Spalding President Tori Murden McClure sent the following message to the campus community on Monday, March 22, 2021:

Dear Spalding Community,

There is no more joyful and momentous occasion at Spalding University than Commencement. That’s why I am happy to announce that we will be safely returning to in-person Commencement activities this year, conducting a series of smaller graduation ceremonies on campus the first week of June that will be divided up by academic discipline. Provost Burden and I will attend each ceremony to confer degrees.

In addition to our 2021 graduates, 2020 graduates will also be invited back to participate in this year’s Commencement if they would like.

The individual ceremonies also will be streamed online for those who want or need to watch from home.

Here are additional Commencement details:

Dates and times
In order to avoid heavy crowds and traffic at any one time, the ceremonies will be held one at a time and scheduled throughout the day on Thursday, June 3; Friday, June 4; and Saturday, June 5. They likely will be held indoors at the Columbia Gym Auditorium, the College Street Ballroom or the Troutman Lectorium of the Egan Leadership Center.

Graduates should expect to receive more information soon from your school or academic program about the specific time, date and location that applies to you.

Masks required
The ceremonies will be conducted in accordance with local and state safety guidelines and by the standards we have set for our own university.

All attendees must be symptom-free and will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing outside of their immediate family/group.

To further ensure that our commencement activities are as safe as possible, we strongly encourage everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible. Gov. Beshear announced last week that he expects all Kentuckians 16 years and older to be able to sign up for vaccines starting April 12.

Two guests per graduate
In order to ensure safe distancing between attendees, each graduate will be limited to two guests.

Some programs will have a virtual Commencement
Two academic programs – the Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy and the School of Creative and Professional Writing – will be having virtual Commencement ceremonies instead of in person.

Plan to order regalia
Graduates should plan to order graduation regalia. Spalding’s Campus Store will be handling regalia orders through the vendor Jostens, and more information about purchasing will be sent soon. The Campus Store is located on the south end of the ELC, 901 S. Fourth St., and can be reached at (502) 585-7108 or at [email protected].

The Registrar will also send information with instructions and deadlines for applying for graduation. Be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks.

We are excited that these smaller ceremonies will safely provide our graduates with a memorable, meaningful day of recognition and celebration after all that they’ve accomplished.

Thank you and congratulations to both the Class of 2021 and Class of 2020. We can’t wait to see you walk across the stage in your cap and gown while sharing the experience with your loved ones and the classmates, faculty and staff you know best.

All the best,

Tori Murden McClure
President, Spalding University

Spalding’s Board of Trustees has bestowed the rank of Professor Emeritus and the title of Emeritus Professor of Psychology on Kenneth Linfield, PhD, a long-serving faculty member in the School of Professional Psychology.

Professor Emeritus Linfield has left a lasting mark on the University by displaying an intense love of learning and teaching, a powerful dedication to their students and a strong loyalty to Spalding that will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.

Ken Linfield
Dr. Kenneth Linfield

Following a career as a Methodist pastor, Dr. Linfield has served 21 years at Spalding. He is said to have always viewed his work as an extension of his ministry.

Dr. Linfield has spent the past 13 years as the Director of Graduate Training, taking on the major responsibilities of student advisement, admissions, tracking, and policy execution. He is an expert in quantitative methods, statistics, program evaluation and design and research ethics. His interests also include various elements of religious faith and spirituality, and the relation of religion and spirituality to a broad range of mental health issues, including positive elements such as well-being.

He is an associate editor of the American Psychological Association journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. He wrote a graduate textbook on Program Evaluation, and he has coauthored a wide range of articles and chapters.

Dr. Linfield is said to have “left an indelible mark of quality on all of his professional activities, both within the School of Professional Psychology and across the broader Spalding community. He has embodied the concept of compassion across all his professional endeavors.”

Dear Spalding Students,

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we know many of you have wondered about the status of our 2020 Commencement. Unfortunately, this year, the need to avoid large gatherings and stay socially distant will force us to postpone the June 6 Commencement ceremony and reimagine how it’s conducted.

Spalding absolutely still plans to celebrate our graduating Class of 2020 and intends to do it in an in-person setting that is safe for our graduates and their loved ones. To that end, we will be postponing Commencement until August, September or possibly October, with exact dates still to be determined.

