BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech will host the Uplifting Black Men Conference, aimed at finding ways to support and enhance the experiences of black men in higher education.

The conference will be Friday, Feb. 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, 190 Alumni Mall. The event is free and open to the public, though online registration is required. There is an option to sign up for the whole day or parts of it.

“The vast majority of black males at Virginia Tech are doing just fine academically, and about a third have a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or higher [on a 4.0 scale]. Even so, academic and cultural struggles, and biased perceptions of black male college students can hinder these students’ academic achievement and engagement,” said Karen Sanders, associate vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs and director of student success. “The conference will include frank discussions what contributes to and hinders black males’ success, both in and out of the classroom. Since many of the discussions will be applicable to other student groups that are underrepresented in college, the entire university community is encouraged to participate.”

“There are several goals with the conference, most notably to empower our black male students, faculty, and community members,” said Tommy Amal, assistant director of theStudent Success Center and chair of the Black Male Excellence Network. “However, that main goal is hard to achieve without others having awareness about challenges within higher education for black men in particular. While building awareness, we hope to create allies in this effort.”

Terrell Strayhorn, Virginia Tech alumnus and director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise and professor of higher education at The Ohio State University, will give the keynote address. The “Journal of Blacks in Higher Education” named Strayhorn one of the most highly visible scholars in his field, while the publication “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education” named him one of the top 12 diversity scholars in the country.

The event will begin with welcome remarks from Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice provost for inclusion and diversity and vice president for strategic affairs, and Anthony Scott, associate dean of students. Brian Armstrong Jr., a graduate student in higher education and student affairs and president of the Black Graduate Student Organization will host the event. Other speakers include alumnus Kevin Jones, industrial design graduate, former Hokies running back, and current assistant athletic director; and alumnus Justin Graves, who received his bachelor’s in sociology and master’s in educational leadership and policy studies and is founder and owner of He’s on Wheels.

Two panels will be included in the schedule. A “Generations of Leadership” alumni panel will include B. Keith Fulton, vice president of external affairs for Verizon Virginia LLC and Virginia Tech Board of Visitors member; Yuhannes Watts, entrepreneur and chief linking officer of Learn2Link; and Everette Taylor, entrepreneur and marketing executive who is founder and CEO of MilliSense and growth marketing strategist to Microsoft. A student panel will featureDeon Brown of Richmond, Virginia, a senior majoring in psychology in the College of Science; Jabari Byrd of Richmond, Virginia, a senior majoring in biochemistry; Hy’ Quan Connor of Newport News, Virginia, a senior majoring in property management in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and Tony Jackson of Spartanburg, South Carolina, a senior majoring in industrial design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Jon Gin-Catherwood, associate director of programming for the Center for the Arts, and Reggie Stroble, assistant director of multicultural student affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University will facilitate a “Telling Your Stories” segment through lunchtime.

The conference will also include performances such as dance by the African Student Association and a spoken word presentation.

Jackson, president of The Gold Effect, and vice president of the Vizionary Soundz Record Label, is coordinating the art components of the conference. In addition to the performances within the schedule, there will be a mini-gallery and live art experience.

“The mini gallery will feature mixed-media art installations inspired and derived from unique, ingenious, and expressive African roots. The live art experience will feature talented students displaying their skills in spoken word poetry, choreographed African dancing, and canvas painting on stage throughout the day,” Jackson said. “The gallery and performances will be an exciting expression of the proud African heritage found right here in the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg community.”

The Black Male Excellence Network is hosting the conference. Other sponsors include: the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Graduate Recruiting and Diversity Initiatives, and the Intercultural Engagement Center.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Tommy Amal at 540-231-5499 or email during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to an event.