Published on June 29, 2020 by Joey Mullins
"Over the last few weeks, we have taken the time to listen to our student-athletes and athletic alumni, and today, I am pleased to announce the plan of action we are taking to address diversity and inclusion for our 380-plus student-athletes, coaches, and staff," Newton said. "The plan creates a clear and actionable pathway for us to address racial justice, diversity and inclusion within our department."
Starting on Monday, June 29, JeNorri Armstead will begin her role as the Director of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives for Athletics. Reporting directly to the Athletic Director, this new position will sit on the senior leadership team and serve as the liaison to the university's Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives under the direction of Assistant Provost Denise Gregory.
"The passion JeNorri Armstead has for our student-athletes representing diverse cultural backgrounds made her the ideal person to guide this new office," Newton said. "Her contributions to our leadership team will strengthen our ability to serve the needs of our student-athletes."
"I am looking forward to stepping into this new role for our department," Armstead said. "One of the first actions I will be taking is the formation of a leadership council for our Black student-athletes. This will be an opportunity for our student-athletes to meet monthly, or more if needed, to discuss common, recurring issues on our campus, and to work together to define action items and prioritize our steps for action as we move forward. We have to acknowledge that there are racial issues in our department and on our campus and work together to take the necessary steps to move forward to change. God doesn't call us to only love people who look like us. We have to do a better job addressing the hurt and pain of our Black student-athletes. These are young people dealing with the daily pressures of being Black, being a student, and being an athlete. I am here for the movement and ready to start working with our Black student-athletes to push forward change. This is an opportunity for Samford to look back years from now and be able to say that we led the rest of the country and the world in this area."
Armstead will work closely with Gregory and the university's Task Force for Racial Justice while implementing the action plan.
"In order to educate and improve student engagement, involvement and experiences, the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives has announced the establishment of diversity liaisons in all of our 10 schools," explained Gregory. "Mrs. Armstead's new role in the Department of Athletics will add an additional area of support for our Black student-athletes. This will result in a team of colleagues across campus who will help us to involve the entire Samford community in support of Black students and the growing programming we plan to provide. Mrs. Armstead is enthusiastic and eager to work with our Black student-athletes to ensure their experiences are positive, enriching and rewarding while at Samford."
Armstead's first initiative will be the creation of a Minority Student-Athlete Leadership Council. Meeting monthly, this group will address issues brought forth by student-athletes. They will develop recommendations to create and maintain an environment to encourage diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that all minority student-athletes have a voice within the department and on Samford's campus is key to reaching the goals of diversity and inclusion.
"It's important that we create opportunities for our student-athletes and staff to speak freely about and discuss the issues they may be facing," Armstead said.
Working directly with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Samford's Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, Armstead will develop effective educational programming and training for everyone within the department.
"We have tremendous resources available to us, and we will use their expertise to meet our goals," Armstead added. "Every student-athlete, coach and staff member will tour the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and participate in an open discussion facilitated by their staff. We also will develop opportunities for our department to volunteer and work with diverse communities around our campus and the Birmingham metro area."
A distinguished speaker's series and department-wide forums will focus on creating a more diverse and inclusive culture.
Working with the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives and the Black Student Union, Armstead will also educate student-athletes and athletics staff on diversity and inclusion programs available to our minority students across campus.
"I look forward to working closely with Dr. Gregory and the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives and utilizing their resources as we provide diversity and sensitivity training to our department," Armstead added.
"This plan is the first step of many that we will take as a department," Newton said. "Under Mrs. Armstead's leadership, we will monitor and measure our progress while making the necessary changes along the way. If we commit together to taking these steps and putting our words into action, we can begin to change the culture and the student-athlete experience here at Samford."
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 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 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 1st nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.