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.

Dr. Deonte Hollowell, Assistant Professor of history and African-American Studies in the School of Liberal Studies, will present the spring 2019 Faculty Colloquium, at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the ELC’s Troutman Lectorium. In a presentation titled, “Policing the Black Experience,” he’ll present his research into the African-American community and police relations, and discuss the creation of a course he’ll teach in Session 6 dealing with these themes. That course is part of the African-American Studies minor in the School of Liberal Studies that Hollowell has developed.

In advance of his presentation, Dr. Hollowell discussed the Faculty Colloquium and his work at Spalding:

Why did you come to Spalding, and what do you like about teaching here?

I love being here, and I stay here because I like the history of the institution and I like the mission. It gives me something structurally that allow to be a pathway. My interests have always been in trying to make life better for people who are underserved, underappreciated in society. Spalding’s mission is linked to that. I came here as an adjunct in 2009 and was just looking for a place to teach courses. There was an opening to teach history here (three years ago), and I got it, and the rest is, as they say, history.

 What are some of your academic specialties and areas of interest in research?

Overall, it’s African-American Studies and Pan-African Studies. African-American Studies is what we teach here at Spalding, that’s also the PhD that I have from Temple University. I also have a master’s and bacherlor’s in Pan-African Studies from the University of Louisville. Temple was the first program to offer a PhD in African-American Studies.

Why did you feel it was important to introduce and develop an African-American Studies (AAS) minor at Spalding?

I think there was a void there in our curriculum just to make sure we study and highlight not just accomplishments but also the struggle of people of African descent and people who identify as African-American in this country. Again, it goes back to the mission that speaks toward having compassion and inclusivenss, diversity. The situation was just right for it. We have the right president. Both (former Liberal Studies Chair) John Wilcox and (current Chair) Pattie Dillon are very interested in African-American Studies, which is why they brought me here in the first place, because of my background. When I came here as an adjunct, I would speak to students who didn’t have too much knowledge about the African-American experience, whether they were African-American or not, so I felt there was an opportunity there to pinpoint more of that history and to have a separate offering of courses. I’ve always been intrigued by the praxis side of African-American Studies, where you go into communities and try to get a better understanding of some of the social issues that are occurring and some of the solutions and trying to be a part of it, whether it’s legislation or cultural practices that highlight solutions to a social problem.

Tell me a little about what you’re planning at the Faculty Colloquium.

It’s titled, “Policing the Black Experience.” It’s influenced by when I was a grad student at Temple. I went there to look specifically at hip-hop music and its effects on the African-American community. That’s what I promised to do my research on when I got there. (After working with an advisor who was skeptical that it could be the basis of the research and project), she asked for me to come up with another topic and something that I was passionate about, something that affected me personally. She said to reach back in my childhood and try to find something involving the African-American struggle that was personal to me. I started thinking about how I was arrested when I was 10 under the guise that I was stealing from a store, which I wasn’t. I was beaten up at that time by a police officer who arrested me in public in a grocery store, and this time type of thing happened to me or people I know throughout my life. I started to write about it. …. My PhD advisor wanted the project to be Afrocentric, so I had to get a handle on what Afrocentricity means, not only academically but socially. So I came up with the topic for my dissertation. It was called, Control and Resistance: An Afrocentric Analysis of the Historic and Current Relationship between African American Communities and Police.  … Upon my being hired at Spalding, Pattie Dillon and I talked about my dissertation and how we could possibly make that into a class, how we could take the work I was doing in African-American Studies and make that into a minor. … Since I’ve been here at Spalding full-time, I’ve visited six cities, so I’m kind of breaking that down into a case study where these types of issues have occurred and have interesting stories. There are seven cities – six I’ve been to, one I haven’t so far. Louisville; Greensboro, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; Oakland, California; Ferguson, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio. And Chicago, which I haven’t been to. All of those cities, with the exception of Cleveland, I’ve made connections with Black Lives Matter organizers. I’ve been to several different protests. I’ve been a fly on the wall, so to speak. I’m just trying to get a sense of what are some solutions people are trying to take into account, what are some of the reasons people feel these things are happening. Most importantly for me, what’s the culture of the city that allows this to take place? A case in point, in Ferguson, we were looking at the housing politics. St. Louis was starting to grow so rapidly that they had to find placement for other people, so the local housing entities started to establish public housing in the area that’s now known as Ferguson. That area is very densely populated by African-Americans, but African-Americans did not have political power. They do now. They’ve achieved a lot more political balance there. But the housing situation shaped the whole Ferguson dynamic. I’m looking at stuff like that.

