Consistent with its mission of promoting peace and justice through education, Spalding University announced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that it is launching an online training and professional development program in antiracism.

Available nationally to individuals and groups from public-sector, corporate and nonprofit organizations, the range of half- and full-day online courses – collectively titled Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey – will teach concepts of cultural humility and restorative practices as a means to bring about positive social change.

Enrollment is open now for Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey with live virtual sessions set to start in late January. It is the first featured offering of a reorganized interdisciplinary institute of social justice-themed training at Spalding – called The Well – that will be housed in the School of Social Work. Visit to register.

Spalding’s Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey is designed and facilitated by faculty and staff leaders of the university’s Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal, School of Social Work, School of Professional Psychology and Collective Care Center, which is one of the nation’s only behavioral health clinics to specialize in treating race-based trauma and stress.

REGISTER | Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey courses now available on The Well

The faculty and staff serving as facilitators for the program are among Louisville’s leading scholars on matters of restorative practices and dialogue, conflict resolution, polarity management, cultural humility, institutional oppression and racial trauma.

“This program is designed for individuals and groups who are interested in meaningfully and constructively addressing and healing race relations in their professional and personal lives through self-exploration, truth-telling, difficult dialogue and action,” said Spalding Executive Director for Peace and Spiritual Renewal Chandra Irvin, who helped lead the Charleston (South Carolina) Illumination Project of community conversations and healing following the tragic shooting of nine Black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in 2015. “The Spalding faculty and staff who have collaborated to create this program have a great deal of experience in these spaces and bring a diverse set of perspectives. Organizations that participate in this training at Spalding will be making a valuable investment that demonstrates a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Certified in 2011 as the World’s First Compassionate University, Spalding is a historic, private institution that has been located for 100 years in downtown Louisville – which, as the hometown of Breonna Taylor, saw months of demonstrations last year in the name of racial justice, including several that took place on or near Spalding’s campus.

“Spalding’s mission states that we are a diverse community of learners dedicated to meeting the needs of the times by promoting peace and justice through education and service,” Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said. “As the past year has shown, pain and suffering from racial injustice and inequity remain prevalent in our society. Offering the Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey training program is an example of Spalding meeting the needs of the times by using the experience, wisdom and teaching skills of our faculty and staff to help promote a more equitable world.”

Upon completion, participants in Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey will be awarded three tiers of certification badges by Spalding – Bronze, Silver and Ebony (highest level) – based on the number of sessions completed, and these credentials will be appropriate to share on resumes and online professional profiles. Completed hours in the program can be applied to continuing education requirements for social workers, and Spalding plans to seek approval for continuing education credits from other professions’ governance boards in the future.

“Spalding’s School of Social Work has a rich tradition of providing quality continuing education for practitioners and community members throughout Kentucky,” School of Social Work Chair Dr. Shannon Cambron said. “The Well is the next chapter for us. It’s a reflection of our commitment to meet the needs of the times by co-creating an interdisciplinary space of training and engagement with a justice and equity lens – a space that equips people with the skills to begin the work of dismantling white supremacy and injustice. Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey is evidence of that commitment, and we are excited about this new chapter.”

For more information on participating in Restorative Practices for the Antiracist Journey, visit

Mayor Greg Fischer and the Louisville Metro Police Department have called upon the community-building expertise of staff and faculty members at Spalding University to assist in a key initiative to improve relations between the police and residents in Louisville.

Chandra Irvin, Spalding’s Executive Director of Peace and Spiritual Renewal; Janelle Rae, Director of Inclusive Engagement; and Dr. Steven Kniffley, Assistant Professor in the School of Professional Psychology and the Associate Director of the Center for Behavioral Health; are members of the project management team of the city’s Synergy Project, a year-long program designed to bring police and residents together to discuss ways to strengthen their relationship. The Synergy Project is part of the city’s Lean Into Louisville initiative.

The public is invited to Spalding’s campus on Tuesday, Dec. 17 to learn about the Synergy Project and join the discussion. Spalding will host a public action session – a guided conversation in which residents can communicate and share ideas directly with police officers – from 6-7:30 p.m. at the College Street Ballroom, 812 S. Second St. It’s one of several action sessions that will take place around town in the coming year.