Instead of the large university-wide ceremony in which a few thousand people gather in the same church sanctuary, we will hold a series of smaller ceremonies for individual academic disciplines, likely spread out over multiple dates this fall and held at multiple venues on or around campus. This approach will help us limit the number of people who are on campus or at a single venue at the same time.

These smaller ceremonies will be similar to the school-specific ones traditionally held on the Friday before Commencement. Though they’ll occur later than initially planned, we hope these smaller ceremonies will be meaningful, memorable opportunities for graduates to celebrate their achievements with the classmates and faculty who know them best. Provost Burden and I will be at every ceremony to confer degrees.

  • We will let faculty from the individual academic programs – in consultation with student leaders – determine which dates are appropriate for ceremonies for their programs. Faculty leaders will gather input from the Student Government Association and other student organizations related to their academic programs.
  • We hope to announce the dates and sites for the various ceremonies by July in order to give graduates and their families time to make plans.
  • Graduating students are encouraged to hold off on ordering regalia until this summer. We will send more guidance and instructions on this later.
  • We unfortunately do not expect to stage a separate baccalaureate service this year, but we do plan to incorporate elements of baccalaureate into the individual Commencement ceremonies.
  • We will move forward with these in-person Commencement ceremonies only if it’s safe to do so. If conditions regarding the coronavirus do not improve by the fall, we may stage a virtual Commencement.

We are so proud of our graduates for finishing their degrees, especially during these challenging times when our entire way of life has been disrupted. The University will do everything it can to make this Commencement a special one because our graduates deserve it.

All the best,



Tori Murden McClure

Spalding University President

March 25, 2020

Dear Spalding Students,

As concern continues over the spread of the coronavirus, the safety of our students and employees remains our top priority. As a result, Spalding’s academic leaders have decided to extend the University’s suspension of face-to-face and hybrid classes through the entirety of Session 5.  All classes will be conducted fully online until at least May 11, 2020.

The campus will remain closed except for the small group of students still living in the residence halls and the employees who are needed to ensure their care.  Students who left the residence halls earlier this month should expect to remain at home until at least May 9, 2020.

We hope everyone is adjusting well to the move to fully online learning that began on Monday for most students. Please maintain contact with your instructor during this time. We have asked all faculty to be as flexible as possible to meet student needs during this crisis.

Commencement decision in late April 

We expect that many students have questions about our plans for Commencement, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 6. We continue to hope that we will be permitted to host some variation of Commencement. To keep this hope alive, we will wait until the last reasonable moment to make a final decision. Because students will need to order regalia, and families might need to make travel plans, we will announce our decision in the last week of April. We suggest that students postpone ordering their regalia or making travel arrangements for their families until we announce our decision.

Students who plan to graduate should still submit their Application for Graduation through Web Advisor. Applications should be submitted no later than 8 a.m. on Friday, April 24.  Commencement 2020 is open to all graduating students who have already or will complete requirements from Oct.9, 2019 through Aug. 15, 2020.

We thank everyone for their understanding and for adapting to this unprecedented disruption to our campus operations and the way of life in our country. The Spalding community is strong, and we will get through this together.


Dr. John E. Burden
Professor of Chemistry
Spalding University

Always a highlight of Spalding’s Commencement, President Tori Murden McClure closes her speech and the ceremony every year by announcing her list of “Ten Things I Think I know” – maxims and pieces of advice for the new graduates as they head out into the world. Here is President McClure’s top 10 list from this year’s commencement, presented on June 1, 2019. 

1. If the carrot is big enough you can use it as a stick. And celery is a great thing to eat if you are hungry and you want to stay that way.

2. Road blocks only block the road. They do not block the grass, the path, the water, or the way less traveled. Road blocks just block the road.

3. Silence is golden, and if silence should fail you, remember that duct tape is silver. When my husband cannot fall asleep he does not count sheep. He talks to the shepherd and as loudly as he speaks, I think the shepherd must need a hearing aid.

4.  It is never too late to have a happy childhood. I have had several. I have many more planned. Or the corollary, I may grow old, but I will never be old enough to know better. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it is still fun to bop people on the head with empty tubes.

5.  Not every problem you face can be solved, but no problem can be solved if it is not faced. H.L. Menken said something like for every difficult problem there is an easy answer, and it is wrong.

