STARKVILLE, Miss.--Prominent African-American leaders revealed their secrets of success--how to overcome barriers and achieve at the highest levels--at Mississippi State University's 2013 Men of Color Summit.
"Finding Success: Breaking the Code for Achievement in Academia and Beyond" featured approximately 100 attendees, mostly African-American males. They listened to keynote speakers and panel presentations and engaged in Q-and-A forums and breakout sessions over two days of conference activities, Sept. 5-6.
Altogether, keynote addresses and activities showcased more than 25 leaders. MSU officials speaking included President Mark E. Keenum, Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert and head basketball coach Rick Ray. Among the nationally recognized leaders presenting were motivational speaker and author Calvin Mackie, Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers Carl Mack, and DuPont North America Commercialization Manager Loston Rowe.
Though the speakers had vastly different expertise and experiences, they highlighted the same concept again and again -- always continue to learn.
Keenum emphasized how MSU's administration, faculty and staff is invested in the academic success of all the university's students, particularly men of color, in part because their percentage of college enrollment and completion is among the lowest in the nation.
"Life is tough, and you've got to be tough to hang with it," Keenum said. "You're our future leaders who will step forward to find solutions to problems. Your ability for success depends on how much you value yourself and how much you value your education."
Likewise, Rowe emphasized that academic and professional success stem from willingness to learn and associating with the right people.
"It's both what you know and who you know," he said.
Ray said education is the key to success, both professionally and financially, but sacrifices will be necessary.
"It's a process to getting where you want to be to be successful, and you'll have to make the sacrifice it takes to get there, to get that education, to make that money," he said.
Personal responsibility for learning, living and leading is necessary to success, Mackie told the audience.
"Our first responsibility is to save ourselves," he said. "America is not about giving you something; it's about taking what America has to offer. We need you all to finish what you start -- your education. Finish it to the end."
Mack talked about the changing points in his life that taught him change and transition are necessary to success.
"Greatness is when you do something not easy, but it benefits someone other than yourself," he said. "Education is the cultural expression of a black man."
Gilbert emphasized that the annual summit focuses on excellence in innovation and access to opportunity, especially for men of color.
"Student success is a national issue," he said. "We're here today to ask the questions and offer solutions -- we're here to improve the success of men of color here at Mississippi State."
Highlights of summit proceedings are available on Twitter at @diversity_msu.