New Program at WP to Provide Added Support, Mentorship to Black and Latino Male Students

This fall, William Paterson University will introduce a new program focused on increasing success and improving the campus experience for its Black and Latino male students.

“The Black and Latino Male Initiative (BLMI) is an important part of William Paterson’s commitment to serving and supporting all of our students,” says University President Richard J. Helldobler. “As both a designated Minority Serving Institution and Hispanic Serving Institution, we have a special obligation to provide all of our students with opportunities to find their purpose, work with mentors, and develop skills in a mutually supportive environment. This is another way in which we will distinguish the William Paterson experience: by how we educate our students.”

William Paterson University was designated, on the federal level, as both a Hispanic Serving Institution and a Minority Serving Institution in 2015. Approximately 35 percent of its students self-identify as Latinx, and 60 percent self-identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). The University has subsequently been ranked as one of the most diverse in the region.

The new Black and Latino Male Initiative will include such facets as a peer and professional mentoring network where first-year Black and Latino male students will be paired with trained Black and Latino upperclassmen and administrators. The students will gain one-on-one support and participate in check-ins and annual summits tailored specifically for first-year students and for all male Black and Latino undergraduate students. Summits would serve as a sort of listening session for students to provide feedback about their experiences, and also as a bootcamp wherein students will have the chance to sharpen skills necessary to achieve academic, personal, and post-graduation success.

The program will be coordinated by Academic Success Specialist Timothy Stanfield, of the University’s Academic Success Center.

Stanfield, along with other men of color who work at the University—including vice president for enrollment management Reginald Ross, associate dean Ian Marshall, associate vice president for campus life Francisco Diaz, Academic Advisor Luis Escobar, education professors James Alford and David Fuentes, and sociology professor Mark Ellis—have been very purposefully mentoring Black and Latino male students for some time now. They were providing important support, Stanfield says, explaining that the grades and retention of WP’s male students of color was lagging as compared to other students on campus.

President Helldobler subsequently officialized the group’s mentoring program and allocated funding for it to expand.

In citing a decades’ old study that points to a growing need to better address minority male college attrition issues, Ross explains that “very few universities” have succeeded in fulfilling that need, and that, in fact, many have “lost ground” in terms of Black and Latino men’s persistence rates in higher education.

“William Paterson University is stepping up and stepping into a full commitment to providing opportunities for success through a supportive environment for our students,” Ross continues. “The Black and Latino Male Initiative is expected to be a point of pride for the University, in eliminating the achievement gap within our student population.”

Tamir Linzey ’23, a business management major and student of color, has been getting mentored since his freshman year, before the new program became official.

“An experienced and well-intended mentor can be a huge asset to a younger male student of color,” Linzey says. “Black and Latino men have been subjected to harsher treatment, also known as oppression, for centuries. Based on the current climate of racial injustices, mentoring can help level the playing field with privileged peers by giving Black and Latino male students an opportunity to see the world from a more experienced mentor who can help guide them down the right path.”

As coordinator of the University’s new program, Stanfield says he aims to do more than organize. He plans to be a “resource for all of the Black and Latino male students on campus who need any and all types of support—a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk sports with, someone to talk politics with, and, of course, someone to talk to about academics.”

Linzey, who has benefited from Stanfield’s guidance himself, stresses that Black and Latino male students having such a role model and mentor can have a “domino effect” that makes waves well after commencement. 

“Mentoring could provide an additional boost in helping the male student of color have a more direct path to a successful job, financial stream, and networking,” Linzey says. “When this occurs, you are not only enhancing and supporting the individual, but also their family and, ultimately, their community.”