CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is taking special steps to ensure the success rate of their black male students.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, on 28.7 percent of black men graduate college in six years or less.
As of last year, 73 percent of black men at UTC have left with a degree in that time frame — all with the help from Student Support Services.
In 2010, Director Shirl Gholston created a program to help the margainalized black male students achieve success at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.
Now, eight years later, the university has seen a significant impact in retention and graduation rates among black men.
“A lot of black students here, they don’t feel like they have that comfortable space where they can necessarily think or talk about their problems. So, SSS makes you feel comfortable because its a majority of minorities over there. So it gives you that comfortable space that you’ve been looking for,” SGA President Jujuan Lewis said.
SSS stands for Student Support Services, a campus department dedicated to working with a student’s individual needs.
“Basically I came here and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what programs to join. I was basically lost. So, where should I go from there? I’m a transfer student, I don’t know where to go. So basically the student success center took me in and helped me get acclimated to the university,” Lewis said.
UTC retains 94 percent of black men from freshman to sophomore years. That’s compared to about 54 percent nationally.
“We try to change mindsets, we try to change perceptions, and we try to get our young men to say, hey I may not be skilled in that area, but I’m skilled in this area. And we try to create connections through it, with people in areas similar to them and allow them to build a network off of that,” Student Success Specialist Christopher Stokes said.
The group not only provides academic and financial support, but also helps students know they’re not alone.
“Everything that we do is geared towards that. They’re here to get a degree. They’re here to get a career so they can change their next generation in their family. They’ve always got somebody to come back to. They’re away from home but they still have a home away from home,” Stokes said.
Lewis is the fifth black male SGA president for the UTC. Four of those five were a part of the SSS group.