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Men of Color Leadership Summit held

Men of Color Leadership Summit held


SUNY Cortland's Male Multicultural Initiative (MMI) held its third Men of Color Student Leadership Summit just as the initiative was getting attention from SUNY for its record of success at continuing to close equity gaps across the system.  

The third annual summit — on the theme of “Self-Worth, Self-Value, Self-Care” — took place on March 6, via Webex, complete with a dynamic series of workshops and speakers promoting academic success and goal attainment for male students of color.

Brian Heat was the keynote speaker. As an educational leader, his Maryland-based Diverse Male Student Initiatives Program has transformed the lives of more than 1,000 collegiate males in the areas of academic excellence, manhood development and career/entrepreneurship readiness.

A second major speaker at the event was Juan Miolan ’09, founder and president and vitality coach at Thrive212, Inc.

The event was free and geared to college and university participants in the upstate New York region. Twenty-six universities, high schools or church congregations were represented.

The timing of the summit couldn't have been better to showcase MMI, as Cortland's initiative recently has caught the eyes of SUNY.

The initiative was among only three highly recommended campus programs to be held out as examples in the SUNY Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Phase One Action Plan, presented by SUNY Chancellor James Malatras to the Board of Trustees on Feb. 25.

“It feels good to know that SUNY Cortland has a program like Multicultural Male Initiative to provide support for our men of color students,"  said Lima Stafford '06, SUNY Cortland’s assistant director for multicultural life and diversity and one of many summit speakers. "I love the academic, mentoring and professional development component of the MMI program. It’s another way to provide resources to our students, especially those who may not have had the best resources coming from high school.

The university works to empower men of color with mentoring and programs.

For SUNY Cortland to have such an initiate as MMI is groundbreaking, said one summit speaker, Maxwell Smith of Queens, N.Y., a senior sport management major who is president of Men of Value and Excellence (MOVE).

"It allows not only male students but students of color to have a sense of belonging and a sense of guidance," he said."Being on a SUNY campus for the first time, a lot of students come from a lot of different backgrounds and different places, and it can be a bit overwhelming. I think more campuses should support a program such as MMI."

"Following a very difficult year that included a pandemic and killings of unarmed women and men of color, the MMI committee decided to have the summit focus on student self-worth, self-value and self-care," said Lorraine Lopez-Janove, another summit speaker and chief diversity and inclusion officer in SUNY Cortland’s Institutional, Equity and Inclusion Office.

"I am thankful for our previous Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) James Felton and recent graduate Chris Venant ’19 for bringing this program to our campus," Stafford said. "It inspired me to want to continue working with our current CDIO Lorraine Lopez-Janove to help bring MMI to light and improve retention and graduation rates of our men of color at SUNY Cortland."

The summit was sponsored by the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office (IEIO), MOVE, Multicultural Life and Diversity Office (MLDO) and Cornell University Multicultural Student Leadership and Empowerment Program.

The event presentations also included:

  • Christopher Venant ’19, student founder of the Multicultural Male Initiative (MMI) at SUNY Cortland 
  • Jarvis Marlow-McCowin, associate director of the Multicultural Student Leadership and Empowerment Program at Cornell University
  • A panel presentation facilitated by Jarvis Marlow-McCowin, the associate director for multicultural student leadership and empowerment at Cornell University. Panelists included Eric Banks ’13, M ’16, who teaches physical and health education at Westbury (N.Y.) High School; Brandon Manning, student rights and responsibilities coordinator at SUNY Broome Community College; Mark Sanders, representing SUNY System Administration as an assistant director for enrollment management and student success; Timothy Thompson ’17, coordinator of diversity education and support services at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3); and Bryce Wooden, an Educational Opportunity Program advisor at SUNY Oneonta