Getting Cozy with Jeff: UMD increases ties with Amazon

By Jillian Diamond

The University of Maryland is aiming to build stronger ties with Amazon and plans to open a “Discovery Center” in Crystal City, Virginia, the future site of Amazon’s second headquarters. The Discovery Center plans are among many adjustments that are being made in Crystal City and the surrounding area to prepare for the new workforce that is expected to arrive once Amazon’s HQ2 complex opens in September 2020. 

The university has leased 8,000 square feet of office space in preparation for the Discovery Center’s opening. Many University of Maryland schools, such as the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and the College of Information Studies already have plans to hold lectures and events in the center upon its 2020 opening. The center will also be used as an event space for alumni and industry leaders to meet and discuss industry growth and development.

“Amazon HQ2 is a regional phenomenon, and we are just a metro ride away,” said University of Maryland President Wallace Loh in a public statement announcing the Discovery Center’s development. “This new space will help connect our flagship researchers and students with this emerging technology hub, fostering innovation in our growing Cyber Valley.”

The Discovery Center plans are the latest development in a long history of UMD trying to establish a relationship with Amazon. College Park was one of the first five locations of the Amazon Instant Pickup Service, a same-day delivery service initially marketed towards college students. While it seemed like a big development in the relationship between UMD and Amazon, the Instant Pickup Service was quietly ended a year later in 2018. There was also a 2017 movement to make College Park the new home of the HQ2 complex, as the town met all of Amazon’s requirements for a potential location for its second headquarters. It was not selected, and the recent push for UMD to get involved with the new location could be perceived as them making up for lost time. 

Though the administration is all for UMD’s continued involvement with Amazon, some students have their doubts about the corporation and what a close relationship could mean for the school’s future. “Getting students to just funnel more money into an already rich company seems like a bad idea to me,” said Grey Mair, a sophomore Computer Science major. “We can’t even bring Coke to club meetings because of the school’s existing relations with corporations [like Pepsi]. I can’t imagine what would happen if UMD develops a relationship like that with Amazon.”  There has not been any large-scale resistance to the school’s involvement in HQ2, but things may change as the facility’s opening approaches in the future.

 

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Amazon’s Facebook page.

Jillian Diamond is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at diamondgirl2000@gmail.com.

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