University Park, IL,
14:11 PM

Partnering for Men's Success

Governors State University (GSU) educators and administrators, along with their counterparts from other Southland institutions of higher education, recently gathered to take a stand for the progress of brown and black men striving for progress through education.

“We are committed to supporting our men of color, who at the national level, have low college retention and graduation rates,’’ said Sean Smith, coordinator of the GSU Male Success Initiative program.

Smith was joined by GSU’s Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Cada and Aurélio Valente, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and seven representatives from Prairie State College (PSC), South Suburban College (SSC), and The Kresge Foundation, to formalize an agreement that promises to support men of color on their respective campuses.

The ultimate goal is to create a seamless pathway for minority men from community college to graduation from a four-year institution. Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) also formalized their partnership with GSU but was unable to attend the signing.

This is the second formal agreement GSU has entered this year to open doorways for higher education.

Earlier this year, GSU signed a memorandum of understanding with Crete Monee High School, establishing a historic partnership that will bring students from CMHS to GSU.

In 2011, The Kresge Foundation began funding GSU’s lauded Dual Degree Program with a 3-year $875,000 grant. The DDP is a partnership with 17 Chicagoland community colleges that bridges the two-year degree to a four-year degree at GSU.

In 2016, GSU was awarded additional $450,000 to disseminate the program nationally and to expand it to target the men of color. The goal of the DDP-MSI program is to enroll, retain, and graduate men from minority groups. Both the DDP and 

MSI are hands-on in nature and rely on outreach and mentoring to succeed.

In 2017, Smith began outreach to area colleges, as mandated by the grant, to introduce the benefits of the DDP partnership to male students at their campuses.

While all institutions expressed interest, not all were in a position to formalize a partnership. PSC, SSC, and MVCC, all DDP partners, are the first schools to enter the MSI formal agreement, said Smith, who plans to extend partnerships with Joliet Junior and Kankakee Community colleges during the 2018 – 19 school year.

Meanwhile, he plans to connect with MSI leaders at PSC and MVCC, to increase exposure to GSU’s campus and programs. Among other activities, he will administer an assessment to help students identify their strengths. The Clifton StrengthsFinder survey is part of an anti-deficit model GSU has adopted to create greater successes among faculty, staff, and students by taking the focus off shortcomings and weakness.

The model was the focus of an all-campus symposium earlier this year. “We want to shift the spotlight to what students do well so we can build on that to help them be successful,’’ Smith said.