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All About Innovation Lounges: The Story Behind the New Program

HBCU Innovation Lounges
The pilot Innovation Lounge at Clark Atlanta University

The Home Depot is making exciting changes for Retool Your School 2023. One of the new initiatives – the Innovation Lounge Grant Program – will create unique opportunities for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”). Here are a few things to know about the Innovation Lounges.

What’s an Innovation Lounge?

After an HBCU receives a Retool Your School Innovation Lounge Grant, an existing space on the campus will be completely renovated. When it’s done, the Innovation Lounge will be an exquisitely designed, inviting space equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

The Innovation Lounge Grant Program hopes to provide HBCU students with places where they can come together to ideate, innovate and problem-solve. STEM students can use the space to collaborate on engineering designs or prototypes. Budding entrepreneurs might come to the Innovation Lounge to work on a business plan. Students can use the Innovation Lounge’s advanced technology to host or attend meetings and webinars with people from around the world. The possibilities are truly endless.

What was the spark for the Innovation Lounge Grant Program?

In 2021, Dell Computer Corporation partnered with Clark Atlanta University (“CAU”) to create a tech-friendly space on campus. Though Dell had the technology covered, the company needed help with building the space. Dell asked The Home Depot to assist. Given its commitment to HBCUs and the fact that CAU is just minutes away from The Home Depot’s headquarters, The Home Depot team jumped at the chance to get involved. 

According to Myra Reeves, Director of DEI Associate Engagement at The Home Depot, the build-out was smooth. It took just months for the project to move from concept to completion. Ms. Reeves credited Quisa Foster, CAU’s Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Dr. Silvanus J. Udoka, Dean of the School of Business Administration, for keeping things on track.

The process went so smoothly and the results were so impressive that The Home Depot was inspired to create the Innovation Lounge Grant Program.

Innovation Lounge Retool Your School
Natural light highlights the bold wall designs and also helps the plants.

What makes an Innovation Lounge special?

As the pictures in this article show, the pilot Innovation Lounge at CAU marries bold design elements and sleek technology. Even better, the cozy seating areas provide students with comfortable places to work, think and relax.

Every element of the design was intentional. For example, the team replaced walls with windows to make the space even more inviting. As Ms. Reeves said, the goal was to create a room that would say, “I know you want to come in here.” 

Using Innovation Lounges to create career opportunities

Students won’t be the only ones using the Innovation Lounges. The Home Depot will be using them as well.

Immediately after CAU’s Innovation Lounge was completed, The Home Depot hosted a career event there. The Home Depot’s African American Associate Resource Group set up mock interviews, reviewed resumes and told students about opportunities at The Home Depot. Ms. Reeves hopes that using the Innovation Lounges in this way will give students multiple opportunities to learn about internships, externships and post-graduation opportunities with The Home Depot. As she noted, “We want students to get excited about career opportunities at The Home Depot. We want to be the destination for job candidates – particularly diverse candidates.”

Beyond students, Ms. Reeves hopes that having an ongoing presence on HBCU campuses will deepen The Home Depot’s partnerships with the host schools.

Innovation Lounges by Retool Your School
Windows – rather than walls – let students see what the Innovation Lounge is all about. 

What’s next for The Innovation Lounge Grant Program?

In 2023, any accredited HBCU can apply for an Innovation Lounge Grant. The 10 winning HBCUs will partner with The Home Depot to create their own Innovation Lounges.

But this year is just the start. The Home Depot expects that the Innovation Lounge Grant Program will spark strong interest. Indeed, Ms. Reeves hopes that the Program will eventually expand to every HBCU. To learn more about the Innovation Lounge Grant Program, read the Innovation Lounge FAQ.

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