Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Issue of Recruitment and Retention

Recruitment and Retention of black students is a sub part of the overall retention issue at colleges and universities.

I saw some unofficial information several months ago, regarding the retention rate on UE students who either received a Zerah Priestly Carter (ZPC) scholarship or a "stipend".  Shortly after that came the yearly request for donations to the Zerah Priestly Carter scholarship fund.  Based on the retention rate data I saw before, I then posed this question to a UE administrator.  "What support systems are in place to assist in the retention of ZPC scholarship recipients at UE?"  I then quoted to the official the percentage rate for retention I had  some information on.  I am also curious as to what is the retention rate for African American students at UE compared to the overall retention rate at UE?  Plus the retention rate based on specific categories, e.g. women, men, etc.  I posed the questions several weeks ago and still have not received a final answer.

The first retention "problem" at UE for an African American student began one year after Zerah Priestly was admitted as the first black student allowed to attend UE.  Pat Alves, the first black male admitted to Evansville College (EC) in the 1935-1936 school year did not return to complete his education at EC.

Our reasons for attending UE vary.  For some it was due to what the college offered academically.  For some like me it was to "practice" in a multi cultural environment that I would see once I graduated. UE has never been identified as the best college for African American students to attend.  We all recall the students in our Freshman classes whom we did not see the next year.  The reasons for their returning varied.  For some it was the "environment" on campus.  But, we all knew about the environment before we started our days at UE.

There may be indicators of success for a black student on who will graduate from UE.  Is it coming from a high school that had a diverse student population?  Going through a college prep curriculum in high school?  Having experience in a day to day multi-cultural environment?

We may think that UE needs to recruit more black students, but think about that statement.  If the support mechanisms needed by black students are not at UE, why recruit black students to live in an environment not designed to fit our needs?

The admissions process needs to be open and honest to the families of black students on the cultural challenges of being at UE.  The university needs to be honest and openly share the retention rate for African American students.   What support systems are needed?  Here are a few ideas. The year to year opportunity to join a black fraternity or sorority regardless of the size of the black student population at UE.  Create a specific set of activities year to year designed for black students, to include road trips off campus.  Mentoring options and tutoring.

UE has made recruitment of black students a priority in the past.  Under former President Graves, in the early 1970s, the university sought to recruit black students from the Evansville area.  The recruitment effort was successful, but the retention rate was abysmal.  The granting of scholarships and provision of financial aid does not prevent students from leaving.  Financial aid opens the door.  Then, you are on your own.

I await "my" university's development of an innovative recruitment and retention plan!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spirituality - Repairing A Damaged Heart


Repairing a Damaged Heart Through Spiritual Surgery

Part 1

In the Olivet Wednesday bible study sessions, Pastor Moore and Deacon Hedgepath have on occasion described the sinful actions of people as being a “heart” issue.  In a recent bible study session related to spiritual gifts, Pastor Moore referenced Jeremiah 17:9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” 

Initially, I found it depressing to hear that our heart is inclined towards sin from the moment we are born.  My thought was, “We don’t stand a chance. We start off from a disadvantage!”  Then the truth came.  God has provided us with the tools to help us repair our damaged hearts.  Just as human surgeons perform surgery on the bodily heart to heal it, God has provided us with spiritual tools and guidelines. The tools are methods to repair our damaged heart. The guidelines define what actions and lifestyle can repair our damaged hearts through spiritual surgery.

We have all inherited the damaged heart condition.  It’s a human family trait passed on from Adam and Eve.  What are the symptoms of having a damaged heart?  Sin.  Underneath the broad category of “Sin” are a number of specific actions that confirm the symptoms and diagnosis of a damaged heart.  Sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, envy, selfish ambition, wild parties, murder, and on and on.

Genesis 6:5   The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

It has been shown that you can live your entire human existence with a damaged heart.  We have even created systems and activities that support sin and a damaged heart!  If we just accept the sinful character of our damaged heart, we relinquish the opportunity to have eternal life after our human death.  We have rationalized that some actions performed with a damaged heart are enjoyable, fulfilling, and what we are here on Earth to experience.  We describe those actions as those of a normal human and “nothing to feel bad about”.  “We’re only human” we say, as if that statement justifies our damaged heart actions. 