“When people talk about an issue that’s going on, they’ll say, ‘What can I do?’ (Participating in Tuesday’s action session) is definitely something you can do,” Irvin said.

Synergy Project Public Action Session
When: 6-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17
Where: College Street Ballroom, 812 S. Second Street

In the News | Courier Journal feature on the Synergy Project

Residents speak at a Synergy Project meeting on Spalding's campus
Mayor Greg Fischer, standing, and residents talked at a recent meeting for the Synergy Project that was held on Spalding’s campus. A public action session will take place 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at Spalding’s College Street Ballroom.

The Synergy Project is intended to explore the tensions that exist between the significant societal values of public safety and individual rights and determine how to create and maintain a balance between the two, according to the city. Synergy will explore these tensions in order to mobilize actions for city-wide systemic change so every person in every part of the community can thrive.

The Synergy Project is modeled after The Illumination Project, an initiative undertaken in Charleston, South Carolina, after the 2015 hate crimes at Emanuel AME Church.

Irvin helped develop the Illumination Project, which also was a year-long program in which dozens of facilitated community conversations were held to discuss tensions between police and residents. At the end of the year, a strategic plan was unveiled, which continues to be revised and implemented today.

“There are lessons that we learned in Charleston that helped to inform how I am viewing and receiving feedback here,” Irvin said. “What I know is important is that we lean into the tension rather than leaning away from it. Really, that’s the only way that we’re going to connect in very genuine ways because clearly we don’t all have the same experiences and we don’t all think the same way.”

Irvin has helped the Synergy Project use a “polarity” framework that recognizes and values people’s different points of view.  It’s an approach that Irvin, Rae and others at Spalding have used to foster meaningful conversations on campus about a range of issues.

“We want to bring people together  despite differences – and actually invite differences – so that we can learn from one another and learn how to move to greater places with one another,” Irvin said.

The Synergy Project is bringing together individuals from all parts of the community – residents, academia, business, youth, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, and political leaders – in hopes of creating an opportunity for police and community to work together in a safe, open and respectful environment. The project hopes to identify root causes of distrust and find actionable solutions to move the city forward.

Irvin and Rae are helping to devise and carry out the programming and guided discussions of the Synergy Project. Kniffley, meanwhile, is researching and collecting data, along with Spalding Doctor of Clinical Psychology students Carson Haynes and Heather Dombrowsky.

Spalding's Chandra Irvin and Janelle Rae standing in front of a room of people seated around tables
Spalding staff members Irvin and Janelle Rae are part of the Synergy Project project management team. Psychology faculty Dr. Steven Kniffley is as well, working with grad students to collect and analyze data.

“This is a great example of a way to change the world,” Rae said of Spalding’s involvement. “Doing this work with the community and on behalf of community is in line with our Spalding mission. It’s our mission to embrace diverse people, and it’s our mission to create peace and promote social justice and to be of service in our communities. A big piece of this is learning from one another, learning about each other’s experiences so that we can actually be a connected community.

“I think it makes sense with our mission to train more and more people to engage productively with each other.”

Kniffley said that as a citizen of Louisville, he felt it was important to be a part of the Synergy Project.

“But then specifically as an African-American male,” he said, “just recognizing that there has always been tension between communities of color, specifically black communities, and law enforcement, to be a part of the effort that’s going to create a more meaningful relationship between the groups, I’m happy to be a part of that. Our goal is to use meaningful conversations that lead to actionable, tangible recommendations that the steering committee will then vote on and formulate into our final report.”

He added: “I think Spalding’s affiliation with the Synergy Project is consistent with our values of being a compassionate university, with being committed to issues of social justice and being at the forefront of change in the Louisville community.”





The public is invited 7 p.m. Monday, April 22 to hear Dr. Luther Smith Jr.,  Professor Emeritus of Church and Community at Emory University, deliver the 2019 Spalding University Keenan Lecture – an annual discussion of the religious themes that is sponsored by the School of Liberal Studies and the Community for Peace and Spiritual Renewal.

The Keenan Lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Egan Leadership Center’s Troutman Lectorium.

