Big Deals—New initiatives for HBCUs

Apps that create real-world career readiness; edX creates online boot camps; and HBCU Gamers get to level the playing field

The PROPEL Center, the first innovation hub created to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), this month launched PROPEL Learn, a student-focused app designed to revolutionize the way HBCU students prepare for future job success. PROPEL Learn will provide culturally-responsive content, curriculum and industry-aligned micro-credentials co-developed by industry experts, distinguished HBCU faculty, and notable workforce collaborators — making this a groundbreaking app for HBCU students at no cost.

Developed in collaboration with Honor Education, pioneers in developing teaching and learning software, the PROPEL Learn app will help accelerate learning and bridge the gap between academic preparation and real-world career readiness for HBCU students. Its interface and distinctive engagement features will connect learners to in-depth interaction with facilitators and provide collective feedback from peers outside the classroom. Industry executives and entrepreneurs will share deep insights and unique perspectives to offer students a rare opportunity to learn from those who have achieved sustained success in their careers.

“PROPEL Learn is a pioneering app that empowers HBCU students with the latest technological innovations, shaping the future of our workforce. Our unique approach of co-developing micro- credentials with industry partners and HBCU faculty ensures an unparalleled learning experience for the entire ecosystem of learners,” said Dr. Camesha Whittaker, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Design at PROPEL. “With the ability to reach nearly 300,000 students, PROPEL Learn leaves no institution behind. It is the ultimate solution for advanced engagement, upskilling, and an indispensable companion to all HBCU institutional offerings.”

Upon completion of PROPEL Learn courses, students will receive micro-credentials that provide recognition of industry-aligned competencies and specialized skills attained through short coursework, empowering students with material assets that showcase their proficiencies. In today’s rapidly changing workforce, earning these credentials will help ensure HBCU students are positioned to excel in a competitive job market.

Free to students, registration is now open for PROPEL Learn courses that are set to begin on September 11. Among the offerings are courses that PROPEL developed in collaboration with founding partner Apple covering arts & entertainment, AIML, and coding with Swift. A professional development course titled ‘Discovering Your Professional Superpowers,’ developed in partnership with The Walt Disney Company, will also be available. Additionally, all registered HBCU students on the app will have access to learnings focused on the energy industry, provided by Southern Company, one of PROPEL’s founding partners.

This summer, PROPEL conducted a pilot of the app to garner student input and feedback. Student responses have been positive. An Xavier University student among the cohort of learners enrolled in the ‘Discovering Your Professional Superpowers’ course said “I increased my awareness of networking, professionalism, and learning to adapt to new workspaces while preserving my individuality. I am grateful the PROPEL Learn app offered asynchronous courses and weekly check-ins for the students who could participate.”

Available on iOS and Android, the app will provide HBCU students with a competitive edge, delivering personalized career guidance and mentorship opportunities. Download the free app and join the conversation on social media at #PROPELForward and #PROPELLearn.

edX, a leading global online learning platform from 2U, Inc. (Nasdaq: TWOU), together with Drake State Technical and Community College, a historically black community college, and Jobs for the Future (JFF), today announced the launch of a new Access Partnership to provide adult learners in the Huntsville, Alabama area with access to no cost, fully online boot camp programs in cybersecurity and data analytics. Funded by Truist Foundation, the scholarships are designed to increase technical talent in the Huntsville region, specifically focusing on helping women, BIPOC, and lower-income professionals build stronger economic futures.

JFF logo and Drake State logo

edX Access Partnerships is an award-winning social impact program that connects colleges and universities with local workforce agencies and funding partners to create affordable pathways for underserved adult learners to gain career-relevant technology skills. The program is underpinned by edX’s industry-leading boot camp curricula in key technology fields. With a focus on innovation and grassroots relationship building, these public-private partnerships have upskilled more than 3,000 learners in communities in the U.S. and U.K. at little to no cost to learners.

The program will initially be offered to 60 learners in the Huntsville area beginning in November, with 30 seats open in the cybersecurity boot camp and 30 in the data analytics boot camp. Learners who successfully complete the boot camp program will receive college credit that can be applied toward an associate’s degree at Drake State. Over the next three years, the program is estimated to support more than 150 Huntsville area residents.

