Published on May 19, 2012 by Mary Wimberley 

Samford University's May commencement activity included the first graduating class of University Fellows.

"We are extremely proud of this inaugural class," University Fellows director Dr. Christopher Metress said of the 29 graduating members of Samford's honors experience. "We set very high expectations for them four years ago, and they exceeded those expectations at every turn.  They leave behind a legacy of high standards for others to follow."

The 2012 University Fellows class led the way for a host of accomplishments, both of their own class and their younger peers. Over the past four years, University Fellows have chalked up an impressive tally of achievements both in the classroom and beyond. For instance, Fellows have:

  • Served as president or top administrative leader for 17 campus organizations.
  •  Won five of the last eight Omicron Delta Kappa freshman leadership awards.
  • Won national fellowships and scholarships, including three Fund for Theological Education Undergraduate Fellowships, a Benjamin Gilman International Study Scholarship, a Fulbright Summer Institute Fellowship, two honorable mentions for a Goldwater Scholarship, and been named the university's first Udall Foundation Scholar.
  • Written more than 100 editorials and opinion pieces in the Crimson student newspaper.
  • Presented papers at 25 professional and undergraduate conferences.
  • Received 27 research internships, on and off campus.

For Caroline Noland, a social entrepreneurship major from Boiling Springs, S.C., being a University Fellow meant an opportunity to grow, be challenged, discuss and to listen in a small class setting.

"Being in a class of 10 or 12 allowed me the room to be able to discuss ideas, to enter into unknowns. I challenged my ideas, religion, thought process, virtues, ethics and global perspective because someone allowed me the space to develop those things," said Noland, who notes that often in school, students are taught only to defend their ideas. 

"Fellows taught me to discuss. I found that I often need to listen much more to others than so strongly fortify my own opinion.  Fellows let me have the privilege of asking questions.

"What is community? How should we structure society? What does it mean to have a calling, to be virtuous, to hold power? How is the world built and how can I change it?  Not many courses let you sit on the same benches as Plato, Dante, Luther and Darwin," said Noland, who has thoughtfully explored her call to the ministry and her interest in business through collaboration between the Brock Scholars Program in Brock School of Business and the Preministerial Scholars Program in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences.

She will move to Pakistan in September to work with girls' educational programs and peace and reconciliation efforts.

"I am looking forward to learning, to seeing what it looks like to teach the ethics of loving one's enemy, to observing community transformation, and to work on the administrative side of educational development," she said of her future plans.

Noland's passport already reflects a history of work with children all over the world. She studied Peru's economic development and poverty factors first hand in 2011, and more recently, researched refugee life in London, England, among other international endeavors.

At Samford, she has served as University Ministries president, Student Government Association chaplain, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society vice president, and Theta Alpha Kappa religious studies and theology honor society vice president. 

Her many honors include the Gail Hyle Memorial Award as the woman in the graduating class who best exemplifies Christian character, leadership, school spirit and service.

At commencement on Saturday, she capped a stunning career of accomplishments when she and another University Fellow, Andrew Toney, were named co-recipients of the John C. Pittman Spirit Award. The award honors a student in the graduating class who most completely exhibits a serious commitment to being a student, a devout commitment to Christ, and a regard for one's body through personal health, fitness, sports and recreation, and an involvement in student life.


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.