With an unemployment rate of more than 14 percent for African-Americans, almost twice the national average, and reports that Black men are far less likely to graduate from high school or even attend college, Robert Morris University is committed to turning around the statistics.


With a $900,000 grant from the Heinz Endowment, the university announced they will create the RMU Research Center on Black Male Educational Student Success to identify the factors of successful African-American males to develop a model for educational achievement that can be emulated.

“We are absolutely elated and as a dean and a professor, I am beyond excited,” said Rex Crawley, the assistant dean of the School of Communications and Information Systems and the endowed chair of the center. He added that he is proud of the Pittsburgh community, Robert Morris and the Heinz Endowment for taking a bold leap of faith to identify the factors that impact African-American males in education and what it takes to be successful.

Along with the grant Robert Morris will raise funds to match the grant. Crawley said in a release that while many researchers have examined the obstacles that young Black men face, few have identified the characteristics of African-American men who have been successful in both education and economic. The center will include longitudinal studies to track the experiences of Black men at every level of the educational system.

“There is a growing national problem of young African-American males not pursuing a college degree and being successful. We’re trying to identify those factors which foster that success,” RMU President Gregory G. Dell’Omo said. “We are grateful and commend the Heinz Endowments for focusing on this issue.”

The idea for the research center came from Crawley’s work with the Black Male Leadership Development Initiative, which, through a partnership with the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Heinz Endowment, teaches approximately 75-100 young Black males communication and leadership skills. The weeklong seminar also encourages the pursuit of education.

“This will position us as a national leader. My goal is that Robert Morris becomes the definitive resource for information on the positive Black-male experience in the United States,” Crawley said.

He said they anticipate the center to be fully functioning by Jan. 1, 2013. They will use the upcoming semester to put together researchers and work out the logistics.

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