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Pride Month | New Spalding grad reflects on college career of support, achievement, personal growth

Steve Jones

Kris Kirchner reflects on his time at Spalding University as one of accomplishment, affirmation, service and personal growth.

The 2021 Spalding Creative Arts graduate and a three-year leader of the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) student organization said he is proud of how he has helped bring students together to find community and better understand LGBTQ issues.

Kirchner, who identifies as pansexual and transmasculine, said he also has been personally supported by Spalding faculty and staff and built meaningful friendships with classmates and others in the Louisville community.

“I was lucky to have so many friends, and the queer community, even outside of SAGA, is really amazing,” Kirchner said, adding that Spalding’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center has supported him throughout his college journey. “Living on campus was great because I could kind of learn to be myself and have that space. I found a community of friends, and they helped me just let me be me.”

Kirchner said he has grown more confident in his art, including bringing more of himself and his identity into his work, as opposed to painting only exterior objects or scenes he observed in the world. His experience and emotions as a trans person were the subject of his senior thesis.

“It took me forever to get to a space where my interior thoughts were worthy of the gallery space,” he said, “and I got to create this work that I’m really happy about and that I really think is an interesting dialogue that people should hear about.”

CREATIVE ARTSĀ  | BFA program overview

A mural that read "Change the World, Change One Mind" in the Spalding art studios
Kris Kirchner painted this mural in the hallway of the Creative Arts studio spaces in the south wing of Morrison Hall.

Kirchner served as the social media manager for SAGA. He made graphics and flyers and created the organization’s Instagram account – @SAGA_Spalding – as a way to raise its prominence and promote events. He also helped organize a SAGA informational event for any student on campus – including those who knew little about LGBTQ terminology or issues – in order to increase understanding and promote inclusiveness.

“I enjoyed being able to give back and create an environment where I made these cool friends,” Kirchner said. “SAGA allowed me to educate people. … I came from a town where not many people knew about LGBTQ issues, and I had to do all my own research. I was still learning when I came to college. Providing that (informational session) so that we could have better allies and have people understand (was rewarding).”

Kirchner’s involvement in SAGA led to him getting to know members of other Recognized Student Organizations across campus as well as non-Spalding organizations around Louisville. He said Spalding’s location in downtown Louisville made Pride and other LGBTQ events easily accessible.

SAGA was limited in its activity since spring 2020 due to the pandemic, but Kirchner encouraged underclassmen to step in to help organize events next school year when on-campus activities will be more prevalent. He said involvement in SAGA was an extremely valuable part of his college experience.

Kirchner was among the Creative Arts students who painted murals in the hallways of the student studio spaces in the south wing of Morrison Hall earlier this month. In Kirchner’s mural, the phrase “Change the world” is repeated over and over in black paint, with the phrase “Change one mind” written out in golden in the center.

He said changing the world by changing one mind at a time had been his goal with SAGA to increase understanding and acceptance.

“I hope I left a mark there,” he said.