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Robert Morris University Receives Endowment For New Research Center

The Heinz Endowments has awarded Robert Morris University a $900,000 grant to help fund a new research center to study the factors that set successful African-American men apart from their counterparts who choose not to pursue degrees in higher education.

Rex Crawley, Assistant Dean of the School of Communications and Information Systems, said the inspiration for this new research started with previous studies done by Dr. Shaun Harper at Penn State University.

"He talked about this whole notion of moving away from the deficit models and moving away from all the negative statistical indicators and start thinking about focusing on success factors," Crawley said.

Crawley will lead the RMU Research Center on Black Male Educational Student Success, which will be the first endowed chair at Robert Morris. The school plans to raise an additional $900,000 to fund the project.

Crawley said although research on African American communities has already been done, the characteristics of those who have achieved educational and economic success have not been well documented. "Oftentimes, researchers engage in research that is familiar to their experience and unless there is a severe alarm at the gate, then there tends to not to be that research attention," Crawley said.

RMU's study will focus on tracking the experiences of black men at every level of the educational system to create successful models for African American achievement.

Crawley said the research center will be home to many studies and other projects for years to come. "Our goal is to engage in many approaches to understanding the phenomenon, so there's no one study that's focusing on African American male success. It is an entire entity whose goal it is to engage in research and identify these factors," Crawley said.

A 2010 report from the College Board found black men are less likely than females and white males to continue their education past high school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. unemployment rate among black males is 14.2%, as compared to 8.2% for the nation as a whole.