Bree Adams packed her small SUV full of backpacks and school supplies and began the drive from Collegedale, Tennessee, to Mayfield, Kentucky. Adams, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in social work at Southern Adventist University, had been inspired to take action after seeing firsthand the devastation caused by strong tornadoes in December 2021.

Bree AdamsShortly after the storms, Adams spent a week in Mayfield with 2Serve, a disaster response organization; the group cleared debris, cut up trees, tarped roofs, and distributed food. They focused on helping a lower-income community that had been hit especially hard and lacked the resources to recover.

Adams initially connected with 2Serve while earning her bachelor’s degree in social work at Southern, participating in a 2018 University-sponsored trip to help with hurricane recovery in the Carolinas. Additionally, she took the opportunity to get Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training on campus. While the trip to Mayfield was Adams’ fifth time participating in disaster response, it had a profound impact on her.

“Seeing how the tornados took everything from these people was really heartbreaking,” Adams said. That’s why, when her week there was over, Adams decided she could do more to help.

During the trip, she had noticed that most of the school buildings had not been hit hard—meaning that classes would resume—yet many of the children had lost their belongings in the disaster and would be returning to school empty handed. Adams was inspired to buy a few backpacks and school supplies and give them to a school in that community for whoever needed them.

Originally, she planned to donate five backpacks, but felt impressed to invite her family and friends to get involved. As word spread, donations and support began to roll in. She posted to social media, which led to several organizations offering to promote the cause or serve as drop-off locations for donations.

“Multiple people told me that they had been looking for a way to help out and that this cause was an answer to prayer,” Adams said.

She set a new goal of filling 100 backpacks with school supplies, but after surpassing 150, she realized that she could not put a limit on what God could do. In the end, Adams was able to deliver 164 backpacks for children in need to a school in Mayfield this January.

“I don’t take any credit for what I did,” Adams said. “It was all God’s work; I was just boots on the ground.”

As a social worker, Adams plans to make serving others her career. Her classes and professors at Southern are equipping her with the skills she needs to be an effective and compassionate leader in the real world.

“We are incredibly proud of Bree! She really embodies the mission of our social work program,” said Laura Racovita, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Work. “She has a heart for giving and a level of compassion that few have. Through this project, she saw a need and exceeded all expectations, making a tangible impact and helping to restore dignity to those affected by this disaster. Combining her skills and passion in partnership with a Higher Power, Bree will accomplish big things in life!”

Adams encourages everyone to find ways to make a difference: “If serving others is on your heart, God’s got a plan to make it happen.”

-Stefanie Green, junior public relations major

On April 6-7, Southern Adventist University will celebrate Giving Day. This 28-hour fundraising effort engages alumni, friends, faculty, staff, students, and parents to imagine more for the future of the students and university.

Giving DayThis is your opportunity to support projects from all areas of campus, including academic departments raising funds for specific equipment and scholarships for students and groups such as Gym-Masters, who are honoring longtime coach Rick Schwarz with a scholarship named in his honor.

You can even support students who will be going to Europe to serve Ukrainian refugees. With more than 30 projects to choose from, there are many opportunities to connect and participate.

Support Southern students during Giving Day. Follow Giving Day on social media for live updates and check your email for challenges, bonuses, and virtual events.

-Staff Report


Southern’s Board of Trustees designated former presidents Gordon Bietz, DMin, and David Smith, PhD, as presidents emeriti during its February 27 meeting in recognition of their dedication and service to the university.

Bietz served as Southern president from 1997-2016. During his 19-year tenure, the university’s enrollment nearly doubled, campus facilities expanded to meet that growth, and the Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan that he spearheaded set a strong foundation for the institution’s ongoing success. Previously, he served as senior pastor of the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists on campus for 13 years.

Presidents Emeriti“As Southern’s longest-serving president, Dr. Bietz played a huge part in shaping Southern as we know it today,” said President Ken Shaw, ’80, EdD. “We are pleased to recognize and honor Gordon for his Christ-centered leadership, commitment to Adventist education, and rich legacy of service to the Southern community.”

Smith also has a long relationship with the institution, beginning in 1981 and serving 17 years as English professor and then department chair. After leaving the area to serve as president of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 2011 Smith returned as senior pastor of the Collegedale Church—a position he held for five years. During that time, he served on Southern’s board, gaining an intimate understanding of the institution’s finances, operations, and mission. In 2016, Smith was unanimously elected as Southern’s 26th president and served until his retirement in 2021.

“It is our pleasure to honor President Smith, who dedicated nearly 30 years of his career to the Southern community,” Shaw said. “In every role, Dave’s love for Jesus, as well as the students, employees, and church members he interacted with, made a significant impact and leaves a lasting legacy.”

-Staff Report

On February 7, more than 60 CEOs, nursing home administrators, and executive directors gathered with School of Business faculty, staff, and Health Services and Senior Living Administration majors for the 37th annual Health Services and Senior Living Professionals Banquet. Participants were excited to return to an in-person format, with Todd Fletcher, ’90, president of Life Care Centers of America, as the keynote speaker for the evening. 

