Spalding University’s efforts to enhance its already strong commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion were bolstered recently with a $200,000 grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation.

Spalding’s grant will go toward the development of a comprehensive campus plan for diversity and inclusion initiatives and to support the work of the downtown private university’s recently created Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI).

Specifically, the James Graham Brown Foundation’s grant will support Spalding in conducting an independent campus climate survey to identify the university’s JEDI gaps, then operationalizing the survey’s findings in order to increase JEDI best practices across campus.

Spalding’s new Chief Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Dr. Steven Kniffley, serves in a broad role of working with administrators, faculty and staff in assessing and enhancing the university’s teaching, hiring and campus programs through a diversity and inclusion lens. He also serves as a point person for Spalding in developing community partnerships related to diversity and inclusion.

A version of the position now filled by Kniffley has existed at Spalding for years, but in 2021, it was renamed, expanded and elevated to inclusion on President Tori Murden McClure’s senior leadership cabinet.

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“I am grateful and humbled by the James Graham Brown Foundation’s willingness to invest in Spalding University’s commitment to creating a culture of inclusion for students, faculty, staff and the greater community,” said Kniffley, a clinical psychologist who is a professor and scholar on matters of race and racial trauma. “This investment will allow Spalding to expand its capacity to (1) support faculty in the use of culturally responsive teaching practices, (2) create programming and policies that affirm the intersecting identities of Spalding staff, and (3) develop initiatives that will foster the ‘whole’ student and promote a community of diverse learners committed to social change.”

The James Graham Brown Foundation recently awarded a total of $7.185 million in grants to nine Kentucky organizations, including Spalding and three other universities, to support the foundation’s strategic focus area of education and workforce.

JGBF has also supported Spalding’s justice and equity work in the past, having contributed a $500,000 matching grant in 2015 for the development of educational programs focused on restorative justice.

“The foundation’s postsecondary funding prioritizes programs focused on achieving equitable student outcomes because we believe that equitable educational attainment will increase economic and social mobility for Kentuckians,” said Mason Rummel, President and CEO of the James Graham Brown Foundation. “Fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging on campuses is critical to student success, and we support Spalding’s efforts to identify ways to do just that.”

In recent years, Spalding has developed and implemented the following programs and initiatives that align with the university’s mission and are designed to advance justice, equity, diversity and inclusion on campus and beyond:

By Steve Jones, Spalding University