WWU Students from the Black and Brown Male Success Collective Attend the Men of Color National Summit at Clemson University

Ten students from WWU’s Black & Brown Male Success Collective (BBMSC) attended Clemson University’s Men of Color National Summit hosted April 21-22 in Greenville, South Carolina.

The theme of the conference was Building Bridges to Success for African-American and Hispanic Males. Bringing together approximately 2,400 high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials and community leaders from around the country, the summit emphasized the importance of education and best practices and choices to increase high school and college graduation rates. The national conference is designed to raise awareness of the changing U.S. demographics by enhancing the experience of men of color through involvement and engagement, preparing them for a global mindset and closing the opportunity gap for African American and Hispanic males.

While at the conference, students were impacted by speakers such as Ted Colbert, president and CEO of Defense, Space & Security at The Boeing Company; Congressman Jim Clyburn; Jose Hernandez, astronaut and NASA engineer; and Michael Strautmanis, Executive Vice President of Civic Engagement for The Obama Foundation. The trip also included cultural and historical exploration of the south in the Atlanta and Greenville areas. The group toured Clemson University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University, while also visiting the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, a 35-acre park dedicated to the life and work of Dr. King.

The BBMSC students worked to secure a medium grant from WWU’s Sustainability, Equity, and Justice Fund grant program to pay for the trip. The SEJF Grant Program promotes sustainability by providing grants to create and implement projects that positively impact environmental, social, health, and economic practices on our campus and in our community. Furthermore, the Sustainability Engagement Institute develops educational opportunities and systems-change for a more sustainable, just future by engaging in initiatives that create economic vitality, promote well-being, protect the environment, and uphold social justice.

"WWU investing in an experience like this has shifted the idea of people of color being isolated at the University. This trip allowed our group to dive into a culture untouched here at WWU and bring that culture to the surface and introduce it to our group so that we as students, faculty and staff are more united in our experiences," said Western Molecular and Cell Biology student Javareah Owens.

Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management student Ashenafi Sibhatu, who also attended the conference, agreed with Owens about the impact of the trip.

"It was a conference full of information and guidance for men of color. We left feeling inspired and motivated to excel by remaining persistent and strong throughout our leadership opportunities," Sibhatu said.

The Black & Brown Male Success Collective is a research-based affinity group designed for men of color to build community and strengthen their sense of belonging at WWU. The group was founded in fall 2019 and hosts weekly meetings built on the core principles of fostering academic success, exploring healthy masculinity, engaging in community service learning, and strengthening cultural identity development, cross cultural connection, and holistic wellness. The group is co-led by Brandon C. Joseph, director of Student Resilience; and Lucas G. Senger, senior instructor in the College of Business and Economics and the College of Fine and Performing Arts.

Anyone interested in the group can email Brandon at brandon.joseph@wwu.edu; see a photo gallery from the trip at https://photos.app.goo.gl/TrBfBpaMAagTi81G7.

PHOTO ABOVE, from left to right: Salem Hush (Communications/Psychology), Malku Cruz (Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management), Darren Jakana (Business Management), Ashenafi Sibhatu (Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management), Anselmo Cristobal (Human Services), Yonnie Zerfu (Political Science), Javareah Owens (Molecular and Cell Biology), Jalen Thibou (Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management), Eddie Toledo (Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management), Brandon C. Joseph (director of Student Resilience), Jose Hernandez (Psychology), and Lucas G. Senger (faculty, CBE and CFPA).