CACAARR celebrates 30th anniversary

2015_CACAARR_discover

George Holmes (left), a senior in mechanical engineering, and Marquia Lewis (right), a junior in computer science, student representatives on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention (CACAARR), talk with Shenethia Manuel, vice chancellor of human resources, equity and inclusion at Missouri S&T and the chancellor’s liaison to the committee, about the success of CACAARR. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Earlier this month, we sat down with Shenethia Manuel, vice chancellor of human resources, equity and inclusion at Missouri S&T, to talk about the growth, success and future of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention (CACAARR) as the committee celebrates its 30th anniversary. Manuel serves on the committee as the chancellor’s liaison.

S&T: CACAARR is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Why was this group formed?

Manuel: This committee was formed when members of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and their key advisors met with the chancellor at the time to express concerns about recruitment and retention programs for African American students at the university.

S&T: Why is it important to have a committee like this?

Manuel: In general, African American students at predominantly white universities have had lower retention rates. When you walk around campus and can’t find others who look like you, who have shared backgrounds, it can be very isolating. It’s important for our university community to do what we can to make our campus a welcoming environment for all individuals.

S&T: What about recruitment, the other “r” in CACAARR?

Manuel: Recruitment and retention go hand in hand. As you increase the number of African American students on campus, retention becomes easier because the culture of the university itself is changing. We’ve been able to make great strides in the number of African American students over the years by stepping up our recruiting in African American communities and establishing articulation or transfer agreements with colleges and universities that have historically attracted African Americans.

S&T: So, it’s been 30 years. Why is it still important to have a committee like this?

Manuel: Because we still have a long way to go! Our goal is for the demographics of this campus to mirror that of our state and nation. Plus, it’s vitally important to focus on diversity and to welcome and support African Americans and other underrepresented minority groups and women, because it’s of the utmost importance to our corporate partners. They expect that we will have diverse students and graduates — diverse in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, where they’re from, what they studied, and so on.

S&T: What is Missouri S&T doing to change those trends?

Manuel: We’re doing lots of things, from adopting diversity and inclusion as a core, shared value of this university to encouraging African American alumni to come back and mentor students today. Over the years, the committee has also provided scholarships for African American students.

S&T: Of the 17 members of the advisory committee, the vast majority — 14 — are alumni. What motivates them to remain engaged with their alma mater?

Manuel: I think it is a love of the institution and the students, and a recognition of the opportunities that opened up to them as a result of the education they received here. It’s a way to give back and pay it forward.

By Liz McCune

See a full list of Black History Month events at Missouri S&T.

Alpha Phi Alpha at S&T turns 50

Happy Phriday

Members of the Epsilon Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha high five fellow S&T students as they enter the Havener Center on Friday, Jan. 23. Every Friday at lunchtime during the school year the fraternity brothers host such “Happy Phriday” events. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Chartered in 1965 at the height of the civil rights movement, Missouri S&T’s oldest African-American fraternity encountered obstacles on the way to its 50th anniversary, especially in the early years.

“There were some difficulties in getting the fraternity off the ground,” says Henry Brown, a 1968 civil engineering graduate of Missouri S&T and one of 18 founding members of the Epsilon Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

There was pushback from the university when Howard Manning, a 1967 civil engineering graduate, and Louis Smith, a 1966 electrical engineering graduate, transfer students and Alpha Phi Alpha brothers from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, approached administrators with the idea of establishing a chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha in Rolla.

Administrators questioned the need for a new, historically black fraternity when there were already a handful of nationally recognized fraternities at the university, Brown says. “But it wasn’t a realistic possibility for us to walk up and join one of the fraternities already on campus,” he says.

