UWF MEN grows to near 100 members

UWF MEN group for story 09.10.15

Photo by Geri Battist

Geri Battist

News Editor

On Sept. 10, the University of West Florida Men’s Empowerment Network (UWF MEN) accepted 11 inductees at their Fall Induction Ceremony at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The audience included campus liaisons, UWF MEN Advisory Board members, community MENtors, current UWF MEN members and university staff.

At the inaugural induction in the fall of 2014, 17 members were inducted. Then the program exploded in spring 2015, with the induction of 67 young men. In the span of one year, UWF MEN has grown to 95 members.

Now nearly 100 strong, UWF MEN offers academic and social support to male UWF students. The program also provides mentoring opportunities with committed campus and community professionals.

“Any issue the students encounter, there is someone among the campus liaisons in key areas that they can talk to,” said Chief Diversity Officer/Associate Vice Provost for Equity, Diversity and International Affairs Dr. Kim LeDuff.

After the ceremony, Dr. Kim LeDuff beamed with excitement as she shook hands and welcomed the inductees.

“I am amazed at how this program has grown in the last year since its inception the fall of 2014,” LeDuff said. “We gave the groundwork, and it has taken on its own life.”

The development of the UWF MEN program was LeDuff’s first initiative as CDO when she was hired in September 2013. “Graduation rates for male college students were at one-third of the classes,” LeDuff said. “The goal of this program is to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates of male college students from all backgrounds.”

The program is structured so that it builds each academic year, providing members self-enrichment, empowerment, encouragement and an opportunity to pay it forward by mentoring local elementary school students.

The program is still in need of funding and campus or community professionals to participate as mentors. If you, or someone you, know, is interested in participating as a mentor, please email Multicultural Communication Coordinator Eryka Wallace at ewallace@uwf.edu.

In its inaugural year, UWF MEN has already begun impacting the lives of students at UWF.

“It has come full circle. I struggled to navigate the waters of UWF my first semester,” said senior communication arts major Timothy Jones. “Now, as a member of this powerful initiative, I’ve found my paddles and have begun to make my way safely towards that graduation stage next fall.”

As a current member, Jones has had an opportunity to experience the benefits and support of UWF MEN. “UWF provides many opportunities that equip us with peak experiences,” Jones said. “Now with UWF MEN, it anchors our ship with a world-class network never before seen on another college campus. We are the change happening around the nation. We can watch the conversation take place or we could join the conversation and be the change we seek.”

At the close of the ceremony, UWF MEN members stood together with their campus liaisons and community mentors to recite their pledge.

In unison, these are the words that bounced off the walls of the CFPA Music Hall: “I, support the University of West Florida Men’s Empowerment Network’s values of professionalism, leadership and character. I will strive for excellence in pursuit of success through scholarship, civic engagement and social support. I will maintain the highest level of respect for my fellow students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities of the University of West Florida. I challenge myself and those around me to agree to the standards of commitment, discipline, responsibility, respect, support and versatility. I am UWF MEN.”

Interested students can learn more about the UWF MEN program and how they can participate next semester by accessing their website. Although students may have missed an opportunity to join this fall, they are strongly encouraged to attend the UWF MEN conference in October.