Towards a More Inclusive Campus

The start of a new semester is always an exciting time even after all of these years in higher education. It is a time of new beginnings and with that brings a different level of energy. However, this semester has added challenges and uncertainties that may be weighing on our minds and hearts. We are heading into our second year as a center on campus and thought that our first blog of the semester should introduce or reintroduce you all to the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion, located on the 1St floor of Rice Hall.

Center for Social Inclusion sign
center for social inclusion door
center for social inclusion inside

With the aim of advancing the common good, the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion at the University of North Alabama supports education, research, community, and advocacy by working with diverse groups on campus, in the Shoals, and across the state and region. The Center welcomes everyone by providing an accessible and inclusive space for students and faculty to share knowledge, collaborate on interdisciplinary projects, and build sustainable partnerships with organizations that are committed to addressing some of the most pressing social problems that we face today. We work in partnership with existing campus offices and programs to continue to foster an environment committed to social engagement, empowerment, equity, and justice. The Center sponsors and organizes signature programs and initiatives that fill the gaps in what the University is already offering and provides a central hub for the dissemination of information about campus and community supports and events. We also serve as liaison to The Point Foundation, a scholarship fund providing financial aid to LGBTQ students.

During our first year, we sponsored or co-sponsored nearly 40 campus and community events, trainings, or workshops. This included establishing our Safe Zone training, offering faculty and staff opportunities to learn how to better support first-generation students and international students, and ways to create inclusive advising practices. We developed a civic engagement program called UServe with the Office of Volunteerism and Leadership where we focus on a service event each month that connects students with local community organizations to build sustainable partnerships. We collaborated with the College of Education and Human Sciences to provide training to K-12 educators on embracing all families, creating LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying.

center for social inclusion - serving others
center for social inclusion - together
center for social inclusion - event speaker

Over the summer much of our work transitioned to social media platforms as we continued to support students during the pandemic. We also focused on addressing the needs of our Black students who were experiencing racial trauma related to direct experiences of bias, discrimination, and violence or indirect experiences such as seeing imagery of racialized violence. We co-partnered with Student Counseling Services to create a directory of resources on Black mental health. In addition, we recently sent out a video training created by Student Counseling Services on trauma-informed practices to our faculty and staff that provided some basic information on the physiological impact of trauma, the impact on the brain and learning, and strategies to address this. We just hosted a training with the Office of International Affairs on ways to better support our international students and a workshop with the Magic City Acceptance Center on creating affirming and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ people.

We will offer the Body Project in September which is a peer education based program focused on positive body image. We will continue to offer our UServe program and will have a poverty simulation in October. We are launching two speaker series in September. Women of Action which highlights women in the community who have made substantial contributions in areas of civic engagement, education, business, and leadership. This is co-sponsored by the Center for Women’s Studies and the Office of Volunteerism and Leadership. Our free expression series will focus on the First Amendment and is in partnership with the Department of Communications. We have a monthly anime event co-sponsored with the Office of International Affairs and the Department of Communications. We will have a student town hall in September to get ongoing feedback and suggestions. We are also offering another Safe Zone training for faculty and staff in October.

event flyer - Anime night -September 3rd
event flyer - first amendment event
event flyer - women of action series

These are just a few things we are doing in the fall semester. We have other ongoing projects that we work on that focus more on policy and practices. We are so thankful for your support in our first year and are looking forward to another great year. You can find more details about the Center and our events at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @unainclusion.