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CASSE program aims to uplift Black male students at UH

CASSE program

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

The year-long Career Awareness Student Success Engagement program is accepting applications from Black male liberal arts majors this spring, with plans to begin the program in the summer.

This CASSE program is hosted by University Career Services in conjunction with Learning Advancements for Undergraduate Cougars of Houston and Student Housing and Residential Life. About10 sophomores, juniors and seniors will receive career preparation guidance and on-campus paid internships as well as support when they search for off-campus internships.

“I wanted the program to be holistic,” said UCS executive director and interim assistant vice president of student affairs Monica Thompson. “Not only did I want them to be engaged in the career development process, but (also to) make sure they’re in the right major, their interests, how they’re doing academically.”

The program draws on a variety of research-backed findings and ideas, including a model initiative at the University of Missouri that produced positive outcomes in a similar demographic.

“Among students who work, Black men students make up only 6 percent of those taking advantage of internships,” Thompson said. “It’s not that they’re not working; they could be working, (but) they may not be participating in an internship related to their career. When they go for a full-time job, the huge disparity is that they could start off with their income $10,000 less.”

This disparity then has heavy implications for social mobility and employability, according to Thompson.

CASSE topics include resume writing, interview preparation, graduate school preparation, personal branding, networking and academic planning through connecting with professionals and mentors in different industries. Experiential learning opportunities can occur on campus to lessen the barriers of scheduling and transportation.

“We would be building their resume to make them more competitive for an off-campus experience later on,” Thompson said. “If you have good or decent grades and involvement, it helps if you have some type of career-related or internship experience, and that’s what’s going to make them competitive.”

UCS interim director and associate director Tiffany Bitting is planning a face-to-face orientation, one-on-one mentoring and three to four sessions with resume coaching and job-centered support when the CASSE program officially begins this summer. If students are successful at obtaining internships, they can also work during this time.

“One thing that we plan to do is pull a customized list from Cougar Pathway and then give them a list of jobs based on their major and positions that they’re interested in from our conversations with them,” Bitting said.

The program will continue throughout the 2022-23 academic year with the same cohort of students. Bitting hopes they will be more connected to UCS afterward, become ambassadors, and give feedback on how to engage more students who come from backgrounds similar to theirs.

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