Almost 20 years after she became one of Spalding University’s first graduate-level social work students, Shannon Cambron has ascended to the top leadership position in the School of Social Work.
Cambron, who holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Spalding and has been a member of its social work faculty since 2004, was promoted to become the School of Social Work’s new permanent chair in July after spending last year as the acting chair. She previously served nine years as director of Spalding’s Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW) program.
“It’s humbling,” Cambron said. “This is a university that has invested in me, has shown a commitment to me and has given me the opportunity to come back and engage and share that commitment with other students. … I feel I’ve been given this privilege, this mantle to take this school that has meant so much to me and to so many in the community and help elevate it to a place that it can reach even more people and prepare even more students to do even greater work.”
It’s been part of a big 2018 for Cambron, who also was selected for the Louisville Leadership Center’s Bingham Fellows, from which she’ll graduate on Jan. 17. The group of civic leaders has been working all year on projects related to the theme of “A Safe and Thriving City: Strengthening Our Community’s Ability to Prevent Violence.” The topic aligns with Cambron’s expertise relating to racial equity and her research pertaining to youth gun violence.
Spalding Provost Dr. Joanne Berryman said Cambron’s work in the classroom and in the community makes her a strong role model for Spalding students.
“Dr. Cambron demonstrates Spalding University’s mission in her role as teacher, mentor and coach to our students,” Berryman said. “We are proud that she was chosen to participate in the prestigious Bingham Fellows program.”
Cambron, who holds a doctorate of education in leadership (EdD) from Spalding, is confident that Spalding can establish itself as the premier social work school in the region by building on a renewed emphasis on community engagement while developing innovative programs to meet the needs of the times in the profession. She said the School of Social Work at Spalding has a faculty of “rock stars.”
“These are people with passion and energy, who when you ask what they think about something, there’s no reticence to tell you what they think,” Cambron said. “My job is to get my track shoes on and keep up with them and help them do the things we want to do. We’re going to do some amazing things because the challenges of our community and our world require it.”
To that end, Cambron said the School of Social Work has expanded its list of elective courses for its major students, with classes related to sexuality, addiction, trauma, racism and other issues that face today’s social workers.
Cambron said Spalding plans to expand training programs for social workers, post-degree, who are interested in becoming cutting-edge, justice-oriented leaders of social service organizations and agencies. The launch for this expanded programming is set for summer of 2019.
Chauncey Burnett, who received his bachelor’s degree from the School of Social Work in June and is now in the master’s program, said Spalding’s social work programs will be in good hands with Cambron.
He said “truth” is the one word that comes to mind when he thinks of everything Cambron does and says.
He said Cambron has always been there for him and has always made him feel comfortable in opening up and expressing his ideas and concerns.
“That’s why I was able to be successful,” Burnett said. “If there’s a person I need, I can always call on Dr. Cambron.”
Involvement in Bingham Fellows
Earlier this year, upon her selection to Bingham Fellows, Cambron said that she believes she has found herself in a “phenomenal sweet spot” in her career, enjoying the opportunity to work with students at Spalding while also being encouraged by the university to maintain a role outside the classroom in social work and civic engagement.
“It’s really evident that the university is living out its mission with every opportunity it gets,” she said.
Cambron, who has served on boards and committees of the Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Advisory Council and the Race Community and Child Welfare initiative, has brought relevant experience and expertise to this year’s Bingham Fellows topic, which focuses on finding solutions to violence in the city.
In 2016, she, along with community activist Christopher 2X, held focus groups with teenagers on topics related to access to guns and the causes of violent conflicts. The project originated through their connections with University of Louisville Hospital’s trauma center, whose doctors and nurses treat victims of violence.
Cambron said some of the information she gathered from the teenagers was “eye-opening and “shocking,” especially as they discussed the ease at which young people can get access to a gun by communicating over social media and the speed at which minor conflicts can escalate when pictures, videos and messages are shared.
Cambron said it’s important that everyone in the city recognizes and understands these serious issues, regardless of whether or not they’ve personally experienced violence in their own neighborhood.
“If it happens to you, it happens to me,” she said. “If it enhances your life, it enhances my life. If it reduces your life, it reduces mine.”
Christopher 2X, who last summer received an honorary doctorate in public service from Spalding, called Cambron “a phenomenal talent.”
“With her skill sets on listening,” he said, “and then using her God-given gifts to relate back and let that person know, ‘I understand the place you’re coming from. Now let’s work on a way for a better way forward for you,’ she’s phenomenal in the way she relays that kind of message.”
Find out more about the Spalding University School of Social Work at spalding.edu/social-work