Published on June 10, 2022 by Kameron Brown  
Denise Award Presentation

June 7-8, the Diversity Committee in Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education and Samford’s Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives partnered to host the inaugural Diversity Forum on campus. This two-day conference brought alumni, educators, community members and other professionals together for collaborative discussions, keynote presentations and learning opportunities surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion as it pertains to P-12 education, higher education and other professional environments.

“We sought a way to demonstrate our shared belief that all people deserve the respect, fairness and equitable treatment due to persons who are created in the image of God. We hoped educators, business leaders, and community leaders would engage in courageous conversations about how to identify with those who suffer racial injustice and how to address inequities,” said Anna McEwan, dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education.  

The conference began with a stirring performance from the Bessemer City High School Gospel Choir, followed by opening remarks by President Beck A. Taylor, Dean McEwan and Monique Witherspoon, associate dean of Orlean Beeson School of Education.  

Witherspoon presented the Orlean Beeson School of Education Diversity Award to Denise Gregory, associate provost for student success and diversity and inclusion. Gregory was recognized and honored for her pioneering work, on Samford’s campus and in her community, in the field of racial justice and diversity action.

“Here at Samford, we are committed to not just thinking well about opportunity and the resulting achievement gaps but also equipping educators of the future to address them. Similarly, at the university level, I would want you to know that Samford has adopted a comprehensive diversity action plan that seeks nothing less than to ensure all our students and our employees flourish in their respective roles regardless of race, gender, or class,” President Taylor said.

Tyrone Howard, professor of education at UCLA and director of Center X, and Jacqueline Trimble, department chair of Languages and Literature at Alabama State University, served as the forum’s keynote speakers.

Each day of the conference offered guests a variety of breakout sessions in which to participate. Topics ranging from implicit bias training to majority/minority school systems encouraged guests in open discussions and growth surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Because Samford is a Christ-centered university, I feel compelled to offer this justification for thinking and acting well around diversity, and that is, of course, that such work is central to the Gospel-oriented mission we share here, where the love of Christ and Christ’s justice is shown to all,” President Taylor added.

Orlean Beeson School of Education was proud to partner with the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, with support from the Charles and Estelle Campbell Foundation and the Louie M. and Betty M. Phillips Foundation, to launch a new tradition of facilitating cross-cultural conversations around diversity, race, and biblical justice.

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.