Hebrews 3:12   Be careful then dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning you away from the living God.

Once we acknowledge our damaged heart symptoms, now comes the decision to seek healing through spiritual surgery.

Deuteronomy 10:16-19   Therefore change your hearts and stop being stubborn.


Repairing a Damaged Heart Through Spiritual Surgery

Part 2

Psalm 51: 10   Create in me a clean heart O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.

This plea acknowledges the damaged condition of your heart and your request to God to help you heal. Unlike human surgery, you are an active participant in your spiritual surgery.   Giving your life to Christ is a first step as you enter the spiritual operating room.  Attending church regularly, bible study, Sunday school, establishing a regimen of reading and applying the Word, and replacing worldly adventures with spiritual entertainment ventures, are some of the surgical tools and techniques we are given to assist with our spiritual surgery. 

Your Pastor and fellow members of your church all have a surgical role in your spiritual surgery, providing the spiritual guidance and support you need to spiritually heal your damaged heart.  You will find that as in human bodily surgery, you may need to return to the spiritual surgery room for multiple surgeries to achieve long term healing of your heart.  So, don’t feel overly frustrated if you find yourself on occasion pulling up to the spiritual surgery outpatient clinic.  Think of those occasions as a tune up for your new heart.

Ezekiel 36:26-27   And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. 

During your rehabilitation period from spiritual surgery, you will need to keep your spiritual diet free of old habits and activities.  Those activities were for feeding a damaged heart, not the new heart God has given you.  Your rehabilitation and spiritual therapy during recovery from a damaged heart will be continuous.  Yes, you may have a relapse in keeping old habits out of your new spiritual diet.  If you do, get right back into your rehabilitative program.

2 Corinthians 1:22   He has commissioned us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything, he has promised us.

Luke 1:17(2)   He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.

Matthew 12: 35   A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

1 Samuel 10:9   As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart…

Saturday, February 13, 2021

A Tribute To Angela Williams

I recall the day I first met Angela Williams.  It was about 14 years ago at a U.E. Homecoming weekend. It was a crisp, cold, but sunny fall morning in Evansville. The leaves on the trees announced in their orange-reddish colors the arrival of fall.  I had parked my car in a lot near the Engineering building and was walking across the circle.  From afar I saw the sign in table set up outside the Union building.   I noticed Sylvia DeVault at the table.  The table had been equipped with hot apple cider to serve the alumni and to keep the table workers warm.  Then I noticed that there was an African American woman sitting next to Sylvia!  I strained my eyes to see who was this?  I then found myself jogging in slow motion over to the table, thrilled at the prospect of an African American being added to the alumni office.  It was like a scene out of the movie "The Color Purple" where the Whoopi Goldberg character is in the field playing patty cake with her friend.  I was mentally clapping my hands and playing patty cake while jogging over to the table in slow motion.

I made it over to the table and composed myself into professional alumni mode.  I gave Sylvia my professional alumni greeting and then turned to introduce myself to Angela Williams.  Now, I felt like saying "what's up sister girl?"  But, I maintained professional alumni decorum.  Angela was wearing the purple U.E. colors as she always did.  Angela always wore the school colors well, better than most alumni or U.E. staff.  I sometimes wanted to ask her, "Where do you shop at?"  Anyway, I recall Angela's first words to me were, "So, what brings you back to U.E.?"  Over the years I would joke with Angela that her first words to me were "What you doing back here fool?"  That would make her laugh, showing that big smile of hers.

Back in those days I was doing some research on the history of black students at U.E.  Each time I came to campus I made it a point to stop by and say hello to Angela and invite her out to lunch. We were about the same age and shared our life story with each other and the variety of challenges we had faced.  I discovered that her life had been more challenging than mine.  I recall one day I told her let's do dinner and a movie this time.  After a nice meal, we wound up just making it to a showing of the movie "The Bucket List" starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  Well, the plot of the movie has several emotional moments and between Angela and me there were tears being shed by the film's end. So, Angela reaches into her purse and gives me some tissue to wipe my tears!

One day I noticed she had signed an email with the name Honey Angela Williams.  I asked her "is Honey your nickname?"  She explained that was her real first name and that only family called her Honey.  I told her one day I was going to walk into her office, when Sylvia was present, and say loudly, "Honey, let's go to lunch!" and then I would turn to watch the reaction on Sylvia's face.

