Connecting students with success: New BCC coordinator works toward building community


Erin Henze

Ava Francis, the new Black Cultural Center (BCC) coordinator, hands a student a plate of food at an event for the Office of Multicultural Student Success (OMSS).

Ava Francis, the newest Black Cultural Center (BCC) coordinator, did more than just earn a degree at Texas A&M University; she found a passion while working in her school’s Office of Diversity. 

For four years, she learned the administrative side of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. But the smallest part of her job ended up being the most meaningful to her — connecting with students on a personal level. That’s why when Francis saw the job opening for DePaul’s BCC coordinator, she moved across the country to take the opportunity to pursue her passions and help the students around her.

“While I was going through my higher education experience, maybe if I had felt like I had more of a community, I would have thrived a little bit more,” Francis said. “In this position, I am given the resources to foster community in not only the physical space of the BCC, but also just in who I am and how I interact with students. I have taken my experiences and the hardships I’ve gone through, and I want to make it better for other marginalized students and minority cultures that are represented here at DePaul.”

Francis is one of the newest additions to the Office of Multicultural Student Success (OMSS) and is already impacting students despite only being at DePaul for a short period of time. William Steilin, BCC student worker and sophomore, feels that Francis has already become a mentor for those she works with, being willing to talk to everyone she crosses paths with and working to keep up morale within the community and office. 

“I feel like she’s shown me thus far that she’s passionate and not only that, but she’s empathetic,” Steilin said. “When I came here the day before school started, I saw her and we had a short conversation where she made me feel grounded in the workplace. She’s always on top of it and has taken on a role with a lot of responsibilities that she’s wearing really well.”

Ava Francis [right] stands with OMSS scholarship coordinator Isis Walker at an event for OMSS. (Erin Henze)
This year, Francis simply wants to assess the culture and community of the BCC, along with the other cultural centers, to help build on them and continue making them safe spaces students can build relationships in. To do this, she hopes to increase the center’s marketing to spread the message for any and all students that may benefit from it.

“Having these opportunities through DePaul are really amazing and being so tied to the mission of this organization. I think I’ll just learn a lot and grow as a better human being around those who care so greatly about the students here and the culture we’re creating,” Francis said. “With the Vincentian mission, it really connected with who I am and what I wanted to do, which is to create inclusive spaces for students.”

OMSS scholarship coordinator Isis Walker works with the cultural centers to connect students with financial help and has seen Francis’ hard work in action over the past few weeks while working together for Community Fest, a welcome back event for multicultural student organizations which was held on Sept. 8. 

“With Ava and I both being new, we are in this really exciting place where we both have a lot of energy and a lot of ideas,” Walker said. “What I’ve noticed about her so far is this energy where’s always so excited to be here at DePaul and help these Black students in any way she can. I can already see the connections she’s made and I think that kind of commitment, passion and initiative is going to work well for her in this position.”

Francis said she wants to take any opportunity she can that may help further her career success, including taking extra training and workshops to better understand the community she has found herself in. While she admits to wanting transparency in the fact that she’s not only new to the school, but also Chicago, she said she is excited to see where this role will take her and how she can support the people around her. 

“I’m just really excited to be here and I hope I can make an impact on the DePaul community, not just for Black students and not just for marginalized students, but for any student, faculty or staff that I run into on this campus,” Francis said. “I’m hoping to be a good example and to be a light for people that feel they need it, as well as learning from other people who are working at this institution.”