7:15PM May 12, 2021
Hello, hello, hello, awesome listeners. Welcome to Out Loud in the Library, a Durham Tech Library podcast. I'm your host, Courtney Bippley, reference librarian extraordinare. The spring 2021 semester has come to an end. And so the hours for the library will be changing. I've put a link in the show notes to where you can find the most up to date hours we are open. Things will change again in the fall so keep checking back with us. This will be the last podcast episode of the spring semester. Remember to subscribe to the podcast so you'll get any special episodes I do over the summer. And then when we start back with scheduled releases in the fall, you'll get them automatically on your phone. I've had a blast interviewing, editing and producing this podcast over the past year. I plan to come back in the fall with everything I've learned through this process to bring you more Durham Tech Library updates, interviews, communication and connection. That's what it's all about. Today's interview is with Blake Williams and Dr. Keyma Clark. They are starting a new mentoring program at Durham Tech called the Men of Color Scholars Institute. I've linked to their website in the show notes. The mission of the Men of Color Scholars Institute is: To empower all members to achieve their educational career and personal objectives through mentorship and exposure to academic, social and career/professional opportunities. It was great to hear about the plans for the Men of Color Scholars Institute at Durham Tech, what they are, how they are moving forward what their structure will be like and how they plan to be as inclusive as possible.
Thank you so much to both of you for joining me today to talk about the Men of Color Scholars Institute at Durham Tech. First question is: what is the Men of Color Scholars Institute at Durham Tech?
So MCSI, like you said, our Men of Color Scholars Institute, is a mentoring program for students who identify as men of color. Students, or mentees as they'll be called, will be paired with a mentor who's going to support them and empower them to achieve their educational, career, and personal objectives. Keyma wanna take it away?
Um, you know, and our aim is to increase the utilization of campus community and other resources to engage in, these men into just intentional connections so that all these men are involved. They're connected with campus and all the surrounding, um, individuals throughout the Durham Tech and Orange County communities. So that they're insulated inside inside of environment that can foster them to be successful regardless of what their opportunities at Durham Tech. If it's a physical credential with short term, or long term transfer or if it's to come back from job into industry. We want to be able to grab all. Those even if you're here to get a GED or high school students that are here to be supported. We're supporting all men of color.
What does it entail for students? So if a student is in this program, is it a weekly meeting? Is it Discord server? Is it some kind of seminar? What all is entailed? How much time does it take in a semester? For a student?
That's a really good question.
I guess it I mean, it all can depend on the student, you know, every, nobody is the same. So when a student comes in, they do the referral form. And that's what lets us know they're interested. Or a faculty or staff member can do a referral form. And then we link up with the student that way, and we're going to be doing workshops with them. We're going to be doing regular checkpoints throughout the semester. Right, Keyma? I think we did say that correct?
Bi-weekly check points.
Yeah, proact- like basically proactively reaching out to them so we can make sure they're, you know, we're addressing any kind of needs that they have. We don't want the students to just we don't want to have that see me first mentality. And that's what we have. A lot of times when it comes to higher education is the student has to come and see me first so I can go ahead so they can tell me what their problem is. We want to not have that mentality. We want to reach out to the students so we can anticipate whatever they may need. And we're going to be doing some, sometimes some proactive advising, also linking them up with resources that are out there. I think Keyma did say that previously. We're also going to be doing some workshops, how to navigate through the socio-cultural norms that society has. Quote unquote, code switching, LGBTQ training, masculinity identity awareness, toxic masculinity workshops, financial literacy workshops, also. But it's also going to be that one on one connection that they have with the mentor and mentee have. And so that's going to allow the students or the mentees to actually have a really good support system and have, know that they have somebody in their corner who's going to be there for them whenever they have issues with classes, food insecurity, housing, insecurity, financial issues. So that's basically what's going to entail.