Dr. Smith, a noted scholar of the philosopher, theologian and spiritual visionary Howard Thurman, will give a lecture titled “Becoming Our True Selves at the Borders,” in which he’ll explain his belief that our lives are fulfilled when we make connections with people from backgrounds and perspectives different from those most familiar to us.

The Keenan Lecture is the first of two on-campus events to feature Dr. Smith. At 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, the day after the Keenan Lecture, Spalding and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary are partnering to present a free screening of the documentary “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story” at the Columbia Gym Auditorium, 824 S. Fourth St. Afterward, Dr. Smith, new LPTS President Dr. Alton Pollard and the film’s director, Martin Doblmeier, will participate in a public Q&A about Thurman.

We spoke with Dr. Smith about the upcoming Keenan Lecture as well as Thurman’s legacy.

What do you have planned for the Keenan Lecture?

The focus will be on how our lives are not just enriched but, I think, fulfilled when we are experiencing the differences beyond our normal familiar relationships, especially those relationships that are in some way strongly related to how we’ve grown up and the kind of paths we’ve been on professionally. I think especially for students in education, for many of them, the extent to which they have found themselves primarily not just associating with but developing  real connections with persons who often fit their sort of demographic, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Life really is, I think, most fulfilled with these kinds of connections that we have that are beyond what is familiar to us. It relates then to how what is not familiar to us often becomes that which we fear and that which we actively resist and that which we make abstract and stereotype. So basically another way that another that we could express this is, how do we get to beloved community? Beloved community depends upon our capacity to go beyond our own borders and experience the unfamiliar, to experience what’s at the margins of our lives and at the margins of our relationships in ways that, I think, expand the heart.

MORE | Explore the academic offerings of the School of Liberal Studies

The title of the lecture is, “Becoming Our True Selves at the Borders.” The word, “borders,” is that referring to borders in a human sense, as in the borders of our selves, or is it referring to actual physical borders that we hear a lot about nowadays?

It would be both. I’ve worked with the terms “borders” and “boundaries,” and they have basically the same meaning, but one of the implications of the word, “borders,” is that it’s something that’s really reinforced with guards or guardians, but it’s something that tends to be truly reinforced to the point that it’s secure in keeping out that which we often fear. But it also is the thing that enables us to sometimes feel as if we’re secure where we are. So I prefer the term “borders,” and I mean it both senses – the way in which we are speaking about it politically today in terms of a national border being secure but also the ways in which we all have our racial, ethnic, religious and class borders.

From a topical sense in today’s political climate, I gather that you think we should extend beyond those borders?

Oh, yes. I’m thinking especially two major theologians of the 20th century. One is Paul Tillich, who talked about the most creative places for us are at the margins, and not just at the center. This is not to denounce the significance of the center, but it’s at the margins in which we find ourselves in expanding our minds and our hearts and our understanding. And also (the theologian) Howard Thurman, who indicated that the death of any community occurs – the death of many biological units – when it perceives itself to be in some way self-sufficient, and it’s only when it’s connected outside of itself that it is nourishes. Otherwise, it begins to feed on itself. This occurs, I think, in all types of communities, religious communities, political communities, social communities. So this understanding of just what may be a fundamental principle of life, I think, is to be grasped by us and lived by us if we’re truly going to be fulfilled persons – and for those who are religious, I think – faithful persons.

For anyone coming to the lecture who may not be familiar with Howard Thurman, explain how his teachings and writings have influenced you.

Just about every audience I’m in, those who are familiar with Thurman are in the minority, but it would be wonderful if (that wasn’t case). As a bit of background, the first book-length critical work on Thurman (titled Howard Thurman: The Mystic as Prophet)  was done by me in the late 1970s and was published in 1981. Before then, we didn’t have any critical work on Thurman; we had a biography of Thurman. It’s really been a delight to see how interest in Thurman through scholarship has grown since then. The Howard Thurman Papers Project is the second-longest papers project on an African-American. It’s second only to the Martin Luther King Papers Project. You have a number of persons who have done their dissertations and done published works on Thurman. There are conferences that are focusing Thurman’s work, and, of course, now we have this documentary that has been telecast nationwide on PBS. I think Thurman’s legacy is worthy of that kind of attention. I was drawn especially by his focus on what constitutes vital community as well as what constitutes the vital self. You can even see that influence in the title of the topic that I’ll be presenting when I’m there.

