LOWELL -- Daniel Howell credits his participation in the Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence, and Success (MALES) organization at UMass Lowell for enabling him to communicate in a more professional manner.
And that's really saying something.
Howell, a senior public-health major from Medford, shared the stage of Moloney Hall recently with Chancellor Jacquie Moloney at a Women's Appreciation Dinner, and spoke with a clarity and confidence that rivaled the chancellor's.
The dinner, at which Moloney was the keynote speaker, is just one of many activities MALES organizes and takes part in as they work across the campus.
The group is targeted primarily at young men of color, but it accepts members of all races and genders.
Lecturer Ralph Jordan, the group's adviser, said MALES is primarily a group aimed at helping young men form friendships on campus. But in addition to helping students form bonds amongst themselves, the group also focuses on helping members with academic achievement, professional development, personal development and community service.
"We want to complement their classroom training with overall development as effective citizens," Jordan said.
Howell, the group's president, said the group has helped him learn to deal with all kinds of people, opinions, and students from different backgrounds.
"It's not just a bunch of engineers or art majors or liberal-arts majors. We're from all different walks of life."
Howell said the group focuses a lot on community service, as members help each other prepare to be leaders.
"In my own words, MALES is a professional and personal-development club that dares students to be prepared to lead during their undergraduate studies and in the working world," Howell said. "It dares us to become better leaders and role models on campus and off."
The group meets weekly -- Mondays at 5 p.m. -- and volunteers at places like St. Paul's soup kitchen and blood drives.
They try to take a group trip once a year, and hold weekly discussions about where else they can show leadership.
"The topics are all across the board, from health-related things to job preparedness," Howell said. "We want to get to know you and push you to become a better version of yourself overall."
The group even covers how to tie a tie.
"A lot of people in college don't really know how to tie their own ties," Howell said. "That's very important when you're going into job interviews."
Leslie Wong, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, praised the group's leadership in a variety of arenas.
"They empower each other through leadership and camaraderie, and they've been phenomenal in being role models and pushing everyone to be the best they can be on campus," Wong said.
"This student-run organization and its members, both together and as individuals, are very active in many efforts across our campus, whether it is an activity they have organized or in support of another group or the university as a whole," said Moloney.
Jordan said the organization also helps students who come from smaller and less diverse communities overcome negative stereotypes of young men of color and gain exposure to how successful they can be.
"They're people just like them, no more prone to violence or failure than anyone else," Jordan said. "They're just guys trying to make it in the world who can do great things when they work together, just like anyone else."