A smart trash can that automatically separates garbage from what can be recycled or composted.

A virtual reality tool to level the playing field for students no matter their language, location or financial status.

An online resource that promotes the importance of quality healthcare in the Black community.

Developing Real World Solutions

Michelle Jordan – Vice President – Talent and Leadership Development

These innovative solutions were among some developed by 13 teams of students from eight Historically Black Universities and Colleges during our annual HBCU Innovation Challenge. For the 2022 challenge, the students’ goal was to produce an innovative smart city solution that addresses a problem their communities face. Our goal was to demonstrate how AT&T’s connectivity can power those solutions and how our company can empower their future.

“While other companies have commitments to DE&I, I haven’t seen an initiative like our HBCU Innovation Challenge,” said Angela Baskerville, Vice President of Corporate Systems, challenge judge and HBCU alum. “It speaks volumes that our company, an industry leader, sees HBCUs as a great source of innovative talent.”

“I had an opportunity to connect with the minds of the future,” said EJ Jackson, an AT&T employee coach. “Their ideas and solutions are unique, which we need for many of today’s problems.”

And while EJ and a dozen other employee coaches mentored their teams’ concepts and presentations, it was the students’ drive to innovate that stood out to our team of judges.

“I could really see the vision and passion for innovation these teams had during their presentations,” said Michelle Jordan, Vice President – Talent & Leadership Development, challenge judge and HBCU alum.

And the winner is…

Taking the top prize was the smart trash can entry developed by “Levels” from Howard University. That 4-person team will split $75,000. The team that finished second, from Morgan State will split $15,000 and the third-place team, another team from Howard will split $10,000.

“AT&T has incredible people and it’s great to know they value the minds at HBCUs and want to hear our ideas,” said Murad Abdi, member of the Levels team. “Being able to compete in this, knowing so many before us couldn’t, made us more motivated to win.”

Helping HBCU students develop innovative solutions to real-world problems is an important part of our commitment to creating new opportunities in Black communities and our Corporate Social Responsibility team’s efforts to use broadband for good to address issues facing society today.

“I was blown away by the talent of all the students. They are future leaders who see opportunities in the market that might not be evident to us. We hope that the HBCU Innovation Challenge not only prepares the next generation of problem solvers, but also attracts them to AT&T as a potential employer.” – Michelle Jordan

“Whether it’s hack-a-thons at Howard or sales competitions at Hampton, this challenge is another way to make vital connections with HBCU students and demonstrate our commitment can transform their future,” said Josh Mellinger, talent acquisition director and employee coach.

Jasmine Allen, an employee coach and North Carolina AT&T alum, had this to say: “Through this, we were able to empower students and build their confidence, goals and aspirations. It excites me about the future.”

Committing to HBCUs

In 2021, we launched the Dream in Black Rising Film Makers Class and announced our commitment to sponsor the athletics department at Howard University, Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T. We are also hosting the HBCU Future Leaders Program, a multi-year mentoring initiative for HBCU students and have collaborated with the NBA on the inaugural NBA HBCU Classic.

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