Meet AAMRI leader Devin Walker in this video portrait.
Like many college freshmen, Brandon Okeke needed a little help getting his bearings. He knew he had to meet a number of requirements to maintain his University Leadership Network scholarship, such as volunteer hours, internships and experiential learning training. But on such a sprawling campus, he wasn’t quite sure where to begin.
At a Black male student orientation, he learned about the many opportunities within the African American Male Research Initiative (AAMRI) and decided that would be the best place to start. Within the short span of the spring semester, Okeke has landed an internship position as a research assistant and volunteered at a number of events. Not only is he meeting the requirements of his scholarship, he is also building a solid network of friends and mentors at weekly “Power Hour” meetings, monthly gatherings at Gabriel’s Café and other networking events.
Though he has only just begun his college career, Okeke is already preparing for the workforce by practicing his networking skills at events on and off campus, including the Leadership Institute, an annual event hosted by AAMRI that brings in African American students, scholars, advisers and mentors from schools across the state. The greatest benefit, Okeke says, is learning how to break out of his shell.
Now he is confident while speaking to new people in a professional setting—and in his ability to travel the world. In May, he will be among many other first-generation college students experiencing their first trip abroad as part of the Social Entrepreneurship in China course, a signature program within the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence.
“I feel stronger, smarter and better about myself in general,” says Okeke, a biology freshman. “I’m doing things I never would’ve imaged before, like planning and financing a study abroad trip to China. At first, I didn’t want to do it, but someone told me I’d grow from the experience, and now I couldn’t be more excited.”
The African American Male Research Initiative (AAMRI) College for a Day program kept it real Wednesday, July 19, when 49 high school athletes from Houston’s Madison and Kashmere high schools visited UT Austin. Four students from Austin schools joined in the mentoring event, too.
Interim VP for Diversity and Community Engagement Leonard Moore kicked off the sessions with a welcome and interactive session on identifying personal weaknesses and learning how to overcome those challenges. That theme was carried out through interactive activities and sessions presented by AAMRI staff and graduate students.
- Building Relationships, Building Community;
- Pregame Preparation: What to Know Before Applying for College;
- The Black Man Abroad: Extending DuBois’ Notion of Double Consciousness; and
- Transferable Skills: From the Field to the Classroom to the Boardroom.
Later in the day, there was a panel about The Life of the Student Athlete, followed by everyone’s favorite part of the day–a tour of the Texas Athletic facilities and stadium.
AAMRI College for a Day programs are designed to increase high school males’ exposure to higher education. According to Dr. Ryan Sutton, director, many of these students have not had the opportunity to visit universities, and some will be first-generation college students. He explained,“By increasing their exposure to higher education, other individuals that look like them on campus (undergraduates, graduates, staff/faculty), and material that engages their critical thinking, they will walk away from this experience envisioning themselves as college students possessing a mentality that says “I can do that! This is for me!”
The next College for a Day event is Monday, July 24, when students from Houston’s North Forest and Wheatley high schools visit.