Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success

Strengthening and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at Virginia Commonwealth University

From the MLK vigil to the Men of Color Initiative, Carlton Goode brings a positive attitude to making change

If you are new to VCU, some campus traditions – like Weeks of Welcome or the start of basketball season – seem like they must have been around forever.

But one tradition – the silent candlelight vigil march to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. – is only six years old and was brought to VCU by Carlton Goode, Ed.D. from Shaw University in North Carolina. “I am a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity Incorporated” Goode explains. “Dr. Martin Luther King was an Alpha, too, so doing a vigil was how we celebrated his birthday.”

Goode says that an important part of the event is reflection. “With the vigil, we want to make sure people have time to think about where we are now and where we were,” he says. “The silent march gives people a chance to think about the struggle.” 

“It’s beautiful, man,” Goode says, describing the event. “Especially because you have so many young folks coming out and it’s freezing cold outside. No matter how cold it is, we always get at least 100 students out marching; it’s just remarkable.”

The march, which will start around 6pm on Monday, Jan. 16, typically travels from the VCUArts Depot on Broad Street to the Student Commons and wraps up with a speaker then refreshments like hot chocolate and donuts. 

Focusing on Men of Color

A commitment to continually improving life at VCU isn’t just a once-a-year thing for Goode: he works as assistant director for first- and second-year experiences for men of color. The position grew out of a class he teaches to first-year students called “Dynamic Principles of Professional Development: Men of Color.”

“When I was in my masters program, I noticed the discrepancy in graduation rates for men of color compared to everybody else; their rates were extremely low,” he explains. “You know how instructors always challenge you about turning theories into practice? Well, I took all this research about best practices for retaining men of color and I turned it into a class.” The first “Dynamic Principles” class was offered in 2014 and now can have as many as five sections.

I want VCU to be known as an institution that accepts all people and that takes special effort to make sure our men of color are graduating.

Carlton Goode, Ed.D.

One of the key components of the class was helping men of color build relationships with other students who look like them. It started having an impact right away for first-year students. “The numbers were good but we quickly saw we needed to do more,” Goode says. “We had sophomores coming to us saying, ‘you taught this course and created this great sense of community, but now it’s our second year and it’s gone.’ We had to figure out how to keep that going.”

The solution Goode and his team came up with was the Developing Men of Color (DMC) student organization; Goode acts as the organization’s faculty advisor. He says providing support to second-year students can be critical.

Members of the Developing Men of Color student organization visit the Jos. A. Banks clothing store for tips on business attire.

“When you’re a freshman, you have Weeks of Welcome and your advisor is looking after you,” he explains. “When you’re a sophomore, you can feel much more on your own right when you may be making important decisions. You’re thinking ‘you know, computer engineering is really hard, maybe I need to change majors, or maybe this school just isn’t for me.’ We have to catch them at that time.”

The organization now has more than 500 members. In addition to offering activities like  intramural sports, the organization collaborates with local groups to do community service work.

Contradicting Negative Stereotypes

DMC also provides professional development opportunities and guidance on navigating the professional world, including dining etiquette and appropriate wardrobe. Goode recently accompanied several dozen members to Jos. A. Bank’s clothing store where they were fitted for suits; alumni donated 20 of them so many were free of charge or deeply discounted.

“For a lot of the guys, it was their very first suit,” he says. “It’s really cool. It’s the kind of stuff that really builds confidence. There are a lot of negative stereotypes people see on TV about men of color and there can be a negative assumption about them, right? But you see these guys dressed up and it provides a whole different perspective.”

One of the great satisfactions for Goode is when he sees the positive influence the community can have on younger students. “One of our DMC guys just got an internship with Apple and we have another guy who got an internship with Dell,” he says. “You know, when you see other guys, especially when men of color see their peers getting opportunities like that, they want a piece of that pie.”

Goode also serves on the steering committee of the Men of Color Initiative and he says the activities of groups like DMC are a key part of VCU continuing to grow in national prominence: I want VCU to be known as an institution that accepts all people and that takes special effort to make sure our men of color are graduating.”

For more on the Men of Color Initiative & Developing Men of Color

VCU News: How VCU’s Men of Color Initiative is working with Black and Latino male students to improve their college experience and outcomes

Photos and Story: A VCU group offers local middle school students an opportunity to experience the university firsthand

Editor’s Note: Diversity Drives Excellence Profiles introduce you to some of the diverse faculty and staff members whose work makes VCU such an uncommon and amazing university. The Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success (IES) publishes the profiles on its blog and promotes them across its social media channels. Please send questions or comments about this series to  

Categories Diversity, MLK, News

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