I was always impressed by Angela's devotion to her daughter and Angela's strong faith in God.  I recall after a Dr. King march from the U.E. campus Angela was overseeing her daughter on the bus back to campus.  It was clearly evident her motherly love and devotion to her daughter was very strong.  With my job changes and relocation I lost having consistent communication with Angela for a year or so. When we did reconnect it was very apparent to me that her faith in God had gotten stronger and I made that comment to her.  I recall one time I sent her a message through Facebook asking a religious question.  After several minutes she responded to my question.  Her reply must have included quotations from 10 scriptures!  I said to myself, "She should be a minister!"  It was during that time when Angela published her book of poems.  I eagerly ordered a copy to support this woman of God.

I found out in mid February 2017 through the UEAAA Facebook page that Angela had left this world. Ironically I had just put myself on a self imposed 2 week vacation from Facebook.  But, I kept seeing notifications pop up from the UEAAA page and wondered what was going on.  Angela worked at U.E. for a long period.  While some came and went, Angela remained at U.E.  Always loyal, always devoted to getting the job done.   I recall last talking to her in December 2016 during a teleconference about the mentoring program she was attempting to get started.  Her bubbly voice, would make you smile if you were having a bad day.

Angela Williams was a pivotal person in the operation of UEAAA as an organization.   She was the inspiration for me to revisit and update our UE black student history.

This world needs a million people and more like Angela Williams.  I was saddened to hear she was gone. But, I know her faith has her in the ultimate place we all aspire to be when we must depart this life. She earned it.  Well done Angela.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 - The Year In Review

 You know what kind of year this was!  The year we were all put into time out for our continuing pattern of bad behavior.  It had the potential to be a devastating year in many ways.  Some trauma came to fruition while other categories in my personal life achieved growth and found prosperity during a pandemic.

Ironically there were indications late in 2019 that a China trip I had planned for April of this year would not happen.  Not due to Covid but due to my chosen dates not being filled with anyone traveling except me.  The trip was officially canceled in early January by the tour company I had signed up with saving me thousands of dollars that would be needed elsewhere in the coming months. 

My mother's health continued to decline from Alzheimer's and dementia.  Her home care wasn't up to adequacy resulting in her having to go to a nursing home in late January.  January also began our search for a winter getaway home which we found.  Then came a relaxing trip to New Orleans in February just as Mardi Gras was starting.  We then took a Western Caribbean cruise from New Orleans.  So we were in environments that were to become Covid spreaders due to the closeness of contact during Mardi Gras parades and on cruise ships.

March brought the full blown impact of Covid as it spread throughout the United States.  This put an end to normal routines such as going to restaurants, movies, or spending time with relatives and friends.  Masks became a new required fashion accessory that would save your life. People we knew started getting ill from Covid and some died.

One thing Covid brought to my life was financial discipline. I no longer was spending money on discretionary items.  The Veterans administration finally resolved a claim for benefits that I had filed on my mother's behalf some two years before.  The lump sum payment of retroactive benefits she was owed came right on time as her nursing home stay ended.  This got her out of a dangerous Covid environment and allowed her to return home where she passed away a month later.  The retroactive VA benefits paid for her 24 hour professional homecare her last month of life.  God worked it out that way.

We closed on our winter getaway home in July.  My spouse retired in late December.  Under the grace of God we have both avoided the deadly effects of Covid, so far.  The promise of a vaccine is on the horizon.  We never go without food.  We have more than one place to live.  We can pay our bills on our fixed retirement incomes.  Our health is good.  

I grew spiritually during this year.  I am at the point where my writing skills are now being utilized in the church. My other writing and research projects are going well.  I am doing what I want to do.  Covid helped to keep me away from people and situations that were not good for me personally.  Covid refocused my mind on what I should be focused on.  Covid helped me manage my financial resources better. 

I still have my human faults. But I am a better person than I was on December 30, 2019.  The ways of the world have always failed me.  I no longer seek the glory of this world.

