Through the Male Student Retention Initiative, Berea College is increasing first-to-second-year retention for students in three cohorts—the Black Male Leadership Initiative (BMLI), the Appalachian Male Initiative (AMI), and the Latino Male Initiative (LMI).
About the First Year Male Initiatives
Despite everything Berea College does to remove obstacles for deserving students, there are many challenges that a Berea student could face while earning a degree. Without a support system to address these challenges, statistics show that male students nationwide are the most likely to drop out of college. Several years ago, we were seeing this same troubling trend at Berea—at least 10% more of our female students than males were returning to campus for their second year of college.
The College committed to address this disparity and formally piloted the Black Male Initiative (BMI) in 2014 (after years of informal mentorship efforts by faculty and staff). Over a three-year period, the retention rate was 15% higher for students who participated in the program versus non-participating black male students. Since the pilot began, the program has expanded from serving 10 African American male students to nearly 30, and the program name has been updated to the Black Male Leadership Initiative (BMLI).
In 2016, two additional cohorts were formally piloted—one for Latino students, and one for white males from economically distressed and at-risk counties in Appalachia. Of the 19 students enrolled in the Latino Male Initiative (LMI), 15 returned to Berea for their second year of college. And 25 of the 35 students in the Appalachian Male Initiative (AMI) were retained. Now 40 students who faced significant barriers to education are one year closer to achieving their college degrees.
The Male Student Retention Initiative has shown that Berea’s male students benefit from a first-semester course to highlight specific campus resources and address their opportunities and challenges in higher education. Participants also have a safe space to recognize and accept their cultural identities, and they form peer support systems that are valuable to their success in a residential college community.
“This program not only showed me the various resources on campus, but it also provided an incredible support system. I have never before experienced something so wonderful.”
–Jon Ludwig ’21, Economics
“We are bringing all of these male initiatives together because we share similarities and we desire to impact the college in a positive way.” -Keith Bullock, Coordinator of the BMLI.
Overnight Trip to Cincinnati
Although members of each cohort come from different backgrounds, these male students share a common struggle—the struggle of obtaining success in higher education. The Male Student Retention Initiative offers opportunities to bring together all three cohorts for shared activities. For example, in 2017, students participating in the initiative traveled to Cincinnati for an overnight trip, where they all saw aspects of their history and heritage highlighted.