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Howard U. and Amazon Web Services partner to develop courses, master’s program in cloud computing

The collaboration stands to grow Howard University’s presence in science, technology, engineering and math fields

Howard University will work with Amazon Web Services to develop new courses, faculty training and a master’s degree program in data science. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Howard University will create a master’s program in data science, introduce cloud computing courses to its middle school and expand faculty professional development as part of a new collaboration with Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary.

The partnership with Amazon Web Services will also connect students at the university with internships and job opportunities at the tech giant, including Amazon’s second headquarters in Arlington, Va., which is expected to open in 2023.

Howard’s work with Amazon stands to help the school grow its presence in science, technology, engineering and math fields, a major focus for the largest historically Black university in the D.C. region.

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“Howard’s collaboration with AWS is focused on empowering students at various levels to learn and master the skills needed for a cloud career, exposing them to exciting opportunities throughout their educational experience,” said Anthony K. Wutoh, provost and chief academic officer. “We’re engaging our middle school to introduce concepts early on, and creating advanced courses to give our graduate students a competitive edge when pursuing cloud careers.”

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

The master’s program, currently in the planning phase, is slated to launch in fall 2022, Wutoh said.

Other parts of the partnership — including courses in cloud computing, machine learning and computer vision — are also under development but are expected to take hold sooner.

Howard will also infuse cloud computing concepts into existing business, computer science and engineering curriculums. Faculty will also have access to training opportunities in fields such as artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning and cybersecurity.

“We are also making sure our educators are skilled up with the tools and resources required for teaching, learning and creating entrepreneurial ventures for African American and minority communities,” Wutoh said.

Computer and information technology jobs are among the fastest-growing occupations in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks in part to a heavy emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data.

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And with HQ2, officials expect even higher demand in the D.C. area.

“Howard University is a lighthouse institution not far from Amazon’s HQ2 facility, and we are preparing students not just for potential jobs with our company, but in-demand cloud positions across industries and sectors that need skilled technical talent,” said Kim Majerus, AWS director of U.S. education, state and local government. The development comes after a program launched by Amazon in 2019 to drive Black students toward careers in the entertainment industry.

Officials at Howard and Amazon hope the partnership will create new career tracks for Black students. Following accusations of racial discrimination, Amazon pledged to double its number of Black employees in leadership roles and shared steps it would take to promote equity and inclusion.

Amazon Web Services has made similar inroads to attract diverse talent through partnerships with Virginia’s community colleges and George Mason University, where more than half of those enrolled are students of color.

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Amazon Web Services also plans to introduce computational thinking skills and cloud fundamentals to the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science — a public charter school on the university’s campus in Northwest Washington.

“This collaboration will bring industry experiences into the classroom to help shape the next generation of Howard University leaders in the tech industry,” Howard officials said in a statement.