morgan State University. These gifts are part of the company’s $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative which was officially launched in last June in the midst of the global protests against police brutality spurred on by the death of Houston native George Floyd. 

The three-year grants are part of Apple’s New Silicon Initiative to help prepare students for careers in hardware technology and silicon chip design.

According to the company, the grants will support each university’s engineering school as well as help expand emerging hardware technologies coursework and expertise, particularly in computer architecture and silicon engineering.

“The HBCU community is home to incredible Black talent and we are thrilled to work alongside these universities to enhance the opportunities for their students,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives in a statement. “We know many jobs of the future will be in innovative areas like silicon engineering and we want to help ensure the leaders of tomorrow have access to transformational learning opportunities.”