Published on August 24, 2023 by Diamond Nunnally  
Kendall Bearden and Sarah Westmoreland
Sarah Westmoreland '23 (left) and Math and Computer Science junior Kendall Bearden (right).

Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, the nation's oldest collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines, is highly competitive. Membership is by invitation only to the top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students and 7.5 percent of juniors. Each year, the honor society awards 1.3 million in grants to undergraduate and graduate students and lucrative fellowships to first-year graduate students.  

Sarah Westmoreland '23 was one of 54 recipients nationwide who received a $8,500 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship. While at Samford, Westmoreland was a math and Spanish tutor, involved in Alpha Omicron Pi, Spanish Club, I-Club, Sigma Delta Pi, Pi Mu Epsilon, the Global Engagement Office and a participant in Mathematics and Computer Science Professor Kwadwo Antwi-Fordjour's student research group 

But that's not all. Math and Computer Science double major Kendall Bearden, also a part of Antwi-Fordjour's research group, was one of 50 students nationwide who received the inaugural Phi Kappa Phi Pioneer Award worth $1,000. At Samford, Bearden is a math tutor and member of Alpha Delta Pi, for which she is the director of Academic Affairs.  

"It was a huge relief to learn I had one this summer,” Westmoreland said. "It helps provide financial margin to focus entirely on my graduate studies." 

"This award will relieve some of the financial pressure of being an undergraduate, allowing me to invest more time in my course work and research and ultimately enhance the quality of my education," Bearden said.  

Westmoreland and Bearden credit faculty at Samford for landing these opportunities.  

"Dr. Heather West was very intentional about reaching out to me and encouraging me through the entire application process," Westmoreland said. "Because of her, I completed the application process." 

"Dr. Kennedy, one of the math professors and a member of Phi Kappa Phi, notified me of my eligibility for this scholarship and encouraged me to apply," Bearden said. "She, Dr. Antwi-Fordjour and Dr. Chad Awtrey were all instrumental in this process. I am grateful that practically every math professor in Russell Hall has significantly contributed to my success. 

Westmoreland is now pursuing her Ph.D. in applied mathematics at Iowa State University. She hopes to become a math professor and continue researching sociolinguistics and how various language populations interact using mathematical modeling. 

As for Bearden, she is a junior this year and will continue researching the impact of diseases on populations using predator-prey mathematical models with Antwi-Fordjour. 

“Sarah and Kendall stand as shining examples of unwavering dedication and persistent pursuit of excellence,” Antwi-Fordjour said. “Their tireless efforts have unquestionably earned them these prestigious awards. Their astonishing accomplishments fill me with great excitement.” 

Mathematics and Computer Science Chair Chad Awtrey said, “We are very proud of Sarah and Kendall for their hard work and research achievements that have merited these awards. They are both excellent examples of how a Samford mathematics major positions students for success during their undergraduate years and after graduation. In addition, we are grateful to Dr. Antwi-Fordjour for his dedication to high-quality mentoring and his ability to lead students on the frontiers of research in mathematical biology. The communication and quantitative reasoning skills students develop while engaging in mathematical research are highly transferable, and Dr. Antwi-Fordjour does an excellent job at fostering student growth in these areas.”  

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.