In an effort to increase retention and graduation rates of African American males enrolled at UTC, campus Student Support Services (SSS) began a multi-year initiative called BMOCS (Black Males on Campus). The group of young men, which has been meeting regularly since 2010, recently held its first annual BMOCS Brotherhood conference, “Breaking the Cycle,” to address issues that hinder African-American males success at UTC.
“African American males may need special nurturing to help them adjust and adapt to UTC. In order to close the achievement gap, the project will offer gender-specific services to address the special needs of these students that are somewhat different from African American females,” Shirl S. Gholston, UTC Director of Student Support Services, said.
More than 30 students, alumni, administrators, staff and community leaders attended the one-day conference. Beyond race and gender, the conference was intended to build a sense of community that focused on building leadership skills and academic and social success among students.
“This conference was the catalyst for future endeavors to motivate, inspire, and empower SSS black males here at UTC to be more successful. Witnessing the energy and the engagement displayed by these young men was encouraging and powerful. I am very proud of their efforts,” Christopher Stokes, Conference Coordinator and SSS Academic Specialist, said.
Some of the conference highlights included:
- Academic Specialist, Christopher Stokes presented a historical reflection of the impact of African American males on society.
- Reginald Cooper, Vice-President/Credit Analyst for American Trust Bank of East Tennessee, presented a session that explored how to break through barriers to achieve success in corporate America.
- At the “Beating the Odds Luncheon” UTC administrators, Yancy Freeman and Dr. Bryan Samuel, shared their insights and personal experiences on how they succeeded even with the odds against them.
- Elder, Anthony Pollard, Youth Pastor, Olivet Baptist Church, gave strategies for managing and transforming identity, image and relationships to live fulfilling lives.
- SSS African American male alumni led a forum where students could have an unfettered dialogue on how race and gender impact academic experiences and life as a young professional.
- An award ceremony recognized presenters, attendees and conference organizers.