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Seattle University’s Center for Science and Innovation will be 111,000 square feet, and a focal point of the school’s urban campus. (EYP/Mithun Image via Amazon)

Amazon is making a $3 million contribution toward Seattle University’s new Center for Science and Innovation — a push that will help the school expand opportunities in computer science and engineering education, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities, it was announced Monday.

“Amazon’s gift will help Seattle University expand pathways to a STEM career for students from all backgrounds,” Seattle U President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., said in a news release. “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.”

Seattle U is committed to educating women and underrepresented minority students in STEM, and points out that 40 percent of full-time faculty are women (including three department chairs) and 43.5 percent of science and engineering students are women.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, will be at Seattle U at noon on Monday for a fireside chat with students hosted by Roshanak Roshandel, PhD, associate professor and chair of computer science and an Amazon Scholar. The talk will focus on the future of computer science, access to education and career opportunities in computer science, artificial intelligence and related fields.

“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,” Jassy said in a statement. “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.”

Amazon previously gave $10 million to the University of Washington for a new computer science and engineering building, named for Bill and Melinda Gates.

Seattle U has seen a 61-percent jump over the past decade in overall enrollment for its College of Science and Engineering. The new 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 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. A computer science Project Center space within the new building will be named for Amazon. In this space, “seniors majoring in computer science will collaborate with industry partners to develop solutions for real-world problems,” according to the news release.

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