We also want to make sure that we're preparing these these men not only for an opportunity here at the college, but once they transition as well. We want to make sure they have a solid resume. Want to make sure that they're prepared for dress for an interview, how to have that conversation within an interview. But also we want to teach these men how to engage and advocate for themselves. All these men who are on campus have been in situations where they don't know how to advocate for themselves in the in the job market, how to advocate for themselves at an educational institution. So we want to make sure that we're really preparing these young men to be successful, not only while they're at Durham Tech, but once they transition, that's a large part of what we do. And we want to create an alumni part so that those young men are able to come back and give back to Men of Color Scholars Institute in an alumni role, so that they're able to come back and say, Hey, this is where I was I've been a student and we want to prepare you for the next phase as Men of Color Scholars Institute prepared me.
What is the reason this is being formed. I'd love for you to explain to the audience exactly why it does need to happen.
Blake and I both could be long winded in this in this aspect. And this is a phenomenal question. But when you look at it, and I'll go I'll go research and I'll let Blake go kind of surface level. But I will research. Based upon the research that's come out of the academy about men of color and persistence within the educational, in the academy, men of color are just not persisting. And we use persisting we're talking about semester to semester as well as graduating. So these numbers are alarming, not only at Durham Tech or in the community college system, but they are alarming at the four year institutions as well. And so what we tried to do is then we take in the research that's being presented not just at Durham Tech from from a dashboard or from a small study has been done or the data we get from REAP. We've taken it and we've looked at it from a broad stance. And we've taken our research and saying how do we create an environment inside of a small space like Durham Tech? And support Orange County as well as Durham County and give these men of color an opportunity in a space where they can be heard, be identified, but also be supported. So that's kind of the research perspective, Keyma's research perspective, on why Men of Color Scholars Institute has been created at Durham Tech and I can go further but for the sake of time, I'll stop there and I give Blake a chance to go kind of you know college level perspective of it.
I agree with everything you said. I agree. I think it's a shift. Honestly, we're shifting. Um, so many times in so many institutions, and especially at Durham Tech, it's always been what's wrong with the student? Why are they not persisting? What are they doing wrong? And we've recently had a shift in that mentality. MCSI, President Buxton has been phenomenal in this and Angela Davis, Dr. Angela Davis, and YouTube chemo have been really phenomenal in this shift this culture shift and saying what does the institution needs to fix with itself to support these students of color? I think that's really the key thing. That was why this is happening right now, why this is being formed, we have had a previous program, but it turned into a social club, kind of a situation kind of a program for men of color, and it wasn't very effective. So we're trying to look at the previous things that Durham Tech did and learn from that. And that's why we created this program, because we've seen the need, and we've also seen the need to fix the institution and not just rely on fixing the student.
That sounds really important. And from the data that you've looked at, what are the reasons that some of the men of color are not graduating and persisting at the rates of other demographics?
It's a lot of factors, honestly, that influence the success rates of men of color, you have transportation issues, job conflict issues, where you have that breadwinner mentality, and that's where men of color have that mentality of they have to support the family, they have to be the one to earn that money so they can support their kids in their family. And that can sometimes conflict with going to school. You also have a fear of asking for help. Research has shown that men of color are less inclined to ask for help. I was one of those when I was in college, I never asked for help. I always assumed that I had to do everything on my own, which made the experience a little more rigorous than it should have been. And also you have other things food insecurity, housing insecurity. But we also like I said, have to look at the institutional barriers. Are we as an institution creating an environment that allows for men of color to succeed? Or are we do we have microaggressions and systemic racism that exists in the institution that these students can pick up on and that can also influence their success rates.
Also, we have to be we have to be mindful that men of color, and we can define them multiple ways. But as African African American male, you come from a family insular or insulated environment, to where you have those people who are there to support you. In particular, we have people who will look like you inside of the space, we create that avenue of trust. And so we go to look at the institution, are there faces and individuals on the campus that support our clientele? That support the men of color. And so when we don't have individuals on campus to support the Latino population, because there's a multitude of Latino males on campus that they can they can identify with in leadership roles. Do you have a large representation of African American men in leadership roles? And so when we go back to start looking at why these students are successful and are not successful, we have to go back to the idea of we look at needs assess, needs assessment you asking students do you find someone on campus that you can you can self identify with? And they start saying no, that now you have to start looking at institution saying, are we putting the necessary individuals in place? In particular, delivery, delivering the knowledge inside of the classroom? Do we have enough teachers, instructors, adjunct and our full-time, that are delivering the information to these students so they can identify with them? So we start to look at the data of saying: why are men of color successful? We have to be mindful that in the institution and Academy there's lots of data out there on why they're not enough men in education, in particular African American men and Latino men in the classroom. So we start to look at that data and say, Oh, these students are successful for multiple, multiple reasons, we have to really take a very deep dive into looking at institution has institution done their due diligence to bring in the individuals to support these students on a day to day basis.
One of the questions I had on my list was how the Men of Color Scholars Institute is defining men of color. So you mentioned African Americans, you mentioned Latinos
Latinx, Yeah, Native American, Asian, and also all who identify as men of color. I think we need to definitely say that because you can you may have, we may, we probably will be referred to some individuals may be referred to us who were born as cis women, and they now identify as men of color. So that we will, we have no problem with that. We are trying to reach anyone who identifies as a man of color.
You may come to us and your mom may be white your dad may be black. Dad may be from the Philippines, your mom may be African American. If you identify as a man of color, Men of Color Scholars Institute wants you to be part of what we're doing. Because we're going to find a way we can learn from you as well as you can learn from us. But we're also going to push the envelope so that we help you understand that in the academy, or in the job, in the world, how the world may perceive you. We have this thing of looking at names and trying to figure out well, how does this person, Where are they? Where are they from? You know, where's this individual? Who are they? How do they identify? Your name, the content of your character, the color of your skin doesn't identify you. It's how you identify. And so that's one of the things that we're taking kind of the college, college perspective into our perspective is, as an open door policy for a man who identifies a man of color.
Incredibly inclusive. Is there a minimum number of credit hours a student should be taking in order to qualify to be in the institute?
I didn't think so. Keyma? Right, we don't have that minimum qualification.
So even if it's just one like two credit class, they can still be referred to the institute or refer themselves to the Institute?
You can be a prospective student and be referred to the Men of Color Scholars Institute. And one reason we went in that direction is because as a community, and we look at ourselves as a community, as an extension of the community college as a community, we want to create an environment to where the practitioners of this institution, they're looking at us and saying, This group is so inclusive, that they're allowing individuals who are trying to get into the college to be part of what we're doing. Here's why. We may be the jumpstart on why this young man wants to come to the institution. We may be the jumpstart of who that young man will identify with once he comes to the institution. We may be the bridge that creates his success as he comes to the institution. Be mindful, we look at networking, when we look at selling our product, the best word of the best opportunity to sell a product is word of mouth. If you were going to your church or going to a community organization say hey, I reached out to Men of Color Scholars Institute, they helped me apply for Durham Tech, get into Durham Tech, with different things. You tell them one person and now one person tells two and two tells four, now we're at capacity to what we want to be. We want to be able to get these men in and help them move along and whatever their opportunity may be. So we're not limiting that GPA or credits earned as anything like that. We're just trying to move these young men along. Students, adults, along to say, Hey, this is an environment where you're invited to come into our space and find where you fit.
That sounds great. I don't really interact with prospective students that much in my role as a librarian, however, I am an advisor. So it's great to hear that I don't have to tell a student that they can't be accepted because they're not taking a certain number of credits or the right classes. As an advisor, how do I refer someone to the institute? Is there a form on the website? Do I email and CC one of you guys? Or how does that happen?
We do have a form on the website. So our page is set up. Also, it's under current students, and then you scroll down and you go under student life, I believe it is. And so when you click on that it does bring up our page and information about us. Ah, has Keyma's contact information and my contact information. And it does have the referral form for faculty and staff or even students to do also if you're interested. If a student is interested in like it, let's say they see us in the hallways and they want to join the program, we will definitely talk to him about the program. But we do want them to still fill out that form. And the form is basically for data collection tracking purposes. But yes, it, faculty and staff can refer students from that form.
And we have marketing materials that you know that we'll have posted to our both Orange County and Durham County campuses.
With a QR code thingy.
