With the onslaught of a pandemic and a virtual learning environment, the African American Male Initiative (AAMI) has adapted and continues to thrive as a program dedicated to cultivating the talents and abilities of African American male students to support their academic and future career goals.
The AAMI is a statewide initiative designed to increase the number of African-American males who complete their postsecondary education from any of the USG institutions. The AAMI promotes student success and aims to improve graduation rates through social and academic networks. Collaborating with university and community partners allows students to envision their future, to explore passions, and to actively engage in the college experience.
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Augusta University alumnus, Jerry Oliver, is the Director of the AAMI and works tirelessly to create the support system for students. Even with quarantine protocols and social distancing, Oliver and the AAMI have used the virtual tools to keep the program thriving.
“We actually have been able to reach more students because of the virtual aspects and the embracing of Microsoft Teams,” Oliver said. “We are now able to connect with more students at a given point of time, because students don’t have to physically leave a location. COVID has actually been a blessing in disguise in a weird sort of way.”
To stay connected with members and students, the AAMI started several virtual events to interact and stay up to date.
“We have our Man Cave Mondays and we have our Follow-up Fridays,” Oliver said. “Man Cave Mondays is usually when we bring in different speakers and it’s a time for students to connect with different leaders in the community or on campus. Follow-Up Fridays is just that. We check in with each other and follow up on current campus events.”
As the university has changed, the AAMI had adapted and refocused its goals as well.
“We have changed our academic profile, because we are a research institution,” Oliver said. “Now we are more focused on a professional leadership model for AAMI. The students are scholars, they are leaders, and so it’s that whole positive reinforcement that you are great, you are smart, you belong here at Augusta University just like all of our other scholars that we have.”
Oliver graduated from Augusta in May 2010 and returned to his alma mater in March 2014 to be an advisor. He quickly expanded his roles and became the Student Success and Learning Skills Coordinator for the Academic Success Center on Summerville Campus. Oliver took over reigns for the AAMI upon his return to campus and has revived the program into a robust leadership and mentorship opportunity. With two master’s degree obtained and working towards his doctorate in educational leadership, Oliver knows the importance of academia. He is also a member of the AU CARE Team, the Council of Equity Leaders (CEL), My Brother’s Keeper of Augusta, and many other campus entities.
Find out more about Augusta University’s AAMI by visiting augusta.edu/aami