Community Highlight: the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion

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Here in The Shoals, we are fortunate to have outstanding resources for individuals and businesses alike. One of these resources is the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion at the University of North Alabama. This center shares knowledge and provides an inclusive space for faculty and students at the university and for the community as a whole. Dr. Andrea Hunt, Associate Professor of Sociology and Family Studies and the Director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion generously contributed the following piece for our blog. We are thankful to have people like Dr. Hunt and organizations like the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion as partners in adding to the beat that creates the vibe of The Shoals.

The Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion at the University of North Alabama was founded in 2019 to support education, research, community, and advocacy by working with diverse groups on campus, in the Shoals, and across the state and region. The Center provides 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. Last academic year, we had 125 trainings, events, and programs many of which we shifted to virtual environments because of COVID-19. We collaborated with 31 campus partners and 18 community partners to make this possible. The Center staff clocked in 320 hours of volunteer service last academic year with Shoals nonprofit organizations.

As we head into our third year, we want to further our outreach efforts and create an ongoing dialogue with our business and corporate community. We are happy to announce the launch of a workplace inclusion certificate program in partnership with UNA's Center for Learning and Professional Development, under the leadership of Mary Marshall VanSant. There are six workshops that are a part of the certificate program and registration is now open. For additional information or questions regarding registration, feel free to contact Meghan Fike the Program Coordinator for the Center for Learning and Professional Development at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 256-765-4289

I am excited to lead the first session on October 12 and will be focusing on developing a framework for inclusive practices through an understanding of cultural humility, implicit biases, and strategies for creating equity and conscious inclusion within organizations. The second session is on October 19 and will be led by Dr. Lindsey Sherrill, Assistant Professor of Business Communication in the Department of Management and Marketing at UNA. That session will explore inclusive communication strategies for reaching both internal and external stakeholders.

Dr. Jeremy Stafford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing at UNA will lead two consecutive sessions. The October 26 one will address the strategic importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and illustrate the process for identifying diversity and inclusion key performance indicators (KPI). The November 2 session will focus on qualitative and quantitative diversity and inclusion metrics, and include an introduction to basic data analytics using Excel for assessing diversity and inclusion initiatives and business outcomes.

The fifth session will be on November 9 and led by Katy Beth Carr, shareholder in Carr Allison where she practices general litigation. This session will focus specifically on anti-discrimination laws and some of the litigated cases over the past five years, and include a discussion of lessons learned and best practices for creating an inclusive work environment. Dr. Pat Sanders, Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication at UNA will lead the final session on November 16 and provide ways that organizations can create equitable and inclusive mentoring practices that lead to retention of diverse team members and opportunities for their growth and advancement.

Our hope is that this certificate will provide ongoing educational and professional development opportunities throughout our state and region. We hope to see you there and would love to talk with you more about the specific needs of your organization. If you would like a specialized training, please contact Mary Marshall VanSant at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 256-765-4184. 

Rockin' It at the 40th Annual WC Handy Festival

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