Amazon and Howard University team up to increase diversity in the media industry

November 20, 2019 — by Emilie Zhou

After a long day of lectures and classwork, excited Howard University students filed into one of Amazon Studios’ buildings, prepared to learn more about the ins and outs of the entertainment and film industry. 

According to Forbes Magazine, Howard University, a university located in Washington, D.C., that historically attracts many African American students, announced last month that it has partnered with Amazon Studios to create Howard Entertainment. The program, set to launch in January, is designed to help increase diversity in the media industry by offering a variety of opportunities to African-American students and students from other marginalized communities. 

“The vision of Howard Entertainment is to offer a one-of-a-kind experience for students interested in all aspects of entertainment, from project green-lighting, to PR and marketing, to entertainment law and finance,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick in a press release. 

The program provides an immersive two-semester experience in Los Angeles, where students can take academic courses during the spring semester and then participate in hands-on work with Amazon employees and other industry professionals during the summer semester. The program will be open to upperclassman and graduate students at Howard University and students must go through a competitive interview process to apply. 

According to Variety magazine, Amazon Studios’ headquarters is located in Santa Monica so having the program in Los Angeles will allow students to have more frequent opportunities to network within the industry. In Los Angeles, students will also be able to meet Amazon’s industry partners. 

“This relationship aligns with Howard’s strategic goals of enhancing academic excellence and inspiring new knowledge,” Frederick said. “Collaborating with Amazon Studios will enable us to marry academia and industry efforts to build a robust workforce of diverse entertainment industry leaders.”

Not only will the program allow students to meet certain graduation requirements, but more importantly, it will also give students the opportunity to develop new skills. Throughout their time in Los Angeles, the program will focus on helping students develop key skills required for pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. 

For Amazon, “supporting aspiring entertainment leaders” through Howard Entertainment will help ensure that there are a variety of “diverse perspectives and experiences” being shared, Head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke said to NBC News

“This program is all about intentionality — being intentional about increasing and preparing the next generation of African American, Latinx and Native American storytellers, casts, crew, and executives working on these projects,” Amazon Studio’s Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Latasha Gillespie said.

Given Howard University’s “proven track record” of developing notable actors, comedians and musicians, this collaboration will allow the school to “have an even greater impact” on the industry, Frederick said. For example, some famous actors who have attended Howard University include Chadwick Boseman, who recently starred in “Black Panther” and Taraji P. Henson, who starred in “Hidden Figures” in 2016. 

As the entertainment industry continues to grow, other companies and schools, especially those with prestigious film programs such as USC and NYU, should also seek to create similar programs for students. Even though there have been increased efforts in increasing diversity in the industry, creating more programs like Howard Entertainment will open more doors for minorities who may not have had those opportunities before. 

According to senior Ritika Kuppam, who is planning on studying majors that incorporate aspects of media, this program will definitely positively impact the industry and the students.  

“I think this program will be extremely impactful,” Kuppam said. “It’s very unfortunate that minorities are severely disadvantaged in the film industry, and programs like this will help establish more quality when it comes to entertainment education.”