As a young child, airplanes fascinated Mark Reese. Family vacations left him more excited for the plane ride than the vacation itself, and his mom bought him books on aviation that he would read from cover to cover. When Mark was eight years old, a United Airlines captain took him up in a light aircraft for a quick flight around eastern Colorado. Mark was even able to pilot the plane for a few moments, despite barely being able to see over the dashboard. It was an experience that changed his life forever. “With that flight, my interest in aviation changed,” he says. “I knew I wanted to become a pilot.”
From that day forward, Mark looked for every opportunity to realize his dream of learning to fly a plane and studying aviation. After visiting The Ohio State University, Mark was “blown away” by all the opportunities that he would have at the university, a reaction that was tempered by the cost he would incur as an out-of-state student.
To help pay for Ohio State, Mark applied for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Morrill Scholarship, which rewards students who show commitment to both academics and diversity by excelling in the classroom and making a positive impact in their communities. Still believing that his dream of attending Ohio State was going to remain out of reach, one morning, Mark received a phone call from Dr. James L. Moore, III, Executive Director of the Todd Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male, informing him that he had received a Morrill Scholarship. “That day was amazing because it was the final piece to the puzzle, the “green light” that I needed to make my dream of being a Buckeye a reality.”
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) and its Morrill Scholarship Program have opened doors to many opportunities for Mark. Through ODI, Mark obtained funding for an education abroad experience for 16 days in the state of Bahia in Brazil. “It was my first time outside of the country and was an unforgettable experience as we were able to see the similarities and differences between societies with differing views on race and culture in society.” ODI’s Tri-P Mentoring Program offered Mark the chance to help his mentee with the transition to college life and the best ways to manage the newfound independence that comes with leaving home.
The connection with ODI’s Bell National Resource Center (BNRC) has been especially strong. The summer before his freshman year, Mark received an email about the BNRC’s Early Arrival Program (EAP). Designed to give incoming Black males a head start on their experience as undergraduate students, EAP participants have an average first year retention rate of 95%, higher than the overall average for first year students.
While in the EAP, Mark had the opportunity to meet with other Black male freshmen, which has created a foundation for him at Ohio State. “My current roommates and best friends were all guys that I met through the BNRC. Were it not for those friends, I do not know how I would have navigated freshman year. I walked into my first physics lecture with 250 other students, but I knew exactly where to sit because three guys from BNRC waved me over.” Mark was so grateful for the BNRC ambassadors his freshman year the he wanted to pay it forward to the next class of EAP participants, becoming a student ambassador himself to help mentor and guide new freshmen.
In addition to the Early Arrival Program, Mark also attended the BNRC’s 2014 International Colloquium on Black Males in Education at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and the Black Male Retreat, which provides students the chance to discuss their experiences in higher education. He was also a member of Team Smith, a group that meets with Ohio State’s Athletic Director, Gene Smith and his wife, Sheila. “These experiences would not have been possible without all of the great programs contained within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” Mark said, appreciating that each has taught him how to be successful as a young Black man in America and to enrich the community as a whole.
Depending on the availability of classes he needs, Mark will graduate either in the spring or fall of 2017. He recently accepted an internship position with Delta Air Lines in Atlanta, Georgia for the Spring 2016 semester. After he receives his degree, Mark has a definite plan for his future: “Upon graduation, I hope to flight instruct for Ohio State at the flight school and build hours towards my first job as a pilot. After, I want to go into corporate aviation and fly for private companies until being hired by a major airline.”