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Columbia, MO 65211





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Mizzou Black Men's Initiative

Leadership development program helps black men succeed at Mizzou

Published April 28, 2015
Story and photo by Derek Poore. Video by Jordan Williams.

Marquise White and Darius Thurston

Marquise White, left, a freshman from St. Louis, is mentored by sophomore Darius Thurston in the Mizzou Black Men's Initiative, a program for African-American men that encourages campus involvement and leadership.

Black male students have the lowest retention and graduation rates of all college students nationwide. At the University of Missouri, the Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative aims to help improve those success rates, starting with helping freshmen transition into the collegiate environment. It teaches leadership skills and encourages academic support, goal-setting, community service and social participation.

Support, Development, Involvement

The Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative emphasizes three pillars to build a foundation for its students: support, development and involvement.

The program starts by pairing freshmen with older student mentors. Participants are encouraged to explore campus group activities, and attend networking events with Mizzou faculty, staff, and leaders in the community.

Participating in the program “gave me a chance to see all of what campus had to offer,” said sophomore Darius Thurston, who entered the program as a freshman and now serves as a mentor.

“It made me step out of my comfort zone,” said Thurston, a business administration major from Chicago. “Minority students tend to limit themselves to only certain organizations, and this made it easy to form study groups with other African-American students, but also pushed me to be the best I can be and get involved with other organizations and groups.”

This year Thurston is mentoring freshman Marquise White, also a business administration major.

“My experience in this program has been one of greatest things I’ve been a part of in college so far,” said White, who is from St. Louis. “It has taken me from being a new face on campus, not knowing anyone, to having my hands in a little bit of everything on campus.”

Sense of Belonging

Jonathan McElderry, coordinator of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, said leaving home can be a challenge for all students. He encourages all incoming black male freshmen to apply to the program and also recommends older students in the program to become mentors.

Payton Head, who last year became the first member of a historically black fraternity to be elected president of the Missouri Students Association, said his experience in MBMI made him a better leader.

“I think it was great to be in a room with people who looked like me, who were going through the same problems I faced feeling included on campus,” Head said. “We became a big support system.”

Next year the freshman White said he wants to be a mentor and pay back the experience he received.

“You really bond with these 25 other freshmen,” White said. “The sense of being in there with different people, from different places, is one of my favorite things about program. I want to see it from the other side.”

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

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An equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

Last updated: Aug. 15, 2017