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Student Organization Enhancing Experiences for Men of Color

When children see themselves positively represented in books or media, they feel empowered and begin to develop self-esteem. Creating a sense of belonging is just as important for children as it is for young men of color on college campuses. TLU’s Men of Color chapter is ensuring these students not only have representation at the university, but a platform to express their thoughts.

This year, senior Kenneth Bray, sophomore Chase Bell, Faculty Advisor Dr. Sam Hijazi, and Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. David Ortiz, all attended the national Men of Color Summit at Clemson University. As the founding chapter, the organization’s mission is to close the opportunity gap for African American and Hispanic males, from cradle to career.

The summit brought together 2,200 high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials, and community leaders to emphasize the importance of education, best practices, and choices, with the ultimate goal of increasing graduation rates. Another focus of the conference was to raise awareness about our nation’s changing demographics by enhancing the experience of men of color through involvement and engagement, preparing them for a global mindset.

After hearing from speakers like Ted Colbert III, president and CEO of Defense, Space and Security at The Boeing Company, and House of Representatives Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Bray, a Business Management major, says the conference was incredibly empowering and inspirational.

“Hearing their stories and experiences did nothing but give me hope for my future,” he said. “I recommend every man of color attend something like this, because it’s truly life-changing.”

Dr. Sam Hijazi, Ken Bray'23, and Chase Bell '25

Bray has been involved with the organization since it was formed in 2019. Originally called Men of Honor before becoming Men of Color in 2022 under the direction of Dr. Hijazi, Dr. Ortiz, and Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Gourjoine M. Wade, the group has always existed to ensure minority men would be represented on a campus platform.

“Our mission is to not only be a resource for minority men, but to elevate them so we are respected in our community,” he said. “Our group is something every campus needs. Knowing there is somewhere for people like me to grow professionally without obstacles is amazing.”

Bell, a Political Science major, says they aim to bring college students together with influential leaders to understand the importance of getting an education and creating job opportunities within
the minority community.

“We’re teaching young men how to break the stereotypes surrounding us and instill a mindset of success. To see so many successful men that looked like me at the national conference was groundbreaking and revolutionary. Representation matters!” - Chase Bell '25

We had some of the top men of color across the nation preaching that we can be successful, too, and giving us tips on how to do it. It was an opportunity to see what I want to strive toward.”

That sense of inclusion and equity is what Dr. Hizaji, professor of Information Systems, says is a critical part of the work they are doing.

“These young men deal with many challenges that we can only know about through conversations, open dialogues, and what I call ‘exhale it out’ concerns,” he said. “It’s easy to discuss specific issues in a welcoming atmosphere where no intimidation or judgment exists. This formed community has built self-esteem, self-value, and vision.”

NASA Engineer and former Space Shuttle Astronaut Jose Hernandez and U.S. Congressman James Clyburn (top of page).

The group often engages in discussions on topics like networking, building respect, degree completion, available resources, leadership, techno-management, IT skills, influence, and persuasion. Hijazi says these open dialogues, along with opportunities to attend national events, all contribute to producing well-rounded graduates who are prepared for honorable careers.

“They are becoming role models for other students and will pass on their collective knowledge,” he said. “The most rewarding part for me as the faculty advisor has been seeing them understand and realize they matter equally in their presence and contributions.”