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UGA launches program to close enrollment gap for African-American males

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Office of Institutional Diversity has launched the African American Male Initiative, a program targeted at enrolling, retaining and graduating African-American males.

The program, which is funded by a $10,000 grant from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and part of a larger network of African-American male initiatives in the system, is co-directed by the Office of Institutional Diversity and the Division of Student Affairs. These offices will jointly administer the grant.

“We want to increase engagement and participation of these young men in leadership, professional and service initiatives,” said Michelle Garfield Cook, the principal investigator for the grant and UGA’s associate provost for institutional diversity.

Nationally, four in 10 African-American males graduate from college within six years, according to a 2012 study by the Education Trust. UGA has a different problem on its hands though.

UGA has some of the highest rates of retention and graduation of African-American males in the country, at 79 percent and 77 percent respectively. But African-American males account for less than 3 percent of the undergraduate population, and nearly twice as many African-American females are enrolled at UGA than males.

So the problem isn’t keeping African-American males in school and getting them to graduate, Cook said, but to get them here in the first place.

The initiative aims to increase the number of African-American males that enroll at UGA while maintaining high rates of retention and graduation.

The initiative will increase enrollment through weekend events for prospective African-American males to get them engaged with the campus environment. Next year, the program will be eligible for a grant of $30,000, which will offer the program much more latitude to promote its objective of recruiting African-American males.

The AAMI has existed on other college campuses in Georgia for many years and has led to marked improvements in enrollment, retention and graduation.

From 2002-when the University System of Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative was founded-to 2011, African-American male enrollment in Georgia colleges and universities climbed from 17,068 to 30,847, an increase of more than 80 percent.

The program’s planning and objectives were prepared with input from an interdisciplinary advisory board consisting of campus organizations, university departments and community partners.

One of the student-initiated university organizations that AAMI has partnered with is the Black Male Leadership Society. BMLS is an undergraduate group of outstanding black males within UGA’s Multicultural Services and Programs, another partner with UGA’s AAMI.

BMLS receives funding to host special events, student retreats and other leadership opportunities, while the groups’ leaders provide an added dimension by encouraging student engagement in UGA’s AAMI.

Athens community partners include organizations such as the Athens Alumni Chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc. and the Athens Area Human Relations Council Inc.

Two faculty members who study African-American student success-Tarek Grantham and Louis Castenell Jr. in the College of Education-also are part of the board.

Cook said she believes having faculty members who are researching these issues brings something unique to the program that other Georgia schools don’t have. “I can’t stress enough that the campus team model that we’re using works really, really well,” she said.