This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster. What happens when a university opens in a pandemic? Apparently, Mercer University plans to find out. In-person classes at Mercer University during the spring semester ended March 13. Georgia had 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 that day, contributing to at least 267 new confirmed cases nationwide. The pandemic has only gotten worse since classes were let out. On July 15, Georgia had 3,568 new confirmed cases, while the United States overall had 67,404. Nevertheless, the school has decided to bring students back for entirely in-person instruction in the fall. Numbers suggest that this is a fool’s errand. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"]It is not a question of if a mass outbreak will happen on campus, but when. [/pullquote] According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is often more severe in people who are older than 60 years or who have pre-existing health conditions. However, that doesn’t mean that college undergraduates are in the clear. Research shows that as many as one in three young adults in the U.S. are vulnerable to having a severe case of COVID-19. Hospitalizations for people 18-49 years of age increased by 14% between March and June, according to the covid-net database of hospitalizations in 14 states that represent 10% of the U.S. population. There is also new evidence that there may be long-term health effects for anyone that contracts the virus, even if they originally only had mild symptoms. These long-term effects have included loss in lung function as well as neurological symptoms including headaches, strokes, seizures and general confusion. Asymptomatic transmission is recognized as a contributing factor to the quickly rising number of cases across the country. The CDC estimates that 40% of those infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and the chance of transmission from people with no symptoms is 75%. Even with this data in mind and Georgia being declared a “red zone,” Mercer plans to host in-person classes in the fall beginning on Aug. 18 and bring students back to on-campus housing. Although the administration has released COVID-19 safety plans to mitigate the spread, these initiatives will not be enough to protect students, faculty and the Macon community. Unless Mercer intends on feeding the public health crisis further, it needs an online option for fall classes on all campuses. Mercer testing policies for move-in Mercer will spread out move-in days over a span of four days. As part of the move-in procedure, Mercer has also required all undergraduate students returning to campus to be tested for COVID-19. They have presented two options for students to be tested: they can either be tested locally up to 10 days before they arrive on campus, or elect to be tested through Mercer Medicine in an appointment 30 minutes prior to their scheduled move-in time. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"]Even with this data in mind and Georgia being declared a “red zone,” Mercer plans to host in-person classes in the fall beginning on Aug. 18 and bring students back to on-campus housing. [/pullquote] There are many unknown variables that are not addressed by this plan. COVID-19 tests are a snapshot of the current time. If a student was to get tested 10 days prior to their move-in date, there is no way to know if they contracted the virus in the days between being tested and arriving on campus. Since they were already cleared by Mercer Medicine because of the first test, the student could conceivably live in a communal dorm and walk around campus while asymptomatic, exposing students and faculty. On the other hand, students that elect to be tested by Mercer Medicine on the day of their move-in will not get their results back for at least 24 hours. An asymptomatic student whose test comes back positive would already have moved into campus and interacted with fellow students living in their dormitory, exposing them to the virus. If a single test were to come back positive the day after a student has moved in, any student or family member of a student moving in, Mercer staff or student volunteers would have been exposed to the COVID-19 positive individual. The amount of contact tracing involved in determining how many people a student encounters on move-in day would be close to impossible. The testing is also only being administered to students and not to family members of students helping them move in, introducing another unknown element of unnecessary COVID-19 exposure to the Mercer community. What happens when someone shows up on move-in day as COVID-19 positive? Mercer University stated in an email to undergraduates that they have “designated isolation areas on campus” for these students, but what about every person that was exposed in the 24 hours it would take to process the test? Will they be tested again? Will they have to be isolated as well? Hosting in-person classes Say that move-in goes as planned and in-person classes and labs are in session as the school intends. The administration has not been forthright about addressing class sizes, classroom configurations for social distancing and cleaning measures for classrooms. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"]Having in-person classes in the fall will be far from the general state of normalcy some may expect to have with an in-person experience.[/pullquote] Although Mercer released a detailed Face Cover Policy on July 16 requiring masks inside most Mercer facilities, a mask mandate is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While masks have been shown to be effective at preventing transmission, research has shown that airflow within an enclosed space can lead to the transmission of the virus through the movement of aerosols or droplets when people stay in the same enclosed space for an extended amount of time. Mercer’s standard class time of 50 or 75 minutes exceeds the time limit. Mercer has repeated in communications that virtual formats cannot fully capture activities and events that contribute to “The Mercer Experience.” This includes but is not limited to research and design projects, clinical work and celebrating student achievement in various venues. The school argues that “virtual formats cannot fully capture the enormous value of face-to-face instruction and the camaraderie of studying and learning in the company of one’s mentors and peers.” The value of face-to-face instruction and camaraderie of studying with peers is greatly reduced when standard social distancing measures are applied in classrooms. Standard social distancing guidelines recommend people stay six feet apart to prevent virus transmission. If classrooms can be configured in this way, to further support social distancing, students will not be able to interact with their peers or professors as they normally would. If students are positioned closer together than the six feet because of space constraints (as other schools, including UNC Chapel Hill, have implied with the assumption that they will always face forward) it is unrealistic to expect this type of behavior from a class of college students. Having in-person classes in the fall will be far from the general state of normalcy some may expect to have with an in-person experience. Other student activities Preliminary evidence points to a high likelihood of an outbreak as college athletic programs across the nation have confirmed positive cases amongst members of their athletic programs including student-athletes, staff and coaches within weeks of returning to campus. Off-campus Fraternity and Sorority Programs have