As part of the Kentucky Public Postsecondary Education Diversity Policy and Framework for Institution Diversity Plan Development, the University of Kentucky is required to address four strategic areas in student success: Student Body Diversity; Closing the Achievement Gap; Workforce Diversity, and; Campus Climate. The University of Kentucky 2011-2015 Diversity Plan established Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino student enrollment, retention and graduation goals.
In 2012-2013, undergraduate enrollment records were set across all areas of underrepresented student enrollment. The University of Kentucky set records in the number of African-American and Hispanic/Latino undergraduate student enrollment. Black or African American accounts for 7.7 percent of the state population. Hispanic or Latino, the most rapidly growing segment of the state, accounts for 2.7 percent of the Kentucky population. At the undergraduate level, the number of Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino students increased. Likewise, the gap between the state demographic population and enrollment for Black or African American reduced from 0.3 percent to 0.2 percent. The gap between Hispanic or Latino also declined from 0.5 percent to 0.0 percent or equivalent to the Kentucky demographic population. There were more American Indian/Alaskan Native undergraduates in 2012 than 2011. The undergraduate international student population also increased. By expanding recruitment efforts towards underrepresented students, the University continues to make progress in all areas of undergraduate enrollment.
For the 2011-2015 Diversity Plan, the University’s objective is to reduce and eventually eliminate differences in achievement for Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino students in comparison to White students’ retention. The first year to second year retention gap between Black or African American and White students increased from 0.9 percent in cohort 2010 to 8.4 percent in cohort 2011. For Hispanic or Latino students, the gap decreased from 4.5 percent in 2010 to 0.9 percent in 2011. Black or African American student retention declined, Hispanic or Latino student retention increased, and the overall UK First- to Second-Year Retention Rate slightly declined.The total non-White population has grown to 23.8 percent (excluding Unknown or Missing) from 17.2 percent in 2003-04, and 21.9 percent in 2011-12. (Source: 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 Annual Diversity Plan Assessment for Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Committee on Equal Opportunities, November 2013)Source: “Black and Latino Male Initiative, University of Kentucky” slides for presentation by Dr. Steve Alvarez, Dr. Quentin Tyler and Mr. Kahlil Baker, presented at OSU’s National Conference on Diversity, Race And Learning (NCDRL) and at Kentucky Association for Blacks in Higher Education (KABHE) statewide conference 2014.
Several student support units on campus have taken the lead on addressing the issues of race and ethnic disparity in student success University-wide on a regular basis here at the University of Kentucky: in particular, the Center for Academic Resources and Enrichment Services (CARES), Student Support Services (SSS) and the Office of First Generation Initiatives. While there have been overall increases in degree production, there has only been marginal progress in graduating undergraduate students of color. The low number of undergraduate males of color that are retained after the first year is complicated by many factors and requires additional attention by the University as we seek to address issues surrounding UK’s continued low graduation rate compared to benchmark institutions. So, in addition to the work already undertaken by many across campus, Mr. Kahlil Baker of the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center has partnered with Dr. Steve Alvarez (College of Arts and Sciences) and Dr. Quentin Tyler (College of Agriculture) to lead the UK Black Latino Male Initiative (BLMI).
The BLMI provides an opportunity for participating young men at the University of Kentucky to connect with other students, faculty and staff. They engage with leaders from the greater community of Lexington. Ultimately the goal is to collectively devise strategies that support their persisting and pursuing excellence at the University of Kentucky and beyond. Dialogues are offered in the Martin Luther King Center to allow participants to discuss news topics of the day, social and economic issues, leadership, academic excellence, social responsibility, and to provide a forum for these students to express themselves and their concerns in relation to the world around them. The overarching focus of the BLMI is to promote academic success and leadership among these student populations.
The BLMI Dialogues Model
The dialogues model enacted by BLMI is guided by three related objectives. The first objective is to identify the meanings Black and Latino males articulate through dialogue as the value of a college education. The focus is to identify the educational outcomes and dialogues that engage Black and Latino men attending the university, and to build community. This is important because although graduation rates appear to be on the rise, completion of high school in some rural states such as Kentucky may still be regarded as a challenge and some students give little thought to college enrollment. Parents and educators in many rural areas still argue about the value of physical, laboring work versus technical and professional careers. In states such as Kentucky, vocational involvement increases the likelihood of dropping out of high school, thus significantly decreasing college attendance. The dialogues also question and critique what the BLMI participants view as to what it means to be a Black or Latino man and if this outlook affects their educational perceptions. Dialogues around masculinity and education are important because many Black and Latino males have pressures from peers who believe that being a high achiever and being intelligent are not masculine and may conflict with cultural requirements of Black and Latino communities.
Activities and Events
The BLMI offers many different activities and events, including speakers, film series, joint events with Majestic Unity, community service projects as well as monthly meetings (Thursday evenings at 6 p.m.).
Why Participating in BLMI is Important and Meaningful
BLMI is both important and meaningful for young men of color to come together to establish and connect with community and learning about being university students. As a safe space, it offers students open access to speak freely with mentors, and to dialogue about issues affecting university life and larger social issues. Intergenerational dialogues bring awareness of and attention to strengths, values, and practices that contribute to understanding Black and Latino males’ perceptions of education.
Here are some students’ comments about BLMI at UK:
- “It was meaningful to me to see other Black males in the same room, dealing with the same insecurities as I am. Also seeing other Black males who succeed and overcame the same problems I faced.”
- “Having the opportunity to be with and learn from such a diverse group of Black men. I hope that I have been able to contribute as much as what I have taken away from this experience.”
- “It is meaningful because it offers an atmosphere for us to talk about the struggles, problems and situations that wouldn’t get talked about in normal conversation.”
- “Personally, it is fuel for me to get my degree and to quit worrying about loans.”
Ways the UK Community Can Help to Make BLMI Stronger
The UK community can offer BLMI support by becoming involved and attending our meetings. Dedicated faculty male mentors are vital role models BLMI participants can develop connections to. BLMI would also be interested in partnering or collaborating with campus or community groups promoting diversity, particularly connecting BLMI students with younger men of color in Lexington.
For more information, please contact:
- Dr. Steven Alvarez, Assistant Professor, Writing Rhetoric and Digital Media; and,
Latin America Studies, College of Arts & Sciences, 218-0958
- Mr. Kahlil G. Baker, Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center, 257-4130
- Dr. Quentin Tyler, Assistant Dean and Director for Diversity, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, 257-3482