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West Alabama leaders come together for roundtable at Stillman College

Discussion focused on supporting the commercialization of locally made technology and diversifying the workforce.

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Legislators, entrepreneurs, higher education and community leaders gathered at Stillman College Thursday to discuss common challenges and encourage collaboration.

The roundtable, co-hosted by Innovate Alabama and Stillman College, focused on identifying opportunities in West Alabama to support the commercialization of locally made technology, develop an innovative, diverse workforce and create pathways for underrepresented students and entrepreneurs.  

Regional leaders discussed shared challenges they are currently facing such as talent retention to meet workforce demands and capital and resource expansion to support rural and underrepresented communities, in hopes of uncovering potential solutions and opportunities for collaboration.

“Innovate Alabama hopes to bridge connections and foster collaboration between higher education leaders, lawmakers and entrepreneurs throughout West Alabama who are each working to move this region forward,” said Sen. Greg Reed, president pro tempore of the Alabama State Senate and vice chair of Innovate Alabama. “Through this roundtable, we hope these leaders will learn more about similar challenges they are experiencing and identify synergies across sectors to help solve them.”

Home to the most historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the nation, Alabama houses 14 HBCUs, one of which is Stillman College. Founded in 1876, Stillman College is a private liberal arts institution with the mission to foster academic excellence, provide opportunities for diverse groups and prepare students for leadership and service.

“With a rich history of innovation and preparation for the challenges of a continuously evolving world, Stillman College is proud to serve as a co-host for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Roundtable in West Alabama,” said Dr. Cynthia Warrick, president of Stillman College. “At Stillman, we recognize the importance of developing our region’s tech ecosystem to better support our students as future leaders of our state. We also realize that to truly move Alabama forward, we must accomplish this inclusively by giving everyone, including underrepresented communities, a seat at the table. Through cross-sector discussions, like this regional roundtable, we are well on our way to building a better Alabama, together.”

One of the college’s initiatives highlighted at the roundtable, BioGradMatch, is a grant-funded joint venture between Stillman College and Admit Academy to help students at HBCUs navigate mental and logistical hurdles in order to successfully apply for biomedical graduate programs. The tech startup is one of three Tuscaloosa businesses who were selected as recipients of the inaugural Innovate Alabama Supplemental Grant Program.

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Last week, leaders met in Athens, Alabama, for Innovate Alabama’s first regional roundtable focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. These are two of several expected roundtables that will be held across the state to continue encouraging collaboration among local leaders.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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