6.  Learn from the mistakes of others. You cannot live long enough to make them all yourselves.

A. Or the corollary, it is difficult to become old and wise if you are not first young and stupid.

B. There are gradations of stupid: Stupid Level 1 gets you hurt, Stupid Level 2 gets others hurt, Stupid Level 3 involves police and lawyers and you might never own your own home.

C. Avoid all levels of stupid that begin with the phrase, “Hey, hold my beer ‘nd watch ‘his.”

7. Do not burn bridges; just loosen the bolts a little each day.

8. If you have to keep something that you are doing a secret then perhaps you should not be doing it.

9. This is an important one for university presidents: Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does.

10. Do not believe everything you think. Or as Socrates said, all I know is that I know nothing.

It’s Commencement weekend at Spalding University! Festivities kicked off Friday with the Baccalaureate service and individual college, school and program award ceremonies. There are tons of pictures from the day on Spalding’s Facebook page within the “Commencement Activities 2019” album. Please like, share and tag yourself or others in the pictures, and do the same after the university Commencement service (10 a.m. Saturday at Canaan Christian Church). Here’s a look at some of Spalding’s new grads who participated in Friday’s events.

Haitian earthquake victim now a Spalding nursing grad
Nine years ago, Witchina Liberal’s home in Haiti was destroyed by the earthquake that devastated that country.

This weekend, she is graduating with the degree of bachelor of science in nursing from Spalding and set to add a member to her young family.

Liberal attended Friday’s Baccalaureate service on Friday nearly nine months pregnant with her son, who is due on June 23 and will be named Jeremiah. She said she expects to look back on pictures from this weekend years from now with him.

“I can say I have a career now, and I will be able to provide for him, give him everything I didn’t have growing up. I’m happy,” said Liberal, who was accompanied Friday by her husband and friends from their church.

She added with a laugh: “He’s been a good boy. I didn’t have too much trouble with him while I did the nursing program.”

At the time of the earthquake, 15-year-old Liberal was at home, but she was cooking in a kitchen that was in a different part of the building.

“Fortunately, none of my family members died, but we lost everything,” she said. “None of us were in the house at the time. But it was horrifying. A lot of people died.”

Liberal moved from Haiti to Florida in 2010 to finish high school. She also attended a community college in that state before moving in 2016 to Louisville, where she had family. She picked Spalding to finish out her BSN the next year because she “liked how they were so welcoming,” Liberal said.

“It’s hard, but it’s doable,” she said of the nursing degree. “It can be done, but it’s challenging. I enjoyed it. The professors were really helpful, really helpful.”

Commencement weekend felt bittersweet for Liberal. In November, a few weeks after she learned she was pregnant, Liberal lost her mother, who was still living in Haiti. She has had her mom on her mind as she approaches graduation. Liberal said she barely slept Thursday night as she stayed up thinking about her.

“I’m proud of what I have done, but it has been rough,” she said.

Liberal plans to be a neonatal intensive care unit nurse. At some point, she’d like to provide nursing and medical care in her home country, which she has visited every year since moving to the United States.

“That’s part of my plan,” she said. “I’d like to go back and help.”

Former Spalding golfer now a mom and grad
Bachelor of science in natural science graduate and former Spalding golfer Megan Shirley Faust had a special young guest at Friday’s Baccalaureate Service – her 2-month-old daughter, Madalyn.

Spalding student Megan Faust, in blue cap and gown, holding baby, Madalyn, in a car seat
Spalding student Megan Faust and 2-month-old daughter Madalyn after Baccalaureate service on May 31, 2019.

“It’s pretty awesome being able to experience it with her and her be in the moment with me,” Megan Faust said. Years from now, “I can show her what I did, and she’ll want to do the same.”

She said attending Spalding has been “a really great experience,” citing the experience of being an athlete and a student, as well as the bond she had with the golf team.

Faust was a senior on the 2017-18 Spalding team that won the first-ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship for women’s golf.

“That history is pretty awesome, being one of the first people to set those standards,” Faust said.

During her final academic year, Faust has had a new experience.

“Instead of going to practices and workouts and tournaments, I’m a mom and a student,” she said.

Faust currently works as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a nursing home. She said she may at some point pursue a job in human resources.

College of Ed master’s grad: ‘I feel like I’ve gained a family here’
Destiny Nichole Livers, a teacher a Foster Elementary School who is earning the degree of master of education in teacher leadership, said she would recommend Spalding to other aspiring or current teachers.

