Virginia Tech’s Black Male Excellence Network hosted its fourth annual Uplifting Black Men conference at the Inn at Virginia Tech on Feb. 23.

The event drew nearly 500 attendees. It featured a pre-conference experience that focused on giving 76 high school students an opportunity to learn about college admissions and college life. There were also intense conference breakout sessions that focused on topics specific to the Black male experience in higher education.

The Black Male Excellence Network (BMEN) is a university-wide initiative spearheaded by the Student Success Center with a collection of partners across Virginia Tech’s campus representing academic affairs, student affairs, advancement, admissions, and athletics. The collective aims to improve the academic performance, undergraduate experience, and graduation rates of Black male undergraduates at Virginia Tech.

This year’s theme centered around “Resilient Beyond Measure.” Michael Vick, former quarterback for the Hokies and a member of the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, gave the keynote address. Vick spoke on the importance of building confidence, determination, and turning dreams into realities as you work towards your purpose.

Vick also spoke on the myriad challenges that life presents. The key is staying true to your course if you are to succeed in what you want. Don't succumb to pressures to become something you know you're not. You have a choice even if others won't support it.

“Be an instrument of change for yourself and your community,” he said. “I learned a lot about patience and timing, and how it plays an important role in everyone’s life.”

The conference drew close to 500 attendees.
The conference drew close to 500 attendees.

“We wanted the 470 attendees to leave the conference feeling empowered and inspired,” said Jennifer M. Brown, director of the Student Success Center. “One of the biggest highlights of the day was the awards presentation, which honored the amazing work of our students, faculty, staff, and community members.”

This year’s award recipients were:

  • Camrin Jefferson, BMEN Student of the Year Award
  • Walter Lee, BMEN Faculty/Staff of the Year Award
  • Crystal Jefferson, BMEN Ally of the Year Award
  • John Lewis, BMEN Excellence in Service Award
  • Tommy Amal, BMEN Leadership Award

“Our goal was to create an educational opportunity that acknowledges the experiences that our Black male students are facing and equip them with strategies that can enhance their success both inside and outside of the classroom,” Brown said.

The Student Success Center’s BMEN initiative will continue to implement strategies outlined in the unviersity’s diversity strategic plan that aim to increase the academic success of diverse and underrepresented students. In cooperation with InclusiveVT efforts, BMEN will help to identify and reduce barriers to the academic progress and achievement of Black males. In collaboration with student and academic affairs colleagues around campus, they will also proactively respond to the academic, social, and cultural needs of Black males throughout their undergraduate careers.

Visit the website to learn more on upcoming programs.

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