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 Kay Vetter, who is earning the degree of Doctor of Education: Leadership (Ed.D.). She also serves as Spalding’s Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness, overseeing matters related to the university’s accreditation and institutional compliance.  

What is your favorite Spalding memory?
They day of the solar eclipse and a real sense of real community in sharing that experience with coworkers, students and families. It was a special point in time, a unique event that was made special by experiencing it with others around me. Celebration and learning came together, as was evidenced by the fun and interesting conversations I had that day.

Which accomplishments are you most proud of during your time at Spalding?
One would be leading Spalding through our last Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) regional accreditation process with fantastic outcomes.

Another would be finishing and successfully defending my doctorate last month.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
Sitting under the arbor outside the ELC, especially when it is full of pink blossoms in the spring.

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?
This is a really hard question to answer. The most honest answer to this question is that I will try to be the best person I can be, to challenge myself to be kind and to continue to grow and be self-reflective in terms of my actions and my words. To try and remember to bring positivity, critical thinking and fun to my job and to support my coworkers and students. In short, bring light into my world.
Who inspires me to be a world changer? Children, and their excitement at seeing the good in people and the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Spalding experience?
I have been through some good times and some tough times while I have been at Spalding, and I am impressed with how resilient and creative the faculty and staff are when we are faced with challenges. There is something really special about this institution and the people and students who are a part of it. I cannot find the words to describe it, but you can feel it when you are here.


Spalding University’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership Program, in partnership with Ignite Louisville and Young Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL), welcomes the public to the launch of the Abramson Leadership Exchange – a series of executive panel discussions moderated by former Mayor Jerry Abramson and featuring leaders from public-sector, corporate and nonprofit organizations.

The first Abramson Leadership Exchange discussion will be held 9-11 a.m., Saturday, March 2 at Spalding’s Egan Leadership Center. The topic will be crisis management and communication, and the panelists will include Chad Carlton, President of C2 Strategic Communications; Laura Douglas, retired Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Community Affairs for LG&E and KU Energy; Phil Lynch, retired Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications at Brown-Forman; and Thomas Noland, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Humana.

Audience members will have an opportunity to ask question to the panelists and Abramson, who now serves as Spalding’s Executive in Residence.

The event is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, but because space is limited, attendees must register online on the Abramson Leadership Exchange: Crisis Management event page or at under the EVENTS label. Coffee, donuts and free parking next to the building will be provided.


“We want to give folks some real-life insight into why and how leaders in a variety of fields make the kind of decisions that they do for their organizations,” Abramson said. “Our panelists have high-level experience participating in the process of decision-making that required them to take into account budgetary considerations, safety concerns, politics and public relations, as well as the interests of a wide range of stakeholders.”

Future sessions of the Abramson Leadership Exchange are scheduled for Aug. 3 and Nov. 9. Topics for the other 2019 sessions will also be related to media and communication.

“The thoughtful conversations that will take place through the Abramson Leadership Exchange align with the kind of dialogue and sharing of ideas that are a key component of Spalding’s Ed.D.: Leadership Program,” said Dr. Linda LaPinta, director of the doctoral program. “Mayor Abramson is one of the most experienced and respected leaders in our state, and this is a fantastic opportunity for current and aspiring leaders from all sorts of organizations to engage with him and these distinguished panelists.”


Abramson has been in his role at Spalding since last spring. He serves as a guest lecturer for undergraduate and graduate courses, helps develop programs such as a continuing-education certificate for city and county managers, and represents the university in the community.

Nicknamed “Mayor for Life” for having served five total terms as the leader of Louisville’s city government before and after its merger with Jefferson County, Abramson has also served as Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor and as Deputy Assistant to President Obama and the White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

About Spalding’s Ed.D.: Leadership Program: Spalding’s doctoral degree in Leadership is a terminal degree designed for senior or mid-management organizational leaders. The program prepares students with the knowledge, skill and evidence-based practice to impact policies and advance for-profit and not-for-profit businesses and educational organizations. The program has numerous community and global partners. The Ed.D. in Leadership is well-suited for individuals with careers in business, health care, social services, the arts, education and more. Additional information is available at

About Young Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL): YPAL provides leadership development, educational opportunities and philanthropic support to Louisville’s Young Professionals for the benefit of the local community. The mission of YPAL is to connect, engage and develop metro Louisville’s young professionals through community, professional and social opportunities. Additional information is available at

About Ignite Louisville: Ignite Louisville, a program of the Leadership Louisville Center, prepares high-potential professionals, typically between 25-45 years old, for expanded opportunities in career and community leadership. Offered twice a year, Ignite Louisville is a six-month life-changing personal and professional development experience that produces the skills, confidence, problem-solving abilities and connections essential to realizing leadership potential. Participants gain hands-on experience in civic leadership and working effectively as a team through the Ignite Louisville Challenge. They also gain heightened visibility within the community. Additional information is available at


Candice Johnson will participate in Spalding commencement on June 2, having earned her doctorate of education in leadership (EdD) from Spalding. Dr. Johnson, a senior outreach counselor with the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, discusses some more about her Spalding experience in this interview.

