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BT-Current | Bell Tower MagazineFebruary 14, 2022

Educate, Empower, Uplift: Men of Excellence

Written By: Dr. Judith Hansen

When you talk to John Blue and Glenn Brewer, the word that comes up most is “belonging.” Other words, like “empower” and “uplift,” are there too, but developing a sense of belonging among young men on campus is the key to all their goals. Blue is the executive director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UAFS, and Brewer is the president of student organization Men of Excellence.

Blue has recently completed his first year in the inaugural position, which was created as part of Chancellor Terisa Riley’s commitment to fostering an inclusive campus culture where all feel welcome. 

The Men of Excellence initiative, also in its inaugural year, aims to empower young men who may have come from financially challenged backgrounds, may be the first in their families to attend college, or may be members of a marginalized community. The organization is open to all men, but Blue says his experience is that African American and Latino students are most active in the organization. 

Blue was moved to bring the MOX program to UAFS when he saw a national trend repeated on the UAFS campus. Recent reports from the Bookings Institute, the Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic, among many others, show that male enrollment and male degree completion are on the wane.

In his previous role at Mississippi State University, Blue oversaw the MOX organization, and has used his experience at that institution and best practices among other MOX programs nationally to develop the program on the UAFS campus. The organization seeks to “nurture young men holistically,” Blue said. That means helping them succeed academically and socially and prepare for the world of work when they graduate - all of which begins with establishing a sense of belonging.

Brewer, a sophomore and the president of the Men of Excellence, said last year he would drive to campus, attend his classes, and then leave. He wanted to be involved but wasn’t sure how to do it. Men of Excellence offered him that chance, and now he is ready to get the word out.

“I am definitely one of those people who will go out and spread the message,” Brewer said. “I try to influence people in any way I can – on social media or my day-to-day life. I want to be the guy people look at and say, ‘Wow, I want to be like him.’”

When Brewer talks to prospective students he looks into the crowd before he delivers his message. He wants people who may have overlooked UAFS to consider it. “I want thFem to know they can get a great education here and really be a part of something.”

But he has a different, serious message when he talks one-on-one with African American students. “For one Black man to see another in a professional setting, it gives them a new perspective on what they can do with their life,” Brewer said. “A lot of us don’t feel like we have the same opportunities or that we can’t do things because they aren’t for us. But that’s not the case.”

He tells prospective African American students about the mission of MOX. “I tell them Men of Excellence exists to educate, empower, and uplift men. Ultimately, we want to help men to become the men they want to be,” he said. And the key to that is helping young men develop a sense of home and belonging.” 

John Blue said many students in MOX just need some help. “We're here to help develo them as inividuals." Blue hopes to keep 12-15 current members into the spring semester, then actively recruit this spring - although recruitment will be exclusive to fall semesters in the future. Blue compares MOX to a fraternity with an annual rush, and in its dedication to building fellowship and belonging.

Of the larger effort of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Blue added, “I think the DEI office is here to help the university create a more welcoming environment, not just for our students but for our faculty and staff and visitors on campus. We want to be known as a place where someone can get diversity training and listen to diverse perspectives. If we don’t offer it, who else in the River Valley will?”