by Karen Mann
Spalding MFA Co-Founder and Administrative Director
Nearly 20 years ago when Sena and I approached Spalding about becoming the home of Kentucky’s first MFA in Writing program, we were well aware of Spalding’s reputation for innovative programming, as well as its commitment to peace and social justice. In 2000, when I started working at Spalding, I discovered my co-workers were the best of all my working experience! Everything about the MFA program was different from any other program, yet people did not tell me, “We can’t do ____” (from how to give grades, assemble transcripts, bill students, feed students, house students, and more). Instead the student-services folks cheerfully figured out how to do whatever was needed to serve our students. So even before Spalding became the first compassionate university in 2011, I knew it was one.
Even beyond the people who work here, Spalding is the little college that could. Through the years since the beginning of the MFA program, Spalding’s enrollment has grown from 1,700 to 2,500 (40 percent are graduate students). Spalding has expanded the campus, made it greener, and added the latest technologies, all while keeping its mission the focus of its programming and activities. (From the mission statement: “Spalding University is a diverse community of learners dedicated to meeting the needs of the times . . . with emphasis on service and the promotion of peace and justice.”) While I could point to dozens of ways over the years Spalding has carried out its mission, let me give two very recent examples.
This month, Black History Month, Spalding announced the establishment of the Patricia Lauderdale and Barbara Miller Endowed Scholarship, honoring the first two African-American graduates from the class of ’51 (for more information, see http://tinyurl.com/nj9uzjw). At the reception celebrating the new scholarship, MFA alums Angela Jackson-Brown (F ’09) and Adriena Dame (F ’07) presented a poem they co-wrote to honor those two women pioneers of the 1951 class.
Along with increased student enrollment, the Spalding campus has grown, adding the Third Street Building in 2004, completely renovating the Kosair Charities College and Health and Natural Sciences in 2007, and most recently adding two buildings (the Republic Academic Center and the Kosair Temple Building). Making the most of lean budgets, the Spalding library, built in the sixties, has been updated from time to time, and now the first floor has had a complete facelift, thanks to the Spalding Board of Trustees. The library, at the heart of campus, is the newest place to meet the needs of times. The updates are shown in this 90-second video (http://youtu.be/quZhFHL1l5A), which is a thank-you card to the Board of Trustees. MFA students will find the library a pleasant place to gather while on campus.
Under the leadership of Tori Murden McClure (MFA ’05), President, and L. Randy Strickland, Ed.D, Provost, Spalding continually seeks ways to live its mission and educate students of all ages and backgrounds. My admiration and pride for Spalding, from my first interaction till now, continues to grow.
Karen Mann is the co-founder and Administrative Director of the Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing. She has published two novels, The Saved Man (Page Turners Publishing, 2014) and The Woman of La Mancha (Fleur-de-Lis Press, 2014). Her previous positions include service representative, accountant, proofreader and editor, retail sales, publications specialist, and instructor. After more than sixty years of living in the Midwest, she now lives in San Jose, California.