A major factor in African-American students' experiences at predominately white institutions (PWI’s) are the creation/control of counter-cultural spaces and symbols. Counter-cultural space and symbols are photographs, buildings, publications, physical space, sculptures, plaques, walls, open-displays, and artifacts that depict the presence, norms, beliefs, practices, and social behaviors of a particular group. Solórzano et. al. (2000) found that development of social and academic counter-spaces in response to systemic barriers on and off campus provide autonomy, flexibility, and agency to a group that has been restricted and regulated by counter norms of a dominate culture. AAMI has established a vibrant academic environment through conferences and workshops that function as counter-cultural spaces and yet facilitate the rigor, problem-solving, and project team competency necessary to thrive at an institute of technology and in STEM related careers.
Due to the critical nature of mentoring in higher education, the disparities in faculty demographics, and the power dynamics of hierarchical relationships, the one-to-one mentoring model can create places of contestation and injustice for women and persons of color (Bell-Ellison and Dedrick, 2008). There is a growing emphasis throughout the literature on the development of mentoring networks, consortia, and cohorts, as opposed to single mentor-mentee relationships. The network and cohort model provide alternate ways of leveraging limited resources. Underrepresented groups tend to benefit from cooperative multiple-mentor relationships that attend to personal and emotional needs as well as academic needs (McGuire and Roger, 2003; Yun, 2007). However, Agnew et al (2008) warn that if left to a more organic social structure, mentoring networks—while creating stronger communities—can have socially isolating effects for students of color. Therefore, experts advise that mentoring networks be comprised of intentional cohorts and supported at interdepartmental and institutional levels. AAMI strategically attends to these dynamics through Mentoring & Modeling initiatives.
Social Engagement & Personal Development
Studies have shown that abstract agendas only mask issues of diversity and inclusion. While our aim is to create an environment of inclusion for all, the integration of African American males as leaders in an inclusive environment hinges on their ability to sustain their own self-efficacy and excellence of consciousness in engaging others.
Consequently, we recognize that the academic and professional development of a person is connected to their social and community development. AAMI attends to the holistic development of our participants inclusive of social and communal activities: such as community service, self-efficacy evaluation seminars, “fearless dialogue”, team-building exercises, competitive gaming, need-base innovation competitions, and collective responses to communal issues.