The University of Central Missouri is home to more than 12,000 students who come from a variety of backgrounds. The diversity on campus spans cultural and ethnic differences, different religious beliefs and a wide array of sexual orientations.
The Multicultural and Inclusivity Center, often called “The Center,” offers support for students of all backgrounds on campus. The Center also offers a space for students to connect and unwind, as well as host discussions and meetings.
Lover Chancler, assumed the role of director of The Center in August 2018. Chancler has also served as an assistant professor in child and family development for the past five years. Chancler was involved in the initial launch of The Center in fall 2016, when she suggested a retreat for all student groups to connect and collaborate during her time as advisor for Sisters of Ujima.
Chancler said The Center serves as a support system for nearly 20 student groups, such as the Association of Black Collegiates, Student Organization of Latinos and PRISM, a student group supporting LGBT students. In addition to supporting student groups, The Center supports some of the Divine Nine Greek chapters, which are traditionally African American Greek chapters.
“They (student groups) will have meetings over here and we can help partner with them for programming and things like that,” she said.
Chancler said programs The Center contributed to include the Martin Luther King Jr. “Let’s Talk” event, Martin Luther King Jr. week festivities and PRISM’s “Gaypril” and lavender graduation ceremonies. In addition, Chancler said The Center is planning an open forum for Black History Month in Februrary.
Chancler said one of her goals was to provide a way for students to succeed by connecting with other students.
“Ultimately, I want all students to feel included. I think oftentimes when you are at a university where you’re not the majority, oftentimes you have difficulty finding your niche (a place to fit in),” Chancler said. “What we want to do is provide a niche for those students, so that way they stay connected. We know the more connected students are socially to their environment, the better they’re going to perform and the more likely they’re going to want to stay.”
In order to fulfill the goal, The Center has grown to become a place for students to unwind and connect with each other. Jay Todd, a graduate assistant for The Center studying college student personnel administration, has been instrumental in making the change.
“With the help of my graduate assistant, there are a lot of times where we play video games up here between classes or after classes,” Chancler said. “We have a lot of students who don’t go home for the weekends, so he’ll open up The Center over the weekend and they’ll come over and play some games and hang out with one another and talk and connect — be that support system away from home for a lot of our smaller student groups who are minority students here on campus.”
Todd hosts weekly discussions dubbed “Todd Talks” on topics including scholarships, financial aid and relationships.
“We try to do as much as we can to help some of those new things that they’re experiencing or old things they’re experiencing while they’re here on campus,” Chancler said.