By Laurie D. Willis ’86
Although Josiah Evans ’18 is self-driven, he’s grateful for the Carolina Mxle Scholars Program, which works with underrepresented males to foster a greater sense of belonging among them while addressing their graduation rates.
“One of the struggles about being black at Carolina is you don’t always know how to navigate in terms of resources, networking and things like that,” said Josiah, a senior majoring in communications with a concentration in interpersonal and organizational communication from Raleigh. “Carolina Male Scholars has helped me establish connections and also presented me with opportunities for professional development, academic resources and things I likely wouldn’t have known about.”
Monthly, about 50 students take advantage of Carolina Mxle Scholars, formerly called Men of Color Engagement, said Dr. Marcus L. Collins, associate dean. Carolina Male Scholars is housed in the Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling. UNC’s targeted underrepresented, undergraduate men of color population is approximately 1,100.
“When students stop by they’re looking for a space to be by themselves and check in on whatever’s most pressing for them,” Collins said. “Classes, family, high impact opportunities and finances tend to be the most prominent themes. The single most important thing we attempt to do is clearly hear each young man regarding what’s currently going on and … link him to resources and solve the issue.”
Sean Nguyen ’21, a first-year history and sociology major from Tampa, Florida, learned about CMS from Dr. Jennifer Ho, an Asian-American professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature who teaches several subjects including critical race and ethnicity theory.
“I got involved with this initiative because I think it’s so important to create a sense of racial solidarity among the various ethnic groups on campus,” Nguyen said. “Many of the ethnic communities at Carolina are extremely insular, and students of color tend to naturally self-segregate.”
Nguyen attended his first Carolina Mxle Scholars program in April.
“I met some peers from UNC’s Latino and African-American communities, and … we discussed at length how if it weren’t for an initiative like this we probably would have never met and interacted,” Nguyen said. “I think it has the potential to foster some critical, very necessary, cross-racial dialogues about masculinity.”
Raymundo Garcia, Jr. ’19 credits Carolina Mxle Scholars with enabling him to get acclimated on campus faster than he’d anticipated.
“By having spaces of affirmation and refuge for men of color, CMS administered a medium to build self-confidence throughout all aspects of campus life,” said Garcia, a junior public policy major from Marietta, Georgia. “CMS afforded me a conceptualization of self-love through discussions on masculinity, machismo and other related issues. Having a framework to conceptualize my lived experiences positioned me well to interact with fellow student leaders. Lastly, CMS has given me a sense of direction and of belonging to UNC’s campus.”
Garcia writes for CMS’s online newsletter; Evans handles its social media. They and Garrett Locklear ’18, a senior from Winston-Salem who’s majoring in peace, war and defense, are student coordinators who work closely with Christopher D. Faison, coordinator for Minority Male Mentoring & Engagement. A two-time UNC graduate, Faison said he could have benefited from a similar initiative during his Carolina days but instead turned to Dr. Harold G. Wallace, Dr. Reginald F. Hildebrand, Dr. Genna Rae McNeil, Dr. Archie W. Ervin and Terri Houston when he had problems.
Besides providing a listening ear, CMS holds monthly meetings covering a wide range of topics and helps students find internships and undergraduate research experiences. For example, a recent graduate interned with a Silicon Valley start-up in 2016, and a junior transfer student will participate in applied physics research over the summer.
Also, once a semester Carolina Mxle Scholars sponsors “Barbershop Talks,” during which local barbers give students free haircuts as they talk with each other, graduate and professional students, UNC staff and administrators, and the barbers.
“I participate because I have a passion for manhood and mentoring and I like to reinvest into the community and into our young men…” said Brian Hines, owner of B. Toulan Grooming in Raleigh. “I talk to the students about manhood and … making sure they make the right decisions.”
Hines applauds the Mxle Scholars initiative. So do the students who work with it, though they wish more of their classmates took advantage of it and that it was marketed more aggressively.
“I think CMS officials should ensure there are staff members specifically tasked with making the program as effective, efficient and impactful as possible by incorporating rituals, traditions, values and rites of passion as a tool to create more cohesion and a sense of unity,” Garcia said.
Added Evans: “I think some people don’t want to feel singled out, and some think if they join they’ll be even more of a minority because it’s going to be primarily for blacks on campus. But we really want to work with all males of color.