What is your favorite Spalding memory?

It’s hard to name just one. Spending time on campus during weekend classes, having lunch outside in the library courtyard.

What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time at Spalding?

Successfully defending my dissertation on Dec. 14, 2017, all while raising an amazing daughter, Miss Kyla Brooklyn Ford, working full-time, and serving the community.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

Second floor of the library, second table to the right by the window. It became my home away from home.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Wow, I am so excited to participate in commencement weekend at Spalding. Spalding is a special place, and I knew it was where I was supposed to be to do my doctoral studies. Lately I’ve been sharing with students that they are worth it, so they have to work it. I pray that by my actions of “working it,” I am continuing to show students that their own goals and dreams can come to fruition with faith and work. And really that goes for everyone!

Jeff Maxey, an alumnus of the Spalding University College of Education master’s program, was named the South Carolina Teacher of the Year on May 2. In a phone interview this week during Teacher Appreciation Week, Maxey said he credits the program at Spalding for setting him on a path to success in teaching.

“Not a day has gone by in teaching classes that I don’t think back to something I learned in my experience at Spalding,” said Maxey, a special education teacher at Starr Elementary School in Anderson, South Carolina.

He won the award during a gala event last week. He’ll receive $25,000 and the use of a new BMW for the next year, during which he’ll serve as an ambassador and the spokesman for more than 50,000 educators in the state. He’ll travel the state to speak, conduct mentoring and work with teacher cadets and teaching fellows. The South Carolina Department of Education touts its Teacher of the Year program as one of the strongest in the country.

“Jeff exhibits the qualities and characteristics that we want to see in every current and future South Carolina educator,” State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said.

Maxey didn’t begin his professional life as a teacher. The Louisville native and Seneca High School graduate got his bachelor’s degree in religious studies and communication from Western Kentucky University in 1992, then served as a minister at Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green.

Several years later, he made the career move into teaching, and he said the programs offered in the Spalding College of Education made it possible. Maxey was able to earn certification to teach special education during the day at Lassiter Middle School in the Jefferson County Public Schools system while taking his graduate-school courses in the evenings and on weekends.

Maxey spent about 18 months at Spalding, earning a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration on learning and behavior disorders.

“To be able to do it hand in hand – the learning (at Spalding) while being a practitioner during the day – really solidified and made the teaching in the classroom come to life and made me that much more a part of what of my professors were teaching me, because then I could go try it,” Maxey said. “Then I could come back and interact (with the professors) about what worked or about what things I could do to tweak it to become more successful.”

MORE: Information on all bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral offerings from the College of Education

Maxey said he was grateful for the options that were available to him at Spalding as an adult learner looking to make a career change into teaching.

“Spalding was a huge part of my educational journey,” Maxey said. “Right now, with the teacher shortage that we’re experiencing, I hope there’s a lot of people out there who would consider it. If they’re looking at making a change in career, looking for something very meaningful in which they can impact the life of children, I would certainly recommend that they consider Spalding and they consider teaching.”

After spending three years at Lassiter Middle School, Maxey’s career took a unique turn. He moved to North Africa to work for eight years for a non-profit organization doing teacher training in small villages.

“Every day, I used in Africa what I learned at Spalding,” he said. “I used a lot of the same principles my professors at Spalding taught me in how to use a variety of teaching techniques that I was able to pass along to those teachers and help them be successful in their settings.”

Maxey returned to the United States in 2013 and began teaching in South Carolina. His Teacher of the Year award shows that he’s done an exemplary job.

Maxey is eager to start traveling to talk with students, teachers, administrators and legislators about education policy and classroom practices. As a special education teacher, he said one priority of his will be to discuss enhancing teaching techniques for students with autism.

And, as he travels as Teacher of the Year, he’ll be riding in style. As for that brand new BMW, Maxey said, “I’m looking forward to putting a lot of miles on it.”