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Ohio State center helps increase graduation rate of African-American men

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Graduation and retention rates of African-American male students have increased significantly since the time when an Ohio State center was started with the goal of helping the students succeed.

OSU’s Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African-American Male was opened in 2005 to help improve the retention and graduation rates of African-American male students. The center provides special services including workshops, lectures and mentorships to help develop and maintain a higher success rate in African-American men within the college community, said James Moore III, director of the Bell National Resource Center.

Within the past several years, African-American male students have increasingly excelled, but this hasn’t always been the case, Moore said.

“Many years ago, the retention and graduation rates for African-American males were dismal,” Moore said.

The resource center was founded to enhance the success of these students, said Dolan Evanovich, vice president of strategic enrollment planning.

Since 2005, the retention rate in African-American men who participated in the early arrival program has steadily increased. Now it rests at about 97 percent for freshman-to-sophomore retention, Moore said, one of the highest rates across the university.

Moore said in an email about one-third of the OSU African-American male student enrollment is part of the early arrival program.

OSU’s average freshman-to-sophomore retention rate from Fall 2008 to Fall 2011 was 93 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Currently, about 84 percent of all OSU students graduate in six years or less, Evanovich said.

“We want to become among the best public universities from a retention standpoint and graduation standpoint,” Evanovich said, “We’ve already exceeded our goal. I think our next plan, we probably want to get that (graduation rate) up to around 89 or 90 percent.”

Sophomore-to-junior retention rates have decreased to roughly 85 percent over the last few years among African-American male students, though, while graduation rates have increased to 67 percent in the time since the center was founded, Moore said on the phone.

Services including leadership institutes, early arrival programs, career advisement and academic support were designed to help the students, Moore said. Additionally, the center helps offer support and encouragement to African-American men for reaching their educational and career aspirations, he said.

The early arrival program aims to help incoming undergraduate African-American men make the transition into OSU by building solidarity among students and providing mentors and leadership, Moore said.

Third-year in sociology Amari Ingram serves as the president of Band of Brothers, a student extension of the Bell National Resource Center. Ingram said the center helps provide support through scholarships, networking and mentorships.

“I pretty much found my mentor there,” Ingram said. “He’s been my avenue for a lot of connections as far as meeting professionals … I can go to him for any kind of support.”

Dieter Smiley, a fourth-year in industrial and systems engineering, is an adviser for Band of Brothers. He said the center has helped black male students succeed.

“The Bell Resource Center is doing really tremendous work in retaining African-American male students and boosting graduation rates,” Smiley said.

Ingram said he is excited about the increase of graduation and retention rates in African-American men.

“A lot of people have this notion that we don’t graduate and that we are unable to educate ourselves as African-American males,” Ingram said. He added that having statistics to prove otherwise is “heartwarming and definitely inspiring.”

Increased retention rates aren’t the only statistic affected with these programs. More students have been earning higher GPAs, Moore said. There has been a steady climb in these numbers since 2006. Moore said he believes some of the programs put in place help the students excel.

“Some students have the academic skills but don’t have the will. Some have the will but don’t have the skill,” Moore said, “We spend a lot of time supporting, encouraging and helping young men develop good work behavior and habits which are really critical.”

Tai Cornute, program coordinator at the Bell National Resource Center, said internal and external respect and presence help students achieve.

“We have a dedicated staff to the vision of the center, and it is easy for students to buy into an authentic and proven environment,” Cornute said.

Moore said one of the center’s goals is to develop programmatic efforts to be replicated for other universities, Moore said.

“We like to think we’re more than just a support center. We’re a center that’s comprehensive,” Moore said, “We produce high quality research and scholarships for African-American males. They shape and inform theory and practice policy.”

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