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American Underground

Shaw, American Underground Partnership Creates Innovative Higher Ed Niche

Shaw University has announced a new strategic partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub, American Underground. The Bull City-based American Underground campus at the American Tobacco Historic District will now be the Durham location of Shaw’s adult degree program, CAPE (Center for Alternative Programs in Education.)  

The engineering of the new partnership with American Underground is yet another way Shaw President, Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy is delivering on her promise to make the historically black university, the first HBCU in the southern United States, a premier 21st century institution.

"This partnership with American Underground is an exciting one," said Dr. Dubroy. "It’s the perfect example of the kind of innovative, integrated strategic partnership that will position Shaw University among top ranked higher education providers today and in the future," said Dubroy.

The American Underground helped spark the region's startup surge, debuting in 2010 with five organizations and growing into a robust ecosystem of more than 250 companies, including two that have won the national Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Day competition in Silicon Valley. USA Today recently noted the American Underground’s stated mission to become a leader in diversity and inclusiveness.  

“The Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has made remarkable strides in the last few years, and continued momentum depends on a steady supply of talent,” said American Underground Chief Strategist Adam Klein. “Our partnership with Shaw University will bring into play a whole new group of potential founders, specialists and executives.”   

Nearly a year ago, President Dubroy took the helm at Shaw vowing a bold, new approach to leadership. She was laser focused on the 151-year old institution’s long term sustainability.  At the same time, she emphasized Shaw’s role in regional economic growth, specifically in the areas of technology and entrepreneurship.

By relocating its Durham CAPE program to American Underground campuses, Shaw creates a unique opportunity for its students to interface with business and technology executives. The moves also expose American Underground tenants to the university’s pool of talented graduates and creates opportunities for students to engage in research which can then be leveraged for private and public funding opportunities.

Since 1994, more than 4,000 students have graduated from the program designed to provide a quality education to adult learners and prepare them for a 21st century workforce. Eight cities across the Tarheel state, including Durham, Ahoskie, Fayetteville, High Point, Kannapolis, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, and Wilmington;  have served as home base for the self-directed educational programs frequented by persons who are unable to attend college in a traditional university setting because of job and family responsibilities or military service obligations.  Classes are offered online, during evenings and on weekends to accommodate the busy schedules of working and non-traditional students.

In recent years, however, CAPE has seen a sharp decline in enrollment that can be attributed to changes in qualification criteria for government grants and loans to pay for tuition, as well as a shift in the profile of skilled employees now demanded by companies. Placing adult programs in AU communities answers to Shaw’s need to bolster enrollment at its CAPE sites by offering a vibrant, contemporary learning environment with exposure to job opportunities post-graduation. Likewise, AU companies gain access to a pool of diverse, well-qualified potential candidates for hire.

"This is a win-win partnership for both Shaw University and American Underground,” said Shaw Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Paulette Dillard. "This important collaboration serves as a model for how business, technology, and education can marry to create innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues," said Dillard.  

The Durham/American Underground CAPE site will open when Fall classes resume on August 8.