An Introduction to the UMKC Men of Color Campus Initiative

Helping one another and learning from those who have taken the journey


Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing & Communications

“Dad planted the vision,” said Chancellor Leo E.  Morton. “The vision gave purpose to my studies.”

A “Fireside Chat” set the stage – literally – for the inaugural Men of Color Campus Initiative’s “INSIGHT: A Speakers’ Series.”

In an informal setting, Rodney Smith, Ed.D., and Chancellor Morton took to the stage in the UMKC Student Union Theater Tuesday evening to talk about the Chancellor’s personal and professional journey. It was an effort to let students get to know the real Leo E. Morton, set up by Smith, associate director of academic support and mentoring.

“Chancellor Morton is a credible, yet accessible and approachable role model,” said Smith. “We wanted our students to see, up-close and personal, his authentic and genuine success story. Chancellor Morton is a trailblazer whom they can touch as well as relate to.”

The Initiative was established this fall by students, alumni, faculty and staff – all men of color. Its mission is to “enhance the quality of student life and learning, with a special emphasis on male students from underrepresented communities.”

This Fireside Chat – set in a question and answer format – was attended by approximately 65 individuals, both men and women. The Chancellor shared stories from his personal and professional lives, but there was a common theme, one that resonated throughout the evening.

“You must have a sense of who you are and a sense of purpose,” said Morton. “My father instilled in my brother and me that we could be engineers, and we both are.

“A lack of vision is a problem today,” continued Morton. “You must go in knowing what you need from your classes. Go in with a sense of purpose, a plan, and you will find what you need.”

The organization is open to all students who are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies, and it now has 25 members. One of its goals is to increase retention and graduation rates and to provide mentorship.

“We want to enhance student life and learning for our male students of color,” said Smith. “Our over-arching goal is to increase college completion for male students of color.”

Other goals of the organization include creating a sense of community and brotherhood; promoting positive images of men of color; heightening self-awareness and self-efficacy; and exposing students to educational and cultural enrichment activities.

The evening’s Fireside Chat was the first of four possible events planned for the academic year. And, it was a great introduction to the UMKC Men of Color Campus Initiative.


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