Columns Fall 2020The Fall 2020 issue of Columns—the official magazine of Southern Adventist University—is ready to view. In it you’ll find campus updates, inspirational stories, and much more, including insights from Southern faculty, staff, and administrators regarding the university’s mission, vision, and value statements.

To view this issue and past issues, visit southern.edu/columns.




ChristmasToday, if you were to give someone every gift mentioned in the Twelve Days of Christmas song, consumer experts estimate it would cost almost $40,000. Swans and pear trees are nice, but for Southern students, the gift of scholarships, mission trip support, and contributions to the campus food pantry would be more meaningful.

Southern’s Twelve Days of Christmas catalog provides alumni and friends of the university with the opportunity to make year-end gifts to a variety of high-impact areas. Gifts may be made online or by calling 423.236.2829.

“I know 2020 has been a challenging year for so many, yet we remain extremely grateful at Southern Adventist University,” said President David Smith, PhD. “We thank our Southern family for your prayers, sacrificial giving, and sustained interest in the fulfillment of our mission.”


 alumni highlights

For the past four years, Adam Johnson, ’15, has served in various capacities for The Task Force for Global Health, an organization that covers a wide range of global health issues. Its mission is to eliminate or limit the spread of intractable diseases under public health control while strengthening health systems so countries can protect the health of their populations. The Task Force collaborates with well-known public health organizations, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Adam Johnson, '15Recently promoted to associate director for programs, Johnson manages a multimillion-dollar portfolio of federal funds. His focus is to enhance public health capacity by training and empowering field epidemiologists in countries across Latin America and Southeast Asia. During the Zika epidemic a few years ago, Johnson and other Taskforce team members supported public health personnel in more than 60 countries. 

“Global health is very timely and important work, especially since we’re currently in the middle of a pandemic,” Johnson said. “Through our collaboration with other countries, we make public health sustainable so countries can rely less on foreign aid. We’re implementing long-term solutions and tools to better their healthcare systems and themselves through disease detection, surveillance, and response—currently heavily focused on COVID-19.”

As a student at Southern, Johnson was a member of the Gym-Masters acrobatic team for four years, serving as team captain for two. The team is dedicated to the promotion of positive lifestyle choices and regularly hosts performances and clinics at schools. These programs helped Johnson discover his calling to serve in public health and teach children about healthy living habits.

Adam Johnson

In 2015, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in international business and a minor in Spanish. Having lived in Japan at a young age and being fluent in English, Japanese, and Spanish, Johnson knew he was interested in international relations, and School of Business professor Braam Oberholster, DBA, helped cement this passion. 

“I enjoyed every class I had with Professor Oberholster, and he helped me see the possibilities of what can come out of this field,” Johnson said. “He has such a global perspective about things, providing so much value, and that continues to help me in my work.” 

Johnson was recently accepted into the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Next Gen Global Leaders Network. Participants in this yearlong training program interact directly with policymakers and opinion leaders, deepening the bench of prominent young voices across the country who support strategic investments in America’s development and diplomacy programs. Johnson earned a master’s degree in public health with a health management and policy concentration from Georgia State University in 2018 and will soon pursue his Juris Doctor degree.

"We admire the pursuit of excellence and life of service to which Adam is committed,” said Stephanie Sheehan, PhD, dean of the School of Business. “He models our university values in an admirable and respectable way."

- Ashley (Noonan) Fox, '15, assistant director of Alumni Relations


Campus Life
This fall, Southern announced the development of an adult degree completion program. The program is aimed at adults aged 25 and older who have earned at least 24 college credits in the past but never completed the requirements to graduate. The program is designed to be flexible in order to reach those who have a full-time job or a family. In Tennessee alone, more than 900,000 adults have attended college but never completed a degree.

Adult Completion Degree

“This program will allow participants to work on their degree while still maintaining their obligations,” said Rachel Williams-Smith, PhD, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, who is part of the team developing this program. Her previous experience helping Oakwood University and Andrews University with similar initiatives has been valuable. 

The Adult Degree Completion Program is an accelerated academic format. Some courses could be as short as eight weeks, depending on the major, according to Williams-Smith. In order to make it accessible for those who have a busy schedule, the program can be completed either fully online or as a combination of online and in person. 

“We are setting this up so maximum flexibility is possible based on people’s needs” Williams-Smith said. “In multiple ways, this meets Southern’s mission and vision.”

Additionally, the program is expected to be affordable for students looking to quickly complete their degrees. According to Williams-Smith, the pricing will be competitive with that of other adult degree completion programs. 

An important part of the planning process has involved conducting market research, led primarily by Laurie Gauthier, director for graduate marketing. In order to determine what academic programs should be offered, the university created a survey to see what those in the community are interested in pursuing. Nearly 150 surveys have been completed, but Gauthier welcomes more participation. 

The number of programs offered under the Adult Degree Completion Program is still to be determined. The two programs for which curriculums have been approved so far are Integrative Studies and Communication. The School of Business’ program is pending as they finalize their curriculum, says Williams-Smith. According to the survey, this is the program that is most sought after.

Pending the approval of the accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the university anticipates opening the Adult Degree Completion Program in Fall 2021 and offering the first courses in the unique degree programs in January 2022, according to Tyson Hall, dean of Graduate and Professional Studies. 

