ACE2019: Ensuring the Success of Men of Color

March 14, 2019

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ACE Vice President Lorelle Espinosa moderated a panel during ACE2019 on “Ensuring the Educational Success of Men of Color: Lessons from Two Statewide Consortia,” featuring panelists Juan Sánchez Muñoz, president of the University of Houston, Downtown (UHD); Victor Sáenz, department chair and associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin); and William Franklin, vice president of student affairs for California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSU).

Muñoz opened the discussion by saying men of color are a growing population, but they’re not growing in proportion to their numbers in higher education. He asked, “How can you help but be keenly aware of this population, which is underperforming compared to their ambition? They want to escape poverty, hopelessness. They understand higher education is the best way to achieve that goal.”

He further discusses the UHD Men of L.E.G.A.C.I Student Success Program, created to increase Black and Hispanic men’s enrollment in college as well as promote career and professional development and support the cultural and emotional wellbeing of these student.

Muñoz highlighted the need for the program with a statistic: If you take off one semester at UHD, you are three times less likely to return. “There’s no reason for a single one of these young men to fail unless we fail them,” he said in conclusion.

Sáenz began by asking, “What are the conversations on males of color in education?” He explained that men are falling behind in education attainment across all racial groups. In his institution’s state of Texas, less than half of young men are enrolled in some form of postsecondary education. Latino and Black males fall even further behind, and urban areas lag far behind the rest of the state.

Because, as Sáenz put it, “the problem can’t end here,” he began Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) at UT-Austin in 2010.

Project MALES encompasses three initiatives: 1. A national research agenda focused on understanding the experiences of Latino males across the education pipeline; 2. The Texas Educational Consortium for Male Students of Color focuses on the success of male students of color in six major urban areas statewide; and 3. A locally-based mentoring program that aims to cultivate an engaged support network for males of color at UT-Austin and in school districts across the Central Texas community.

Sáenz also urged his audience to help reframe the narrative around experiences of boys of color from “deficit narratives” to narratives that are positive.

To start his presentation, Franklin asked the audience: “Are we ready for the students we should be admitting?” He painted a picture of the CSU system in 2017: There were 430,000 total undergrads, half of whom were students of color. One in three were the first to attend college, and 54 percent received Pell Grants. Forty percent of CSU campuses are designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions.

In response to his own question, Franklin shared information about the Graduation Initiative 2025, the goal of which is to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps. He currently runs a mentoring program for African American and Latino young men called the Male Success Alliance that works with nearly 200 middle and high school boys and nearly 150 male college students.

Franklin discussed a new CSU program, the Young Males of Color Consortium, which he began with the help of focus groups and interviews, campus environmental scans, and tech-mediated conversations across system campuses. Several recurring themes occurred from that fact-finding process, and Franklin noted barriers that he would have to overcome with the program: limited knowledge, scaling effective practices, leadership commitment level, data illiteracy, deficit-laden perspectives, and institutional unpreparedness.

He noted that the program is in its first year but that he was learning a lot from the existing work of Sáenz and Muñoz.

—Kristen Carmen

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