“Drake State has long been committed to offering flexible, affordable technical degrees and customized skills training to support and enhance the lives of our workforce and the health of our industries across North Alabama,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, President of Drake State. “Our new Access Partnership with edX will help us continue to meet workforce demands by preparing highly-skilled workers to take on roles in Huntsville’s unique blend of space and defense industries, biotechnology, healthcare, and high-tech manufacturing.”

edX has convened over a dozen community partners, including United Way of Madison County and Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce, to offer a range of services, including child care services, technology support, transportation assistance, and facilitating connections with potential employer partners, all aimed at providing comprehensive support to learners.

“edX is creating a sustainable workforce development model through our Access Partnerships. By bringing localized leaders in education and economic development together with key funding partners, we are delivering free or significantly reduced-cost, career-relevant education to underserved communities worldwide,” said Anant Agarwal, Founder of edX and Chief Platform Officer at 2U. “Working together with Drake State and other partners in the Huntsville community, we aim to improve access to quality education and help diversify the tech talent pipeline as demand for cybersecurity and data analyst roles continue to grow.”

Access Partnerships are part of edX for Impact – a collective effort to help marginalized learners get the education they need in order to develop the skills to pursue rewarding careers. edX has active Access Partnerships with 19 academic institutions serving learners in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin in the U.S.; Birmingham in the U.K.; and New Brunswick in Canada. The partnerships are supported by more than 90 agencies and community partners, each carefully chosen to support their region’s unique learner populations.

As one of the world’s largest developers of technology talent, edX has supported more than 75,000 boot camp graduates globally with the skills, knowledge, and career resources to achieve their goals. According to a 2U-Gallup survey, boot camp graduates surveyed reported being nearly four times happier with their jobs after graduation from the boot camp, and over 86% reported achieving a positive outcome.

MTN DEW is continuing its ongoing commitment to support and uplift diverse gamers by bringing back the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge in 2023. With a focus on increasing representation in esports and gaming, the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge will support HBCU student gamers by sponsoring a nationwide tournament featuring Mortal Kombat 1, the latest installment in the acclaimed Mortal Kombat videogame franchise developed by the award-winning NetherRealm Studios. Contestants will compete for a piece of an overall prize pool of $500,000, coaching and exposure to esports professionals.

MTN DEW Invests in HBCU Gamers to Level the Playing Field with the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge

MTN DEW Invests in HBCU Gamers to Level the Playing Field with the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge “Following the success of the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge last year we’re pleased to continue this initiative once again in 2023,” said JP Bittencourt, VP of Marketing, MTN DEW. “Mortal Kombat is one of the most iconic game franchises of all time, and being able to partner with them for the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge is truly an honor.”

For the 2023 MTN DEW Real Change Challenge, the brand is once again partnering with Cxmmunity Media, an organization dedicated to future-proofing diversity and equity in gaming and creators of the HBCU Esports League, to bring the Challenge back to HBCU students nationwide. New to 2023, the Real Change Challenge will for the first-time be a nationwide HBCU Mortal Kombat 1 tournament. The tournament will kick-off October 2nd, 2023 with sign-ups open to all current HBCU students, now through September 8th at

To celebrate the launch of this year’s Real Change Challenge, MTN DEW is joining forces with RDCWorld, a creative collective of entertainers, and bringing the Real Change Challenge to its annual Gaming and Anime convention, Dream Con, from July 28th to July 30th in Austin, TX.  At Dream Con, 20,000 attendees will join MTN DEW and RDCWorld to celebrate the return of the Real Change Challenge, as well as enjoying the MTN DEW hosted Mortal Kombat 11 Amateur and Celebrity tournaments, and The Faces of Real Change in Gaming panel – which will focus on representation in the esports industry.

The 2023 MTN DEW Real Change Challenge will be a 64-player 1v1 bracket style tournament with 4 rounds of double-elimination style game play, leading to the final 12 going head-to-head in a Live Championship in Atlanta on October 28th. The Championship will culminate in a face-off between the top two players for the chance to not only take home the bragging rights, but also taking home the 1st place prize of $45,000. 

To bring fans along on the journey of our 64 participating HBCU students, MTN DEW and the HBCU Esports League will broadcast all tournament matches highlighting the HBCU gamers and their paths to the Real Change Challenge Championship. DEW Nation and gaming fans everywhere can tune in to Cxmmunity Media’s Twitch Channel beginning October 2nd to catch the tournament live.

To get more information on the MTN DEW Real Change Challenge and find out how to enter check out and follow @MTNDEWGaming on Instagram and Twitter and @MTNDEW_Gaming on Tik Tok.

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Kevin Hogan