UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

In Support of Black Men

030310Feature2_RitesofPassageJeffrey Coleman, assistant director of multicultural affairs, took a hard look at the data and decided to do something: Of 72 black men who enrolled at UNCG in 2003, only 19.4 percent graduated within four years and 45.8 percent graduated within six years.

So Coleman went straight to the source – the students. What are your goals for college, he asked them, and what barriers distract you from those goals?

Wanting to improve retention rates and achievement for black men at UNCG, Coleman last year launched Rites of Passage. The program helps black men reach their goals despite distractions caused by negative stereotyping, sexuality issues, unhealthy love relationships, balancing work with school and other problems.

“I thought if they could get a better handle on these outside challenges, they could focus more attention on being successful,” Coleman said. “We need to create an environment where they feel supported.”

Rites of Passage encourages success through service-learning and educational workshops. This year, students can choose to mentor black male high school students for the academic year or spend a semester volunteering at the Servant Center of Greensboro, which provides transitional housing for disabled veterans and homeless men.

Students also attend monthly workshops on topics such as sexuality, managing emotions, alcohol and drug abuse, preparing for the job market and black love relationships. They are strongly encouraged to attend at least four workshops per year.

The most recent workshop, held Feb. 9 in advance of Valentine’s Day, focused on romantic relationships. Dr. Ebony Utley, professor of communications at California State University, and Dr. C.P. Gause, associate professor in UNCG’s Department of Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations, led a discussion, question and answer session and coaching session. The discussion centered on both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

Black women at UNCG graduate at a much higher rate than black men, Coleman found. Of 331 women who enrolled in 2003, 32.3 percent graduated within four years and 55 percent graduated within six years.

“African-American females are the example,” Coleman said. “Their graduation rates are good, and retention is great. Black males are dealing with a lot of stereotypes of them as African American males. They say they feel they are perceived as unsuccessful, that they don’t feel encouraged to overachieve.”

So far, 57 men have participated in Rites of Passage. Nick Foggie, a freshman majoring in history education, said the program has provided a networking opportunity, putting him in touch with other black men on campus, and a chance to mentor young men still in high school.

“The mentoring program is really rewarding,” Nick said. “It’s a wonderful experience to be able to give back to the community.”

Visual: Dr. C.P. Gause speaks at a recent Rites of Passage workshop, on relationships.