Published on September 2, 2022 by Dr. Denise J. Gregory, Associate Provost  
dignitaries at reconciliation memorial DR021522085

The goal of the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives (ODII) is to advance efforts that engage the Samford community in multicultural curricular and cocurricular development,  and promote campus events that enhance cross-cultural initiatives and celebrate diversity and inclusion while promoting respect for others.

Diversity Action Plan

A university wide committee, led by Dr. Denise J. Gregory and made up of 31 employees and students, was tasked by President Beck Taylor to create a Diversity Action Plan for the university, building on the findings and recommendations across multiple areas of the final report of Samford University’s Task Force on Racial Justice. The purpose of the Diversity Action Plan is to advance Samford’s commitment to promote and support racial diversity across campus, and to create a “more durable and accountable process” to implement the report’s recommendations. The plan will be incorporated in the university-wide strategic plan. 

Racial Reconciliation Memorial Dedication

Samford University officially dedicated its Racial Reconciliation Memorial during a public worship service on campus. The ODII office assisted in planning efforts and contributed to the event. The memorial honors the many contributions of African Americans who built and sustain the institution’s mission while affirming the university’s commitment to reconciliation. The memorial was authorized by the university’s Board of Trustees and originally installed on May 5, 2020. The  public dedication was delayed due to restrictions caused by COVID-19. 

Mississippi Mass Choir Performance

The Mississippi Mass Choir, a world-renowned, Grammy Award-nominated gospel choir, performed a free concert at the Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center hosted by ODII. For more than 30 years, the Mississippi Mass Choir has performed around the world with the goal of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through their music. Fifteen hundred tickets were distributed to university and community members. The audience was ministered to through song about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) International Forum 

The leadership of Howard College of Arts and Sciences and ODII delivered a presentation at the 2022 CCCU International Forum in Dallas, Texas, designed to encourage and equip others to lead their institutions toward better racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion. Topics discussed in the presentation included the need for partnerships in this important work, forged both on and off campus; a brief history of both Samford’s struggles and triumphs in this area, where Samford is now, and where we plan to go from here; and why we, as members of a Christian university community, believe this work is both vital and biblically based. Rounding out the presentation were several practical examples of effective programs and initiatives that have resulted from the partnerships between various Samford constituents and ODII.

Ragland Scholars

Samford University's Office of Admission, Howard College of Arts and Science, and ODII collaborated to announce the Ragland Scholars program, a four-year cohort experience for leaders among Samford's multicultural student body. Named in memory of Elizabeth Sloan Ragland, the program seeks to cultivate academic and social support for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entering Samford. The program aims to orchestrate an intentional community designed to connect multicultural student leaders with an enhanced Samford experience. Seven students were selected for the cohort to begin the academic year 2021-2022. These students were featured in Seasons magazine. They thrived in their academic studies and were selected to serve as campus leaders that promote their involvement on campus. This year 79 students applied. Nine scholars were accepted and will be attending Samford this upcoming fall 2023. 

Faculty and Staff Initiatives

The annual Faculty of Color Luncheon with the university provost allowed minority faculty members to hear from Dr. Hardin and share their concerns as faculty members on campus. We administered diversity development grants again this year and are proud of its reach. Our grants supported Dr. Courtney Haun in advancing the work of diversity. We awarded the College of Health Sciences a grant to support their virtual symposium, the theme of which was “Connect and Collaborate: A Community Campus Partnership Symposium to Address Health Disparities in Alabama.”

Campus-wide Trainings and Discussions

In addition to facilitating several discussions about bias and cultural competency for students across campus, the office also facilitated a seminar titled “Privilege vs Access.” Members of the campus who attended  gleaned skills about recognizing what access each person has and how to use said access and privilege to advocate for others. ODII staff facilitated a semester-long cadre on Dr. Jemar Tisby’s book How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice during which students were able to discuss and learn tactics for community building and racial reconciliation. The office also partnered with the Orlean Beeson School of Education to facilitate the 2022 Diversity Conference. Attendees were exposed to best practices for creating culturally competent learning environments. In accordance with the updated hiring process, each faculty search committee received mandatory, yearly implicit bias training to allow for more thoughtful and equitable hiring practices. During this time, the office trained 96 search committee members. The office also facilitated a reading and discussion group for all nursing faculty that centered on the book Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives.

Student Support and Development

ODII continued the partnership with Counseling and Wellness Programs to provide a therapist of color for underrepresented students. This resource has been imperative as students navigate the unique experience of attending a predominately white institution and manage the realities of post-COVID life. Staff of ODII were instrumental in the reinvigoration of the Latino Student Union by solidifying an organization advisor and hosting interest meetings and events that elevated Latinx students and cultural customs. Lastly, office staff supported a variety of student organizations that centered on racial and ethnic affinity by creating opportunities for connection, providing financial partnership, and encouraging students to use their voices for advocacy across campus. In partnership with the Samford Black Alumni Association (SBAA), the office also launched SBAA Connects,  a mentoring program for alumni and students based on the profession of the alumnus or alumna and degree of study for the student. The mentors and mentees connect throughout the year virtually or in person. In the coming year, the program will pivot to graduate students as the main target group.

IMPACT Peer Mentoring Program

ODII facilitated another successful year of IMPACT, a peer mentoring program created for underrepresented groups at Samford, with a goal to increase the academic, career and social success of first year minority students by helping develop a sense of community. The program focused on community and togetherness amid the resurgence of a “normal” academic year. Participating in weekly mentor meetings, the students also came together as a group for monthly family outings, off-campus occasions for engagement, and weekly family meetings. During these meetings, students received information about tutoring, campus processes, scholarships, internships, and university events, with a heavy emphasis on campus-wide involvement. In addition to the outstanding seniors that completed their degrees, several IMPACT students received recognition for their academic achievements and university involvement by receiving campus-wide awards. IMPACT students were heavily involved in student leadership on campus serving as members of Student Government Association (SGA), university ambassadors, organization leaders, connections leaders, orientation leaders, international ambassadors and more. At the conclusion of the school year, five IMPACT students were elected to the SGA executive board. The program experienced record enrollment with 79 students enrolled with an average of a 3.43 GPA for the year.  Enrollment growth since its inception in 2014, continuously climbs as we prepare for the 2022-23 class. 

Heritage Month Celebrations

Heritage month celebrations continue to be an office staple. Activities for each month include events such as lunch and learn speakers, campus panel discussions and debates, documentary screenings, and social events. The Hispanic Heritage Month Lunch and Learn featured Dr. Daniel Carroll and  her presentation on Latinx biblical interpretations.  During Disability Awareness Month, ODII partnered with the Disability Resources office to facilitate a faculty workshop on available student accommodations, the processes to facilitate said accommodations, and best instruction practices for accessibility. In November, the office organized a documentary screening for Native American Heritage Month during which the documentarian, Melissa Janko, was able to present to attendees via Zoom. In Black History Month, ODII partnered with the School of the Arts to present and discuss the history and advocacy of African American Music. A highlight of Women’s History month was connecting with various successful Samford alumnae. The office was excited to introduce Asian American Pacific Islander emphasis week to campus during which different victories and challenges of the community were shared, including a film screening in partnership with the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. These are just a few of the events highlighted during each month.

Lead with Love

ODII hosted Lead with Love Week, a series of events celebrating a shared commitment to leading with love in all that we do and encouraging dialogue and unity within our community. The week included a series of university, school and department sponsored events designed to encourage dialogue and unity within the Samford community.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.