Two students in the program were recognized with scholarships: 

• Kayla Maplanka, a senior, received the AdventHealth Care Centers scholarship, which was presented by Keith Boyce, ’95, president and CEO of AdventHealth Care Centers.

• Sabrina Lopez, a junior, received the Morning Pointe Endowed Scholarship, which was presented by Franklin Farrow, ’93, CEO of Independent Health Care Properties, LLC.

Health Services BanquetAdditionally, AdventHealth Care Centers and Life Care Centers of America both pledged to offer paid skilled nursing administration internships to students. The Health Services and Senior Living degree program includes a 1,000-hour internship, as required by national licensing standards, with the skilled nursing administration component of this requirement making up 650 hours. Traditionally, internships within the industry are unpaid, and with the large number of hours required, paid internships in this area will greatly benefit students and encourage increased enrollment in the major.

The Health Services and Senior Living Administration program is excited to welcome these new members to its advisory board:

• Jaimme Preston, ’10, executive director of Life Care Centers of America

• Meesh Kidd, regional director of business development for Life Care Centers of America

• Susan Pena, president of Pena LLC

• Joanna King, ’92, executive director of Caldsted Foundation

• Tresa Vaudreil, ’93, divisional dementia care manager for Brookdale

Southern is grateful for alumni and community partners who continue to support students through scholarships, internships, and job training opportunities.

View event photos here.

-Lisa Kuhlman, ’10 (MBA), assistant professor in the School of Business and program director of Health Services and Senior Living Administration


This winter, Southern launched its new Adult Degree Completion program. Designed for individuals age 25 years and older who have earned some college credits but not a four-year degree, this program provides an opportunity to fulfill lifelong goals and improve career opportunities. 

For Pam Burchard, business administration major, entering the program meant returning to Southern after 34 years. Burchard first attended Southern in the 1980s, where she met her husband, Sam, and earned a two-year office administration degree that the university no longer offers. After graduation, the couple stayed in Tennessee and raised a daughter together.

Pam BurchardOver time, Burchard (far right in photo) observed that a four-year degree would open more doors for advancing in her career. When she learned of Southern’s Adult Degree Completion program, Burchard jumped at the opportunity.

“I had been thinking and praying about going back to school, so when I got an email about the program, I responded to it immediately,” Burchard said. “It was a God thing.”

The classes Burchard is taking build on what she learned decades ago as well as her years of work experience. Created with working adults in mind, the program offers flexibility with eight-week sessions, reduced tuition, and the option of completing coursework online or in person. More information is available at

“My goal for each student in this program is not only that they will finish with a degree,” said Cynthia Wright, program director, “but that they will be able to have the career of their choice.” 

Burchard is excited by the possibilities that lay ahead of her. Once she completes her bachelor’s degree, she plans to pursue her long-time dream of serving as a high school administrator.

“It’s never too late to go back to school,” she said. “The first few weeks were quite tough, but once I got into the routine of things, it’s actually easier than I thought it would be. And once you’ve earned that degree, no one can ever take that away from you.”

-Stefanie Green, junior public relations major

Your classmates would love to hear from you! The next issue of Columns magazine is currently in production and we would be delighted to include you. Submit updates about additions to your family, accomplishments, marriage, professional recognitions, or other news you’d like to share for publication.

Upcoming Events

• Thursday, April 7 – Southern's Biology Department welcomes Douglas Axe, PhD, to discuss his research-based book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. Axe's research has appeared in numerous scientific journals and books, including Darwin’s Doubt, Life’s Solution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Molecular Biology, Nature, and Signature in the Cell. The presentation will take place in Lynn Wood Hall Chapel at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase at Hulsey Wellness Center’s front desk for $5 each. If you live out of town, email or call 423.236.2673 to reserve your tickets.

• Saturday, April 9 – Iles Physical Education Center, 9 p.m. - Live streaming link for this show only.

• Sunday, April 10 – Iles Physical Education Center, 2:30 p.m., in-person matinee.

Calendar and live streaming links

• Saturday, April 2 – Evensong: Brass Quintet; Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, April 9 – Southern Wind Symphony, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” with conductor Ken Parsons; Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, 4 p.m.

• Sunday, April 10 – Southern Choral Ensembles, with director Gennevieve Brown-Kibble; Ackerman Auditorium, Mabel Wood Hall, 7:30 p.m.

• Thursday, April 14 – Southern Steel Band, with director Keith Lloyd; Ackerman Auditorium, Mabel Wood Hall, 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, April 23 – Evensong: Southern Harp Ensemble, with director Ellen Heinicke Foster; Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, April 23 – Southern Jazz Ensemble, with director Ken Parsons; Ackerman Auditorium, Mabel Wood Hall, 9 p.m.

• Sunday, April 24 – Southern Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Laurie Redmer Cadwallader: The Planets, Gustav Holst; Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, 7:30 p.m.

• Monday, April 25 – Southern Horn Ensemble, with director Gordon James; Ackerman Auditorium, Mabel Wood Hall, 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, April 30 – Evensong: Southern Choral Ensembles, with conductor Gennevieve Brown-Kibble; Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists, 7:30 p.m.


When you use AmazonSmile, you can also support Southern students. It provides the same products, prices, and shopping features as 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.

Support Southern when you shop at AmazonSmile!  

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