I became familiar with Thurman right in the midst of the Black Power and black theology movement and found in Thurman an emphasis on community that was certainly expressed through those various movements but also an emphasis on attending to the self, one’s self and the self of others, which was not as prominent a dimension of those movements. And Thurman, I believed and continue to believe, has a more holistic dimension of what contributes to vital community as well as vital individuals. It’s a neutrality. You don’t have vital individuals without attending to a vital community. Neither do you have vital community without attending to the vital self. Thurman captured that for me with a kind of insight about faith. And this was also very important to me in terms of Thurman: The vital insight about faith being that which certainly nourishes us and empowers us for being engaged in both transformation of community as well as the fulfillment of self, but a faith that itself is being transformed. That it’s not just a faith that is in some way enacting doctrine, or not just in some way enacting what one believes to be the fundamentals of the faith. The faith itself is transforming. There is a dynamic quality to our believing that is hopefully reflecting that dynamic quality of God. It’s Thurman’s way of perceiving the religious dimension of life aligned with the social dimension of life as well as the personal dimension that for me has been very holistic, very nurturing. It some ways it was the path I was traveling before I became equated with Thurman through my own family relationships, but Thurman all the more enriched that path for me, and I’m deeply indebted to the way I’m able to walk with him.

As for the Keenan Lecture, what kind of person do you foresee who would enjoy and should attend the lecture?

I’m thinking of students, faculty, staff who understand that the quest for a fulfilled life has its many challenges as well as opportunities and how making one’s way to the border is a way to do that.

The next night, during the documentary screening, why do you think people should be interested in coming to watch it and hearing the panel that you’ll be on?

Thurman’s legacy is for us. And in terms of many of the current challenges we’re having about how to be a pluralistic society that honors people’s distinctive contributions and also holds together at its center, I think Thurman provides us a way to do that, a way to both celebrate our differences, not just have our differences and tolerate our differences. There’s a way to celebrate our differences as well as a way in which we can increasingly celebrate becoming community. I think the other approaches that are not emphasizing that fail us – the whole idea that the only way in which we become community is through assimilation. There is always some measure of assimilation involved in the formation of community, but the notion that people must assimilate into what is and somehow or another leave at the border the gifts of their culture or the gifts of their nation or the gifts of their inner city, I think is a failed formula. And it’s a formula that will doom us. Thurman, I think, provides us a way that is worthy of us and is worthy of the energy that will require the transformation of our lives and hearts for it to be enacted by us. It’s a really a challenge to all of us about the kinds of decisions that we’re making about how we’re going to be living our way not only into the future but what kind of decisions are we making day by day to prepare to be moving into the future faithfully, to be moving into the future that is worthy of us.

With Spalding University approaching the 100-year anniversary of the creation of its downtown campus, members of the university community will have an opportunity on Nov. 8 to learn more about the history of Spalding and its continued focus on compassion and social justice.

President Tori Murden McClure will host the “Changing Our World through Courage and Compassion: Historical and Current Realities” presentation and community conversation from 2-4:15 p.m. Nov. 8 in the College Street Cafe. The event is sponsored by the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal and the Office of the Graduate Dean.

Sister Frances Krumpelman, the historian for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, which is Spalding’s founding body, will begin the program with a presentation about the university’s history.

Then McClure will lead a talk about present-day issues and challenges and opportunities to change the world through courage and compassion and the lessons we can learn from the Sisters’ example.

Chandra Irvin, Director of the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal, said Sister Frances “tells a captivating and compelling story of the courage and compassion which led to Spalding’s founding despite difficulty times. ”

Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal Program Coordinator Liz Anderson said that attendees can expect Sister Frances to share stories about the compassion that inspired Mother Catherine Spalding to found Spalding University and the courage it took to make that a reality in 1814.

“It is so important, especially as Spalding approaches it’s 100-year downtown anniversary, for us to remember the vision and mission of Mother Catherine, know that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and be inspired to continue the work that she and her fellow Sisters of Charity of Nazareth began all those years ago,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that after Sister Frances’ presentation, the community will participate in talking circles that will consist of structured reflection and sharing around the importance of the courage and compassion we can (or maybe can’t) find in our own lives. The discussion, Anderson said, will challenge the group to continue carrying out the mission to meet the needs of the times that began with Mother Catherine.

