LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville College of Business and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) have established the Kentucky Distillers Association/University of Louisville Scholars Program to increase diversity in the commonwealth’s signature bourbon industry.
The partnership will award five full-tuition scholarships for UofL’s Distilled Spirits Business Certificate, with preference given to Black students, women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented groups. The certificate is a graduate-level, online program to prepare individuals for careers in business operations of the distilled spirits industry.
“The KDA and its members recognize that there are too few diverse voices in our industry and we must do more to build a workforce more reflective of our population and culture,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “The KDA/UofL Scholars Program is part of our commitment to create an industry and a community that are more diverse, equal, welcoming and inclusive. Moreover, these students will be the foundation for historic and necessary change – a permanent legacy that will last for generations and forever transform our timeless craft.”
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association will fund these and other scholarships through its new Lifting Spirits Foundation.
“At the University of Louisville, we are committed to empowering our communities by improving equity and access in all areas of education and achievement,” UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said. “The KDA/UofL partnership is a shining example of how we can work hand in hand with industry to create a more equitable society for all in one of our state’s essential industries.”
In addition to completing coursework, UofL and the KDA are exploring opportunities for the scholars to participate in a series of industry immersions such as internships and mentorships. Through the commitments of the KDA and its members, these experiences would give participants an unparalleled and rich exploration of the industry and the distinct Kentucky firms that lead it.
“At the end of a year, each KDA UofL scholar will understand the business and management principles of the industry,” said Robert Hausladen, College of Business executive-in-residence and director of the Distilled Spirits Business Certificate Program. “They will have enhanced their resume with real-world experience, develop meaningful relationships with leading industry executives, and learn the unique culture of these KDA member distilleries. All in all, there could not be a better way to open the gateway to success than these skills, perspectives and relationships. Our shared vision is that in 20 years, there’ll be a cohort of senior-level leaders in the industry, creating similar opportunities for others, who started their careers as KDA/UofL Scholars.”
Jessica Pendergrass, chair of the KDA board of directors and a UofL alumna, said the association is committed to increasing diversity by expanding opportunities in the bourbon industry for traditionally underrepresented populations.
“The member companies of the KDA are working together with universities to build a better future for the Kentucky bourbon industry and the Commonwealth,” said Pendergrass, who also is general counsel and chief compliance officer for Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc. “We are expanding our support of distilling programs to ensure inclusion and opportunity in our industry for all and to better reflect the cultural diversity of the consumers we know and love. My hope is these efforts focused on long-term, sustainable change in our industry create near-term accessibility to everyone who wants to be engaged in this thriving, unique industry in Kentucky.”
Kentucky bourbon is one of the commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, accounting for $8.6 billion in annual economic impact and more than 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion each year. The industry is in the middle of a $2.3 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky bourbon.
“The Distilled Spirits Business Certificate exemplifies UofL’s strong, reciprocal relationship with the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the regional economy,” UofL College of Business Dean Todd A. Mooradian said. “We create programs like this certificate, our Equine Industry Program and our Family Business offerings that tie to the distinctive strengths of the region and the state. In turn, our programs contribute to those sectors and help shape their future.
“We gladly share responsibility for making that future more equitable and more just,” Mooradian said. “We commit ourselves, our resources and our energy to building excellence, addressing legacy disadvantages and systematic bias by building inclusive opportunities and creating a welcoming culture that embraces, invests in and is open for business to all.”
The UofL online Distilled Spirits Business Certificate provides broad-based knowledge about business operations within the industry for current or future distilled spirits professionals. It offers a one-of-a-kind curriculum that features the most relevant knowledge, skills and awareness for accelerating success in the spirits industry. Instructors are UofL College of Business faculty and industry leaders from KDA-member companies like Brown-Forman, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam and others. Graduates of the certificate program will be well-suited for leadership roles in the industry, from operations and finance to supply-chain management and marketing. The certificate program includes nine graduate credits delivered entirely online and earns students one-fifth of the credits needed to complete a University of Louisville MBA.