The African American Male Resource Center (AAMRC) works in cooperation with other Chicago State University (CSU) academic support programs to provide services for African American male students. Our mission is to help program participants achieve their highest levels of academic, vocational, and personal success. As a component of the university’s Unit of Student Success, in 2008, the AAMRC was federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) program to enhance the educational outcomes of African American males at CSU. Mr. Ronald E. Harris was appointed as director of the program in October 2009. Since joining the AAMRC team, Mr. Harris has revitalized the center by implementing, research-based, best practice methods for addressing the particular needs of this unique population.
Studies have shown that, for African American males, self-affirming out-of-classroom experiences contribute to their learning gains and enhance their feelings of connectedness to the institution. A significant, and growing, line of inquiry provides empirical support for the impact of extra or co-curricular involvement on the academic achievement of such students. (Allen, 1992; Astin, 1993; Cooper, Healy, & Simpson, 1994) For example, Allen analyzed data from 1,800 respondents and found that social involvement, engagement with faculty members, and positive experiences with peers influenced academic outcomes. While some research points to student retention being a function of academic preparation and other studies point to students’ abilities to adjust to the collegiate environment, the AAMRC approach addresses both of these factors by offering both academic and fraternal support.
The African American Male Resource Center relies on both qualitative and quantitative data to inform its approach to quality management. Such data serves as the driving force behind the center’s efforts to contribute to and improve the university’s rates of enrollment, retention, and graduation of African American males. According to Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn (Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Tennessee) “there is a rather intuitive relationship between academic achievement and retention in college”(Strayhorn, 2010). Based on this fact, the AAMRC provides resource orientation, peer mentoring, and peer-led tutoring services to students who are in need of academic support. By providing such individualized, out of the classroom, support our goal is to address academic concerns early enough to prevent students from dropping out or being placed on academic suspension.
The AAMRC hosts monthly lectures and seminars that are designed to empower African-American male students by providing them with examples of professional Black men of distinction who’ve overcome challenges similar to those that many of the program’s participants currently face. The center also hosts a series of roundtable discussions designed to provide opportunities for open dialogue and collaborative skill development. The AAMRC promotes unity and self-determination for all of its members and works diligently to see those principles manifest as a cultural paradigm for all CSU students.
"Kwesi" Ronald Harris (Program Director), a dedicated servant leader and Oscar Lester (Program Coordinator) directs a team of seasoned professionals and student workers. The AAMRC staff includes Retention Specialists who serve to provide student friendly operations. This is achieved by working with existing service units across campus to ensure continuity of AAMRC activities with established services. The AAMRC’s Outreach Specialists work with community and service organizations to identify potential pools of students; as well as support to provide administrative and clerical assistance to staff and project services. Peer Mentors (students) work in the Center as peer tutors, mentors, administrative aides, etc. They also serve at other locations on and off campus in all staff work to ensure that Center strategies build on and draw support existing campus based services.