Office of University Communications & Marketing

Mitchell/West Center for Social Inclusion Set to Open This Fall

Jun. 26, 2019



Michelle Eubanks, UNA, meubanks@una.edu, 256-765-4392, or 256-606-2033 

FLORENCE, AL – The Mitchell/West Center for Social Inclusion will open on the University of North Alabama campus this fall, and it ushers in the opportunity for all UNA students to feel supported and cared for, according to Dr. Andrea Hunt, the Director of Student Research who has been tapped to serve as the Executive Director of the Center. 

“One thing we do really well at UNA is care for our students,” she said. “The Center is here to address the critical needs of our students as we move towards a health and well-being model.” 

In that way, the Center will address a multitude of challenges students may face, Hunt said, from food insecurity to suicide prevention to challenges faced by students in the LGBTQ community. 

“The exciting part is that we can bridge the gap between the campus and our community through the services we provide,” she said. “We will work with agencies to address the needs of our students on campus as well as get students plugged into service opportunities so that they can make a difference in our community. We want to help instill the idea of social responsibility in our students.” 

Among the students who will benefit from the Center is Vivienne Cho. She and her family moved to Florence from suburban Chicago when she was in Kindergarten. Cho graduated from Florence High School in May and is enrolled as a freshman at UNA for the fall semester. 

“Being in the first SOAR class was very good for me; I’ve already made some new friends,” Cho said. “But I’m also excited to move on to campus and start getting my LGBTQ project going. I have some ideas, and one of them is to see a clothing drive to establish a closet for newly out transgender people.” 

It’s a subject that’s close to Cho’s heart as, in December of 2018, she came out to her family as transgender. 

“I had a sense of this part of myself for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I didn’t know that being transgender was a thing because I didn’t have a word for it, so I went through my own discovery of it. I spoke with my mom, and my father didn’t react very well.” 

Thanks to The Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, or LGBTQ, students, Cho is able to attend UNA on a full scholarship, living on campus, and working with Dr. Hunt and the Mitchell/West Center for Social Inclusion. 

“Just knowing I have this scholarship really took the weight off of my shoulders” Cho said. “It also took the weight of paying for college off of my mom. Now, she knows I will be close to home, and she won’t have to worry about paying my tuition.” 

Point scholarship recipients are talented students with a proven track record of challenging unjust laws and policies, offering guidance to future generations, and using artistry to combat long-lasting discrimination. In addition to their fearless leadership, they have battled obstacles, including immigration status, homelessness, family rejection, and abuse. Each one of them has the dedication and resilience to inspire change across the country. 

Cho is the first student from the University of North Alabama to receive a scholarship from The Point Foundation. UNA is also the smallest institution and the only one in the south to have a student receive this award this year. 

Elliott Mitchell and Clark West provided the endowment to The Point Foundation that has enabled Cho to attend UNA as well as allowed for the funding for the Mitchell/West Center for Social Inclusion. 

“Elliott and I wanted an opportunity to do these things through education as it would be an investment in young people who will be our leaders,” West said. “It’s important for all of the kids growing up in the LGBTQ community to have role models. When I was growing up, I didn’t have anyone I could emulate as they do in society today. It’s been a wonderful partnership, and, we hope, it will be a very long relationship with UNA.” 

The Mitchell/West Center for Social Inclusion has a multifaceted Statement of Purpose that is designed to work closely with the University as well as the greater Shoals community and the state on education, research, and advocacy. Further, the Center will serve as a liaison to The Point Foundation to assist in locating qualified students for scholarships made possible by Point. 

Mitchell and West are also working with the University on archiving some of their collections that could be housed at the Center and serve as a means of providing context and relevance for the queer history of the south. 

About The University of North Alabama 

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Sciences, and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professionals. Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. UNA Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Big South Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: www.una.edu and www.una.edu/unaworks/