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Cal U No. 1 in minority graduation improvement

| Saturday, March 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Judge Reggie B. Walton

When Lisa McBride arrived at California University of Pennsylvania in 2009, the statistics were very underwhelming.

Just one in seven male students of color nationwide was earning a bachelor's degree.

Shortly after arriving at Cal U, the new special assistant to the president for Equal Employment and Educational Opportunity created Cal U Men United.

Cal U Men United is a mentoring group designed to support the growth, development and achievement of young men of color as they strive to become men of character prepared to take an active role in the global community, said McBride, founding member of the organization. Cal U Men United provides mentorship, career planning activities, social events and workshops to address the needs of the students.

“We started this program in 2009 for men of color because we recognized we had a great deal of startling statistics,” McBride said.

In the past four years, the university has turned around those statistics. Recently, Cal U was ranked No. 1 nationwide among public universities for increase in graduation rates among minority students.

“We've improved our graduation rates,” McBride said. “We're No. 1 in the country in increasing graduation rate – up 33 percentage points, to 60.5 percent among African-American students.”

“A number of different programs contribute to this success, to be sure, but Cal U Men United is among them,” said Christine Kindl, university spokeswoman.

Judge Reggie B. Walton will speak at a Cal U Men United meeting 10 a.m. April 1 in Duda Hall, Room 103. Walton is a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. He was recently appointed to head the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Walton's talk is open to the public.

“We want all of our students to hear that this is someone from the Mon Valley area who made it,” McBride said. “That's a great story.

“Even though you may have come from a poor area, you can make it. He's a phenomenal man.”

McBride said mentoring is “a big piece for men of color who often come from one parent families.”

“Mentors — people don't even know how to define that term,” McBride said. “A mentor is someone who pours in those critical characteristics of ethics, character and humility that you need to succeed.”

Speaking to The Valley Independent, Walton said he did not take advantage of education until he was in college.

“My first love was football,” Walton said. “Education was not important to me. I did not see anyone who looked like me taking advantage of education.

“I never had an African-American teacher in high school. I didn't perceive that education was going to be my future.”

McBride said Walton's comments speak true to her experiences in college.

“At (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), I never had an African-American professor, even when I got my Ph.D.,” McBride said. “They bring a different perspective to the classroom. Walton's experience is something you want to hear.”

About 6 percent of Cal U's faculty is of color, McBride said.

“A lot of these students have no role models of color,” McBride said. “Just to see someone of his stature that has made it, that's significant.

“It's not where you start, it's where you finish. Put a seed of hope in them. Anything is possible if you put the work in.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or