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The Martin School of Public Policy and Administration has received a generous donation to establish the Miriam Jane Van Dyke Barager Endowment for Diversity and Inclusion that will focus on giving students a better understanding of these issues as they prepare for careers in public service and civic leadership. The program is made possible by Judy Barager-Kemper, a Martin School alumna, and her family, and is named in honor of her mother.

“This generous gift will have far-reaching implications for our students and faculty," said Ron Zimmer, Martin School director. "Here’s what it means. First, it will allow us to better prepare students to understand the importance of diversity in developing and implementing public policies. Second, it reaffirms the Martin School’s commitment to actions that promote diversity and inclusiveness in meaningful ways."

Barager-Kemper, a 1984 graduate of the Martin School, began her career and higher education at the University of Kentucky in 1971. Her career path took her from a clerical position in the UK College of Dentistry to UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital as assistant director of Hospital Planning. While completing her M.P.A., she became the hospital’s first director of Quality Assessment and Utilization Management, a position she held for 15 years. “I was inspired by my mother’s ideals and commitment to living her values every day. She was the embodiment of passionate faith in people, service to others, celebration of human diversity, and elevation of community through inclusive decision making,” said Barager-Kemper.

“My mother chose a career in nursing to actively pursue her passion for service to others,” Barager-Kemper said. In 1971, while serving as a public health nurse in Miami, Florida, Barager was shot and wounded in an attempted robbery. Her injuries left her partially paralyzed and ended her nursing career. Undaunted by this trauma, her resolve to live a life of service remained undiminished. Though personally threatened, she spoke at public hearings regarding gun control legislation.

"She was an activist for social welfare and a powerful force for good in our world,” shared her daughter. “She volunteered to teach adults to read and write, she worked to improve living conditions for migrant farm workers in southern Florida and participated in Habitat for Humanity projects to build homes in the Miami area. These are just a few examples of what she did to try and make a better, kinder and inclusive world. I can think of no better way to recognize her lifework than by endowing this program in her memory."

Zimmer said the program will be part of a new Equity and Public Policy course to be offered by the Martin School. “Students will focus on exploring diverse perspectives,” he said. “We need to provide students with experiences that strengthen their empathy and openness to people with different perspectives and backgrounds.”

During the 2022-23 academic year, Martin School students will discuss “Gone Home: Race and Roots Through Appalachia” by Karida Brown. “Gone Home” draws on oral histories to share the culture and history of African Americans from Eastern Kentucky. Brown, a professor of sociology at Emory University and granddaughter of an Eastern Kentucky coal miner, will visit UK to discuss her research on March 30, 2023.


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