Cal State Fullerton currently has among the lowest percentage of male African-American students of any Cal State University school in southern California, a fact that Rodney Anderson, educational opportunity program counselor, is well aware of.
To address this, and the fact that African Americans have the lowest graduation and retention rates at Cal State Fullerton, Anderson has created the Male Success Initiative (MSI).
The program outlines a number of goals which aim to improve the graduation and retention rates of minority and poor male students on campus in two ways.
The first way will be to help black students pursue and achieve all their academic goals through faculty and peer mentorship.
The second is to create a sense of social connectivity at Cal State Fullerton. Anderson hopes that getting students involved on campus will help to foster a sense of belonging on what is mostly a commuter campus.
“The Male Success Initiative is a great thing that they have for young African Americans,” said Akinkumni Darbeau, an 18-year-old international business major who is taking part in the program. “(African Americans) are a small percentage … It’s good to have friends also, that you can relate to in that way, culturally.”
Anderson originally came up with the idea of the Male Success Initiative in April after talking with a colleague about ways to improve the graduation rates of the underrepresented males on campus.
Once they realized that there was a lack of a support system for those male students at CSUF, they took action.
MSI, currently in its second semester, is comprised of 16 black students, all of whom are either freshmen or sophomores. At this time the program solely consists of black students, but there are plans to reach out to all underrepresented minorities as the program grows.
Every MSI student is paired up with a faculty mentor who meets with their student at least twice a month. Mentors help each student in the program make professional academic connections and help him or her navigate through the confusion that can come with the transition to college.
The faculty mentors offer their guidance into more than just academics, Darbeau said. His mentor in the program is Edward Robinson, Ph.D., an African-American studies professor.
“It’s like an open platform, we just talk about all types of things,” Darbeau said. “(Robinson is) someone I confide in, and someone that gives me a lot of advice.”
As the program continues to grow and develop, it will introduce peer-to-peer mentoring by assigning upperclassmen MSI students to freshman or sophomore students new to the program.
Aside from the various forms of mentoring, MSI also has guest speakers every month. The presentations cover a variety of different topics that tie into the strategic goals of MSI. These events are open to the public, and guests are welcome. The next guest speaker will be Thomas A. Parham, Ph.D., vice chancellor of student affairs at UC Irvine, who will speak on March 7 in a presentation titled “Challenges of Authentic Masculinity.”
Anderson has high aspirations for the program. He hopes it will reach out far beyond the classrooms, and that the strong emphasis MSI places on leadership in academics will translate into the real world as well. That way, each one of his students will have the ability to go back and become young leaders in their communities.
MSI is still in its early phases, but Anderson is pleased with the progress the program is making.
“Right now we’re definitely just seeing the early kind of glimmers of what the program can be,” Anderson said. “Once we open up the program to all of the lower income, first-generation college students we have on this campus, that’s when we will definitely start to see the results.”