Brown Holds AHANA Success Up As Model

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

In a new book addressing the paucity of black and Hispanic students in higher education, AHANA Student Programs Director Donald Brown says Boston College can serve as an example for institutions seeking to retain AHANA students.

Brown is one of 25 higher education administrators contributing to Student Retention: Success Models in Higher Education . He and the other authors describe how their institutions became leaders in helping black and Hispanic students obtain degrees, despite economic, social and personal obstacles which might have prevented them from pursuing higher education.

"If an institution is to be successful in retaining AHANA students," Brown said, "it must provide them with academic support services and go out of its way to ensure the environment is more welcoming for them."

Director of AHANA Student Programs Donald Brown-"Many of our AHANA students have gone on to become lawyers, doctors and educators because BC gave them a chance they did not have before. I hope other schools with low retention rates can benefit from our experiences." (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

The experience of Boston College - where the AHANA student retention rate has risen from 17 percent to 85 percent over the past two decades - demonstrates that students can overcome obstacles, Brown said. The University has achieved this success, he explained, by providing key services such as academic advisement, tutoring, personal counseling, academic performance monitoring, career advisement and comprehensive financial aid.

Brown said the AHANA Office's Options Through Education Program - a six-week summer orientation which introduces students to the campus and its resources - has been instrumental in elevating the retention rate. In 1995, 95 percent of OTE students graduated after four years; the national average, after six years, is 40 percent for Latino students and 32 percent for blacks and Native Americans.

While AHANA students should be encouraged to feel part of the general campus community, Brown said it is important for them to have a support network. Initiatives such as the University's Benjamin E. Mays Mentoring Program and the AHANA Scholars Program provide this support, he said, because they help students build strong relationships with faculty and other AHANA students.

Religion also fuels growth and strength for many AHANA students during their college years, Brown noted, and Boston College encourages their spirituality through programs like the Gospel Caravan, which provides transportation to area churches.

"Many of our AHANA students have gone on to become lawyers, doctors and educators," said Brown, "because BC gave them a chance they did not have before. I hope other schools with low retention rates can benefit from our experiences."

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