Published on May 9, 2012 by Philip Poole  

Samford University's board of trustees approved several new academic initiatives and new faculty during their regular spring meeting May 8 in Birmingham.

Trustees gave tentative approval to the more than 860 candidates for spring graduation, pending completion of all degree requirements. Commencement weekend is May 18-19. Samford Provost J. Bradley Creed noted that approving degree candidates is the "most important thing that the board does each year." Trustee Joe Godfrey offered a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication for the graduates.

Four changes were in the School of the Arts. Two new departments were created in the division of music - performance studies and academic studies - to consolidate existing programs into two departments to better serve the needs of students.

Two program changes affect the recently renamed department of interior architecture, formerly interior design. Students in the program will now receive a bachelor of fine arts in interior architecture degree. Also, a new pre-architecture major is being created as a non-degree program that offers a two-year concentration at Samford that would allow a student to either earn a B.F.A. at Samford or transfer to an accredited architecture program.

A new bachelor of arts degree in economics was approved in the Brock School of Business. It will allow students to study economics and apply the knowledge to many arts and sciences majors. Trustees also approved a new minor in marketing in the business school.

Two degree changes were made in the adult degree program's bachelor of science degree. The manager and leadership development concentration was changed to organizational leadership concentration to reflect new course offerings and be more easily identifiable to prospective students and employers. Trustees also approved a separate concentration for the existing paralegal studies program. The adult degree program is Samford's evening program for nontraditional students.

New faculty members include:

Laura S. Byland, associate professor of theatre. Byland has graduate degrees in design and lighting design. She has been teaching at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.

William Arthur (Art) Carden, assistant professor of economics. Carden earned a doctor of economics degree from Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. He has been an assistant professor of economics at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tenn.

Corey Marc Johnson, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Since 2008, Johnson has been a senior research fellow at the University of Texas, Austin. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma.

Keya Catherine Kraft, assistant professor of English. Kraft has been a lecturer at the University of Missouri and Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned a Ph.D. in English literature. 

Erin Stewart Mauldin, instructor in history. Mauldin has a master's degree in history from Georgetown University, where she is a Ph.D. candidate. Most recently, she has been a graduate research assistant in history.

Peng Mu, assistant librarian. Mu has a master's degree in library and information science from Wayne State University in Michigan and previously was an assistant cataloging librarian at Alabama State University, Montgomery.

Rusty Yerkes, instructor in finance. For the past year, he has been an assistant professor of finance at Loyola University in New Orleans. He has a master of business administration degree from Auburn University-Montgomery and is completing his Ph.D. at the University of Alabama.

All appointments, with the exception of Mu, are effective with the fall 2012 semester. Mu's appointment is immediate.

Trustees approved the hiring of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct the audit for the fiscal year ending June 30.

In a series of reports, trustees learned that paid deposits for the fall 2012 freshman class are up about 9 percent over the same period in 2011. Freshmen applications increased 22 percent over 2011. The market value of the university's endowment, as of March 31, is $246 million. Annual gifts to the university total more than $15.8 million as of April 30 for the fiscal year ending June 30. Gifts and pledges to "A Campaign for Samford" had exceeded $136.4 million as of April 30. The $200 million campaign runs through 2014.

In his report to trustees, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland thanked trustees for their ongoing support, particularly prayer support, for the administration, faculty, staff and students. "We feel your support every day, and we are grateful for that," Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland related student stories in posing the question "why are we here?" He cited specific students who tell of their lives being changed at Samford and of overcoming significant challenges to be able to complete a degree at Samford. He closed by relating his own experiences as a Samford parent whose daughter will graduate this spring and the impact of Samford on her life.

At a luncheon prior to the meeting, the board and university administration recognized life trustee Harry B. Brock Jr. of Birmingham on his 50th anniversary as a Samford trustee. Brock, founder of what is now BBVA Compass Bank, has served in several capacities as a trustee, including board chair.


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.