Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., Director
Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Spelman College and Director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs. As Director of the UNCF/Mellon Programs, Dr. Spence creates, manages and oversees a suite of future faculty development and faculty career enhancement programs for UNCF (United Negro College Fund) students and faculty. Under her leadership, students are groomed to enter the Ph.D. pipeline and faculty throughout the UNCF consortium are supported in their development as teachers and scholars. The UNCF/Mellon Programs are housed at Spelman College and are funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Her teaching and research interests in the areas of sociology, criminology, law and violence against women support the Law and Criminology concentration in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Dr. Spence has served in the capacities of Assistant Dean for Freshman Studies, Associate Academic Dean and Academic Dean at Spelman College. Her interest in issues of higher education access, service-learning, gender role socialization and violence against women frame her research, writing, community service involvement and public speaking. Her publications include “A Woman’s College Perspective on the Education of Men” (2004) in New Directors for Student Series and “The Spelman College Total Person Commits to Positive Social Change” (2006) in Engaging Departments: Moving Faculty Cultures from Private to Public, Individual to Collective Force for the Common Good, “Does Race Trump Gender? Black Women Negotiating their Spaces of Intersection in the 2008 Presidential Campaign” which is included in the edited volume Who Should Be First? Feminists Speak Out on the 2008 Presidential Campaign (2010) and most recently, “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? The Missing Kerner Commission Report” (2018).
Dr. Spence serves as the Director for the Spelman College Social Justice Fellows Program. She is committed to helping Spelman women fully actualize their commitment to “making a choice to change the world” through social justice advocacy. She has served as consultant for the Ford Foundation Institutional Transformation Project, the University of Chicago Provost Initiative on Minority Affairs, the Agnes Scott College Center for Teaching and Learning, the Georgia Department of Corrections, and the Duke University Office of Graduate Student Affairs. She completed a two term appointment as Faculty Trustee on the Spelman College Board of Trustees and is the former chair of the Board of the non-profit agency Men Stopping Violence and former Chair of the Board of Directors of Georgia Women for Change (now the Women’s Policy and Advocacy Group of the YWCA of Greater Atlanta). She is a Founding Member of the Women’s Solidarity Society for the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Dr. Spence is a graduate of Spelman College where she earned her B.A. degree. She earned both the Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Rutgers University. She is married to Harold W. Spence and they are the proud parents of two daughters, Christie and Courtnee.
Lauren Eldridge, Ph.D., Senior Programs Coordinator
Lauren Eldridge received her PhD from the Department of Music at the University of Chicago in the spring of 2016 after defending her dissertation, titled "Playing Haitian: Musical Negotiations of Nation, Genre, and Self." A study of intercultural leisure participation in the genres of folklore and classical music, Playing Haitian profiles the experiences of Haitian staff and students, as well as foreign volunteers at annual summer music camps located in urban and rural Haiti. Much ethnomusicological research on Haiti emphasizes popular music genres such as konpa and rap kreyòl, overlooking the foundation provided by youth music education. Broader academic research often ignores leisure and cultural activities, in part due to the media refrain titling Haiti “the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.” Her research demonstrates that contrary to this echoing discourse, Haitian musicians and their audiences prioritize recreational activities and affirm themselves by cultivating robust cultural identities.
This depiction of the ways in which race, class, and gender impact music-making reflects Lauren's interdisciplinary interests. She has been published in the Journal of Haitian Studies, Callaloo, and the CBMR Digest. She has taught in the music departments of UChicago and Columbia College Chicago, guest lectured at Indiana University and Spelman College, and performed Haitian piano repertoire both in Haiti and across the U.S. In addition to a dissertation fellowship jointly supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago, she also held the MMUF Dissertation Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship from the American Musicological Society. Lauren graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude with a B.A. in Music and International Studies from Spelman College, and also holds a M.A. in Music from the University of Chicago.
Ada Jackson, Senior Administrative Assistant
Ada Jackson has served as the Senior Administrative Assistant for the UNCF/Mellon Programs since 2003. Her major responsibilities are assisting the Director with organizing and implementing various projects for the UNCF/Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship Program, the UNCF/Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Programs, the UNCF/Mellon Ecology Program, and the MMUF Women’s College Collaborative Coloquia Project. She manages the UNCF/Mellon operating budgets and is responsible for requesting various stipends/awards for fellows and faculty recipients. Ms. Jackson plays a vital role in organizing the annual UNCF/Mellon Programs Conference and the MMUF Southeastern Regional Conference.
Prior to joining the UNCF/Mellon Programs Team, Ms. Jackson served as the Administrative Assistant for the Academic Dean’s Office at Spelman College. She attended Mississippi Valley State University and majored in Office Administration. In addition to her responsibilities with the UNCF/Mellon Programs, Ms. Jackson volunteers with Hands on Atlanta and has helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity.