The University of La Verne has recently started a program focusing on the success and growth of under-represented men known as the Men of Color Initiative.
The idea for the program followed recent institutional data showing that men of color have lower college success rates.
What started as an inward look at what it means to be a Hispanic-serving institution lead to the revelation that men of color were not graduating at the same rate as white students or women. The data also showed that La Verne does not have many men of color enrolled, particularly black men.
“Sometimes you feel alone because the system is not supportive of you, but sometimes you feel alone because you are alone,” said Associate Provost Beatriz Gonzalez, who worked on the initiative with a steering committee and six sub-committees to create a support system for these students on campus.
The communications and outreach subcommittee is looking to find ways to create more access to men of color.
“We just had … the 6th Annual Youth Leadership Conference, where we hosted close to a 100 men of color on our campus,” said Hervéy Malone, assistant director of admission. “We had workshops where we were specifically trying to get these students to college, but also, hopefully, have them come to La Verne.”
They spoke to high school and middle school students separately. At the end of the conference, they asked the students if they were now considering attending college and if La Verne was one of their choices. Close to 60 students raised their hands.
The subcommittee is also doing a partnership with Lincoln High School and an organization called In the City.
They are working with Lincoln’s football program, targeting men of color to try to get them to go to college.
The goal is to get the students to think about applying to college.
Some students get overwhelmed with the process and do not even try, said Erasmo Fuentes, assistant director of admissions.
However, having higher graduation rates and a more diverse campus are not the only goals of the initiative.
“We want every student who starts here to graduate, but we also want (them to have) a rich and fulfilling experience, one that inspires people to pick the careers of their dreams…to really fulfill their potential,” Gonzalez said.
The subcommittees are designed to address different areas that can be improved at the University of La Verne.
The academic programs subcommittee will look at whether the classes offered at ULV support and engage underrepresented students. They are starting with a course audit.
The committee is looking to see if the classes offered allow students of color to better understand and appreciate their history so they can be more proud of their backgrounds because if they are more proud and feeling empowered they do better, said Gonzalez.
The data and analysis subcommittee spoke to focus groups and went to various cultural student groups like the Latino Student Forum, Black Student Union and Common Ground. They asked questions about their sense of belonging at La Verne and whether they feel their identity is accepted, reinforced and celebrated here.
“It’s not just about what the data says,” said Leeshawn Moore, director of data and analysis and Black Student Union adviser.
“We are going to talk to men of color to see why they stay at the University of La Verne, learn what challenges they are facing if there are any, and see how we can better support them and future students coming to ULV.”
The steering committee is also looking to add more student representation. They currently have three students working as co-researchers.
The student leadership sub-committee will identify emerging student leaders and find ways to support their development so they can lead their peers.
“I feel really optimistic about it. We’ve only had four meetings as a subcommittee and they’ve really started to work right away,” Gonzalez said.
Celene Vargas can be reached at email@example.com.