The 18 founding members of the Epsilon Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

The founding members of the Epsilon Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha: Wayne C. Harvey, Henry Brown (first row), David B. Price, Wayne R. Davis (second row), Maurice W. Murray, John H. Jackson, Lloyd Sowell, Gregory Bester, Louis W. Smith, Walter G. Reed (third row), Howard Manning Jr., John D. Abrams Jr. (fourth row), Robert L. Coleman, Gerald Lyons (fifth row), Reginald L. Ollie, Daniel H. Flowers (sixth row), Theodore T. Marsh Jr., Paul L. Silvers Jr. (seventh row), and Eugene D. Jackson (eighth row). Not pictured: James E. Brown III. Contributed photo

Using the clout of Lawrence C. George, who had agreed to be the fraternity’s resident advisor, the students eventually convinced school administrators to approve the new fraternity. George, a respected Rolla chemist, was an alumnus of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Beta Pi chapter at Dillard University.

With a resident advisor, the fraternity was now in need of a house. Once again, the fraternity got pushback – this time from local real estate agents.

“You have to think about what Rolla was like in the ’60s – a small, Midwestern town,” says Brown, a native of St. Joseph, Missouri.

The fraternity spent the spring and part of that summer contacting local real estate agents for house tours. Brown says that fraternity members had no trouble scheduling tours by phone, but when they showed up in person, they were almost always turned away.

With traditional housing options exhausted, George once again stepped in to help. He had an acquaintance who owned a former car dealership that was willing to sell the property to the new fraternity. It wasn’t ideal, but the fraternity brothers worked every day that summer to rehab and convert the building into suitable housing.

George, who only stepped down as the fraternity’s advisor in 2013, passed away in March. “He was very influential on not just us, but the well-being of all black students in Rolla,” said Akil Hutchins, a senior in engineering management from St. Louis.

“He touched a lot of people’s lives,” added Lister Florence, 1995 civil engineering graduate and the fraternity’s current advisor. “He was a father figure in my life.”

Through a half century of service at S&T, Alpha Phi Alpha has been instrumental in forming a number of student and faculty organizations focused on diversity and inclusion, including the Association for Black Students, National Society of Black Engineers, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention, and Black Man’s Think Tank. The fraternity also helped bring the Minority Introduction to Technology and Engineering summer camp to campus and created a number of scholarships for minority students.

Members of the Epsilon Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha hanging out at the 1969 Greek Week; two fraternity brothers enjoying the 61st “Best Ever” St. Pats; the fraternity’s original house, as pictured in 1965. Contributed photos by Henry Brown

Members of the Epsilon Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha hanging out at the 1969 Greek Week (clockwise from left); two fraternity brothers enjoying the 61st “Best Ever” St. Pats; the fraternity’s original house, as pictured in 1965. Contributed photos by Henry Brown

With Alpha Phi Alpha’s continuing involvement in diverse service projects and organizations on campus, the fraternity promises to be a voice for minority students for the foreseeable future.

Florence says he certainly owes a great deal to the fraternity.

“I don’t think I would have become the man I am today without Alpha Phi Alpha,” Florence says. “They did a really good job, not just with the fraternity members, but everyone, of reaching out to African-Americans, Hispanics and students of other nationalities. The door’s were always open,” he says. “They understood what you were going through. They understood what it was like to be singled out.”

Nowadays, you may recognize an Alpha Phi Alpha brother as someone you emphatically high-fived last Friday at the entrance to the Havener Center, but the brothers of the Epsilon Psi Chapter do so much more than brighten your “Phriday.”

 

Every February, the fraternity sponsors a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in conjunction with Black History Month. Members also organize outreach events in conjunction with their national organization, such as A Voteless People is a Hopeless People and Go-To-High School, Go-To-College. And they host Missouri’s longest-running collegiate dance competition, Dance XXXPLOSION. The 2015 event will be held at the ARK in Waynesville, Missouri, this April.

The fraternity will also be hosting a week long 50th anniversary celebration centered around the chapter’s charter day on April 27. The celebration will begin in earnest with a welcome reception on Thursday, April 23 at 6 p.m., and will feature a golf tournament, bowling tournament, flag football game, BBQ, and roast and dance. More details will be posted to the fraternity’s website as the event nears.

By Greg Katski

%d bloggers like this: