Students in Samford University’s Department of Religion explore many of life’s deepest questions while developing practical skills that enable them to succeed in many professions, including as ministers, scholars, social workers, and preachers. Our students explore the Bible and Christian theology, as well as the history, sociology, and philosophy of religion. Courses examine not only the Christian tradition in which Samford is rooted, but also the many different religions that shape our world. Our Preministerial Scholars program offers scholarship support and a variety of internships and small groups to help nurture students preparing for ministry. Religion majors are eligible to participate in a fast track option for the master’s degree in social work. Students in this "3 + 2" program complete both a B.A. and an M.S.W. in five years.
It was in this community of scholars and practitioners that I learned to think critically, to read scripture closely and to draw connections between scholarly theory and the everyday life of faith. The faculty invested in me, and other students, in a profound way—naming our gifts, honing our skills and nurturing our sense of calling. It was transformational! The Rev. Meg Lacy, Minister of Spiritual Formation & Community Ministries, Emerywood Baptist Church, High Point, N.C.
Not only has the Religion Department prepared and equipped me for ministry, but it has also created lifelong friendships with other students and professors. I would highly recommend students take advantage of this opportunity and become religion majors. The Rev. Josh Waugh, Associate Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tenn.
Our students participate in academically rigorous courses, asking challenging questions about faith, scripture, history, the realities of ministry, and modern society. They explore diverse cultures and distant lands, and can even spend a month in Israel performing archaeological research in the ground where Jesus walked. They also can engage in a variety of supervised internships that link the intellectual work of the classroom to ministry and everyday life. These give students practical experience that will advance them in their careers.
Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society+
Samford students may be inducted into the Alpha Iota Epsilon chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for religion and theology. Since the induction of its first class of members in 2008, Samford’s chapter of TAK, has played a vital role in helping students integrate the academic study of religion with a commitment to faith. This commitment continues today through TAK’s hosting of various academic lectures and especially its sponsorship of Christian Faith and Critical Thought Colloquia in the fall and spring of each academic year. To qualify for membership in Theta Alpha Kappa, students must have completed a minimum of twelve semester hours in religion courses (RELG or UCBP), while maintaining a 3.65 GPA in those courses. Additionally, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in their total academic program and must rank in the top 35% of their class at the time of induction. Students’ academic records are reviewed on an annual basis to determine their eligibility for membership in TAK. Students who believe they may have met the qualifications for entry into TAK or who are interested in learning more about Samford’s TAK chapter may contact the chapter’s faculty moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Leonard.
Samford’s Department of Religion is privileged to give seven awards at the end of each academic year.
Herman Ross Arnold Award
The Herman Ross Arnold Award is endowed in memory of this Baptist minister, who served in Alabama for fifty-three years. It is given to the graduating ministerial students who, in the opinion of the faculty and students of the Department of Religion, have best exemplified Christian humility and unselfish service and have best applied to the improvement of the mind. Since 2004 it is typically given to two students a year.
Community of Scholars Award
The Community of Scholars Award is given each year to a student who has made significant contributions to the development of scholarly community within the Department of Religion. It is typically given to a junior. In the spring of odd-numbered years, this takes the form of the Theta Alpha Kappa Undergraduate Achievement Award. This award was first given in 2009.
The Cowley award is named for former missionary and Religious Education professor William Cowley. It is given to a student demonstrating excellence in scholarship, leadership, and commitment to ministry.
Vernon Davison Award
The Vernon Davison Award is endowed in honor of former professor Dr. Vernon C. Davison and is given by the faculty of the Department of Religion for excellence in Biblical languages. This award is given to a student who has completed at least four semesters of Biblical languages, has excelled in those courses, and has given evidence that his or her knowledge of Biblical languages will contribute to the effectiveness of his or her entire Christian ministry.
Samford Sunday Award
The Samford Sunday Award is given in gratitude to the student director or directors who oversee the Samford Sunday preaching program. Directors network with Alabama churches and coordinate Sunday preaching opportunities for Samford students. This program was inaugurated in 1948 by Samford ministerial students, and it celebrates ongoing relationships between the University, the Alabama Baptist Convention, and churches from other denominations. Directors play a vital role in representing the Religion Department and the University to our wider constituents in local churches. This award was instituted in 2013.
This endowed award is made annually to graduating seniors who are preparing for a church-related vocation and who have demonstrated both performance and promise. It is given to students who have shown initiative, compassion, and who have been involved in a Baptist church. It is typically given to two students a year.
Carlton F. Whirley Award
The Carlton F. Whirley award is given to the graduating senior who has already committed himself or herself to a career in missions, who in his or her life as a college student has demonstrated commitment to missions, and who through his or her school work has expressed commitment to learning. Three areas in the student’s life are embraced in these qualifications: scholarship, the practice of missions here and now, and commitment to a career in missions in the future. These qualifications reflect the life of Dr. Carlton F. Whirley, who for 33 years served faithfully as a Southern Baptist missionary to Nigeria.