BE Modern Man: Adriel Hilton
Higher education administrator; 37; Dean of Students and Diversity Officer, Seton Hill University, Greensburg, Pa.
I currently serve as dean of students and diversity officer at Seton Hill University. I have held similar roles as an education administrator at several other higher educational institutions where I have worked to improve diversity. Perhaps most impactful is the work I have done to promote student success and awareness of the plethora of opportunities available to students to enhance their educational experience. I take pride in the work I have been able to do on several campuses to increase access for students while also improving retention and graduation rates as a college administrator.
As a scholar-practitioner and a critical race theorist, I rely heavily on articles and books that speak to the experiences of minority students at colleges and universities (i.e. Minority Serving Institutions or Predominately White Institutions). In addition, I rely on the advice of mentors and sponsors who push me to be the best that I can be.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN LIFE?
I am most proud to be doing the work I am doing as a higher education administrator. As a resilient black male, I am blessed to be in a position to mentor and teach young men, particularly African American males, from my lived experiences. I want to help these students to avoid making the mistakes, personally and professionally, that I have witnessed; therefore, I pour into them my time and heart to show them they can and will achieve against the challenges they face.
HOW HAVE YOU TURNED STRUGGLE INTO SUCCESS?
Being considered a second-class citizen or a third-rate human being, and otherwise looked down upon as a black male in society causes one to build inner strength. I have had to position myself with key supporters in my life. I have turned struggles into successes by seeking their wisdom and advice but also having my wise counselors advising me to not ever give up.
I still hear their voices telling me, “No matter your situation, you are blessed” and also, “No matter what you are going through, this too shall pass.”
WHO WAS YOUR GREATEST MALE ROLE MODEL AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM?
My greatest male role model is Dr. Howard L. Simmons, past executive director and associate director of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Dr. Simmons served as professor and chairperson of the Department of Advanced Studies, Leadership and Policy in the School of Education and Urban Studies at Morgan State University, where I earned my Ph.D. in Higher Education under his tutelage. Prior to joining the faculty at Morgan State University, Dr. Simmons was a tenured member of the faculty in the Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University. I learned from Dr. Simmons how to effectively utilize research within my work and also the importance of mentorship. In reference to mentorship, Dr. Simmons was a firm believer in mentorship and passing on his knowledge and legacy to the next generation. He taught me to use my knowledge, skills, and abilities to impact students positively as a higher education administrator.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
The best advice I have been given was from Dr. Fred A. Bonner, II, professor and endowed chair in educational leadership and counseling and founding executive director and chief scientist of the Minority Achievement, Creativity and High-Ability (MACH-III) Center at Prairie View A&M University. “Status will come as a result of a job well done,” he said. What I took from this was that if you do good work, accolades follow. Do not go searching for credit or accolades for they will come as a result of the work you have done.
HOW ARE YOU PAYING IT FORWARD TO SUPPORT OTHER BLACK MALES?
As a member of a Black social fraternity, a product of HBCUs and also as a member of several professional associations, I believe it is important to use whatever knowledge, skills, and abilities I have accumulated to achieve some measure of success and then to use that success to mentor young people, particularly African American men. Through my scholarship (books, articles, and op-eds), my goal is to empower students that they can achieve against almost any odds. Also, I assisted in launching a scholarship program at a previous university that allows deserving students to receive aid to assist in their educational pursuits. Therefore, I pay it forward by supporting other black males through mentorship and also through financial support for their educational pursuits.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE MANHOOD?
Manhood is complicated and simple at the same time. It is as difficult to define as love. I define manhood as maturity, persistence, the inner strength to endure, and the self-assurance to be able to laugh at yourself and still cry, empathetically, for others.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A BLACK MAN?
The unique perspective that my lived experience gives me as a black man has profoundly impacted my life. What I like most about being a black man is that we are resilient. I believe that’s what it takes to prevail against the odds, to rise above the challenges that many of us face in life; it helps us to be better. We need to push through our situations and to not [fall prey to] the imposter syndrome. We must be resilient.
BE Modern Man is an online and social media campaign designed to celebrate black men making valuable contributions in every profession, industry, community, and area of endeavor. Each year, we solicit nominations in order to select men of color for inclusion in the 100 Black Enterprise Modern Men of Distinction. Our goal is to recognize men who epitomize the BEMM credo “Extraordinary is our normal” in their day-to-day lives, presenting authentic examples of the typical black man rarely seen in mainstream media. The BE Modern Men of Distinction are celebrated annually at Black Men XCEL (www.blackenterprise.com/blackmenxcel/). Click this link to submit a nomination for BE Modern Man: https://www.blackenterprise.com/nominate/. Follow BE Modern Man on Twitter: @bemodernman and Instagram: @be_modernman.