ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For the past five years, the Men of Color Initiative has been a fairly well-kept secret at the University of New Mexico.
That, however, is likely to change, and soon.
The initiative was started in 2010 by Jozi De Leon, UNM’s vice president for Equity and Inclusion. From the beginning, its goal has been to attract young men of color – African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders – to the university and, once there, help them to succeed.
At a reception earlier this month, De Leon said that, in 2010, the status of nonwhite men attending or planning to attend a university had reached a “national crisis.” Far too many high school boys were not going to college and those who did were much more likely not to finish their degrees, something that was as true in Albuquerque as anywhere else in the country.
That harsh reality led her to launch the initiative, which remains part of UNM’s Division for Equity and Inclusion.
De Leon also had big news for the five dozen or so people who attended the Jan. 15 reception at the African American Performing Arts Center:
⋄ For the first time, MOCI has an official director, Rodney Bowe.
⋄ Former Lobo basketball and Houston Rockets star Kenny Thomas would serve as MOCI’s ambassador to the community.
⋄ A Chicago man with ties to Albuquerque, Dino Hall, had offered to endow a scholarship for $25,000 for the initiative, the first of $250,000 he said he plans to give to worthy UNM students. Hall and De Leon signed the endowment agreement at the reception.
Hall, born and raised in the Windy City, joined the Air Force as a young man, then found his way into air traffic control. His training brought him to Albuquerque,where he learned about the needs of various segments of New Mexico’s population. He is president and CEO of DSH Entertainment, a music and poetry promotion business.
Thomas, who retired from the NBA in 2010, still holds Lobo records for freshman scoring, rebounding and personal fouls. He is the only Lobo to achieve All-Western Conference status three times.
Bowe, a 2011 recipient of the UNM Alumni Association’s Trailblazer Award, given by the Black Alumni Chapter, holds a bachelor’s of business administration degree from Eastern New Mexico University. He later studied jazz at UNM. In 1994, he took the lead on creating African American Student Day at UNM, a recruitment program that introduces the university to students throughout New Mexico.
De Leon is a nationally known educator with expertise in the teaching and assessment of underrepresented students with special needs. She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina and then obtained a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Later, she moved back home to the Southwest, and obtained a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from New Mexico State University.
MOCI, she told the gathering, is “a good thing for UNM and the community.”