We have a QR code that's available. And we also have palm cards that you can hand a student and they can they can take their phone out, put the QR code, the QR code will take them right to the website. While on the website they can they can fill out a referral form for themselves or um, a faculty and staff can do it. So we have multiple ways that we're going to get this, this messaging communication out to students, faculty, staff, as well as the broader community because like I said, we really want to the community agencies to be part of what we're doing. To understand where MCSI is trying to go. So if there's a church out there trying to refer a student, well, we'll have information there. Somewhere that department social services downtown, we have information there. Your downtown Durham Bulls, we'll have information there. Because you know we want to be a broad umbrella of the community but an extension to say hey, here's an opportunity for you to be included within an inclusive environment.
How will you know that you're succeeding with the institute? We know that past initiatives at Durham Tech haven't had the outcomes that we necessarily were looking for. So what is it that you are looking for this time?
Well, one of the biggest things I want to be very transparent about is in in the first, I say, maybe year or two, we're not looking. Success can be defined multiple different ways. In the Academy, we look at success as having a large percentage of graduation rate, we have a large percentage of individuals who are transferring to a four year institutions. Men of Color Scholars Institute, we're not hanging our hat on having a large percentage rate of students who are graduating or things like that. Right now, we're looking to start with just a baseline of students and getting them successful, successfully enrolled. Successfully in the right pathway. Successfully, you know, understanding where you want to go with a meta major. And so as we continue to grow, some things that we'll track ww'll track how'd you hear about the Men of Color Scholars Institute or track the referrals. Are they coming from outside agencies? Are they coming from from a student? Are they coming from instructors? And so what that will do is scale for us that will allow us where to put our emphasis so that we continue to get men coming on coming in? And how do we bring other outside partners to the end now attached to what the men may need? One of the biggest things I think we tend to do and this is a great question. I don't want to not answer your question. One of the biggest things we tend to do in the academy is: we have we started something there and first thing we go is how do we know we're successful based upon the numbers. This right now, the Institute is not going to hang their hat on having a great large percentage of students who are graduating. Let me reword that. Not that they're not graduating or persisting but students who are here they're staying, and we're moving along in being successful at Durham Tech. Now my mind you, understand something, we don't have a subset of students, when I look at FTE. Now we're looking at students who are credit, who are non credit. We're looking at students, all men of color throughout the larger umbrella. So for us, I think the data will be how do we continue to scale for these young men to be successful in whatever avenue that is. So it'll take us some time to kind of get some indicators as far as data we want to collect. But I think the early, the early indication of what we want to do is be able to get these young men to do some needs assessments about what they need at the campus. And there's a lot of other data collection that are going on through our campus. We can help those numbers increase and then we can kind of come back and say here's where we helped a college grow in these areas. But we're not looking to say we have this 85% graduation rate in Men of Color Scholars Institute, because that's not what we're designed to do. We're designed to be able to come in and help these young men figure out where they want to go, what it is they want to do, and now we help other parts of the college be successful by doing that as well. Blake, if you want to add something?
I agree, you said it all. I agree.
This is a really ambitious initiative. Is it only you two as the mentors? How many mentors do you have? Where are you getting them? Can someone volunteer to be a mentor?
Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you. Yes, you can. Um, so so the institute started out, well, the committee started out with Mr. Nash, Mr. Bellamy. Abraham Dones, Darrell Rogers, Darius Whitney. Um, Tevin Jones, Andre George, myself, Keyma. So we are the committee that started this, but we are not just going to be the only ones how many people that have like 10 people, we cannot do the whole school.
We have 12 people to begin with as far as mentors already.
So you can volunteer if you wish to be one, you know, we do have some mentor training that we are creating, to allow students, not students, but faculty and staff and other individuals, outside agencies if you want to be a mentor attached to go through the training and become a mentor. So you don't just it's not just us 12 people that are doing it, that would be feasibly impossible.
What is the ideal mentees to mentor ratio?