2021. It may get better, it could be worse.  All I can say is so far with one day left, I have survived a world wide pandemic.  In the United States, some 300,000 people did not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Spiritually Managing The World Around You


2 Timothy 4: 3-5.   For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching.  They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  They will reject the truth and chase after myths.  But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.  Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

As you continue your Christian spiritual journey, understand that many of the day-to-day cares of the world will not support your journey.  You will need to interject God into daily human rituals that don’t consider God first.  Think of your average day.  If you are in the habit of turning on the morning news, how many news shows begin with a prayer? If you drive to work, how many of your fellow drivers are showing love and compassion to you in their driving techniques?  In school, do your classmates treat you with love as a fellow child of God?  As you shop for groceries are your fellow shoppers behaving as considerate Christians?

The number of non-Christian images thrust at us every day can be overwhelming.  Whether you are at work, in school, watching or streaming television or movies, on social media, shopping for groceries, etc. you will see one common theme.  The world does not openly acknowledge God in many of our daily common activities.  Our government is not focused on incorporating Godly principles into how we are governed.  As Timothy states, we are focused on following our own human desires.

How do we overcome the power of the World?  It takes maximum effort and you must work at it hourly.  Not just every Sunday via church services. The focus of the World is to tell us from a worldly standpoint what we need and what we should do while we are alive in the world.  We are bombarded with that message every hour of every day.  The focus of the World does not include telling us to prepare for life after death through our spiritual journey.  How do we manage the world around us?  As Timothy says “keep a clear mind in every situation.”

During the last year of my work career, every week I would travel from Indianapolis to my last employer in St. Louis, Missouri.  I would live and work in St. Louis during the week and then return to Indianapolis for the weekend.  When driving to and from St. Louis, my journey on I 70 would take me past Effingham, Illinois and a large tall white cross built next to the highway.  198 feet tall and 113 feet wide.  Every time I saw the cross it served as a reminder of where my focus should be as I traveled to work or returned from my week’s work in St. Louis.  It was a reminder that God created us and is in control, even if we don’t acknowledge Him in our daily lives.  The view of the cross was a” reboot” to my mind allowing me to refocus and manage whatever thoughts were on my mind.

Timothy reminds us that it does take “work” to share the Good News with others.  Managing how the world influences us takes work on our part.  We have to filter out what is not of God and search for what is of God in every situation.  Not all of us have the luxury of seeing a nearly 200-foot cross to remind us to reboot and refocus.  In your personal life seek to create a visible landmark and reminder that helps you reboot and manage what you allow from the outside world into your spiritual life.  It could be a scripture verse you keep in your pocket.  Or it could be a Christian themed bracelet or necklace that you wear every day.  Whatever your choice, begin to manage the world around you.  Work at deciding what worldly information comes into your world and what worldly information is kept out.  Work to keep a clear mind in every situation.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Black Men Run (BMR)


This is a letter of Thanksgiving for the existence of Black Men Run (BMR).  Thanks especially to the founders of BMR and those who may have tried before, but were unsuccessful in starting the movement that exists now.   I am writing this from the perspective and memories of my days in the year 1977, when I was a 20-year-old runner, full of energy, enough to be able to run twice a day.  Now I am lucky if I get in 4 runs a week!

I’ve told this story before but it seems more relevant on this Thanksgiving Day.  Back in 1977, I was living in an area near a military base in Indianapolis that had ample space for distance running.   I took advantage of that opportunity and would run 2-3 miles several times a week.  On weekends I would often see a group of European American runners gathered at the YMCA on base for their group run.  I would pass them by never being invited to join their group. I would think, it must be nice to run with others.  I recall running with a couple of older brothers later that summer who lived in the same apartment complex I lived in.  My first group run.  The brotherhood and camaraderie were a positive change from my usual solo runs.

In the early 2000s I ran in several Prostate Cancer 5Ks.  In those events myself and the few black runners in the event would often comment about the lack of black men in “our” event.  Especially in such an event where the cause, Prostate Cancer, impacted many of us. In fact, the Prostate Cancer event in Indianapolis was named after a black gentleman, Charles Williams, who had died from Prostate Cancer.

Move forward to the year 2016.   A friend sent me a link about a group called Black Men Run.  I was still running and was inspired by the runners in the 2016 Olympics to run longer distances.  I was 58 going on 59 and could tell that most of the local BMR chapter runners were younger than me.  But I didn’t hesitate at meeting up with the group for a weekend group run.  Ironically the location for us to meet for the BMR Indianapolis group run was that same YMCA where in 1977 I wasn’t invited to join the European American group runs.

