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Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key


Dr. Sparkman-Key was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, where she obtained her undergraduate education and began her career in Human Services. This large, diverse, urban city prepared her for the field and gave her the foundation she needed to be successful. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Madonna University, a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Services with a focus on Social and Community Services from Capella University. She has also earned post-graduate certificates in college teaching and global health. Dr. Key has almost a decade in academia teaching sociology, psychology, counseling and human services courses. Dr. Key is the former Human Services Undergraduate Program Director and Assistant Department Chair at Old Dominion University. She previously served in an inaugural position as Academic Affairs Director of Faculty Diversity and Retention. She was been trained in Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Standards of Practice for Diversity Officers, Certified as an Bold Inclusive Conversations Trainer and  Micro-interventions Trainer. She was also tenured and promoted to Associate Professor of Human Services at Old Dominion University. In 2022, Dr. Key joined James Madison University as Associate Provost of Inclusive Strategies and Equity Initiatives. She is also a tenured full professor of Learnign Technology and Leadership Education. She is married to Mr. Ricky Key and is the mother of two teenage children, Julian and Cheyanne.


Dr. Sparkman-Key has over 20 years of experience in the field of human services with a background that spans from foster care case management to program evaluation. Currently, she volunteers at many human service organizations in an attempt to promote and advocate for the field and the diverse populations it serves. She is the former membership chair of the National Organization for Human Services and is currently a self-study reviewer for the Council for Standards in Human Service Education. In addition, she has served on the human service advisory committee for the City of Chesapeake in Virginia and the Virginia State Parent Education Coalition. Dr. Key currently servers on the marketing committee for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Trauma Studies.


Publishing dozens of conceptual and empirical peer-reviewed journal articles, her work contributes to understanding and development of the professional identity of human services practitioners with research focused on marginalized populations, competency in human services practice, and advancing the field of human services. In 2022, she co-edited a book titled, “Developing AntiRacist Practices in the Helping Professions: Inclusive theory, pedagogy, and application”. She also has numerous encyclopedia, monograph, newsletter, magazine, and conference proceeding publications. Her future research interest includes a specific focus on youth suicide and preparing practitioners to recognize and respond in a culturally appropriate way. In addition her advocacy efforts include educating and empowering black parents to seek the appropriate services to suicidal ideation in their children.


Dr. Sparkman-Key is dedicated to supporting and empowering vulnerable populations, and is trained in “Psychological Suicide Autopsies” and “Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk” (RRSRS). She is also a certified parent educator through the Virginia Supreme Court and holds the HS-BCP (Human Services Board Certified Practitioner) designation. As well, her service extends to developing and leading service learning focused study abroad programs in Jamaica and Costa Rica.


Her work has afforded her additional opportunities to travel the world and speak to diverse populations in locations including Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada, and Ireland. Her commitment to the field and to educating her students has earned recognition by the National Organization of Human Services (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016) and by two former students, who nominated her as their “Most Inspiring Faculty” (2015). Recently, she was awarded the Darden College of Education Community Service Award and the Kate Broderick Educational Accessibility Award. Dr. Sparkman-Key has received the President Broderick Award for Diversity and Inclusion (2016) and the Provost Award for Undergraduate Mentorship (2016), as well as recognition from Inside Business News, who recognized her as one the “Top 40 Under 40 Hampton Roads” (2016). In 2019, Dr. Sparkman-Key was recognized for her community engaged work with students by the Urban League of Hampton Roads, who presented her with the Martin Luther King Community Leader award. In addition, the YWCA presented her with the 2019 Woman of Distinction recognition in Research and the Sciences. In 2020, she was recognized for her international efforts by the University of West Indies and ODU’s Darden College of Education and Professional Studies. In 2021, she received the YWCA South Hampton Roads Mary Helen Thomas Racial Justice Award. She was recently recognized as one of the top 100 people to meet in Virginia by Virginia Business Magazine.


Dr. Sparkman-Key has a passion for helping others and a strong interest in the advocacy, education, and empowerment of vulnerable populations. Her future advocacy efforts will include collaborating with organizations that provide services to at-risk families, pregnant teens, homeless individuals, and women, and she has already established a history of collaborative efforts with these populations, most recently executing a STEAM camp for middle school girls of color. She empowers women to own their career and has been trained in Higher Education Leadership by Harvard University and HERS Network.


Dr. Key is a dynamic speaker, previously invited to speak to groups of educators, social service workers, youth and those of low socioeconomic status on topics related to cultural competence, self esteem, and suicide. Her efforts have also been featured on WTKR News 3 Virginia, WVEC News 13, WFAA News 8, Virginia Pilot Newspaper, Inside Business News, Coastal Virginia Magazine and WHRV Radio.

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