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Amazon Commits $3 Million to New Center for Science and Innovation

May 13, 2019

Rendering of SU Center for Science and Innovation

Amazon has made a $3 million gift to the new Center for Science and Innovation. The gift will expand opportunities in computer science education, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities.

Seattle University today announced that Amazon has made a $3 million gift to the new Center for Science and Innovation, a major component of Seattle University’s comprehensive campaign. The gift will expand opportunities in computer science and engineering education, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities.

In conjunction with the announcement, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy visited campus today for a short fireside chat with Roshanak Roshandel, PhD, associate professor and chair of computer science and an Amazon Scholar, to provide an opportunity to exchange views on the future of computer science, access to education and career opportunities in computer science, artificial intelligence and related fields. (View a slide show of Jassy's visit.)

In welcoming Jassy to Seattle U, President Stephen Sundborg, SJ, noted that a new computer science project center named for Amazon will be located on the first floor of the CSI.  In this space, seniors majoring in computer science will collaborate with industry partners to develop solutions for real-world problems. “We’re truly pleased that Amazon can be part of this,” he said.

“Amazon’s gift will help Seattle University expand pathways to a STEM career for students from all backgrounds,” says President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. “Computer science is our fastest-growing science and engineering program. Support from one of the world’s most innovative companies and leading employers of computer science graduates is recognition of the quality of the education we offer, not just in terms of the technical skills students learn but, as importantly, the value added from Seattle University’s focus on critical thinking, problem solving, ethics and moral reasoning. Seattle University is grateful for Amazon’s generous support.”

Seattle University has a deep history of educating women and underrepresented minority students in science and engineering. Forty percent of full-time faculty are women – three of whom are department chairs – and 43.5 percent of science and engineering students are women.

“We are thrilled that a high-quality institution like Seattle University, with a long tradition of educating women and underrepresented minorities, is doubling down on science and engineering education,” says Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services. “There is a gigantic need for more students from these backgrounds and we’re proud to support Seattle U in its efforts to increase the capacity of its STEM degree programs, which the new Center for Science and Innovation will help facilitate.”

During the fireside chat, Jassy said, “The university does such a great job in educating women and underrepresented minorities where we can hire more and more of those people to be part of our teams and to add a different perspective to what we’re building.”

Six years ago, recognizing the significant need for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates nationally and in Washington state, the university committed itself to doubling the number of students it graduates every year in these fields. Overall enrollment in the College of Science and Engineering has jumped 61 percent in the past decade, while the number of students studying computer science has quadrupled.

The Center for Science and Innovation will enable enrollments in computer science and closely related areas such as data science to increase by 50 percent, from 400 to 600 undergraduate and graduate students, according to Mike Quinn, PhD, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

Construction of the Center for Science and Innovation is scheduled to begin this spring. It will open in two phases—a new building in 2021 and two renovated buildings in 2022—and will house all of the College of Science and Engineering academic programs. At 111,000 square feet, the new building will be an exciting focal point of Seattle U’s urban campus and home to more than half of the students in the college.