For the Men of Color Initiative, there’s more to being successful in college than reading a textbook. It takes more than a one-time orientation featuring an overload of information and a goody bag to express the importance of networking and real-world community engagement.
That’s what the initiative is aiming to showcase with its first-ever “Males of Color Success Networking Summit.”
“When you know who you are, and you know that historical piece of your place in society, and then you have a peer coach who’s been at UNM for years who knows how to navigate the system, it makes a huge difference,” said Rodney Bowe, director of MOCI.
Men of color and allies alike would benefit from an institutionalized networking event geared at preparing young men of color to navigate the higher education system, he said.
All students are more than welcome to attend the summit on Monday, Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the SUB, Bowe said. It will go further in depth on preparing students for college.
For Bowe, this means discussions on academics, financial aid practices and time management skills in conjunction with talks about life skills, such as conflict resolution and stress management workshops.
“It’s not all about the grades,” he said. “Can you take the pressure of having 4 or 5 papers due at the same time? Can you manage your finances?”
Often, college isn’t a novel experience for students alone, but also their entire families, Bowe said.
“In a number of white families, the parents went to college, the grandparents went to college, the great-grandparents went to college,” he said. “For a number of those who are men of color, this is the first generation.”
“Where do we start?” Bowe asked. “If you have somebody to support you and have that conversation with, you get a better idea of what direction to go in.”
The timing of the summit, about a month into the semester, is meant to allow students to take stock of how they are adjusting to their current academic endeavours, he said.
He hopes to hold additional gatherings of this nature throughout the duration of the semester, he said.
“This particular summit is not to give them all these direct services in one day, but it’s to realize what networking is, what success networking is and how important it is for you to branch out and look into campus and ask questions.”
Tradition has it’s place, but sometimes, it’s OK to part with tradition — such as traditions of toxic masculinity and inherited oppression.
“Traditionally, you’re a man, and you’re not supposed to ask questions, you’re not supposed to be afraid,” Bowe said. “That’s the tradition we have here in America, especially for men of color. We want them to understand that sometimes failure is a just a part of being successful.”
He said the historically white-male dominated, Eurocentric design of the American higher education system is also something to consider when navigating a new college life.
“America was founded on racism, oppression and genocide,” Bowe said. “The systems that are in place, we were included at the bottom of those systems, and they were not designed for us to excel.”
A full-time course load is enough to bear without social stigmas weighing down on someone and making them feel out of place, and that’s why a strong network of friends and allies is important, to help shoulder the burden of overcoming historical setbacks.
“We come on campus and the racial component isn’t really payed attention to, but we need to put that historical piece into perspective,” Bowe said. “How do we not just assimilate (as men of color), but how do we excel in this environment?”
Johnny Vizcaino is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thedailyjohnnyv.