For me BMR is more than just a group where I can be competitive against others.  At my age, it definitely is not about fast times, negative splits, beast mode runs, mini marathons, marathons, etc.  It’s just about the opportunity to run with other brothers, share stories and communicate with someone who looks like me.

When I think of BMR I think of the story my cousin told me about her youth.  I imagine the negative mile splits of her family running away in the middle of the night from a treacherous sharecropper in the 1950’s with all their belongings on their backs.  I think about the past when numerous black boys and men were unable to do distance runs together due to fear of black men.  I think of Ahmaud Arbery.  I think of that YMCA in 1977.

This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for the BMR Virtual Race Series.  I have long advocated participating in events that reflected “Us” and those causes we care about.   So, when you are out running, doing what you do, understand that BMR hasn’t always been around.  Be thankful that it exists.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Make It Personal


Make it Personal

Every second the world thrusts at us information, events, stories, and entertainment activities all focused on life from the human standpoint.  Imagine yourself standing in one spot being covered with all these human based things to the point where only your head, shoulders and arms are visible and free! This continuing flow of humanity threatens to engulf you totally.  Imagine seeing within reach of your free arms a bible. You have a choice to reach for the Word to gain knowledge that will free you from the pile of humanity.  The Word in the bible will describe your real purpose and free you from the pile of human concerns before it engulfs you.  What choice do you make?  Seek the Word or continue to be engulfed by the world?

Why reach for the bible?

Within the bible are the spiritual instructions to know, honor, love, and fellowship with God, our Creator.  Know that it is your spiritual life that will lead you to eternal life and fellowship with God not your worldly life.  As you interact with the world you will constantly be challenged to make choices to infuse spirituality into worldly/Godless situations.  The choices you make will lead you either towards God or further away from God into the values, and rules of humans.  Here are some biblical instructions that God has provided to assist you in your walk.

A strong layer of solid concrete is the foundation of many homes.  In your life, allow God to be your concrete foundation.  

Hebrews 13: 6 says,” So we can say with confidence, The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me?” 

Psalm 28:7.  The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. 

Making God your concrete foundation offers you help, provides you strength, and protection.

At your foundation is also the power of communicating with God through prayer. 

Ephesians 6:18.  Pray in the spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Speaking to God through prayer, expressing your frustrations, desires, hopes, needs can be done anywhere.  At work, in your car, indoors, outdoors.  Establish a prayer routine that will help you build a relationship you with God.

From our foundation we move towards our personal goals and aspirations.  As you move forward towards your goals, understand that the journey will not be problem free.   You will face difficulties, frustrations and hardships.  You will have doubts.  You will be tempted to make decisions contrary to what God wants you to do.   

James 1:2-4.  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Romans 5: 3-4. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

In your daily life, understand the presence of sin in the world.  Sin is any transgression against the laws of God.  Realize that some choices people make in terms of life styles are sins against God’s law, not a human right. Don’t get tricked by these references to “human rights” as a reason for condoning un Godly behaviors or lifestyles.

Romans 3:23. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 

Understand that in our daily lives we are subject to situations, where we will have to make a choice to do what is correct and not sinful in nature. How do we control our sinful nature? 

Ephesians 6:10-18 provides the Christian strategy in the spiritual war against sin.  “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Your armor can take many forms.  But a full plate of armor requires several pieces linked together.  Here are some examples of what can be in your armor arsenal:

1.       Play gospel music while going to work or school. 

2.       During the week make time to attend a bible study virtually. 

3.       Block out time every day to read and study your bible.

4.       Participate in ministry meetings and church events virtually.

5.       Attend and participate in Sunday School virtually.

6.       Regularly participate in Sunday church services.  

7.       View Christian themed films.

8.       Find a quiet moment in your day while at work or school to just pray, slow your human day down.

9.       Reach out to another believer to check on how they are doing.

10.   Find a nature spot to just enjoy and reflect on what God has given us.

11.   Think about all the blessings in your life, past and present.

Always look for armor arsenal items to help you defend yourself from sin.  Why?

Genesis 4:7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.

 How you connect with God is a personal decision.   What armor works for you may not fit another person.    Specialize your armor and personal walk with God.