When senior Chance Bardsley transferred to the UofA, a flyer led him to a program that made him finally feel accepted after years of feeling misunderstood.
Bardsley transferred to the UofA from Oral Roberts University, where religious leaders previously tried to convert him to heterosexuality, according to an Arkansas Traveler article.
When he arrived, Bardsley spent time searching for an LGBTQ-focused organization to join, he said. He found what he was looking for when he discovered the Multicultural Center’s UA LGBTQIA+ Mentoring Program, a program that aims to connect LGBTQ students with a faculty member to help guide them in college.
“That was the only LGBTQ thing that I had ever seen at the university level,” Bardsley said. “I was very excited about it. It’s at least getting my foot in the door of being accepted by my university and validated in who I am.”
Bardsley’s mentor came to him at a time when he felt lost, he said. After all he had been through at his previous university, he needed someone in his life who had experiences similar to his.
“It was such an amazing feeling just to have an adult that I could talk to that wasn’t trying to change me,” Bardsley said.
Program officials paired John Treat, the director of development at the UA Honors College with his mentee, Bardsley, Treat said. The two of them met and shared their experiences.
Treat and his Bardsley initially talked through email, and he eventually invited Bardsley out to lunch at a restaurant on Dickson Street, Treat said.
Since Bardsley transferred to the UofA, Treat has seen his mentee grow into a campus leader and the president of P.R.I.D.E, a Registered Student Organization that aims to provide supportive programs for LGBTQ students, Treat said.
Even though he is no longer officially part of the program, Bardsley still occasionally meets with Treat, whom he considers a fatherlike figure, he said.
Gonzalo Camp, a former mentor who is now a graduate assistant and the coordinator of the mentorship program hopes to see more people sign up for the program this year, he said.
The student mentorship program has grown significantly from its first to its second year, and this year students can sign up to be reassigned to their previous mentor on the signup form, Camp said.
Bardsley thinks joining the mentorship program can lead people to feel comfortable and safe coming out, he said.
“It gets better,” Bardsley said. “Coming out is always messy, difficult and scary. When you first start to come out, I feel like there is always this fear of, like, ‘I’m not going to find my place,’ and now I can say on the other side of it is it’s worth the fight to get through it.”
Students can apply to join the mentorship program on the Multicultural Center’s website.