Black Male Summit addressed critical issues


More than 600 people attended the kick-off luncheon for the Black Male Summit, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Randal Pinkett. 

The program included discussions about a comprehensive program at The University of Akron designed to address a disturbing national trend: graduation and retention rates for black male college students are lower than the rates for their white classmates. The solution is anything but simple, however. At UA, faculty and staff recognize that college can be an intimidating, alienating experience for young black men, and have developed approaches to mitigate barriers to success.   

Students at The University of Akron

Travell Wright, Troy Roebuck and Ian Banks of UA's African-American Male Initiative. 

With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, UA officially launched its African-American Male Initiative/Rising to the Occasion program in fall 2011.

The program has several components: the University:

  • hired a coordinator of African-American male initiatives who serves as an academic adviser;
  • created an African-American Male Learning Community;
  • instituted a faculty professional development program; and
  • started a chapter of the Student African-American Brotherhood (SAAB).

Already the results look promising, most especially among the 24 members of the African-American Learning Community.  After the first semester, the average GPA for students in the cohort is 2.388, compared to 1.47 for all African-American male freshmen at UA, and 2.37 for white male UA freshmen. 

Seventy-four percentof the students enrolled in the program received a 2.5 GPA or higher during their first semester at UA with three students earning Dean’s List status.

This story is, perhaps, best told by participants in the Learning Community:

Travell Wright

Wright, 18, is a computer engineering major who graduated from Woodridge High School. A commuter student, he has earned a 4.0 GPA so far at UA and has been accepted into UA’s Honors College. He found out about the African-American Male Initiative at orientation and signed up. He’s glad he did – most of all, he values the interaction the program provides with other students. “We’re all brothers, now,” he says. He says that his favorite subject is “anything to do with math” and credits Eric Coleman for teaching college-level study skills to the students in his cohort. He enjoys the group’s “study tables,” where they can help each other out, meet with their coordinator and keep up with their grades. Although Travell is not exactly sure what he wants to do post-graduation, he knows that the university’s engineering co-op program will help him make an educated decision.

Ian Banks

Banks, 18, is an electrical engineering major who graduated from Garfield High School. He says he chose to attend UA because it was the smart, economical choice and its engineering program has a great reputation. Plus, he felt like he already had a connection to UA, because he participated in engineering club bridge-building competitions here as a high school student. He was referred to the program by the OMD director’s niece. His GPA is 2.85 and he works part-time in management at McDonalds. In his free time, he is a member of MEN, IDEAS and Up ‘Til Dawn. He is a Choose Ohio First STEM scholar.

Troy Roebuck

Roebuck, 19, is a nursing major who graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. He chose to attend UA because he was familiar with the campus, it is close to home and economical. “It is God’s destiny for me to be here. I love it. It is the perfect size, the perfect fit.” He found out about the African-American Male Initiative through a persuasive personal phone call from one of the mentors in the program. Troy has a 3.9 GPA and recently was accepted into UA’s Honors College. He says that he loves all of his classes and can’t really choose a favorite. After he graduates with his bachelor’s degree in nursing, he wants to attend graduate school and become a nurse anesthetist. As a commuter student, he works part-time at the Finish Line at Summit Mall. He volunteers as a Big Brother, is a SAAB member and is a Choose Ohio First STEM scholar.  

Collectively, the students say that the key to success in college involves three basic steps. "Show up. Work. Don't be lazy," they said.

In addition, they said that good time management and a positive personal mindset are important. Networking, meeting new people and not being afraid to ask for help are the action steps they recommend taking in order to be successful. 

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or