“I loved Spalding. The staff is very supportive,” she said.

Livers, who taught fifth grade the last three years and who will move to third grade as a team leader next year, said she’s learned about methods and best practices at Spalding that she is eager to take back to her school and share with her colleagues.

“If someone is looking for a supportive family, not just professors – I feel like I’ve gained a family here at Spalding – then you would like Spalding,” Livers said. “If you want the college where you really don’t know your professors, then go somewhere else. But here, like I told Dr. (Kristen) Harris, (the Spalding program director), ‘You’re stuck with me for life.'”

Livers was the winner of the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for her program.


With Commencement approaching on June 1, Spalding is publishing a series of stories and Q&A’s that highlight students from a range of degree programs who are set to graduate. Next up is Cristi Embry, who is receiving the degree of bachelor of arts in psychology.

That Cristi Embry is now the first member of her family to graduate college is a memorable achievement. The fact that she’s achieved it as a 39-year-old mother of four adds even more to the accomplishment.

But most remarkably, she also overcame a brain tumor in order to earn the right to walk across the stage at Spalding’s Commencement on Saturday.

That walk will be a proud moment for a woman who achieved a lifelong goal by fighting through the pain caused by the noncancerous tumor as well as the effects it had on her ability to concentrate and study.

“I was strong, and I persevered,” said Embry, who is graduating cum laude.

Three years ago – during her second year at Spalding – Embry went to see a doctor after suffering from increasingly severe headaches and sudden problems with depth perception and her balance and coordination. She thought she might have a inner-ear infection.

The tumor was discovered. She was transported immediately in an ambulance to another hospital for surgery the next day.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t die. Who’s going to take care of my kids?'” Embry recalled.

Embry underwent 10 hours of surgery to remove the tumor, which was found to be the size of the surgeon’s fist. She then had a second surgery a month later to insert a shunt to help the movement of fluid in her brain. Soon after that she had a third surgery to treat an infection that developed after the first operation.

Last August, Embry’s tumor began to grow back more aggressively than was anticipated, requiring her to undergo six weeks of radiation treatments to counter the growth. (It hasn’t grown any more since then.)

The tumor, which will always remain at some size and is now being monitored, still causes her pain and discomfort, with the headaches and vision problems persisting. Going to four-hour classes and spending extensive time at home on the computer were physically taxing.

Though there were times, including this school year, when she thought about permanently stopping her studies at Spalding, she enjoyed her time as a student and her interactions with faculty too much to not finish.

“I looked forward to school,” Embry said. “It was a hobby. It was an escape. It was a distraction. I love learning. I love sitting in class with adults, with professors, and just loved the experience, so it was worth it to me.”

Through it all, she missed only one six-week session, and she completed her psychology degree in January.

Recently, she went by herself to the registrar’s office to collect her diploma.

“That was a special day I’ll never forget,” she said. “It was a celebration. It wasn’t about anybody but me. I cried, but nobody saw me. It was incredible. It was just like, ‘This is the most beautiful piece of paper.’”

She now has the diploma hanging next to her desk at home, and she looks at it every time she walks by.

Embry started at Spalding five years ago, fulfilling a desire she’d had her entire adult life to continue her education. She quit high school when she became pregnant with her first child.

She later completed her general education diploma and worked multiple jobs, including in an accounting office of a direct-mail company and in the office of an attorney. She also went through training to become a certified nursing assistant, but that never felt like a career she wanted. What she wanted was to attend college.

“I always loved school,” she said. “I love learning. I like to read and have always been really curious, and I just love knowing stuff. I just felt like there was something bigger out there and that I needed school to get where I wanted to go.”

She heard about Spalding about a decade ago from a classmate in that CNA training program and kept it in mind. She finally enrolled as a Flex student majoring in psychology and began taking two evening courses a week.

She said she found Spalding’s faculty and staff, including her adviser, Cindy Green, to be extremely supportive, and Embry loved the dialogue and critical thinking that her classes generated. After her tumor diagnosis, Embry said she felt especially fortunate to be taking psychology courses and to be taught by psychologists, because her interactions felt like a type of therapy. She had courses that examined sickness, suffering, death and spirituality, and she reflected on her own experiences.

“All the psychology professors are just, wow,” Embry said. ” … It feels so good to be in their presence. … The coursework was a healing process in itself. I never would have thought about those things or written about the tumor, ever, on my own. Being in that setting, you’re forced to look at things critically in that way.”

