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Unlocking success through belonging

In a groundbreaking 2018 study, Harvard, Stanford, and U.S. Census researchers found that Black and Native American boys had abysmal odds of attaining household wealth—even if they came from wealthy, stable households themselves—reporting that these gaps in economic mobility are reflected in the disproportionately low enrollment, retention and success metrics of male students of color in higher education.

Since 2000, male-identifying students of color have had lower enrollment in undergraduate programs than female-identifying students of color. The trend deepens when it comes to attainment. While this is typical across many racial and ethnic groups, exacerbation by the COVID pandemic has caused a larger drop in students. Across the U.S., leaders are wondering where the male students of color have gone. What can be done to bring them back and better ensure their success in college and beyond?

In close partnership with the Center for Equity and Student Belonging and the American Indian Resource Center, the Black Cultural Center is leading a newly formed Male Success Initiative to challenge the narratives surrounding the success of male-identifying students of color.

“More than ever today, men of color are not being retained in college. And this is not just at the University of Utah. This is actually found across the country,” said Meligha Garfield (he/him), director of the Black Cultural Center. “We feel this program should really be a touchpoint for men of color to make sure that they belong here at the institution. But then on top of that, how do we cultivate their personalities, their skillsets? How do we cultivate their drive to get an education, and develop them for post-graduate success as well?”

Part of the Male Success Initiative’s formation included the establishment of a program coordinator and an engaging program structure filled with workshops and retreats. Former student body president and recent University of Utah graduate Ephraim Kum (he/him) has joined the Black Cultural Center to take on this mission as the Male Success Initiatives program coordinator.

“Our hope and dream for this program are that it will be a safe space for students to feel as though they belong. And from there, to be able to develop, grow and thrive—not just survive their experience of being a male-identifying student of color at a predominantly White institution,” said Kum. “And so with that, it’ll look like having retreats to connect with one another and ourselves on a deeper level and workshops for the purpose of helping them not just feel as though they belong, but also feel that they can go out there and succeed in the long term.”

The Black Cultural Center will start fostering the academic and professional development of the U’s male-identifying students of color in Fall Semester 2022. To learn more about the Male Success Initiative and receive updates on the initiative’s development and opportunities, visit diversity.utah.edu/bcc or follow the Black Cultural Center on Facebook and Instagram (@uofuBCC).