Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-03-30

When it comes to matters of diversity, what Samford University needs is "less talk and more action," Samford president Andrew Westmoreland said Friday, March 27.

Dr. Westmoreland was addressing more than 100 African-American Samford students, faculty and alumni at the school's first-ever diversity luncheon.

"We have seen some progress in diversity issues at Samford," said Westmoreland noting this year's 12 percent minority enrollment in contrast to eight percent during the 2007-08 academic year.

He told about the Birmingham Kitchen Table series that he and Birmingham public relations executive Shelley Stewart have started. The hope is that the dinner and discussion gatherings will encourage dialogue among diverse people from the community.

"However, it's one thing for us at Samford to talk. It's another thing to put that rhetoric into action," said Westmoreland, who sought his guests' help in the area of recruitment. "If you know a young man or woman who would benefit from attending Samford, please let us know."

Luncheon guests were welcomed by Jessica Bonner, president of the Samford Black Heritage Association.

The graduates present at the luncheon represent more than 700 African-American Samford alumni in the Birmingham area, said Bonner, a senior English major from Bessemer.

Ashley Flowers, a senior nursing major from Dallas, Texas, welcomed the opportunity to mix and mingle with some of those alumni.

"It was a great networking opportunity and it was nice to meet new people at my table," said Flowers, whose tablemates included alumni and faculty.

Jason Long, a 2000 Samford graduate who lives in Birmingham, took a break from his pharmaceutical sales job to attend the luncheon. He was impressed. "I look forward to more of these," said the former Samford Ambassador. "It's a great idea."

The luncheon was sponsored by the Samford Faculty Senate Diversity Committee, Jonathan Davis and Nancy Whitt, co-chairs. Other committee members are Jennifer Coleman, Erika Cretton-Scott, Harold Goss, Sharon Jackson, Cindy Kirk, Marcia McCormick, Joseph Scrivner, Jim Smisek, Robert Smith and Heather West.

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. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 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.