The Propel Center, the global HBCU technology and learning hub intended to level the playing field and open greater doors of opportunity for their students, has announced the naming of respected social entrepreneur and education advocate Gene Wade as chief executive officer.
Wade most recently served as Founder and CEO of Honors Pathway in Oakland, California, a social venture that enabled low-income students to attend their first year of college at no cost while receiving over 500 hours of in-person coaching and mentoring. He also serves on several non-profit boards, including the Pahara Institute, Portal Schools, and Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, ideal foundations for his new role with Propel Center.
Over his 25-year career, Wade also co-founded and led several entrepreneurial social ventures, including UniversityNow, which developed a self-paced online learning management system designed to lower the cost of higher education that was acquired and is currently serving hundreds of thousands of online students; Platform Learning, which developed a network of free after school tutoring programs that served over 50,000 students; and LearnNow, the first national network of public charter schools founded and led by African Americans.
Before cementing his name as one of the nation’s foremost education entrepreneurs, Wade worked as a corporate attorney. He is the holder of an M.B.A. degree from The Wharton School, a J.D. from Harvard Law School and earned his B.A. degree from Morehouse College.
Apple and Southern Company have each stepped forward to support the project as founding partners, providing experts and critical programming, and investing a total of $50 million towards the $100 million goal for the development and launch of Propel. “The Propel Center requires a strong and savvy leader that is not afraid to be an innovative disruptor,” said Chris Womack, president and CEO of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company. “Gene Wade has the experience and vision Propel needs to create ground-breaking opportunities that will make a difference for HBCUs and their students.”
Anthony Oni, chairman, agrees that Wade’s appointment is the right choice at the right time. “Ultimately, in order to solve the systemic issues that we’re trying to address in higher education and workforce development, it’s going to take a reimagining of how we prepare students,” Oni states. “Propel Center is a shared layer of resources to augment the incredible work that’s already taking place at HBCUs, but with an opportunity to co-build curriculum with both HBCUs and industry leaders; to give students access to what industry leaders are thinking, creating and developing today and in the future.”
“I’ve dedicated my career to building innovative education solutions, business models and technology platforms that directly address the preparation challenges facing African American and low-income students,” says Wade. “Propel represents a unique opportunity to continue this work, and help radically transform how we prepare students to lead and participate in the innovation economy.”
Described as a “global HBCU headquarters,” Propel Center is designed to provide innovative curricula, advanced technology support, unprecedented career and leadership opportunities, strategic resources, preparation and access across the Black collegiate community to support their work in producing the next generation of leaders who will champion equity, justice and entrepreneurship. Among the available curriculum options will be mobile app development, agricultural technologies, augmented reality, social justice and entertainment arts, along with career preparation and entrepreneurship tracks.
Featuring state-of-the-art learning technology, the 50,000 square-foot, custom-designed Propel Center facility and campus will support the entire HBCU community through a robust virtual platform accessible to all HBCU students and faculty, located in Atlanta.