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Grant will boost UNG's efforts to help African American males pursue bachelor's degrees

September 4, 2020

The University of North Georgia (UNG) has received a grant from the University System of Georgia (USG) aimed at increasing the graduation rates and number of degrees conferred upon African-American men. It will be used to support Black male students seeking associate degrees with the goal of helping them advance toward bachelor's degrees.

UNG is matching the $13,562.15 African-American Male Initiative (AAMI) award from the USG with $14,136.60 of its own funds. The program will match incoming students with peer mentors who are overseen by faculty and staff mentors.

Dr. Robert Robinson, director of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) at UNG and director for the university's AAMI program, earned an associate degree at Coahoma Community College before adding bachelor's and master's degrees from Delta State University and a Ph.D. in instructional leadership from the University of Alabama.

"This can help people reach their dreams," Robinson said. "I was able to have good mentors along the way who pushed me, and that's what these students will have."

Such connections can help students think about the future, according to Robinson.

"Having the right mentors helps you clarify your academic goals, which helps you clarify your professional goals," he said.

UNG's iteration of the AAMI is known as NorthSTAR, and the application for the free program is available on the MSA website. Students must be a Black male seeking an associate degree.

Bikash Das, associate professor of mathematics at UNG, is assisting Robinson with the program and says it is a vital line of support for Black male students.

"It creates a sense of belonging," Das said. "It helps them understand they are as welcomed as any other student."

The Oconee County branch of Peach State Federal Credit Union and the 100 Black Men of America Inc. nonprofit organization in Atlanta have partnered with NorthSTAR to offer internship opportunities that provide professional growth and potential opportunities to be hired for full-time work upon graduation. Das said UNG continues to look for other partners who can provide these types of experiences for students.

"This will motivate students to join the program," Das said.

For more information on the program, email Robinson at robert.robinson@ung.edu or Das at bikash.das@ung.edu.

UNG previously received the AAMI grant for the 2014-15 and 2016-17 school years, with the USG providing $10,000 for each year.

Started in 2003 at six USG institutions and expanded since then, AAMI helped the university system grow its enrollment of Black males by 84% and its bachelor's degrees awarded to Black males by 138% in the initiative's first 15 years.

AAMI's goals coincide with the goal of Complete College Georgia, which aims to increase the number of Georgians with some level of college completion to meet projected workforce needs.

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