Published on January 19, 2023 by Frank Ruggiero  
thigpen carden
From left, Samford faculty members Jonathan Thigpen and Art Carden are co-chairs of HxA's Samford Campus Community.

A new and groundbreaking initiative in higher education may give new meaning to the term “institutional knowledge.”

Samford University is one of 23 member institutions selected to join the inaugural cohort of Heterodox Academy’s (HxA) Campus Community Network.

HxA, a New York City-based nonpartisan nonprofit that works to improve the quality of research and education across higher education, launched the Campus Community Network in early January with a goal of changing campus culture and institutional practices by empowering members to promote HxA values.

According to HxA, these values focus on improving the quality of research and education by promoting viewpoint diversity, open inquiry and constructive disagreement across higher education. HxA membership is comprised of more than 5,400 faculty, staff and students who hail from a range of institutions—from large research universities to community colleges throughout 49 states and across the globe, representing nearly every discipline.

Each Campus Community will be led by HxA member co-chairs, who are faculty, staff or graduate students at the university, with a goal of fostering a community of academics to organize events, host monthly gatherings and collaborate with leaders on their campuses.

For Samford, those co-chairs are Jonathan Thigpen, associate professor and assistant dean for curricular innovation and professional development in McWhorter School of Pharmacy, and Art Carden, professor of economics in Brock School of Business, both of whom are HxA members.

“Through my work with HxA, I heard rumblings of a major initiative coming,” Thigpen said. “So, when HxA announced the Campus Community Network, I was ecstatic and knew it’d be a great opportunity for Samford.”

Students and faculty who engage with the HxA Samford Campus Community will primarily benefit in two ways, Thigpen explained.

“First, we are the beneficiaries of our work to create a campus culture of learning, growth and curiosity,” he said. “Second, the community provides opportunities for personal and professional development, whether it be through unique events, keynote speakers or collaborations in and outside of Samford.”

Joining the network was no small feat. After Thigpen and Carden submitted their application in fall 2022, they participated in interviews with numerous members of HxA leadership. Selected institutions were notified in December.

“We received 43 applications from teams of members eager to build HxA Campus Communities,” said John Tomasi, president of Heterodox Academy. “Clearly, the time is ripe for HxA to begin organizing for impact directly on campuses.”

Thigpen and Harden are currently organizing events and initiatives for the Samford Campus Community and expect to announce them soon.

“In addition to working with others on our campus, I’m also excited about collaborating with institutions in the network,” Thigpen said. “The Campus Community Network is made up of universities across the U.S. and Canada, including many well-regarded and prestigious institutions.”

The inaugural cohort includes:

  • Boise State University
  • Chapman University
  • Cornell University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Linn-Benton Community College
  • Louisiana State University
  • Loyola University, Chicago
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • McGill University
  • Samford University
  • Seton Hall University
  • University of Alabama, Huntsville
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Denver
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Virginia
  • Western Michigan University

“I’m excited Samford is part of the inaugural cohort,” Carden said. “Samford’s unique combination of spiritual and intellectual seriousness makes it an ideal setting for the educational innovation and fearless inquiry Heterodox Academy promotes.”

Samford community members who wish to learn more or get involved are encouraged to contact Thigpen at or Carden at For more information on HxA Campus Communities, visit

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.