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A Mindset for Greatness

Image of Sweatt Center for Black Males student Barrington Miles

McCombs School freshman finds inspiration, sense of community at Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males

Back when Barrington Miles was attending Cedar Ridge High School, he spent an afternoon on the UT Austin campus, where he experienced his first undergraduate lecture hall class taught by Leonard Moore, vice president for diversity and community engagement and George W. Littlefield Professor of American History. When class dismissed, the professor lingered for a while to chat with students and offer some words of wisdom.

“I told him that I love to travel and he said, ‘You should try to study abroad every summer and attach a page to your resume detailing your experiences and enrichment,’” Miles recalls. “He told me that would help me stand out and show them they can trust me.”

Miles took those words to heart and made study abroad a priority when he enrolled in the McCombs School of Business.

“I want to travel to London, where I can go deeper into international business and take on an internship in real estate,” says Miles, who is now a freshman in the McCombs School of Business. “Going to school in America is great, but the best way to really grow is to travel the world and learn about other cultures.”

While at UT, Miles has joined several professional development groups including the DDCE’s  Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males (formerly named AAMRI), a faculty-led initiative that provides a sense of community and guidance for personal, academic and professional success.

“Their main goal is to keep us inspired—and they’re really good at their job,” says Miles, who has been involved in the Sweatt Center since his sophomore year of high school. “It helps to have that sense of community with Black students around me. They genuinely care about my education and where I’m going in life.”

Throughout the semester, the Sweatt Center offers one-on-one meetings with faculty members, Power Hour student networking sessions with catered dinners, and speaker events starring empowering African American leaders. Currently all events are offered online during the pandemic.

“It’s inspiring when they bring in guests like Black authors who tell us about their personal stories—and all of the adversity they faced along the way,” Miles says. “It makes me want to work even harder because if I want to be that great, I have to have that mindset.”

Miles has also faced his share of challenges early into his academic career when his father got a job in Texas as an air traffic controller and his family was uprooted from their home in Jamaica.

“I had to repeat the seventh grade, and I had a hard time making friends because of my accent,” Miles says. “I took speech therapy for four years and lost the Islander English, but every time I go home it comes right back to me.”

Looking back at his journey from Jamaica to Austin, Miles is happy with his decision to pursue a degree that could open many doors. Perhaps he might even go into business with his father, who now runs a thriving DJ business and music studio.

“I could have easily skipped college and made a good living working for my dad, Miles says. “But I want to see what I can achieve on my own and incorporate that into what my dad has built. I love to sing and play the piano, so there isn’t any other place I’d rather be than in Austin, where I can go to such a prestigious business school in a music city.”

image of AAMRI College for a Day event at UT Austin
Students from Austin-area schools participating in the Sweatt Center’s (pre-pandemic) College for a Day event, which provides campus tours, lecture hall classes and college readiness workshops on the UT Austin campus

More about the Heman Sweatt Center for African American Males

Formerly known as the African American Male Research Initiative, the center provides a supportive community for undergraduates with a focus on personal and professional success. Among the center’s many offerings, it includes PowerHour networking sessions with faculty and students, guest speaker events, study abroad resources, and events such as the Black Student-Athlete Summit, Black Male Orientation and the annual retreat.