William Edmond is forever grateful to his professors and mentors who made his college experience a memorable one. They made him feel that he belonged and guided him in securing internships, meaningful student jobs and a degree in psychology.
Now, Edmond wants to pay it forward with undergraduates at Rice University. “I have made it my life’s mission to help others be more persistent in their pursuit of higher education,” he said. “Being in college should be the most exciting time in a person’s life.”
As assistant director of Multicultural Affairs, Edmond helps students organize cultural events that promote diversity at Rice. Edmond works closely with the Black Student Association (BSA) especially during Black History Month when the students participate in the Martin Luther King Day parade in downtown Houston, hosts the MLK vigil at the Rice Chapel and present lectures, films and discussions about issues in the Black community. For Hispanic Heritage Month, Edmond helps the Hispanic Association of Cultural Enrichment at Rice (HACER) present discussions and movies, among other activities.
He also mentors and creates leadership opportunities for students. A few years ago, Edmond and three Rice students — Yonas Tekola, Mark Laforest-Williams and Jeremiah Murrell — took the Black Male Leadership Initiative (BMLI), an informal student club, and provided a more sustainable structure by registering the group as an official student organization and gave it a mission. The mission is to improve the graduation rate of Black male students at Rice, develop leadership skills for Black males and foster a sense of belonging on campus for Black male students.
“BMLI exists to foster brotherhood within the Black male population at Rice,” he said. “The BMLI supports its members by providing opportunities for fellowship, intellectual growth and personal development, on and off campus.”
This year’s BMLI president, Rice senior Mathias Adamu, said his experience of working with Edmond on several projects has been very rewarding and he tries to emulate Edmond in being a servant leader.
“William is the type to push you to be a better leader by being there alongside you throughout your journey,” Adamu said. “He sees your potential and challenges you with opportunities to develop yourself and your leadership, so your potential is just as clear to you as it is to him. He never hesitates to sit down with you and talk through what you have going on and help you come up with the best solution.”
We believe it’s important to introduce elementary students to our campus as early as possible. They need to see that attending college is within their grasp.
— William Edmond
Just as Edmond paid it forward so has BMLI. With Edmond’s guidance, BMLI started a mentoring program for young Black male students at Longfellow Elementary. The purpose of the mentoring program is to increase the confidence in the young students, encourage them to pursue a STEM career and to teach them about positive models of masculinity.
“School-age Black male students are subject to higher suspension rates, school expulsions and placement into special education classroom more than any other subgroup of students in public education,” Edmond said. This unfortunate reality is a situation in which Rice students can do their part to help others.
In another project, BMLI and Edmond hosted 200 elementary students for a half-day experience during which they toured the Rice campus and met with students, staff and faculty to learn about the college admissions process.
“We believe it’s important to introduce elementary students to our campus as early as possible,” Edmond said. “They need to see that attending college is within their grasp.”
This semester, Adamu, Rice senior Collin Whitaker and Edmond will be working together on yet another project. They plan to create a virtual program that will combat stereotypes and negative statistics about the Black community. The project will be called Stories Beyond Statistics and will consist of interviews conducted virtually with students and others who will tell positive stories about their lives.
“These conversations will be in an interview format in which participants open up the talk with a negative statistic about the Black community, and then the participant will go on to address that statistic by offering a more positive image of the Black community,” Edmond explained.
Edmond understands the value of positive reinforcement. When he enrolled at North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., he said he felt anxious and overwhelmed in trying to navigate the academic world. He quickly formed an expanding network of professors and staff members who gave him guidance and encouragement. Those relationships helped him land several campus jobs, including managing a summer-bridge program for incoming students identified as at-risk students.
“My experience in undergrad collectively helped me shape my career trajectory in higher education,” he said. “The confidence my mentors instilled me allowed me to pursue higher education and student affairs as a profession at one of the best programs in the country, Ohio State University.”
After he received his master’s in 2016, Edmond remained at Ohio State and worked as an academic counselor and staff assistant to provided academic support to varsity student-athletes. A mantra, he said, he lived daily at Ohio State was “to create an extraordinary student experience.”
He came to Rice in 2017 and to this day, he said, he lives by that belief. “I do my best to actualize those words,” he said. “I genuinely value people at their core and want them to have the space to develop their identity in preparation for life after college.”
— David D. Medina
Multicultural Community Relations