Though she’s finished with school, Embry still enjoys driving through or stopping by campus.

“I love it here,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a business. It feels like friends and family. And it’s something of my own. I’m a mom, I’m a wife; that’s who I am. But this (when I’m at Spalding) is mine. It’s my time. These are my people, and I just feel good here.”

Embry continued: “Yes, the diploma is important, and, yes, finishing is important. But really it is just a journey and it improves your whole life and the way you look at the world and the way you look at people and the way you look at yourself. I don’t know another way that I would get that without Spalding.”

Embry said she plans to attend graduate school, and she’d like to become a counselor at a community agency, perhaps one serving young mothers.

Here’s more from Cristi Embry …

What is your favorite Spalding memory?
What comes to mind is Dr. Kathleen Nesbitt and my very first class was her writing class. She did a competition where we watched a news clip and had to write down all the scary or nervous words we could think of, and I won. I really like her, really respect her. I think she helped build my confidence. So I’d say my favorite memory was that very first night of class. She asked are there any new students to Spalding and are there any brand-new students to college? I raised my hand, and there were several other people. I was like, (sigh of relief). I’m going to be OK.

Which accomplishment are you most proud of from your time at Spalding?
Not quitting. Not giving up, even when I wanted to, even when I think it would have been totally justifiable and excusable.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
The Mansion is my favorite building. A lot of my favorite classes have been there, so I just have a lot of good memories there and have learned a lot from a lot of smart people.

At Spalding, we like to say that, “Today is a great day to change the world.” For many of our students, Commencement is a world-changing experience. After graduation, how do you plan to change the world, big or small, and who inspires you to be a #spaldingworldchanger?
A lot of professors have inspired me to change the world, and if I really like a professor, I’m going to let them know and let them know what they’ve done for me. Every professor I’ve done that to, they’re like, ‘It’s nothing I did. It’s you.’ I’ve thought about that and taken that, and everybody can change the world. Attitudes are contagious, and being nice and friendly and smiling, it does something for people. I do that. Being kind, that it is a way to change the world. All day, every day, when you come in contact with people, just be kind.

With Commencement approaching on June 1, Spalding is publishing a series of stories and Q&A’s that highlight students from a range of degree programs who are set to graduate. Next up is Jerre Crenshaw, who is receiving the degree of bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary liberal studies.

After Jerre Crenshaw transferred to Spalding University in 2016, she immediately sought out a organization on campus where she could discuss social issues pertaining to the black community.

When she realized one didn’t exist, she worked to create one herself.

Crenshaw is the leader of the Black Student Alliance that officially formed last fall, and she said helping make it a reality is a proud accomplishment that she’ll take with her when she graduates this weekend.

“I knew Spalding’s mission statement says it is diverse community of learners, so when I came to Spalding, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

Crenshaw said she got approval and encouragement across the board from Spalding faculty and administrators when she sought to create a Black Student Alliance, and she said the organization now has at least 10 active members who take part in programs and events on Spalding’s campus and on other campuses.

Additionally, Crenshaw said she is excited to  be one of the first students ever to graduate from Spalding having earned the new minor in African-American Studies. The creation of the BSA served as the praxis credit for the AAS minor.

“Sometimes in school you don’t hear history that pertains to you when you’re a person of color, so having that opportunity to really learn more about myself culturally as well as other African Diaspora people was really important to me,” she said. “I’ve really been happy with the courses I’ve been able to take. They’ve really widened my horizons and opened up my mind to new possibilities of thinking and viewing the world.”

Crenshaw, an alumna of the Academy of Shawnee, has enjoyed being in the liberal studies program at Spalding, saying all her professors have been “very compassionate and genuine and helpful.”

They’ve supported both her academic career, she said, “and me developing as a decent human being who critically thinks and questions things thoroughly.”

After earning her bachelor’s, Crenshaw plans to attend graduate school, and she would like to pursue a career in population health, providing resources that help eliminate health inequities for people from certain socioeconomic backgrounds.

“With Spalding being the first certified compassionate university,” she said, “I think it showed me the value of systematic compassion and that compassion can be implemented into a system. That was initially a thought that was far away from me, but it’s been contextualized by being here.”