“As we approach our 100-year anniversary in Louisville, it is important to reflect on how we are writing our own chapter in Spalding’s history,” Irvin said. “… As President McClure has said, the degree to which we embody both courage and compassion in our time will determine how our chapter will be read the future.”




Spalding University will host about 150 higher-education faculty, staff and students from around the state tomorrow, Friday, March 2 for a conference that will examine ways to improve civil dialogue on campuses, including using talking circles, and to have productive conversations about difficult topics.

Spalding will be the site of the all-day Kentucky Engagement Conference, sponsored by the Kentucky Campus Compact, which is a coalition of public and private college and university presidents from around the state joined to fulfill the civic purposes of higher education.

The title of the conference is “Civil Dialogue: Approaches and Applications” and will include information on the use of talking circles and restorative practices.

Chandra Irvin, director of the Center for Spiritual Renewal
Chandra Irvin, director of the Center for Spiritual Renewal

The point of the conference is to ask, “How do we get past those fears and anxieties that keep us from really talking to one another about things that really matter?” said Chandra Irvin, director of Spalding’s Center for Spiritual Renewal. “And how do we do it in a civil way that moves us forward as a community and a society?”

“When tensions are very high like in today’s times – and people stake their claims that they’re over here on this side and that you’re on that side – we decide that to prevent us from arguing we’re not going to talk. Then, we don’t make any progress. I don’t learn anything from you, don’t learn why and how you came to think the way you do or what’s important about what you’re saying or what I might not have heard before. What is it that we share? Do we have a greater purpose that we share?

“When we engage in civil dialogue, or have talking circles,” Irvin continued, “we can find those places where we have interconnection, agree and have common goals and visions. When we take that time to slow down and do that and let silence to help us interpret and feel and sense what the other person has just expressed from the depths of their heart, it’s a whole difference experience.”

According to its website, the Kentucky Campus Compact, which has its offices at Northern Kentucky University, helps campuses forge effective community partnerships and provides resources and training for faculty seeking to integrate civic- and community-based learning into the curriculum.

Friday’s conference will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and includes a keynote address from Spalding President Tori Murden McClure at 9 a.m., titled, “Taking a Risk: Why Difficult Conversations Matter.”

There also will be training about talking circles, which are a dialogue and problem-solving method embraced at Spalding, and skill-building workshops on a range of issues, including restorative justice.

Spalding faculty, staff and students interested in attending can email Liz Eader at the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal at [email protected].

Irvin said that after McClure’s speech, several Spalding presenters will give brief explanations on the process of talking circles and the ways they are used at Spalding. That’ll include ways faculty members use them in the classroom and how students view them.

The conference attendees will then form groups to have talking circles.

“They’re very intentionally designed and created safe spaces,” she said, “so that those who participate can engage in those most challenging conversations, those that nobody really wants to talk about like, ‘We could, and I want to, but I would dare not because I become too vulnerable, or I may hurt somebody’s feelings, or it’ll get too heated and the next thing you know, we’ll be fighting.’”

Irvin said talking circles engage participants emotionally and spiritually with one another, and “the participants can identify something much greater than themselves – a purpose and a meaning greater than themselves – and discover how they’re interconnected with one another and their shared vision in the midst of serious differences.”

She said participants realize their individual and collective gifts and wisdom, then “are able to use that wisdom to find solutions that serve everybody.”

The talking circles have guidelines about sharing talking time while also allowing participants not to speak, if they desire, and there’s an object positioned in the circle that symbolizes the group’s connectedness and another object that’s passed around to the person who’s speaking. Silence is also interwoven into the process in order to ponder what a person has said or for upcoming speakers to gather their thoughts.

“It’s designed to respect the worth and dignity of everybody and to allow them to bring their true and best selves forward,” Irvin said.

Irvin said Spalding uses talking circles in a variety of ways, including matters of student discipline, faculty disagreements, faculty-student disagreements and departmental strategies. She said she also has used talking circles in her personal life with friends and relatives.

“It’s a great skill to have and develop,” she said.