After a Living Learning Community for African-American men at the University of Minnesota got a new director last year, members are noticing a revised approach to student involvement and community outreach.
Jonathan Brown, the new director of Huntley House and director of the Community Outreach, Retention and Engagement program at the University, took on the leadership role in spring 2017.
His priorities are to increase member involvement between upperclassmen and freshmen and organize community outreach events for the men of Huntley House, located on the second floor of 17th Avenue Residence Hall.
Huntley House was formed in 2012 as a community for black men. The house is named for Dr. Horace Huntley, who led a Morrill Hall takeover in 1969. A group of African-American students occupied the building, which led to the formation of the African-American and African Studies department at the University the following year.
Brown said when he became director last year he realized that Huntley House wasn’t fulfilling community outreach goals.
Over the past year, Brown has organized opportunities for the group that will benefit the men and advance their careers.
“I’ve been careful … to vet it,” he said. “We do community service with a purpose to get guys to realize that, doing service, you can improve the caliber of your society and your world.”
Some examples include group trips to Feed My Starving Children, working with current and former NFL players and Fortune 500 companies during Super Bowl LII and an outing next month with at-risk youth in the Twin Cities.
Biology sophomore and Huntley House member Ebenezer Chinedu-Eneh said he noticed that Brown has pushed for more involvement from the group's members since he started coordinating.
Chinedu-Eneh said the group is much more motivated and connected than in previous years.
“It really catalyzed a tighter bond between all of us,” Chinedu-Eneh said.
Huntley House is both an LLC and a student group on campus, Brown said, which is unique for the University.
Despite his own efforts to further involvement, Brown said the men of Huntley House are already highly driven, and this year the freshman class have an average GPA of 3.48.
He said many of the men formed their own study groups without his advising.
Julian Green, a first-year student studying English and living in the LLC this year, said the men in the house keep each other motivated and focused.
Green said the group has weekly meetings, and Brown encourages them to set goals at the beginning of each semester.
“You can tell that Jonathan really does care about us, not only as a group but as individuals,” he said.
Green said he joined the Huntley House not knowing what to expect, but that it’s shaped his time in college.
“This is the one place where they don’t have to explain themselves,” Brown said.
Chinedu-Eneh said he sees a unifying change in Brown’s direction and tries to go to meetings and stay involved despite not living in the LLC.
“I want to really help Huntley get to that point where it’s self-sufficient,” Chinedu-Eneh said.