September 25, 2012 - As the countdown to November's national election turns from months to weeks, Samford University's Frances Marlin Mann Center of Ethics and Leadership poses the question: "Can religion have a role in the political world?"
The Mann Center has invited Mark Douglas, a Christian ethicist and author, to speak Oct. 11 on "Faith and Politics: Do we need religion in the public square?" The 6 p.m. free lecture will be in Memory Leake Robinson Hall on the Samford campus.
Douglas is an associate professor of Christian ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Ga., and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is the founding editor of @this point: theological reflection on church and culture, Columbia's online journal. But, it is his most recent book, Believing Aloud: Reflection on Being Religious in the Public Square that makes him someone who can speak from experience.
Azalea Hulbert, program manager for the Mann Center, said Douglas is the perfect choice to lead the discussion. "The Mann Center's mission is to promote ethics and leadership across the campus and in the community. Mark is a great example of that. He is an ethicist and can speak very well to leadership," she added.
The purpose of the event is to create a conversation, Hulbert said. In the past, the Mann Center has hosted similar events in relations with business leaders or legal professions, but this year, they want to shift the focus to theologians.
"We want to promote a conversation about the role of faith in politics," Hulbert says. "Since we're in an election year, it's really important to get the dialogue going about where it fits in."
A 5 p.m. reception will precede the lecture.
September 14, 2012 - Students from Samford University spent the summer on the other side of academia -- and in another hemisphere -- training and teaching South African farmers how to better run their business.
Five students and one faculty member spent three weeks developing coursework for agribusiness for an agribusiness program in Masiphumelele, a township near Capetown. The student group was led by Samford Brock School of Business student Mallory James, who is a senior majoring in social entrepreneurship.
James, who first visited the country her freshman year as a part of for a January term class, said the students teamed with Living Way, a nonprofit Christian ministry that's part of Living Hope. That organization's focus is economic empowerment and it addresses poverty in South Africa, with each of its divisions working on a different solution.
Before this summer, Living Way's program didn't have a set curriculum and was much less structured, she said. "They felt like they were training and now they're hurrying to lay the tracks before it because they're growing really fast and felt like they needed help," James said. "But with the curriculum we feel like we're laying the tracks before the train."
The Samford students spent nine hours a day writing a one-year business curriculum plan to be paired with the program's hydroponic farming, a technique that allows plants to grow without the need for fertile soil. The produce grown by the program participants will be sold at Food Lovers Market, sort of a South African Whole Foods, James said. The grocer already is asking Living Way to grow more products.
"To see people want to learn so bad and have their own business so bad to have more for themselves, their family, and the generations after them is so inspiring," she said.
One of the program participants is 39-year-old Clifford Tavengerwa, who moved to South Africa from his home country of Zimbabwe with the hopes to finding a way to better provide for his wife, two daughters and younger brothers. Back home, he had done some farming and also worked in the tourism industry until it collapsed.
Tavengerwa graduated from an initial Living Way program in December, when and his fellow students submitted project proposals. His plan is to start his own business raising pigs. He and two other students spend three days a week planting cucumbers, tomatoes and beans. The other two days are spent in the classroom learning business concepts in theory and in practice, such as financial management and accounting.
"I am really excited and I'm learning a lot of things," he said in a Skype interview. "I've noticed that since we've been doing the report and running the farm, I've found that it is really important when you do your own business is to do your own record keeping."
What inspired Tavengerwa to start a pig production company was how quickly he could make money. After three months, he'll get a return on his investment by selling the meat. If he keeps them well fed, the business has a low risk, he said. In an area short on food, the need for meat is plentiful, he said, so there's already a market for his product.
South Africa isn't the only foreign country where Samford students spend time applying and gaining knowledge related to small businesses in developing lands.
Samford economics professor Jeremy Thornton brings students once a year to Lima, Peru, to visit grassroots organizations, microlending groups and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Through visits and through working with Peruvian citizens, students learn about policy issues, the economics of growth and how to measure poverty. This helps to add a social objective, something that for years has been an increasing trend in business. It's sometimes referred to as a "triple bottom line" -- a business that cares about profit, people and planet.
"One of the key advantages of having international experience as an undergrad business student is getting a feel for what is idiosyncratic to their own culture and circumstances versus those principles which are universal," Thornton said.
South Africa didn't necessarily become an economic democracy when it became a political democracy 18 years ago, said John Knapp, founding director of Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. The unemployment of black South Africans is around 40 percent and many of the neighborhoods around Capetown are squatter camps. He said Samford is committed to furthering the idea that its students must be "agents of change" through hands-on economic empowerment.
"You have to start by forgetting everything you learn in business school and put yourself in the place of someone who doesn't have that," Knapp said.
Regardless of where or how or why the classes are made or the work gets done, people like Tavengerwa say they've benefited greatly from the students' help.
"I am praying to God nearly daily that God gave me this course so I can apply what I am learning, which is changing my life," Tavengerwa said. "So my prayers are dedicated to my family and the people who are training me so I am able to go home and do what I've learned and make a difference in my community and make a difference in society. Those are the things I'm praying for."
