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Startup Raises $2.1 Million to Launch Study Away for Tech Industry Careers

Adjacent Academies Supplements Rigorous Liberal Arts Coursework With In-Demand Tech Skills; Students Earn College Credit Through Hands-On Learning From Experts in Silicon Valley

Adjacent Academies, which enables liberal arts students to earn college credit while building in-demand tech skills, announced the close of a $2.1 million seed round led by Rethink Education with additional participation by New Ground Ventures, Bisk Ventures and Entangled Group. The program builds on the success of a 2019 pilot, which enrolled students from Davidson College, a top-ranked liberal arts college, and four other colleges.

Research continues to show that employers place a high value on skills closely associated with the liberal arts: a recent analysis found that out of 36 million job postings in 2018, the most sought after skills from employers included leadership, innovation, and problem-solving. While graduates of traditional liberal arts programs see significant economic returns over the long term, they risk underemployment early in their career without certain added skills. These graduates can close the gap with their STEM peers by adding new skills and experiences that position them for the most in-demand tech fields.

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Students who enroll in Adjacent’s programs have the opportunity to participate in immersive, credit-bearing courses. Students gain not just technical competency in skills such as JavaScript, but actively integrate and refine soft skills such as communication and teamwork and the critical ability to consider ethics and values while designing technologies.

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“It is important that students wrestle with the fact that technical tools aren’t neutral; they inevitably reflect the assumptions and values of their makers and culture context, ” said Shireen Campbell, Professor and Chair of Davidson’s English department, who will be offering a course in literature and technology this spring for the Adjacent/Davidson semester program.  “The liberal arts emphasis on exploring topics from multiple perspectives allows students in this program to learn technical skills while they explore ethical complexities within technology today.”

The program’s unique presence in Silicon Valley enables the incorporation of regular visits to tech start-ups and more established companies across an array of industries.  Students who enrolled in the first year of the program visited firms like Slack, LinkedIn, and Remind.

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“We have to move beyond this false choice between the vast potential of the liberal arts, and the skills and know-how that the labor market is asking for today,” said Anh Nguyen, CEO of Adjacent Academies. “This is not about replacing traditional higher education, but instead enhancing it. It’s about providing students with a springboard into their careers, and the tools to navigate, — and adapt — during periods of unprecedented change.”

“Colleges are under pressure to ensure that our graduates are equipped for not just their fifth — but their first job,” said Carol Quillen, Davidson College president. “This is about pairing the sort of analytical rigor and critical thinking that are the hallmark of a rigorous liberal arts education, with the hands-on experiences and tech skills that will enable graduates to thrive in an increasingly dynamic world of work.”

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