Diversity speaker focuses on black male retention

Quiche Matchen

In honor of Black History Month, the Office of Diversity Programs is bringing a speaker to discuss black males’ low graduation rates.

Michael Cuyjet from the University of Louisville will speak at the event, called “Factors that Contribute to Retention and Degree Completion for Male Students of Color.” It will be held at the Faculty House at 11 a.m. on Monday.

The event is a collaboration between the Office of Diversity Programs and Enrollment Services.

Andrea Garr-Barnes, director of the Office of Diversity Programs, said Cuyjet’s area of focus for research is factors that contribute to degree completion for male students of color.

“I think it’s a real timely conversation for us to have here,” she said.

Cuyjet is the editor and one of the authors of “African-American Men in College,” published in 2006. He said that he first became interested in studying black males and completion rates more than 10 years ago.

“I’m concerned that nationally, that African-American men are the proportionally least-represented population represented in most colleges across the country,” Cuyjet said.

One of the things that caught his attention was when he would go to academic awards ceremonies, it was painfully apparent that there were a small number of black men that were being recognized, he said.

“That made me aware of the fact that there was a significant problem,” he said. “This problem is bigger than just a collegian problem.”

Garr-Barnes said Enrollment Services has purchased Cuyjet’s book for every person that attends the event.

“In his book, he’s not only sharing his data, but it’s like a how-to guide,” Garr-Barnes said. “This is more of an opportunity for faculty, staff, students and external community to come together as one and say, how can we improve male students of color degree completion at WKU?”

Garr-Barnes said she hopes students get a sense of belonging from this event, as well as other upcoming programs.

“And with that sense of belonging, become involved more often with student government,” she said.

Garr-Barnes said she plans to develop relationships with external community and students, staff and faculty on South Campus, in addition to main campus.

“The plan for degree completion, retention (and) student success is not a viable plan if we don’t involve the entire campus community in the plan,” she said.