Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Opportunity and equity is the central focus of the 2030 Strategic Impact Plan and the lens through which the College will examine its success in all areas. In October 2020, former Valencia College President Sandy Shugart commissioned equity initiatives in four key areas to evaluate our current processes and develop recommendations for equity-minded practices. In an effort to ensure you have the most updated information on the progress, findings and recommendations of the teams involved in this work, a new Opportunity and Equity series will be published in The Grove on a bi-weekly basis. This week’s update highlights the work underway for the Black Male Initiative.
“The Black Male Initiative was born as the result of several events occurring simultaneously,” shared Melvin Middleton, manager, West Campus, evening and weekends, and chair of the Black Male Initiative work team. “First, during fall 2020, I was preparing to defend my dissertation, which focused on Black Male Initiatives. My data collection consisted of conducting interviews with Black male educational leaders who led Black Male Initiatives — learning of the impactful work they were doing and what motivated them to do the work. This resulted in a personal desire to find ways to engage in this work within my own environment. Secondly, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer was heavily in the news and on the minds of many across the world, including me. As many were protesting, I knew that as someone who has preexisting health issues, I was not comfortable taking part in protests, with COVID-19 in full force. I then asked myself, how I could use my voice to help the cause,” expressed Melvin.
At Valencia College, the graduation rate discrepancy between Black males and other counterparts provided enough evidence on the need to support Black male students. For fall 2015, First Time in College (FTIC), degree-seeking Black males at Valencia graduated at a rate of 20.3% after five years. This represents a double-digit lag for all other student groups, with Black females graduating at a rate of 32.5%, Hispanic males graduating at a rate of 31.8%, Hispanic females graduating at a rate of 41.7%, Caucasian males graduating at a rate of 37.4%, and Caucasian females graduating at a rate of 45.6%.
These discrepancies and the desire to contribute in a meaningful way motivated Melvin to reach out to then College President Sandy Shugart to recommend the implementation of services to improve educational outcomes for Black males at Valencia. Sandy invited Melvin to meet with Senior Team members to discuss his recommendation, which in turn resulted in the commissioning of a work team to develop a brief.
The diverse work team, chaired by Melvin, is comprised of 26 individuals from different areas of the College, including faculty, staff and administrators, and sponsored by Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs, and Terri Graham, interim campus president, West and Downtown Campuses.
The team focused on the following:
- Analyze the services and supports currently afforded to Black male students at Valencia College. Share what we know about these topics based on current research and professional/personal experience.
- Research best practices adopted by other post-secondary institutions.
- Provide recommendations for adoption here at Valencia.
The work team conducted research on Black male student success in recruitment, retention, advising and student services, learning support, credit bearing courses, socioemotional programming and mentoring, faculty and staff development, curriculum development, climate and culture, and community and collegewide partnerships.
After conducting research within these areas, the work team developed a brief that synthesizes the research on Black male student success, describes models for Black male initiatives at other institutions and curates existing sources of data regarding the Black Valencia male student experience. The brief includes recommendations, which center on the development and support of a collegewide Black Male Initiative at Valencia. The work of leading scholars including Shaun Harper, Luke Wood, Ramon Goings and Derrick Brooms helped inform the work team about best practices in this area. This was done in tandem with exploring current established Black male initiative programs at institutions across the country.
“Outside of the final brief that was submitted, I am most proud of the fact that such a diverse group of administrators, faculty and staff members collaborated on this project. The roster of team members did not consist exclusively of Black staff and faculty. We were not addressing a ‘Black issue’ for Black people. Student achievement is a Valencia issue. We all share a responsibility in ensuring that we are providing all students with the tools to matriculate and graduate. This team reflected the theme ‘We’re all in this together,'” shared Melvin.
The brief has been shared with the Senior Team and the Equity Planning team, and conversations have begun to consider adding the Black Male Initiative as part of the College’s equity work. The brief will also be used to support the work of the teams charged with updating our essential competencies of a Valencia educator, one of the strategies developed by the Learning Plan team.