The Competitive Edge: LSU-BMLI Fellows Continue Academic and Professional Development across the Nation

11/04/2014 02:33 PM

BATON ROUGE – LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative, or LSU-BMLI, Fellows continue to demonstrate how LSU-BMLI has enriched fellows’ lives through participation in research programs and internships.

Academic and professional development is a key component of the LSU-BMLI Fellows Program, which provides intentional academic and professional development workshops throughout the school year. Fellows believe that these opportunities give them significant advantages in applications for nationally competitive internships and research programs. Kristian Black, an alumni fellow who is a senior majoring in biochemistry, explained how his participation in LSU-BMLI has instilled in him a sense of work ethic and professionalism.

“My interactions with professionals through BMLI taught me to define my work and myself as a professional,” said Black, who participated in the 2014 Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

LSU-BMLI implements professional programs like “The Follow Up: How to Maintain Professional Relationships,” which details essential communication strategies and résumé building that ensures fellows leave with a complete and professional résumé. LSU-BMLI Alumni Fellow and mechanical engineering senior Jordan Biagas applied his course work and follow-up skills to real-world situations at Halliburton’s Camp Tiger in Houston, Texas.

According to Biagas, the application process for the Halliburton program was difficult. However, his one-on-one résumé support provided by LSU-BMLI gave him a competitive edge during the selection process.

“I was selected out of 22 highly-qualified applicants,” said Biagas. “BMLI helped sharpen my communication skills and give my résumé the polish that helped set me apart.”

“Halliburton Camp Tiger is a unique experience for LSU engineering students, especially males of color who are traditionally underrepresented in field of engineering,” said Jada Lewis, assistant dean of Diversity Initiatives in the College of Engineering.

The LSU College of Engineering Diversity Initiatives work closely with programs like LSU-BMLI to provide fellows with related majors opportunities to expand their knowledge regarding particular fields. Lewis explained that many companies are eager to expand their reach and engage LSU Black males in their growth.

“Halliburton is committed to diversifying their workforce and this is one of many examples of how they are creating a pipeline of diverse talent to their organization,” said Lewis.   

Biagas and Black are representative of 10 black male seniors who have an expected graduation date ranging from December 2014 to December 2015. Before these seniors reach alumni fellow status, they participate two years as BMLI Fellows.

LSU-BMLI is a self-selected program open to all males at LSU, serving 25 to 30 undergraduate males of color per year. Once accepted, students become LSU-BMLI “Fellows” who are supported through a cohort model program until the end of their junior year. LSU BMLI accepts between 10 and 12 new fellows entering their sophomore year – first-year fellows – from a growing application pool of LSU black males who apply the spring of their freshman year. These new fellows balance out the existing number of current fellows entering their junior year – second-year fellows.

In addition to staff leadership, LSU-BMLI has implemented two co-chair leadership roles reserved for second-year fellows to serve as the official ambassadors of LSU-BMLI. Second–year fellow and business major Sidney Brinson is one of two current co-chairs who leads the fellows in planning, communication and providing spaces for fellows to bond and grow from one another’s experiences.  

Brinson explains how being co-chair in LSU-BMLI has taught him how significant it is to maintain effective communication in a professional environment. Brinson plans on sharing his experiences interning with Northwestern Mutual, located in Baton Rouge, with the current fellows.

“Following through with your tasks and following up with your colleagues is the key to working in a professional environment,” said Brinson. “When you hold yourself to the standards of professionalism, your colleagues will recognize you as a professional.”

The success of the BMLI Fellows program is not just anecdotal. Since its inception, BMLI Fellows have regularly maintained average GPAs above the LSU all-male average. The LSU-BMLI program boasts an overall retention rate of more than 90 percent and a graduation rate of more than 70 percent. In a recent study conducted by BMLI, most fellows cite their participation in the BMLI Fellows Program as their reason for returning to LSU.

“Our fellows continue to excel academically as they explore career opportunities. Their success continues to affirm that the model of programming and support provided by the LSU BMLI Program is a necessary and vital component to the overall growth and development of our fellows. We continue to be confident that their participation in BMLI gives them a competitive edge,” said Chaunda Allen, director of the LSU BMLI Fellows Program.  

“We provide spaces for fellows to discuss how their ethnicity and gender impact their interactions with future employers and professors,” said Vincent Harris, graduate coordinator of LSU BMLI and doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership, Higher Education Administration.  

“At our annual Brother-to-Brother Retreat in August, we immerse our fellows in difficult and provocative conversations surrounding the intersections of masculinity and ethnicity,” said Harris. “We push our fellows to discuss topics that they often avoid as black male students. Ultimately, this is one reason why they are able to successfully gain and maintain professional relationships with future employers. we instill a level of composure and readiness in our fellows that makes them attractive candidates for internships and advanced educational opportunities.”  

The Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, Fellows Program is a retention and leadership development program established by the LSU Office of Diversity and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. For more information or to support BMLI, contact Vincent Harris at 225-578-4229 or Chaunda Allen at 225-578-4339, by email at or visit the BMLI website at




Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Tuesday, November 4, 2014