Pandemic Doesn’t Stop Program From Getting Off the Ground, Making a Difference
Launching a new program during a pandemic might not be the best path to success, but Stanislaus State’s Male Success Initiative (MSI) couldn’t wait.
It was too important.
Miguel Jimenez, who was named coordinator of MSI a year ago, was ready to jump into his dream job.
He and Warrior Cross Cultural Center Director Carolina Alfaro spent the summer establishing the mission statement and pillars of success, and he reached out to students on social media platforms and through emails.
The work resulted in virtual programs that drew 49 men over the course of the 2020-21 academic year, and Jimenez already is planning for greater impact come fall.
“We have set the tone, the foundation,” said Jimenez, who served as an academic advisor at Stan State before being named MSI program coordinator. “We have amazing programs to build on. We’re one step closer to closing some of those equity gaps.”
The gap is real. Nationwide, women have outnumbered male students in higher education since 1979 and now represent 55 percent of undergraduate students and 60 percent in graduate school according to data from College Transitions, an admissions consultation organization. At Stan State, women make up 67 percent of the student population and University data showed a decline in enrollment of men of color over a five-year period.
MSI was launched to change that. Similar programs are being started at other California State University campuses and colleges across the country.
“Men of color are not enrolling in higher education at the same rates as their white counterparts or women at CSUs or anywhere,” Jimenez said. “We have to create some strong, intentional programs to move that needle forward. That’s why we’re here — to create a place where men feel at home and feel like they’re going to be supported. We’re going to dismantle a lot of those negative habits that often hold us back from success, like not asking for help or not showing emotion or not being open about something.”
Among the most successful programs was a three-part collaboration with Humboldt State and Fresno State in spring 2021, which expanded MSI’s reach. The webinar on masculinity and leadership drew more than 165 people. Its Men, Mental Health and Wellness discussion drew 101 and a healing circle had 42 participants.
At Stan State, MSI started Barbershop Talks to provide a safe space for men to engage with other men. MSI also launched the Black Men’s Alliance mentoring support group, MSI healing circles, MSI live stream services on social media and collaborated with campus and off-campus partners to support MSI programming.
Those relationships are what stand out about the first year for Jimenez.
“There was institutional buy-in from all levels: the Cabinet, the Office of the President and students,” he said. “Clearly this was needed, and we’re beginning to fill that need. The institutional buy-in is something I’m proud of because it tells me there are a lot of people on campus who are passionate about this, who want to see this initiative succeed and ultimately want to see our men, and men of color, succeed.”
Alfaro is among them.
“It’s been amazing to witness how MSI was able to create a sense of belonging and a supportive space for growth during a pandemic,” Alfaro said.
Other active supporters include coaches Troy Johnson and Wayman Strickland, Athletics Director Terry Donovan and Disability Resource Services Director Marvin Williams who helped create the Barbershop Talks.
In addition to on-campus support, Jimenez found help from the CSU Young Men of Color Consortium and from directors of new and existing MSI programs at other CSU campuses.
Jimenez was drawn to the MSI because when he looks at Stan State students, he sees himself.
He grew up in Laton, a town of 1,800 southeast of Fresno. There were 40 students in his graduating class. He toiled in the fields with his parents and knew there had to be a better life.
Jimenez, a first-generation college student, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UC Merced then went to Fresno State and earned a master’s in educational leadership with an emphasis on higher education administration.
He worked at CSU Monterey Bay where he led associated student programs and marketing before coming to Stan State in 2019 as an academic advisor in the Academic Success Center prior to being named MSI coordinator.
“I needed to come back to the Central Valley, and Stan State reminded me of my undergrad experience,” Jimenez said. “I thought this was where I could really be that person for students who need help. There are not a lot of Latinos in Student Affairs or higher education in general. I want to be that representative. I want to make a difference for folks who look like me and need someone who looks like them while they’re going to school.”
Among the students he could help directly were MSI interns Isaac McCrimon, a senior involved in many campus organizations, and Alvaro Cabrera, a freshman who lived in the on-campus residence hall. Jimenez said both were instrumental in recruiting students and making the first year a success.
Jimenz looks to expand MSI programs in its second year and will offer a one-unit, first-year experience course.
“This is not just about what we have to offer, it’s an opportunity to break down barriers to other departments on campus, including academic advising, financial aid, Psychological Counseling Services or financial wellness,” Jimenez said. “There’s a plethora of things our first-year students can be exposed to in this course to set the tone and be successful in their first year.
“It will be another opportunity to build something and add to what we’re already doing.”