September 4, 2012 - Samford's Academic Integrity Advocates, a team of student leaders, will lead a Sept. 20 convocation for entering freshmen. The program continues the Mann Center's ongoing Courageous Conversations series where students lead their peers in discussing the difficult ethical challenges of daily life.
The September event is one component of the center's campus-wide initiative to promote academic integrity and reduce cheating. The Academic Integrity Advocates will also speak to students in many Freshman Foundations courses. In an effort to promote awareness of the issue at Samford, the center is also conducting research among faculty and students, meeting with faculty groups across disciplines, providing resources to Communication Arts and Foundations instructors, producing video vignettes with discussion guides, and providing online resources via the center's website.
Academic dishonesty, made easier by today's communication technology, is an international epidemic affecting nearly all schools, colleges and universities.
September 4, 2012 - Mann Center programs during this fall's election season will address timely issues in politics. The first will be on Thursday, October 11, as Mark Douglas speaks on "Faith and Politics: Do We Need Religion in the Public Square?"
An Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, Dr. Douglas is author of the new book, Believing Aloud: Reflections on Being Religious in the Public Square, and is founding editor of the seminary's online journal @ this point: theological reflections on church and culture. The program, co-sponsored by Columbia Seminary, will be held at 6 p.m. in the Cumberland School of Law's Moot Courtroom following a 5 p.m. reception in the Robinson Hall Great Room.
More information is available online.
September 4, 2012 - The Mann Center conducted a three-week service practicum in South Africa in July, with a team of Samford students researching and writing curriculum for a micro-enterprise program that serves people in townships in the Western Cape. The project, undertaken in collaboration with Samford's Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement, produced more than 30 detailed lesson plans for courses on starting and managing a small agri-business.
The Mann Center annually works with Living Way, an economic empowerment organization based in Cape Town. The Agri-Academy is a year-long program that teaches people how to farm (through farming greenhouses on Living Way's campus). The practicum is designed to develop students' knowledge and competencies to act as agents of change in addressing social needs.
"I have seen how crucial this has been to my own personal development," said Mallory James, the student team leader and a social entrepreneurship major. "While internships are great and necessary, this experience equips students with so much more. Sometimes I feel like students see a huge disconnect between work and serving God, and the Mann Center's projects have taught me how to bridge that gap."
September 4, 2012 - Students in Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing will learn about ethics this fall by performing and discussing dramatic productions illustrating real-life challenges in professional nursing practice. The group projects will be part of academic courses using the Mann Center's Better World Theater instructional method.
A collaborative venture with the university's Department of Theatre and Dance, the project immerses non-theater majors in all facets of planning, producing and performing short plays. Each performance is designed to set up a student-led discussion of ethics with an audience of peers and faculty.
Reflecting the concluding words of Samford's vision statement - "The world will be better for it" - the initiative develops ethical awareness and competencies in leading peer-to-peer dialog. Last year's productions involved students and audiences in the Brock School of Business.
September 4, 2012 - The Year of Birmingham: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement is a year-long series of programs sponsored by Samford University and the Birmingham Public Library to commemorate the climactic events of 1962-63. The Mann Center will organize a number of these activities in collaboration with other departments at the university. The following are some of the programs now planned:
(Oct. 17, 2012) Taylor Branch, bestselling author of the landmark trilogy America in The King Years, will deliver the annual Roderick J. Davis Lecture.
(Feb. 5, 2013) "Ethnic Notions"; film screening and discussion of racial stereotypes.
(Feb. 19, 2013) "King: Montgomery to Memphis"; film screening and discussion.
(March 5, 2013) "Who Speaks for Birmingham?"; screening of the 1961 CBS News special report by Howard K. Smith, followed by a discussion with U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon, Samford History Professor Tennant McWilliams, and Freedom Rider Jean Thompson.
(May 1, 2013) "Crisis," a screening of the 1963 documentary about Alabama Gov. George Wallace's "stand in the schoolhouse door"; discussion forum to follow.
In addition, the Mann Center is planning Courageous Conversations and other opportunities to consider how Birmingham's past experience with the civil rights struggle continues to define and exacerbate the community's social, economic and political problems.
September 4, 2012 - Medical ethicist John Lantos is featured in the latest episode of the center's video series, Conversations on Ethics and Leadership. Dr. Lantos, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Bioethics at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, discusses moral distress and the role of hospital ethics committees. He spoke at Samford's 2012 Health Ethics and Law (HEAL) conference.
Mann Center Director John Knapp was co-convenor of an international retreat of scholars in July. Conducted in conjunction with the Caux Round Table's Global Dialog on the world economic crisis, the event was held at Mountain House near Montreaux, Switzerland, and included delegates from countries including France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Sudan, Malaysia, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Australia, and the United States, among others.
Dr. Knapp recently provided programs on ethics for organizations including Alagasco/Energen, Double Oak Church (Chelsea, AL), Center for Christian Business Ethics Today (Philadelphbia, PA), and the Huntsville (AL) Rotary Club.