Here’s more from Jerre Crenshaw …

What’s your favorite Spalding memory? 
My first day of class, it was over the summer and burning up hot, and I went to the wrong building and sat there for 20 minutes until I realized, “Maybe I’m in the wrong spot,” and looked up the addresses. But it’s my favorite memory because I ended up in the Mansion, which turned out to be one of my favorite spots on campus. It kind of reminds me of my high school with the wooden fixtures. So I discovered my favorite place.

Which accomplishments are you most proud of from your time at Spalding?
The creation of the BSA, of course. Being able to be senator of liberal studies this year and last year. And I think I’ve really improved as a responsible person and citizen.

What is your favorite spot on campus? The Mansion, as you said earlier?
Yes, the Mansion, right by the piano. Shawnee is an old building, so you can hear the creaks when you walk, and I got used to doing work in that kind of space, and I really missed it. It kind of brought me home away from home (to be in the Mansion).

At Spalding, we like to say that, “Today is a great day to change the world.” For many of our students, Commencement is a world-changing experience. After graduation, how do you plan to change the world, big or small, and who inspires you to be a #spaldingworldchanger?
I want to take my skills into the development of compassion as a system and take it to the outside world. So I’ve been looking at volunteering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters or through the judicial system and with kids who are in foster care. I want to be a part of giving people the space to be an individual, like Spalding has done for me.

My mom inspires. I come from a family of six. I’m the fourth-oldest. There are three girls, three boys. I’ve always seen my mom as a caring, strong person who really cared about being there for other people when they needed help, even if she didn’t know them. She’s one of those people who will stop to help an elderly person cross the road, or she’ll stop and pick up trash off the ground for other people. I always would think, hmm, I want to be mindful like that, even when I have other things going on around me. Having six kids is a lot, and she still stops to think, ‘What if someone steps on this? I better grab that.’

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience at Spalding?
I’m just really satisfied with my experience here, and I think it developed me as a person, and I got to meet a lot of great individuals who really helped me along my journey.

With Commencement approaching on June 1, Spalding is publishing a series of stories and Q&A’s that highlight students from a range of degree programs who are set to graduate. Next up is Kristin Spencer, who is earning a Master of Science in Business Communication (MSBC) degree. Spencer is a young mom and an online student.

What is your favorite Spalding memory?
My favorite Spalding memory is studying abroad in Ireland. It was beautiful!

Which accomplishments are you most proud of during your time at Spalding?
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is, of course, graduating but also being able to enhance and perfect my time-management skills.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
I did all of my classes online, so I was rarely on campus except when I went to the library, so I’d have to say my favorite spot is the library. The staff there was accommodating when I had to bring my son along and gave us a basket with coloring books and puzzles.

At Spalding, we like to say that, “Today is a great day to change the world.” For many of our students, Commencement is a world changing experience. After graduation, how do you plan to change the world, big or small, and who inspires you to be a #spaldingworldchanger?
After graduation I plan on changing the world by showing the African-American community that we can be great and obtain higher education. My 4-year-old son inspires me to be a #spaldingworldchanger! It’s an amazing feeling to have him see me graduating from college, and I already am instilling in him that knowledge is power.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Spalding experience?
I’d love to give a shoutout to Dr. Robin Hinkle, who directs the MSBC program. She’s amazing!

With Commencement approaching on June 1, Spalding is publishing a series of stories and Q&A’s that highlight students from a range of degree programs who are set to graduate. Next up is Ashlee Clark Thompson, who is earning a Master of Fine Arts in Writing degree.

When Ashlee Clark Thompson graduates this weekend, Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program will add to its list of alumni a busy and respected journalist, writer, public speaker and social media user who believes her time at Spalding has helped hone and heighten the storytelling skills she uses daily in her career.

Thompson, the Culture Editor at Louisville Public Media, said she’ll graduate feeling more confident than ever in her writing and proud of how she’s enriched the content she produces. Further, she said, the MFA program has fostered a culture of positive feedback and workshopping that inspires her to keep writing and telling stories in her personal time.

“I walked away from this program with a greater confidence in myself as a writer, and, honestly, that’s what I wanted to get,” Clark Thompson said. “It’s a program that fosters community. I’ve formed genuine relationships with people in this program, and just the general attitude with which we treat each other as writers – to build each other up and not tear each other down – has been really good.”

