By Shannon Thomason
Nore Hodge had no intention of getting involved in student activities when he started as a freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But when he attended his first Blazer Male Excellence Network (BMEN) event, he was hooked.
The BMEN Peer Mentorship Program is designed to provide academic and social support to black male students entering UAB. BMEN’s goal is to improve the quality of life for incoming students by pairing them with a returning student and providing information on navigating the college experience in and out of the classroom. class.
While applying to UAB, Hodge says, BMEN representatives shared information about the program and won over her mother. He signed up, not really planning on following through; but that changed after the first enrichment week event, when mentors and mentees met early to meet each other and get a head start on what college life is all about. As soon as he met the group, “it was just a good feeling of belonging”.
“You are who you keep, and I loved who was around me,” Hodge said. “And that kind of helped propel me, ‘OK, that’s something I want to continue to be involved in. “”
Now, as he prepares to earn a materials engineering degree from the School of Engineering on April 30, Hodge has received the organization’s Green Blazer of Excellence. It is the highest honor of the group, and recipients of the recognition must excel in the classroom, demonstrate leadership within BMEN and the campus community, participate in research, and be highly respected by their peers. The honor “summarized everything” in his college career, he said.
Originally from Downey, Calif., Hodge moved to Alabama with his family when his father was promoted. A member of the UAB Honors College Custom Path, Hodge is also a Presidential Scholar, is active in student multicultural and diversity programs, including the Black Student Outreach Committee, International Mentors, and Free Food for Thought, and has even worked with UAB Student Media.
Striving for excellence is something you hear all the time in the program, but it’s not just about grades.
“It’s like, ‘oh yeah, get A’s, be the best you can be,'” Hodge said, “but they kept going, ‘He’s someone you can look up to, here’s a model, here are your peers who are also excellent.’ His first friends in college were BMEN. Hodge says these interactions helped him become “a more complete individual.”
UAB strives to improve the retention and graduation rates of its students. Nationally, black men have the lowest retention rate of any group on most college campuses, according to BMEN. The BMEN Peer Mentorship Program is a way to connect Black men to college and help them make a successful transition to UAB. The retention rate for black men has increased significantly at UAB since the BMEN program began, says Sharifa Wip, Mentorship Programs Coordinator and BMEN Advisor.
BMEN aims to improve the relationship between the university and its students and to help increase retention and graduation rates by providing students with the resources necessary to achieve their educational goals. The program helps members grow personally, intellectually and professionally, empowers them to become leaders, and encourages them to share and apply new knowledge and information to their mentor and mentee roles. Mentors are selected each spring and undergo extensive training to provide the best possible services.
Hodge is very humble and exactly the kind of student you root for, says Christopher Jones, Ph.D., director of the UAB Student Multicultural and Diversity program.
“He gets along with just about everyone and has a real passion for learning,” Jones said. “He was an example for the other members of the BMEN program as well as for all the students of the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Diversity. I have no doubt that he will have a successful career as an engineer, but will also be a true agent of change in the world.
Hodge’s advice for new students? Management of time. There will be difficult classes, but the material is not really the most difficult.
“You have all this freedom. Nobody is going to tell you to go do something,” Hodge said. “It’s up to you whether you do your homework. You should prioritize classes that are more difficult than others.
Hodge says he is grateful to Jones and Wip and thanks his mentors Dejon Frazier and Cstephan Hutcherson.
After graduation, Hodge says, he plans to enter the materials engineering industry and then pursue doctoral studies.