Applications are now open for students interested in joining Austin Community College District’s (ACC) Black Representation of Achievement Through Student Support (BRASS) program.
BRASS is designed to support the unique needs and interests of Black students in the higher education environment. Support measures include:
“Building equitable outcomes starts with identifying and providing the right support and representation for our most underserved students,” says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC chancellor. “BRASS is the result of innovation and collaboration, and it will help transform the way we prepare the next generation of corporate and community leaders. I am proud of the commitment of this college to do what’s needed to make this a reality. ”
There are currently 120 students in the inaugural cohort and more students who have participated in BRASS activities and events.
In the past five years the number of awards and completions among Black students has increased from 486 in 2015 to 705 in 2019. Persistence rates also increased from 84 percent to 91 percent. Despite the progress, there are still deep gaps between Black student persistence rates and persistence rates among other races.
“This is a trend we see happening nationwide. There are major challenges in retaining and graduating Black students. ACC has made strides, but there is still plenty of work to be done,” says Dr. Shasta Buchanan, ACC Student Affairs vice president. “Our goal with BRASS is to begin supporting students in K-12 and continue through their educational pursuits while at ACC. Having 1-on-1 support really matters to helping students succeed. We need to make sure our students are heard and understood.”
ACC named Jason Brown as the inaugural manager of BRASS. Brown is supported by the college’s Black Student Support Committee, made up of more than a dozen ACC faculty and staff members districtwide
“Our hands-on services and grassroots outreach methods will decrease gaps. I also believe that representation and mentorship is another key factor for increasing Black student success,” says Brown. “BRASS offers a sense of community for our Black students to come together and connect as they achieve their educational and career goals.”
Brown began his career at ACC in 2012 as a specialist with the College Connection Program. He was later promoted to an advisor and then advising supervisor. As the director of BRASS, Brown will coordinate, plan, and facilitate activities, including retention activities, develop, and implement successful strategies in support of Black students.
“Outside of our wrap-around services, we also work closely with different departments aimed toward student success such as academic coaching and the learning lab,” says Brown. “We will work with our transfer and career resources department to provide different events for our students. We are also developing a mentorship program to work hand in hand with faculty, staff, and members of the community.”
Feedback from students involved in the BRASS
"The BRASS program has definitely made me feel more welcomed as a student because they realize what challenges we may face and has provided staff from the same background that we can reach out to with confidence. "
"I thought it was really cool for ACC to have put this BRASS program together, so we all know we are not alone in this journey. "
"I was also surprised to see how quickly the BRASS program reached out. It made me feel acknowledged. The first impression means everything."
"I would say that ACC has reached out to include me in the BRASS program. It was nice to know they recognized that it can be challenging being a minority and made it feel like a safe place to connect with other students of the same background."
"I am happy to say that I have experienced diversity at ACC this semester through our BRASS. When you have an inclusive campus it helps the students & staff get to know each other and feel safe and accepted as well. We should be able to express ourselves and feel safe when we do it."
"... an environment that acknowledges the need to celebrate our differences rather than pretend they are not there for the universities own benefit. I am lucky to say I have experienced diversity at ACC this semester through our BRASS cohort. This experience was unexpected as I had no idea that there was an organization this at our community college"
"Yes, I have experienced diversity at ACC with the BRASS programs. Yes, the experiences were unexpected because I didn't think they have anything like that ACC but I like it because it's teaching me a lot. "
"I was also surprised that the BRASS program was available at ACC, which I think is a great program."