The Mitchell-West Center and its dedication to UNA

Ellen Mcdonald Staff Writer [email protected]

On the second floor of Rice Hall lies the new office of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion. The center focuses on education, research, community and advocacy not only among students on campus, but the surrounding community as well. 

The center is run by two women: Dr. Andrea Hunt, the Director of the Mitchell-West Center, and Alyson Bergner, the Program Assistant. The center does, however, employ a few research assistants and interns during the semester.  

Through various campus activities, such as UServe, the center was able to make a name for itself within the student body of the university. They hope to continue doing so during the spring semester as well.

“Last semester, the focus was getting our name out into campus,” Dr. Andrea Hunt, the Director of the Mitchell-West Center said. 

This semester, Hunt and Bergner hope to continue spreading unity and advocacy throughout campus. 

“We are not student counseling,” Hunt said. “We get to bridge the gap between academics and student affairs.” 

One of the big focuses of the center is ensuring that UNA’s international student population feels welcomed and supported both by their professors and peers. The center offers specialized tutoring for international students to ensure success and growth in difficult majors like biology or chemistry. 

Furthermore, they are working with international affairs to host an anime night each month. Each movie is from a different county and following the show, there is a discussion of the culture presented in the film. 

Additionally, the center is working to improve the social working skills of UNA’s students majoring in education. 

“K-12 educators have been deeply affected by suicides, and these educators need support to create more inclusive and supportive,” Hunt said. “Education interns are often not prepared for the reality of student needs.” 

This unintentional disconnect can create barriers between educators and their students. The center hopes to mend this gap and create more healthy classroom environments in the future. 

So, the Mitchell-West Center is partnering with the college of education to provide training so that future educators can be the best that they can be. 

“K-12 classrooms are increasingly diverse and teachers are not as equipped in social work,” Hunt said. “So, the college of education is trying to equip them through this partnership.”

One of the underrepresented populations on campus is first generation students. Often times, first generation students can feel isolated, unsupported and alone due to a lack of parental advice. So, the Mitchell-West Center has taken it upon themselves to support these students. 

Every Friday, on the Mitchell-West Center’s Instagram page, @unainclusion, they highlight a faculty member who was a first generation college student. 

Through this, students can receive advice and guidance from successful graduates who were first generation students as well. 

 As for the future of the Mitchell-West Center, on March 10, they will be hosting a game night in partnership with the ESports Team for disabled adults. 

The first game night was hosted during the Fall 2019 semester, and after the event, many of those who participated asked for a second one to be held. 

“A young man who participated in the last game night, is coming to one of my classes,” Hunt said. “Even though he is not able to be admitted as a student to the university, he is still able to have that college experience.”

UNA strives to achieve equality amongst their students and through the Mitchell-West Center, they are able to achieve it. 

In April, they will be partnering with Fashion Merchandising and Design students to address how workplace fashion is changing as society moves away from traditional gender dressing. How we present ourselves in the workplace is no longer dictated by our genders and the center hopes to inform students of this. 

Additionally, the center’s website features a blog on all their events for those who wish to learn more of what they offer their students and community. 

The center is doing so much for the betterment of their students but none of it could be accomplished without their partners.

“We can always do more,” Hunt said. 

Their work is ongoing and forever changing, but their hard work and dedication to the growth of their students is steadfast.