LEARN about all the offerings from the School of Creative and Professional Writing

Even before earning her MFA, Clark Thompson was an accomplished writer and journalist.

She has worked at LPM and WFPL since last fall, and her job includes oversight of the Do502 events calendar. She is also the author of the book “Louisville Diners” and is one of the hosts of The Moth StorySlam, a recurring storytelling competition at Headliners Music Hall presented by WFPL. She’s also the President of Louisville Literary Arts and a frequent presence on Twitter, where she posts her takes on current events and pop culture (often accompanied by funny gifs).

Clark Thompson previously worked for the tech magazine/website CNET reviewing products and appliances, and she’s a former Lexington Herald-Leader reporter.

“Journalism school was great and taught me how to be a good reporter, but I wanted to learn how to be a better writer, and there are differences in that,” Clark Thompson said. “I knew how to go find facts and interview people and work on deadline, but I needed help learning how to tell a story. Being in Spalding’s MFA program was about enriching the work I already did.”

For instance, when she was writing for CNET, Clark Thompson said lessons from the MFA program helped her find more creative and engaging ways to write reviews about appliances and technology, and she gained the confidence to write more commentary pieces.

“Spalding taught me how to have an opinion and how to write it in a story that is compelling to read,” she said. “And I was able to combine that with my journalism background to prove my points with facts. The marriage of those two made me a much better writer and much more confident writer. I learned I can tell stories in a different way.”

Clark Thompson, who concentrated on created non-fiction, exemplifies how a working professional can earn an MFA through Spalding’s low-residency format.

During her time in the program, she’s changed jobs multiple times and said Spalding was flexible in allowing her to take time off and resume when she’s ready. During those times she did need to step away, she said, faculty kept in touch with her and that she “never felt disconnected.”

“It has been an amazing experience for me because of that flexibility,” she said. “For a lot of working people, that’s the flexibility that we need. Spalding really takes into account that life happens. You can’t control ‘fill in the blank’ circumstance – whether it’s money, family, job, travel, whatever. … As a working person, it’s awesome.”

She said the Spalding program encourages its working-professional students to draw from their experiences in their writing, and collectively, the diversity of life experiences within the MFA students – some older with established jobs and families, some straight out of undergrad and beginning their careers – creates a robust learning community. Several MFA students come from jobs outside of traditional creative writing professions.

“When all these people come together for residency, it’s an amazing experience because that is such a rich tapestry that I get to be a part of,” she said.

Clark Thompson now works downtown at Louisville Public Media headquarters, only a couple blocks from campus down Fourth Street, and only a couple doors down from the MFA residency activities at the Brown Hotel.

As  Louisville native and resident, Clark Thompson said she was attracted to Spalding’s community of MFA faculty and alumni. After graduation, she envisions continuing to make quick trips over to attend MFA readings and public lectures.

“I’m super proud (to become an alumna of the program),” she said. “I want to tell people, ‘Right here in Kentucky there is this great program where you can get all this learning and do it on your terms.’ That’s what is so appealing to me. Instead of looking down on people who are may be late to writing or haven’t been writing steadily, Spalding welcomes those people.

“‘Oh, you have life experiences? Awesome, we want to teach you how to be a better writer.'”

Some more from Ashlee Clark Thompson:

What is your favorite Spalding memory?
My first workshop. Our workshop leaders at the time were Dianne Aprile and another instructor. Before we started with our workshop, they said, “The way we critique people is to give them love notes and help notes. We tell them what we love about their writing, what really worked, and then help notes of things that could be improved.” That’s something that’s really stuck with me this whole time I’ve been in this program when I approach other people’s writing but also just in general when I approach my own writing. Just being nicer to myself.

Which accomplishments are you most proud of during your time at Spalding?
Finishing. (Laughs)

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
Probably the ELC Lectorium (which is the site for many of the MFA program’s readings and presentations). I know that, OK, when I sit here, something good is about to happen.

At Spalding, we like to say that, “Today is a great day to change the world.” For many of our students, Commencement is a world-changing experience. After graduation, how do you plan to change the world, big or small, and who inspires you to be a #spaldingworldchanger?
I want to change my corner of the world. The world is such a big place, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the news or Twitter or whatever. But I want to use storytelling to make my corner of the world a little bit better, whether it’s sharing my own story and that maybe helping others know that they aren’t alone in whatever they’re going through, or it’s amplifying the stories of others.