What are some other things you’ve been involved with at Spalding?

As part of the Intro to African-American Studies class, we established the Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African-American  Studies. She was an early African-American graduate at Spalding. She’s a very dynamic personality. She’s been a big part of us establishing the Black Student Alliance. All these things are kind of coming into fruition with the coursework and the curriculum.


With Black History Month in February set to wrap up, it’s an appropriate time to point out that Spalding has expanded its academic offerings within the School of Liberal Studies this year to include a minor in African-American studies .

The minor requires 18 credit hours of coursework in African-American studies and other disciplines such as history, anthropology, English and religious studies.

Required courses include the new Introduction to African-American Studies (AAS 201) and African Civilizations (AAS 300), along with African-American History I (HIST 383).

The School of Liberal Studies describes the new minor this way:

Students who complete the minor in African-American Studies will explore and articulate the historical, social, political, religious, and literary experiences of African-Americans within the broader context of American and global culture, and critically examine the role of African-Americans in the development of the United States. Through this interdisciplinary minor, students will gain enhanced perspectives and awareness of diverse cultures, and the skills to critically examine, through written and oral reflection, historical and contemporary issues related to race, gender, power, class, social inequality, and social justice. The African-American Studies Minor prepares students to enter into and flourish within the global marketplace and community. 

‘Fertile ground’ for learning

Spalding history instructor Deonte Hollowell teaches African-American history courses at Spalding and helped organize the curriculum for the African-American studies minor.  Hollowell has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Pan-African studies from the University of Louisville and a doctorate in African-American studies from Temple University.

He said the minor was created out of the passion for the subject matter shared by him and Liberal Studies Faculty Chair Pattie Dillon, a history professor whose courses include a class examining the Jim Crow era (HIST 330).

Hollowell said students have become increasingly interested in the new minor as word about it has spread. He said he has a packed class this term for one of his African-American history courses.

“I think people want that body of knowledge,” Hollowell said, “and when people take my courses and realize it’s about more than just African-American history and facts and a survey type of information and (see that) it’s really about the overall black experience, I think people are interested in taking these courses.”

Hollowell said an African-American studies minor would be a useful complement to many majors on campus, especially if a student’s future profession involves working closely with African-American communities.

“This is a way for you to boost your major,” Hollowell said, “and to have some kind of certification to say you’re qualified to work within this population of folks.”

Students majoring in liberal studies can also make African-American studies their disciplinary concentration.

He said the geographic location of Spalding in downtown Louisville and its mission of embracing compassion, diversity and identity make the university “a fertile ground for something that African-American studies can provide for students.”

Hollowell hopes to see African-American studies offerings at Spalding grow. He mentioned potentially developing a future course on the history of African-American communities and police.

Hollowell would also like to see Spalding eventually try to develop an institute based around African-American studies that would engage the community and that could be a “hub for political activism and an academic and intellectual exchange.”

New courses being offered at Spalding

AAS 201 – The Introduction to African-American Studies: This course traces the black intellectual experience as it manifests on American college campuses.

AAS 300 – African Civilizations: This course provides a survey of Africa’s contributions to world history and civilization beginning around 5000 B.C.E. up to the modern era.

AAS 385 – Special Topics in African American Studies: These courses cover a variety of new themes in African-American Studies inquiry and are offered on an occasional basis.

AAS 349 – Praxis in African-American Studies: This course offers students an opportunity to investigate issues that affect African-Americans in Louisville. Students will work with selected community organizations to work toward negotiations on legislative matters. They will also network with grassroots leaders in the community to research and solve social ills.

ENG 310 – Topics in Sociocultural Linguistics: Through a variety of topics in sociocultural and applied linguistics, students will inquire into critical issues such as language variations among different ethnic groups, linguistic identities, language attitudes and prejudices and others.

Learn more about the School of Liberal Studies at Spalding.edu/liberal-studies.

History instructor Deonte Hollowell
History instructor Deonte Hollowell