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Helping Innovators Grow Roots

April 17, 2023

Innovate Alabama Engages State’s HBCUs to Invest in and Retain Black Talent


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BIRMINGHAM, AL – This month, Innovate Alabama and The Alabama Collective launched Innovation Power Hours within the Innovate Alabama HBCU Innovation Experience to invest in, recruit and retain Black talent at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the state. In collaboration with Ed Farm and Bronze Valley, Innovation Power Hours give students and faculty the opportunity to participate in hands-on digital learning labs, engage with emerging technology, identify internship opportunities, explore entrepreneurial avenues and obtain industry-level certifications for employment. 

“As an HBCU graduate with a STEM education background, I understand the great impact these types of programs have on empowering collegiate talent to pursue careers in tech and innovation,” said Cynthia Crutchfield, Innovate Alabama CEO. “At Innovate Alabama, we have taken a multi-phase approach to reaching HBCU students and educators by collaborating with community stakeholders, such as The Alabama Collective, Ed Farm and Bronze Valley, in an effort to better invest in Black talent and encourage them to grow roots here in Alabama.” 

Innovate Alabama and the Alabama Collective have currently developed six tech and innovation programs within the HBCU Innovation Experience initiative to elevate minority tech talent and entrepreneurs and reinvigorate excitement around information technology, computer science and digital skill development. 

One of Innovate Alabama’s 2023 programs involves planning and executing a comprehensive HBCU engagement strategy to encourage talent attraction and retention within the state, and the HBCU Innovation Experience plays a central role in achieving this goal.  

“HBCUs are natural hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship. As we seek to narrow the gap of open tech jobs in Alabama, we recognize how integral HBCUs are in solving this challenge for our state,” said Charisse Stokes, The Alabama Collective executive director. “Through the Innovation Power Hours, we seek to elevate tech, innovation and entrepreneurial talent at HBCUs by exposing students and faculty to a variety of opportunities that will enhance their college experience and careers beyond.” 

To kick off the HBCU Innovation Experience, Innovate Alabama held a Tech Brunch in March, bringing together students, faculty and community leaders to learn about the initiative’s purpose and upcoming 2023 programs. As the newest program within this initiative, Innovation Power Hours are taking place at HBCUs across the state, starting with Tuskegee University, Miles College, Stillman College and Talladega College. 

“We are a student-centered institution that prides itself on bringing the best programs and opportunities, such as the Innovation Experience. The Innovation Experience is currently on an HBCU tour, directing attention and resources to frequently overlooked institutions,” said Bobbie Knight, J.D., Miles College president. “This event gives our students access to professionals excited to teach and share knowledge that prepares them for their futures. I look forward to our students engaging directly with the tools, software and platforms created for them and a fantastic event here at Miles College.” 

This program has already engaged nearly 100 students and faculty at Tuskegee University, exposing the campus communities to different tech and innovation opportunities. Later this month, Innovate Alabama and The Alabama Collective will host Innovation Power Hours at Miles College, Stillman College and Talladega College.

To register for an Innovation Power Hours event near you, please visit this link

A comprehensive list of upcoming Innovate Alabama HBCU Engagement Experience programs is included below. 

  • Innovation Power Hours – These three-hour events take place on HBCU campuses and showcase hands-on, collaborative digital learning labs. 
  • Intern Program – The intern program gives select students the opportunity to work at a local coding club during the academic semester. 
  • Tech Pathways – These eight-week courses educate students on coding, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and SWIFT, Apple’s programming language for building iOS applications. 
  • Entrepreneurship Training – four-week venture-creation workshop designed to help entrepreneurially minded students  
  • SWIFT Courses – Students can earn college credit and various certificates through these college-level courses focused on app development using the programming language SWIFT. 
  • HBCU App Design Competition – Taking place in fall 2023, this collaborative app design competition gives students a platform to showcase their talent to key stakeholders. 

For more information on Innovate Alabama, please visit  


About Innovate Alabama  

Innovate Alabama is Alabama’s first statewide public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation with a mission to help innovators grow roots here in Alabama. Innovate Alabama was established to implement the initiatives and recommendations set forth in the Alabama Innovation Commission’s report, including smart policy solutions that will create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy to remain competitive in a 21st-century world. With founding CEO Cynthia Crutchfield leading the charge, Innovate Alabama is also made up of a board of 11 innovation leaders appointed by Gov. Ivey, collaborating across sectors to advance industries, drive technology and facilitate an environment where innovation and entrepreneurship thrive. Learn more about Innovate Alabama at   

About The Alabama Collective 

The Alabama Collective seeks to expand and enhance emerging tech, innovation and entrepreneurial programs in Alabama. By fostering growth and diversity within the state’s tech and entrepreneurial landscape, The Alabama Collective is creating a hub for minority tech talent and entrepreneurs while also preserving the existing infrastructure that is essential to economic prosperity. To learn more, visit 

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