Adobe announces $3 million in donations to Black, Hispanic universities

BY Sydney LakeSeptember 14, 2021, 10:00 am
A class of 2021 graduate at Bowie State University’s commencement in May.
Brian Stukes/Getty Images

Shortly after the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, many large organizations, companies, and individuals paused to evaluate their own racial biases. Many Fortune 500 companies—and individuals such as former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott—donated millions to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-owned organizations. Other companies promised to do better by initiating diversity and inclusion (D&I) committees and making changes to their hiring practices.

That train stayed on the tracks for a while, but late into 2020 and in early 2021, large donation announcements dwindled noticeably. Fortune 500 creative software company Adobe, however, has been working for the past 18 months on one of its biggest D&I efforts to date. 

On Tuesday, during its annual Adobe for All week, the company announced partnerships with two HBCUs—Bowie State University and Winston-Salem State University—and one Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), San José State University. Each university will receive a $1 million donation from Adobe as part of its new Anchor School Program. The Anchor Schools and Adobe will work together to develop plans for the funds to be used to prepare students for jobs in the tech and creative industries. 

Adobe also announced plans to provide 100 scholarships per year, of up to $15,000 each, to students of color. Scholarships are available to both Anchor School students and others outside the three institutions.

“It’s a deep, focused partnership, and it really allows us to expose students to careers within the tech industry,” Brian Miller, Adobe’s chief talent, diversity, and inclusion officer, tells Fortune in an exclusive announcement.

The goal of the new Anchor School Program is to “really partner with the schools to allow them to dream about where those funds can go,” adds Erica Warren, Adobe’s senior director of marketing strategy and employee communications.

Where the idea started

Back in June 2020, in response to race-charged upheaval, Adobe leadership crafted the Taking Action Initiative (TAI), aimed at creating better representation and improved development and growth opportunities for the company’s Black employees. 

The TAI is divided into five groups: hiring and recruiting; growth and advancement; responsibility and advocacy; community; and transparency and governance. Out of the responsibility and advocacy group, which Warren is a part of, came the idea for partnerships with HBCUs and HSIs.

The responsibility and advocacy group watched as other major donations were made to HBCUs and Black-owned organizations, but Adobe wanted to do something different, Warren says. 

Adobe looked for organizations that hadn’t yet received much funding during the wave of donations in the summer of 2020. The company also wanted to partner with creative- or tech-focused schools. Ultimately, Adobe chose to work with Winston-Salem State, which has a creative/liberal arts focus, and Bowie State, which is STEM- and cybersecurity-focused. Finally, the company chose San José State, located in Adobe’s backyard, as the university makes an effort to develop talent in the Bay Area, Warren says.

How Adobe and the universities will work together 

Each of the three universities will receive a $1 million gift to provide students with training, career readiness programs, internships, financial assistance, and digital tools. The hope is to “fuel their professional careers at Adobe or elsewhere,” according to the company.

Beyond that, how the funds will be used is still largely up in the air. Adobe will work with the three universities to develop plans on how to use the funding to create programming to benefit its students.

“This is an evolution,” Warren says. “We came to these schools with some ideas, but we are 100% open to where they want to take this partnership.”

San José State says it will prioritize developing a faculty fellows program focused on “closing equity gaps for all our students,” provost Vincent Del Casino tells Fortune of the university’s plans for Adobe’s gift. “We can provide our faculty with the resources to engage in new forms of pedagogy and practice that infuse principles of digital and creative literacy.” 

What’s next for Adobe’s D&I efforts

The company doesn’t plan to stop with these gifts; Adobe’s goal is to scale the program to include more Anchor Schools in the future.

“These are critical times within Adobe, as well as the world, navigating this relentless change that’s happening out there,” Miller says. “I want Adobe to be the best place to learn and grow for all employees.” 

Adobe plans to stay focused on D&I efforts outside of its Anchor School Program, as well. The company also sponsors and participates in the National GEM Consortium, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the United Negro College Fund, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.

“There’s an inseparable link—I’d even say an intimate connection—between how we develop and how we grow talent coupled with our diversity and inclusion efforts,” Miller says.

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