That is a really good question. And to and to scale our program. I think, going back to my research, I've done a lot of research on mentor mentee relationships. And so successful mentor mentee relationships, I'd normally maybe like a five to one ratio. But being that we're we're starting out kind of small, our hope that when we get to a point that we will outgrow the number of the ideal ratio that we will set for our institution. I think that that's the kind of the goal is to get to a point that we're looking across Durham, Durham, Durham County, Orange County for more mentors, because we have so many men inside the Institute. To start out, I think, which I try to go try to keep on a one to five ratio, meaning that we can meet with these students throughout the week and give them the time and the energy and effort that they need to be successful. And so 1 to 5 will be kind of what we want to want to maintain. But if it grows, that means that we're doing something right, and we're going and then we'll start to do some more marketing to say, Hey, we're at a point of capacity. And we need more mentors and mentees. So I think I'm excited about that being in the growth mindset. We continue to scale that becomes more of a problem. I would love for us to have that problem.
Is the first cohort already started or are you planning on starting in the fall? What's the timeline like?
We're gonna do a marketing marketing launch to kind of open everything up to be fully open. And so we're looking today here in the next few weeks because a couple small things we're trying to still iron out on our side. And it's a lot of things you got to have placed so that you're successful so that, you know we're still putting together that for the final finishing touches on being able to have the complete rollout so that when people start saying, Hey, we got students, it's a seamless transition. They fill out the referral form, it comes to myself and Blake, we started doing our work we send the student, the mentor training, I'm sorry the mentee training. They go to the mentor training, get the certification, once you get your certification, there'll be steps to say, hey, send this email, attach your certification and a mentee will mentor will reach out to you in the next 24 hours. And so that's kind of what we want to be the seamless transition so that students can understand Okay, I've completed my training someone reach out to me. And the training is really vital. So the students understand boundaries within a mentor mentee relationship. Um, it is really vital to have that conversation so you understand what your expectations, commitment, also, probably the most interesting part is to understand what you want to gain from this mentee mentor relationship because everybody's gonna come at a level. So understand one of the biggest misconceptions is students going to come to this experience because they have academic problems. They may be students who come to us with phenomenal academic side, they may have financial issues, they may be they might have financial things maybe solidify, academics maybe solidify, but they have some mental health issues. And so we want to make sure that we're covering all bases that these these mentees may need. Because everybody's not gonna come, it's not a one size fits all model. Everybody's gonna come in at different levels. There may be a gentleman who's come in and said, Hey, is Durham Tech the right opportunity for me? I just finished my GED, is this a great opportunity for me? So it's for us the mentee and the mentor to give him the right step to figure out what he wants to long term to figure out if this is the right opportunity for him. He may have another opportunity that we make him can get him to for his individual success. So you know, it's one of those things that you know, we want to make sure that we're prepared and we were prepared as a institution to keep Men of Color Scholars Institute a living breathing thing, but also we can continue to scale it so the broader community as well as Durham Tech yourself and see this is something very vital to the college.
And you know, sometimes people might not come to us with any problems at all, they may come to us just because they just want to be a part of this brotherhood. Daryl Rogers says it is he says it is a brotherhood and he's one of the people that works with us who's helped us form this and he said this is a brotherhood and I liked when he said that because you may just have some students who just want that brotherhood. That connection because we would like for the mentees also interact with each other also. Specifically having programs and events and so that does create that closeness, that bond, and so they may not come up with any problems they just want to have some connected connectedness to the school.
Did either or both of you have something like this when you were in school?
No. I went to High Point, THE High Point University best school ever. But we did not have a program like this it was a PWI, is a PWI and we did not have this I don't know what they have now. But um,
Can you define PWI?
Predominately White Institution. Um, I, we didn't have this. We were, students of color at High Point were close just because we were the quote unquote minority. So we did form a group, but we didn't have a support system at my school though. I did work with a work in a similar program as MCSI at my previous job in Maryland, but I did not have this when I was in school. What about you Keyma?
