Rolling Out

Google’s new annex classroom opens at Morehouse College

‘These students deserve the best’

On May 13, Morehouse College unveiled its new Google Annex classroom on campus. The addition comes from Google’s partnership with the United Negro College Fund to contribute $1 million to build a new student center.

“We were just showing some of the students who will be benefitting from the lab the kind of tech in there, and they were like, ‘Oh, [are] those graphic cards or GPUs?'” Ernest Holmes, technical program manager at Google, said. “Dr. [Alfred] Watkins [Morehouse College department chair of computer science] and I sat down to make sure these computers were going to be the best because these students deserve the best.”

The students were also very grateful.

“I am beyond thankful,” Morehouse College student Elijah Truitt told rolling out. “This is something I felt Morehouse has needed for a while. I think that students are going to be able to have a great experience. It’s something where we’re all gonna have reproducible environments; those are things that are really important when you’re writing code when you’re doing assignments. Students having a place where they can really come and do their work [will] be essential. It’s going to change the way the computer science major works.”

Holmes is also a co-founder of CodeHouse, a 501(c)(3) that includes his sister, Jaycee, a Spelman College professor and Forbes 30 Under 30 alum.

At the opening of the Google Annex Classroom, Holmes spoke to rolling out about giving back.

What all is in here?

In this lab, we have over $100,000 worth of technology. This is all an effort to make sure Morehouse students have the most up to date, innovative computers and technology so they can work on the best projects out there.

What does it mean to you as a Morehouse alum to see students like Elijah enjoying these resources?

When you think about working at Google, we think about impact in terms of scale.

You have products that impact millions, if not billions of people. Sometimes, it’s hard to visualize or internalize that because you don’t see [the impact] all the time. But doing work like this, actually giving back to not only my alma mater, but people that look like me, really means something special to me, personally.

You can see the tangible impact that you’re having on other people’s lives.

Where does giving back rank for you on your list of fulfillment?

Giving back is probably No. 1 on my list.

I used to be a software engineer, and I’m a technical program manager. Because of the nonprofit I started with my sister, one of my best friends, all about giving back to students of color, we raised over $4 million for that nonprofit to give HBCU scholarships.

It’s been a theme in my life of giving back and paying it forward. It’s allowed me to do that same kind of work at Google internally, as well.

What else do you all have coming up at Google that you want people to know about?

I think I got placed in this role for a reason.

I can bring a lot of my intentions and tangible impact to the space. Right now, technology is always evolving, always changing. AI is like the main thing. It’s actually impacting different industries, more specifically, the education, academia industry. So, at least, it’s going to be even more important for us to be collaborating with HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions or even community colleges so that we can make sure students are getting the best education out there and keeping up with the latest cutting-edge technology.

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