UofM Creates The African American Male Academy

August 19, 2019 - The University of Memphis is launching The African American Male Academy designed to increase graduation rates following President M. David Rudd’s well-received testimony to the House Committee on Education and Labor's Subcommittee on “The Cost of Non-Completion” last May.

“We’ve worked diligently to identify and develop solutions for the greatest challenges facing our students,” said Rudd. “I'm proud of the progress we have made and hope to continue further with The African American Male Academy. The challenges facing today’s college students are well known, with concerns about college costs, student loan debt and return on investment representing a recurring theme nationally.

“The University of Memphis has an important role to play in addressing these issues and ensuring our students can access affordable, high-quality education that prepares them for success – both in career and in life.”

The University of Memphis has received national recognition as one of the Top 12 Universities in graduating African American students. Building on Rudd’s testimony and the UofM’s success with African American students, the new initiative takes an applied developmental approach. Starting in middle school, the initiative will identify, recruit and induct African American male students into a culture of inclusive excellence. Through this inclusive excellence model of early exposure to academic and career preparation, peer and faculty mentors, textbooks and educational supplies, and integration into college life, African American male students are set on a path early toward college completion.

“The University of Memphis is uniquely positioned to provide African American male students with a continuity of support that includes evidence-based best practices to enhance student success,” said Dr. Karen Weddle-West. “As vice-president of Student Academic Success, professor of educational psychology at the University of Memphis for 30 years and a native Memphian, I am ecstatic to be a part of the driving force behind this vanguard model of national excellence that will surely transform lives and significantly impact the economy.”

Most students are in good academic standing when they leave the UofM before graduation –they leave for financial reasons. Sixty percent of UofM students work more than 20 hours per week to support themselves and their families. For this reason, the African American Male Academy will provide well-established and newly developed, culturally responsive programs such as Empowered Men of Color, Black Scholars Unlimited, Memphis Advantage Scholarships, Hooks African American Male Initiative, Emerging Leaders, Honors, Academic Coaching for Excellence, I AM A Man: I Teach, Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TLSAMP engineering), MLK50 Fellows, Peer Power, Center for the Advancement of Youth and Development and Finish Line.

Additionally, the University received national recognition from the Council of Graduate Schools for innovation in promoting inclusive excellence. Leveraging this national recognition and expertise in diversity, the African American Male Academy will also identify, recruit and induct students into our masters, doctoral and law school programs.

Two sets of boards will serve as thought partners to support the success of this initiative – an internal board comprised of faculty and staff and an external executive advisory board consisting of leaders from the community, state and across the nation.

“I applaud the leadership at the University of Memphis for taking the bold step in creating this outstanding initiative,” said KB Turner, chair of the African American Male Academy and the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the UofM. “It demonstrates not only their awareness, but their desire to address many issues African American male students confront during their matriculation. I look forward to working with the University and the community to help in improving the chances of success for our African American male students.”