UK Happenings

CGPDI to host Nikky Finney, alum Jenisha Watts for campus talk

LEXINGTON Ky. (Oct. 25, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Center for Graduate and Professional Diversity Initiatives (GGPDI) will host National Book Award Winner and former UK faculty member Nikky Finney and UK alumna Jenisha Watts 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, in the UK Gatton Student Center's Harris Ballroom, with a reception to follow. The event will focus on Finney and Watts’ mentor/mentee relationship and the sisterhood both women have cultivated. 

Watts is the senior editor for The Atlantic and recently wrote the feature cover story for the October edition of The Atlantic.

UK College of Communication and Information alumna, Watts launched her journalism career at UK. The School of Journalism (now School of Journalism and Media), UK English Department Creative Writing, along with several support offices, offered Watts professional and personal guidance, financial support and exposure to the journalism profession. 

Finney, a UK Creative Writing faculty member at the time Watts attended, was instrumental in mentoring and nurturing Watts' development. Finney has served as a coach, sponsor and mentor to Watts. Their relationship has evolved from mentor/mentee to colleagues to friends.  

“This event will demonstrate the power of developing a support community, the power of relationships and the power of connecting with mentors,” John Blaine, director of CGPDI, said. “Most importantly, it is an opportunity to demonstrate to UK’s historically excluded communities that women of color can find support and success here at the University of Kentucky — that the accomplishments of women of color are celebrated and lauded on this campus. These women demonstrate what is wildly possible.”

CGPDI focuses on recruiting diverse graduate and professional students in UK's six health colleges and retaining diverse graduate and professional students in all 19 colleges, contributing to an inclusive campus environment where all students can fully engage and succeed. Mentorship is an important piece in that retainment process. 

CGPDI offers a bi-directional, multitiered mentorship program in collaboration with The Graduate School and Graduate Student Congress. The Start-to-Finish Mentorship Program’s first tier connects graduate and professional students with a staff, faculty, post-doc or administrator mentor. The second tier connects graduate and professional students with an undergraduate mentee. The program emphasizes community building and belonging, academic preparedness, and health and well-being. Mentor and mentee pairs are highly encouraged to attend professional development — Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum, Contract Negotiations — and retention events — Networking @ Night, Wellness Wednesdays — hosted by CGPDI. 

Registration is required for the event to ensure enough seats and food is available for guests. To register, click here.  

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.