The American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) has named Clemson University professor Roy Jones (B.A. 1972) the winner of the 2009 AABHE Pacesetters Award for his commitment to leadership in black higher education.
The Pacesetters Award recognizes individuals who lead projects that address a gap in black higher education. Jones is the director of the Eugene T. Moore College of Education’s program Call Me MISTER, an initiative aimed at increasing the pool of available teachers from diverse backgrounds, particularly for the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools.
Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) was conceived more than 10 years ago at Clemson as the brainchild of Tom Parks in the College of Education, who was disturbed by the statistic that there were more young African-American males in prison than on college campuses.
The program focuses on addressing the shortage of black male teachers in elementary schools by recruiting, retaining, preparing for certification and placing participants who have high academic potential, a demonstrated commitment to teach and a servant-leadership orientation. Participants in the program (called “MISTERs”) receive tuition assistance and other academic support services. They also participate in conferences and internships and mentor children in local partner elementary schools.
MISTERs are expected to teach in a South Carolina public school, ideally in communities similar to the ones they grew up in, for every year that they received financial aid. Since 2004, 35 MISTERs have graduated, increasing by 15 percent the number of existing black male elementary school teachers in South Carolina. In 2007, the first runner-up for Teacher of the Year in the Greenville County School District is a MISTER graduate.
Call Me MISTER includes Clemson University as well as four historically black colleges in South Carolina, including Benedict College, Morris College, Claflin University and South Carolina State University. Under Jones’ leadership, the program has expanded to several other universities and two-year colleges in South Carolina and six other states, including Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The program makes an effort to recruit students from under-served, socio-economically disadvantaged areas. According to Jones, students learn best from teachers from similar backgrounds and communities.
“You have to connect with students if you expect progress in school,” Jones said. “Outside of the academic skill development, there must be a sense from students that ‘you understand me.’”
Jones will receive the award at the AABHE National Conference on Blacks in Higher Education in Atlanta in March 2009.
“I am truly humbled,” Jones said. “It’s a validation that the work we’ve been committed to has been recognized by a national organization. I’m blessed to be the director, but this success is a collective work.”
Jones received his bachelor’s in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s College of Education, a master’s degree in educational psychology from Atlanta University and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Georgia. Before coming to Clemson, Jones served as an associate professor and education dean at Claflin University and as the director of employment for the Charleston County School District. He has initiated and directed many mentoring programs for higher education and frequently speaks at workshops and conferences on issues such as race and culture in education.