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Defeating Barriers

By on March 22, 2013

If you only listened to mainstream media, you’d think black males were only underachieving in education. But that’s not the truth.

Healthy Black Men will profile highly accomplished black men like Dr. Renaldo C. Blocker, Ph.D. in Industrial & Systems Engineering (earned at University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Research Associate at Mayo Clinic.

His work at Mayo Clinic concentrates on improving intraoperative handoffs during cardiac surgery.  Dr. Blocker obtained a master’s degree in Computer Science at San Francisco State University and an undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Albany State University.  His experience as a published scholar, researcher, university instructor, mentor and community leader and activist makes him an apt fit for this interview.

Healthy Black Men: What barriers did you encounter in your journey to college?

Dr. Blocker: As a first generation college student, many of the barriers I faced are obvious.  Most of those barriers were mitigated by the amazing faculty at Albany State University, however.  After graduating from this prestigious historically black university, I encountered the harsh reality at predominantly white universities that not everyone cared about me succeeding, and I often found myself not receiving proper assistance from peers and some faculty members because they presumed I was not “totally capable” of understanding and completing assignments.  I overcame these barriers by reaching out to my colleagues/friends at other schools for help.

Healthy Black Men: How did you overcome challenges in undergrad?

Dr. Blocker: One of the many academic challenges I faced was my insecurities about my written and verbal communication skills.  I overcame this challenge through constant practice and with the help of a best friend.

Healthy Black Men: What academic challenges did you experience earning your Ph.D. that differed from your prior academic experiences?

Dr. Blocker: A challenge I experienced obtaining my doctoral degree was feeling comfortable defending my position on research topics/published articles in seminar courses.  To overcome this challenge, I talked with colleagues about my positions on published articles prior to entering the classroom and I eventually started to feel more comfortable defending my assertions on various topics.

Healthy Black Men: What advice can you offer to young black boys? 

Dr. Blocker: Develop a group of supportive peers and/or mentors and realize that you are more than capable of obtaining any degree(s) you seek.  A genuine willpower and inspiration is the recipe.


Mr. Antonio Maurice Daniels is a Research Associate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) obtaining his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also blogs at Revolutionary Paideia.


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