Roy Jones came to Clemson University in 2003 to become the executive director of the Eugene T. Moore School of Education’s Call Me MISTER® (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program. His visionary leadership has propelled the program from a budding startup into one of the most successful and recognized diversity initiatives promoting teacher preparation in the nation. The program now resonates nationally, having expanded to nine other states.
Jones has received numerous national awards and accolades, including the 2009 American Association of Blacks in Higher Education’s Pacesetter Award; being named one of the Most Creative Teachers in the South by Oxford American magazine in 2011; a 2020 inductee into the South Carolina African American History Calendar; and being invited by President Barack Obama’s White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges 2016 National HBCU Week to be a panelist in Arlington, Virginia.
In 2018, Jones further strengthened Clemson’s reach into underserved communities by securing funding to create the Center of Excellence for the Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Educators, which researches, designs and implements best strategies for minority teacher recruitment and retention.
A goal of Call Me MISTER® is to place more teachers from diverse cultures and backgrounds in the classrooms of Title I elementary schools. It has received national recognition for addressing contemporary social challenges by improving the quality of education in low-performing elementary schools and investing in male college students who desire to teach young children and help them reach their full potential. It is the only program of its kind in the Deep South.
Jones himself was a first-generation college student. He graduated high school less than two months after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 and was in the first group of African American students admitted to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He was the only African American student in his doctorate program at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education.
Jones uses that personal experience to inform his direction of Call Me MISTER®. The program has enjoyed unprecedented success under his leadership: Ninety percent of its students come from South Carolina public schools, and 85 percent of graduates are still teaching in them, often in Title 1 schools.
If MISTERs leave the classroom, it’s usually to become administrators, as 36 alumni have. Of the 278 MISTERs who have graduated from the program in South Carolina, 42 have been named Teachers of the Year by their schools, including one nominee for the 2020 State Teacher of the Year. One MISTER was named 2020 Principal of the Year for the largest school in South Carolina. More than half of all accredited teacher education programs in South Carolina are Call Me MISTER®-affiliated institutions.