October 7, 2021
The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Business Management Department and Urban Male Leadership Academy (UMLA) have been awarded $130,000 through the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation (PFEI) to establish B-UMLA, a program designed to close equity gaps in the academic success of Black and Latino male business majors and raise their retention rate as a group from 43% to 53% within two years.
Though new, the program is growing quickly. To date, 110 Business majors are enrolled in B-UMLA and 21 faculty have volunteered to serve as mentors with the program.
In addition, a proposal by the B-UMLA team to highlight the program in a presentation, “Drilling Down to Scale Up: The City University of New York Borough of Manhattan Community College Brings a Successful Student Support Service into an Academic Department,” has been accepted for inclusion at the 2022 annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), “Educating for Democracy,” January 19-21 in Washington, D.C.
“Participating in this conference will give our team an opportunity to receive feedback on the design of this new BMCC program from academic professionals from throughout the country who focus on student success,” said Business Management Professor Peter Hoontis, who serves on the B-UMLA Design Team along with Business Management Professor Shawn Grant, UMLA Director Ashtian Holmes, UMLA Assistant Director Yuleisy Audain and B-UMLA Coordinator Azeez Alimi.
In addition, says Professor Hoontis, “news about the program on a national forum could encourage the kind of exchange that enables the program model to be replicated across the country in colleges where other Black and Latino men in business majors are looking for support to raise their academic performance. Being invited to present at the AAC&U’s annual meeting is a great recognition of the importance of BMCC’s UMLA program and the potential impact the academic partnership B-UMLA represents could have on scaling up a student success program — offering a new and innovative approach to eradicating the retention and graduation gaps of Black and Latino male students.”
Awarded by President’s Fund, B-UMLA provides full range of services and academic support
One of the strengths of B-UMLA’s program model is its a holistic approach, addressing students’ basic needs as well as improving their learning outcomes and engagement.
“B-UMLA will have a direct, positive and lasting impact on student experiences at BMCC with respect to academic advising, student sense of belonging and involvement, engagement with faculty and student support services and institutional bureaucracy, key factors influencing student retention,” says Business Management Professor Shawn Grant.
Participants of the program will also benefit from B-UMLA’s pipeline program, the Baruch Academy, formed in collaboration with the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, CUNY.
The B-UMLA model will be replicated through other articulation agreements held by the BMCC Business Department, “and will address the systemic educational equity gaps among Black and Hispanic males in other departments at BMCC, and other CUNY institutions,” says Professor Hoontis.
B-UMLA’s overall goals reflect the PFEI’s mission to advance students’ socioeconomic mobility through the transformative power of education and provide a quality education for all. The PFEI accomplishes this by investing strategically in innovative projects and initiatives at BMCC.
The PFEI was established through the ground-breaking donation of philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott in December 2020. The fund honors Ms. Scott’s priorities on students’ basic needs, equity and inclusion to build lifelong opportunity for minority students.
B-UMLA builds a sense of belonging and links to Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College
“B-UMLA represents a critical shift away from siloed thinking and toward a scalable institutional model of student success for Black and Latino men,” says B-UMLA Design Team member Ashtian Holmes.
The model that Director Holmes refers to is fueled by strategies that have proven to reinforce the success of men participating in UMLA, which he directs.
Based on data from the BMCC Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics, the first-year retention rate for Black and Latino males at BMCC who were Business majors in 2019 was 43% — while the same group in UMLA showed a retention rate of 60%.
Director Holmes explains that to generate those rates in B-UMLA, strategies will be applied such as ensuring that at least 60% of B-UMLA participants meet with a faculty mentor on an ongoing basis, attend a career workshop and connect with academic support services.
Another goal is that 25 B-UMLA participants will participate in the Baruch Academy — the pipeline program that links B-UMLA to the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College — as well as raiseretention rates from 43% to 53% for first-time Black and Latino male freshmen in the B-UMLA program.
Professor and Design Team member Hoontis explains how students’ sense of belonging — an underpinning of UMLA’s success — has been documented as a key factor in student success.
As a member of BMCC’s Equity and Inclusion Taskforce in Spring 2019, Professor Hoontis led a subcommittee that conducted 26 focus groups comprised of student, faculty and staff. The purpose of the focus groups was to gather candid community feedback that would inform the college’s 2020-2025 strategic plan.
In those sessions, student participants acknowledged the difficulties they faced due to feeling a lack of belonging at BMCC — as well as food and housing insecurity, poverty, transportation struggles, family responsibilities, challenges due to a lack of college preparedness and other concerns. In the words of one student, “First semester students are struggling to stay.”
Fast forward to the years of remote learning, and those struggles are increasing.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges for B-UMLA’s target group and for other students of color, due to its disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities,” says Professor Hoontis. “Building in a sense of belonging is more important now than ever.”
In addition to B-UMLA’s Design Team, a campus-wide Visioning Committee will advise the program
“The key to the efficacy and future success of the B-UMLA program, and what will distinguish it from other programs, is the collaboration and full support of the faculty in the Business Management Department, and its willingness to actively exploit synergies with other programs and partners rather than operating as a silo,” said Design Team member, Professor Shawn Grant.
That synergistic dynamic is evident in the B-UMLA Visioning Committee, which will serve to advise B-UMLA, assist in assessing its progress and help assure collaboration across BMCC’s student support services.
From BMCC, members include Accounting Professor Joel Barker, Business Professor and Academic Advisor Juantiesha Christian, Assistant Director of Counseling Center Outreach Robert Cortes, UMLA Peer Mentoring Coordinator Fabrice Delice, UMLA Lead Mentor John Fields, MECA Community Coordinator Marc Henry Louis, Associate Director of Admissions, Recruitment and Outreach Joshua Perez; College Discovery Counselor Adrian Solomon, Learning Resource Center Director Gregory Farrell and Associate Director of Career Services Thierry Thesatus.
From Baruch College, Black Male Initiative Coordinator Joseph Hill is also a Visioning Committee member as is CUNY-wide College Now Director Peter Williams.
For more information on B-UMLA, please contact UMLA Director and B-UMLA Design Team member Ashtian Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The B-UMLA program featured in this BMCC News article relates to BMCC’s Strategic Goals, including Goal 4: Improve Completion and Transfer Rates Through Integrated Support Services, and Goal 5: Strengthen our Culture of Care for Students, Faculty and Staff. Read the BMCC Strategic Plan 2020-2025 to learn about college-wide initiatives, priorities and goals.
- Business Management Department and Urban Male Leadership Academy partner to create B-UMLA, raising academic success of Black and Latino male business majors
- Program awarded $130,000 through BMCC President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation (PFEI)
- B-UMLA is linked to Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, CUNY and serves as pipeline to other senior college business programs