CSU Expands Efforts to Mentor Rural African-American Males

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Columbus State University is ramping up recruitment and retention efforts through a new program focused on rural African-American males — a demographic largely missing in higher education.

At CSU, African-American males represent 9 percent of the student body, and just 1 percent (66 students) of that demographic is comprised of students from rural areas.

“Projecting Hope,” coordinated by CSU’s Office of Diversity Programs and Services, will target black males, ages 17-25, in Talbot, Taylor and Troup counties — three of the largest rural feeder counties of African American students to CSU.

The project starts this fall and will involve currently enrolled students, with the idea to recruit additional students as the project grows. The students in the program will be mentored and tracked through their sophomore year. “The intent is to work with these students beyond the pre-entry stage — to retain them and also engage them in future recruitment and peer mentoring activities for the program,” said Student Development Specialist Bernard McCrary, who is coordinating the initiative.

CSU Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Darryl Holloman said the recruitment and retention of African-American men to post-secondary settings is a challenge for most colleges and universities throughout the country. “In the last decade the numbers of African-American men on college campuses has hovered around eight percent and it has stood fairly consistent at that number,” he said. “The Projecting Hope initiative provides an opportunity for Columbus State to take a proactive stance in addressing the critical issue of assisting these men as they navigate the educational pipeline.'

McCrary said the initiative also complements the recent CSU Strategic Plan, particularly its provisions to increase enrollment to 10,000 students by 2011 and create more partnerships with external clients.

Such external collaborators with CSU for the project will include the Taylor, Troup and Talbot county school districts, whose administrators will work closely with CSU in recruitment efforts. Also, the Fort Benning Army Infantry Center and School will host a three-day team and personal-skills building retreat for students in the program, and the Columbus chapter of 100 Black Men of America — whose members include successful professionals — will mentor the students and help facilitate guest speakers for the program.

The 100 Black Men of America participation will extend to introducing the students to professional networking opportunities, as well as various facets of the region’s cultural attractions.

The launch of Projecting Hope is supplemented by a $22,000 grant through the University of Georgia’s African American Male Initiative, which supports a statewide network of similar programs.

For more information on the CSU initiative, call McCrary at 706-568-2273 or e-mail mccrary_collins@ColumbusState.edu.