-adapted from a Southern Accent article by Gia Arroyo, ’20


Community Connections
Southern provides many resources to help students discover their professional calling and to find opportunities for sharing their skills and talents in the workplace. One such resource is the long-standing tradition of hosting the university’s career and graduate school fair Meet the Firms & Graduate Schools on campus each semester. 

Meet the Firms 2020Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, coordinators of the event moved this semester’s fair to Handshake, a virtual platform where students can connect online with potential employers seeking to fill internships and job openings within their companies. The average onboarding time for a client with Handshake to create and host a virtual fair is 12 weeks; Southern accomplished it in three weeks.

Twenty organizations participated in the November 19 event, and 100 students registered to take part in more than 40 group sessions and 83 one-on-one sessions with potential employers. Although overall participation was lower in comparison to in-person events hosted in the past, students commented that they appreciated this creative opportunity to speak one-on-one with employers. Immediate results from the online fair included two offers of internships/jobs extended to students.

When asked about the effectiveness of hosting a virtual event compared to the in-person events of the past, Lisa Kuhlman, ’10, assistant professor in the School of Business and chair of the career fair committee, summed it up by saying, “Students still made connections and employers extended offers. I consider that effective.”

Southern will use Handshake again for the university’s next virtual fair, scheduled on March 4, 2021, and the platform will continue to be beneficial for connecting students with internship and job placement.

Alumni interested in participating as an employer or company representative can visit the Handshake website for information about creating an account. Once the account is created, search for Southern Adventist University and request a connection.

Other ways to get involved include:

• Volunteer to mentor students in your area of expertise.
• Assist with speed interviewing events held in the fall and winter as part of the BUAD/NRSG 412 Preparing to Meet the Firms class, which is open to all students on campus.
• Hire interns.
• Share available career opportunities with academic departments.
• Join the alumni networking group on LinkedIn.
• Contact Career Services or Alumni Relations to see how you can connect, inspire, and encourage the next generation of Seventh-day Adventist leaders.

- Evonne (Kutzner) Crook, '79, director of Alumni Relations

Southern students have been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many rely on jobs to supplement their tuition and cover daily expenses, yet currently find themselves—and potentially their parents—out of work. On November 30, Southern received a $7,500 grant from Truist Foundation in support of the university’s COVID-19 Student Relief Fund, which provides scholarships for students from low- and middle-income families.

ScholarshipSouthern created the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund in Spring 2020 with the help of gifts from passionate alumni and friends. More than $400,000 has been awarded to date. Student Finance Director Paula (Vieira) Walters, ’05, is excited to have additional support from this community partner, contributing to the team effort and helping to keep students on the path toward graduation.

“Words cannot express how grateful we are to Truist Foundation for their recent gift to our COVID-19 Student Relief Fund,” Walters said. “We are blessed to have them working alongside our alumni to support this much-needed initiative. Because of gifts like this, hundreds of students who have been financially impacted during this pandemic are able to continue their journey here at Southern.”

The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities, and educational equity. Its scholarship gift to Southern addresses all of these goals.

“We’re proud to support students at Southern,” said Christian Corts, East Tennessee regional president at Truist, speaking on behalf of the Truist Foundation. “The Truist Foundation grant will help provide financial certainty to students impacted by the pandemic so they can focus on their educational journey and future success.”

Additional gifts to the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund can be made online or by calling 423.236.2829.

About Truist Foundation 
SunTrust and BB&T merged in 2019 to form the Truist Financial Corporation. The Truist Foundation advances the corporation’s goals by making strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. 

- Staff Report

Upcoming Events
Enjoy the following pre-recorded Christmas concerts by the School of Music that will be available to watch on the university streaming page throughout the holiday season, beginning:

• December 17 - Christmas Pops concert, featuring the Steel Band and Jazz Ensemble
• December 18 - Sacred Christmas concert, titled “Tidings of Comfort and Joy” and featuring Bel Canto, Die Meistersinger, I Cantori, Symphony Orchestra, and Wind Symphony.

Alumni Relations is pleased to offer Southern alumni and friends access to a range of live webinars and online events as a new, complimentary service. Visit southern.edu/alumni-webinars to learn and register for upcoming events.

• January 13 at 12 p.m. (ET) - A Great Leader is Not What You Think: Leadership Lessons From the Greatest Captains in Sports History
• January 21 at 12 p.m. (ET) - The Empathy Edge: Why Compassion Fuels Leadership Success and How to Build Your Empathy Muscle
• January 27 at 12 p.m. (ET) - Digital Flourishing: Strategies for Fostering Wellness in an Era of Remote Work


When you use AmazonSmile, you can also support Southern students. It provides the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile and select Southern as the charitable organization of your choice, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to Southern.

AmazonSmile works on your computer browser and Amazon Shopping phone app (available for IOS and Google Play for Android). In the phone app, find “Settings” in the main menu (☰), then tap on “AmazonSmile” and follow the on-screen instructions to enable the service on your phone.

This season, and year round, support Southern when you shop at AmazonSmile!  

amazon smile

                                                                            gfh   gh