UHD recently received a $100,000 grant by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to fund a Minority Male Initiative, with the goal of increasing participation and success of minority male students through evidence-based, scalable peer-to-peer or near-peer interventions.
According to the THECB, participation and success among African-American and Hispanic male students is still below targets set by “Closing the Gaps,” the board’s plan to close educational gaps in student participation, student success and research in Texas as well as similar gaps between Texas and other states. Through the Minority Male Initiative, THECB will provide funding to eligible institutions to establish or expand programs in support of this mission.
The UHD initiative, titled “Guided Pathways for Minority Male Achievement,” centers on a two-year, 60-credit-hour academic map and corresponding block schedule of classes for pre-business majors called the “Pre-Business Academy.” The project will be overseen by Vida Robertson, director of the Center for Critical Race Studies, and Alvin Johnson, associate director of Learning Success.
UHD’s core requirements for declaring a business major include a challenging sequence of mathematics-based courses and other courses that have proven to be obstacles to completion for many students. The Pre-Business Academy and associated course-based interventions, including peer tutoring and supplemental instruction, are designed to help participating students maintain GPA requirements and succeed in prerequisite courses in order to declare business majors and ultimately graduate with business degrees.
The UHD initiative also includes the creation of a minority male student program called Leadership for Engagement and Academic Determination (LEAD), a co-curricular program focused on building learning communities of minority males. LEAD members will attend career development events, participate in community engagement and take part in facilitated forums on the challenges of pursuing a college degree.
“Our goal with LEAD is to create a space for students to share their challenges and come up with focused solutions,” said Johnson. “Students in our focus group expressed a need for these venues of peer support, as well as a desire for more engagement opportunities. They also need help balancing work and school priorities. LEAD is our response to those concerns.”
The Pre-Business Academy and LEAD will launch their first cohort this fall, and about 50 first-year students already have expressed an interest in participating. The project team anticipates that 60 percent or more of participants will achieve the expected outcomes. Robertson, Johnson and their colleagues will evaluate success using grade tracking, surveys and assessments throughout the two-year grant period.
Sandra Garcia, assistant vice president of Research and Sponsored Programs, is confident about the initiative’s potential.
“Minority males make up more than 25 percent of our undergraduate student enrollment and more than 35 percent of our incoming freshman class,” said Garcia. “Therefore, fostering success among this cohort is not only a point of distinction for the institution – it is critical to our long-term prospects and prosperity, much like it is critical to the long-term prosperity of Texas.”