Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2010-08-23

Samford University president Andrew Westmoreland told employees on Monday that he has confidence for a successful academic year ahead.

“My confidence level is as strong as it ever has been. So many good things are going on that I’m convinced that this will be a good year, and that it will be the first of many good years,” Dr. Westmoreland said during a talk he calls his President’s Annual Message.

He cited the upcoming enrollment, which could be the largest in the school’s history; an uptick in financial contributions that made 2009-10 an “amazing year for gifts” in spite of  national economic woes; and other indicators that bode well for a bright future.

The president’s talk and an earlier worship gathering marked the beginning of a week of faculty workshops and programs that precede the arrival later this week of new and returning students. Fall semester classes begin on Aug. 30.

Westmoreland used the occasion to address the school’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, contrasting his observations with those he presented at similar talks in 2008 and 2009.

 Current strengths include a positive net operating margin, “which makes a tremendous difference in our being able to run this university,” he said, and strong academic attributes, as evidenced by a “solidly grounded” liberal arts program as well as great graduate and professional programs “that we need to celebrate.”

Westmoreland said he hopes that this year’s slight increase in racial diversity is the emergence of a trend. After a small dip in non-white freshman enrollment from 2008 to 2009, this year’s new student minority enrollment has increased to 12.5 percent.

Opportunities for 2010 include an effort to enhance and explore new markets for recruiting, such as locations that have direct air service to Birmingham, and maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit in adapting to new ideas and programs. 

Current threats to be aware of include the evolving governmental regulatory burdens, said Westmoreland, but noted improvements in areas of campus complacency and local leadership that had been concerns this time last year.

“We are not complacent, and the local leadership is not imploding,” said Westmoreland, who told of a recent campus dialogue that involved him, the advisory council and Birmingham mayor William Bell. “We asked how we, as individuals and as an institution, can help the city and the region.”

He remains concerned about a struggle to provide adequate support for Samford people and programs, maintain morale for employees and himself, and build and sustain trust.

“I hope that by working together, we can build and sustain trust over time,” he said.

The program in Wright Center Concert Hall also included presentations by vice presidents Buck Brock, business affairs; Dr. Phil Kimrey, student affairs and enrollment management; Dr. Sarah Latham, operations and planning;  Randy Pittman, university advancement; and Dr. Brad Creed, provost and executive vice president.

Earlier, employees gathered in Reid Chapel for a time of community worship. The special service of prayer and dedication featured scripture, music and mediations on the theme “Speak Lord, We Will Listen; Teach Lord, We Will Learn; and Lead Lord, We Will Follow.”

Worship leadership included instrumentalists Chip Crotts, Grant Dalton, Jeffrey Flaniken, Kathryn Fouse, Whitney Head, Steven Knight, Daniel Lawhon, Rachel Lim and Brian Pitts; vocalists Joseph Hopkins, Sherrie Lawhon, Suzy Metts and Randall Richardson; worship leader Eric Mathis, and speakers Lisa Imbragulio, Tanual Hall, Doug Clapp, Emily Hynds, Michael Floyd and Brad Creed.

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 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.