And we did have multiple programs in North Carolina A&T State University, which is a HBCU. That's a historically black college and university. And we have multiple environments like this, just really what got me really passionate about having these opportunities on college campuses. In particular, they're designed, they were designed for us because we had so many low income students. We had so many first gen students, and we had so many students who were from the broader areas of the country. So you would have you know, minority males in the DC aggie club, you have minority males and the Florida aggie club, or the down south club. We have them for the New York, New Jersey, the Midwest. And so you had different opportunities on top of we had a lot of fraternities on campus. Or you could you could join these fraternities and have exclusive black male group of men that help you academically and socially sell. And so I think one of the biggest things that you're seeing right now, between my my experience, and Blake's experience is that I had I was afforded these opportunities, and they helped me be successful in my four year academic experience. Where Blake did not have those. So just imagine where students are coming to Durham Tech we're supposed to be an open door institution, that's designed to help of the community become engaged in the job market and of opportunities. And we don't have an opportunity for men of color to feel included in an exclusive conversation or an exclusive group so that they can have that that continuum. And so that's why this is so important. This is so vital that the college is behind us. In particular, the instructors behind it believe in the program because once they believe in the program they're able to tell students about it. Which it was then entails, we talk about that those percentages increasing. This is how we get to those other parts of the college and we help the transition of African American males from semester to semester we help that idea of that total graduation rate. Those numbers can start to shift because they're they're supporting our institution and they're sending students our way. And then we work our magic and saying hey, this is what we'll do within you know, our mission and vision to help these these men be successful in whatever their endeavors may be.
Is it too early for me to start referring my advisees to the institute?
Yes, only because we haven't gone on a full launch. If we haven't gotten the full launch, you'll send them in, we'll have like the steps lined out yet. And so when this one of the biggest things, we're really pushing the envelope to get this in the next couple of weeks, when we have the full launch, you just have it written down and ready to go. And once you have the full launch, you're more than welcome to submit them to us. And we'll get back with them. As soon as as soon as possible.
We're working on a training right now for mentees. All the mentees are gonna have to go through training, just a short training module. And like he said, let them know the boundaries and what they're going to get out of this and all that. So we are working on that right now. So we, it's a little too early right now.
That's great. It's like an ACA class for the Institute.
What was the last book that each of you read?
Two books, and they're actually correlated to what we're doing. They're Supporting Men of Color in Community College and Teaching Men of Color in Community College. Those are two guidebooks that I had read. And they provided me with a lot of information about this kind of work that we're doing now. It's so funny that, you know, I read those books cause I was just curious. And then we're doing this and it's like, oh, wow. So, hm, what I read actually helped.
Well as a librarian, and I'm happy to hear that.
The last one, the last two, and they were really they were books that were based upon where we are in society, and they are books, in particular, to help individuals understand how we've gotten to where we are with with the racism, the marginalization of black men, the plandemic of killing black man at large rates. So the two books was Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning. And Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility were the last two books I had a chance to read in their entirety. But more so they were to inform and um individuals um to understand where we are and how we got to where we are in our country. And I think it's very powerful for individuals to continue to read because I think the narrative about what's going on in our country is one of those things. It's like the police are doing what they're supposed to be doing. They're they're doing their jobs. But I think the marginalization and the plandemic that's going on. Notice I'm not using the word pandemic, I'm using the word plandemic. What I mean by the plandemic is there's this constant plan to continue to remove the black man in the black man from the African American community. And so that that plan has been going on for quite some time. It didn't it didn't start yesterday, didn't start with George Floyd. It started well before my time, well before Blake's time, and before my father's time. And that plan is continued. And so those books have been very powerful. Not for me, because most of the things that I'm reading in it, I'm very secular, and I've seen and I've lived it, but it's more so for the broader audience to reach for them to understand the narrative of where we are and not create a false narrative and tell individuals that you may encounter why we are where we are.
And I believe that the library has both of those books for anyone who might be wanting to read them. Thank you so much for talking to me today. Thank you again to Blake Williams and Dr. Keyma Clark for talking to me about the Men of Color Scholars Institute. If you have any further questions about it, I've put their email addresses in the show notes. I hope you have an awesome day. And remember to subscribe or follow this podcast so you don't miss any episodes.
I unfortunately need to end this episode on a somber note. Our library lost a colleague recently. The northern Durham Campus Librarian, Rachel Smith. She joined us in January 2020. She loved Schitt's Creek, liked to kayak, could read lips, and cared deeply about equity in libraries. We mourn her passing and our hearts go out to her family. She left her mark on our profession and our library and will be remembered.