- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Purdue University is working to retain black males and improve their graduation rates through a program modeled after a research center at Ohio State University.

The Black Male Excellence Network, or BMEN, provides academic support and leadership development. It launched as a pilot in March and was implemented in September, the Journal & Courier reported (https://on.jconline.com/1AmFLiR ).

Cason Brunt, director of the BMEN program, said statistics show black men consistently rank at the bottom of college retention and graduation rates across the country.

At Purdue, the one-year retention rate for African-American males who enrolled in the fall of 2013 was 86 percent, compared with 93 percent of the total population of new full-time freshmen. The six-year graduation rate for black males who enrolled in the fall of 2008 was 64 percent, compared with 74 percent of the total population, according to the Office of Enrollment Management.

Brunt said many black males lack the social support or understanding of what it takes to succeed in college, even if they were high achievers in high school. That can stem from a low-income background or a lack of life experiences that their white peers might have, such as fine dining and traveling abroad.

The program provides mentors, retreats, leadership seminars, etiquette dinners and academic support. It also includes discussions about dealing with discrimination and relationships with police and other authorities.

“We have to do a little bit of catching up . to bring students up to speed with experiences that some of the other students may have had,” Brunt said.

Participants say BMEN has created a brotherhood on a campus where only about 3 percent of students enrolled are black.

“It’s helped to make the campus a lot smaller,” said Emmanuel Odiase, 21, a 21-year-old junior. “It helps to make you not feel alone as a black male.”

A similar program, called Mind, Body and Soul, was launched this fall targeting black women.

“For our students, it builds a sense of community, provides a safe place for sharing and learning about the contemporary African-American female experience,” said Christine Taylor, vice provost for diversity.

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Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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