While a doctoral candidate in psychology at Spalding, Steve Kniffley (’13) has volunteered in Senegal, founded the West Louisville Healthcare Association and received national recognition for his success while a graduate student in psychology. He also has established the Excellence in Psychology Scholarship, which will support racial ethnic minority students in the School of Professional Psychology. He talked with Spalding’s Cathi Biller, Manager of Alumni Relations, about his experience at Spalding and becoming a donor while still a student. He was recently awarded a post-doctoral fellowship as a Harvard Clinical Fellow in the child and adolescent acute services department at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.
Spalding: What motivated you to found a scholarship at Spalding while you were still a student?
Steven Kniffley: One of the things that my grandmother, who has always played a significant role in my life, has taught me is that any place that you go, you always want to make it better than when you came. My goal with the Excellence in Psychology scholarship is to promote excellence among minority psychology students.
I knew that there was some sort of opportunities that I wanted to leave for Spalding students. I know that being at Spalding has been a great opportunity; I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different things that I never imagined would happen as a graduate student such as going to Africa or becoming Spalding’s first APA (American Psychological Association) Minority Fellowship recipient, and so, I felt all those things are attributed to the experiences and training that I got there. I felt obligated, or if you will, I felt like it was important for me to give back. To make sure that there was an opportunity for other students coming in to hopefully have the same type of experience.
Spalding: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience at Spalding and where you are now?
Kniffley: The program prepares you to work out in the field and to work as a psychologist which is one of the things I’m doing now in my internship and so I feel that my training in that area is helping me to succeed with where I’m at now. It’s a very rigorous program; every year there are probably between 3,000 to 4,000 students that apply for internships and a little over half of those actually get matched . In the doctoral program, = you have to finish an internship in order to receive your degree. One of the good things about Spalding’s program is that we have a match rate (of students to available internships) that is higher than the national average and so whatever it is that we’re doing at the school is actually getting folks matched at internships despite how competitive the process is.
Spalding: What is your future hope for this scholarship?
Kniffley: I would like to work hard to where it becomes endowed so that we reach the ($10,000) dollar mark to make that happen, and then that actually serves as a way to encourage more minority students to seek out advanced degrees in psychology. Minority individuals are severely underrepresented in the field of psychology, especially at the graduate level. I wanted to continue to help more individuals know they can make that step in regards to getting into graduate school, which would not only do good things for Spalding, but will also do good things for the field of psychology because we would have more ethnic minority psychologists in the field.
SPALDING: That’s wonderful. If you could speak to other alums about this scholarship, what are some of things you would say to them?
The two key words for me are investment and opportunity. So what I see this scholarship being, and hopefully anyone that would want to participate in contributing to the scholarship, is to know that they are investing in a quality project. They are investing in a Spalding student that, I know and we all know, will go out and make a significant change in the community. So any dollar that you give to this particular scholarship is going to go back to manifest in several dollars’ worth of time that will go back towards impactful change for the community.
By individuals giving to this scholarship they are giving another student an opportunity to achieve a dream. For me, getting my doctorate, that is a dream of mine. I will be the first doctor in our family when I walk across the stage—that is—I wouldn’t have had that without having an education at Spalding. And so, for me, this is achieving a dream and I know by having a scholarship and encouraging other people to contribute to it they are also helping another student achieve their dreams as well.
SPALDING: Did you have any really strong mentors during your time at Spalding?
SK: Specifically at Spalding, my mentor in the Child and Adolescent and Family track at Spalding is Dr. DeDe Wohlfarth. She has been a consistent source of support since I entered the program and has continued to write letters of recommendation and has supported me throughout my entire graduate career. I feel like I definitely owe her a lot for where I am now and for the type of professional I will be in the field.
SPALDING: Do you think you were given a chance to flourish in terms of what you were able to do because you were at a program like Spalding?
SK: What strikes me the most is Spalding’s commitment to a significant community impact. So what I see our program, and the other programs on campus attempting to cultivate in their students, is this ideal of being “social change agents” so we’re not just receptacles of knowledge but we’re dispensers of it and that’s not just, “I tell you factual information,” but I’m also figuring out ways to apply it to make our communities better.