also shown alarming signs for the possibility of mass transmission. It is not a question of if a mass outbreak will happen on campus, but when. Even the administration at Mercer has recognized the inevitability of an outbreak with their preparations for the year. A top official in communication with Todd Patton, a concerned Mercer parent, said they are “confident we are doing everything possible to promote safe practices on our campuses and effectively deal with cases as they occur.” University officials are acknowledging that their plans will result in students who fall ill to COVID-19. Common surface contamination COVID-19 has been shown to live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for two to three days. A common surface all across the school used for security purposes are Bear Card scanners to get into buildings. Depending on the quality of the scanner, students physically have to touch their plastic Bear Card to the plastic enclosed scanner. In terms of dormitories, this is a common surface that every single student in the dorm has to touch prior to entry. With all of these surfaces that are so frequently used, how does the school plan on sanitizing every surface after every use? Mercer’s “Bears Care” initiative In addition to having on-campus testing available through Mercer Medicine, Mercer has centered its coronavirus plan around its “Bears Care” initiative. According to Mercer’s website, the school will be providing every student, faculty and staff member with a “Bears Care Kit.” This kit includes a cloth mask, two ounces of hand sanitizer, a digital thermometer, a Bears Care lapel pin, a sticker with Student Health Center information, an information card on mask usage and hygiene tips and a “Bears Care” pledge card to promote personal responsibility. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"]A mask, two fluid ounces of hand sanitizer, a thermometer and a pledge card: that is how the school plans to fight a pandemic. [/pullquote] A mask, two fluid ounces of hand sanitizer, a thermometer and a pledge card: that is how the school plans to fight a pandemic. While the school may be operating in an ideal world where students behave as they would pledge, patterns tell of a very different world that exists. In a survey last month from the Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape, 45% of people ages 18-39 said they had socialized without social distancing. Effects on the Macon community We as Mercerians have a responsibility to protect the Mercer family and the Macon community. Not only do students, faculty, and staff risk their own lives meeting in-person, but it risks those external to Mercer as well. Georgia has recently been identified as a “red zone” for coronavirus cases by an unpublished document written for the White House by the Department of Public Integrity, indicating that the state needs to revert back to more strict protective measures. These measures include to “close bars, require strict social distancing within restaurants, close gyms, and limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people.” The school runs the risk of endangering the entire Macon community and surrounding areas by bringing in a population influx of over 4,700 undergraduate students from across Georgia and across the country into a single 150- acre campus. Even if a student does not become severely ill from contracting COVID-19, they very well could pass it on to someone that does have a severe case. Students should not have to choose between pursuing their degree and the life of another person and the public well-being. The alternative: An online fall semester As of mid-July, Mercer has not given any online alternative for students who are at risk or students who are genuinely concerned about being exposed or carrying the virus to others. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"]To the administration that decided to open this fall: people in the Mercer family and Macon community are going to die because of this decision. Are you willing to have this on your conscience for the sake of the Mercer experience? Are you changing the world the way you wanted? Is this what “Being the Bear” means? [/pullquote] In the same communication to Mercer parent Todd Patton, a Mercer top official stated, “we will not be providing an option for students to complete their coursework online, unless they are enrolled in programs that were designed to be delivered online.” While the in-person classes students are enrolled in were not originally designed to be online, this does not mean that they could not be adapted now. The university had a three-month summer break to be redeveloping coursework for online means. The university has however implied that some form of distance learning will be available to undergraduate students who test positive for COVID-19. In an email sent to students on July 17, Mercer President Bill Underwood said, “please note that in the case when students do test positive when they move in, we have designated isolation areas on campus and have already made accommodations to ensure continuity of academic instruction.” Mercer also suggested that accommodations will be available to those with documented health issues, saying in a comment on a Mercer University Instagram post, “We understand a lot of you are concerned about those with underlying conditions. Students with documented health issues may request accommodations through our Access and Accommodations Office.” However, it’s unclear what the accommodations are and how they will ensure continuity of academic instruction. If this is some type of video streaming system for those in isolation for testing positive for COVID-19, why is that same system not being made available for students who do not want to risk their and other people’s lives by coming back to campus? Why would students be required to come back to campus at all if this accommodation has already been made? In the case the students do come back to campus and there is a mass outbreak, students will once again be sent home in the middle of the semester. This would result in a near repeat of the spring semester, where faculty had to scramble to adapt their courses for online learning using Canvas and Zoom. Instead of investing in in-person classes that would endanger attendees, where there is only so much that can be done, Mercer could be investing in new online methods and training professors in advance on how to use them to improve the value of an education students would receive online. The social interaction would not be the same as it is in-person. However, this would be a necessary sacrifice for all parties to keep the Mercer family and Macon community safe during the pandemic. To the administration that decided to open this fall: people in the Mercer family and Macon community are going to die because of this decision. Are you willing to have this on your conscience for the sake of the Mercer experience? Are you changing the world the way you wanted? Is this what “Being the Bear” means? This is a call to action to rethink your strategies.
Use the fields below to perform an advanced search of The Mercer Cluster's archives. This will return articles, images, and multimedia relevant to your query.
8 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.
This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster. Dear Bear Card, I am really sorry my Android offended you. I’m not sure what it did to you to not deserve your company, but I feel my Android's sorrow through its curved screen. Is it just because bears really like fruit and thus you chose the fruit-themed mobile appliance? Having a robot theme is too much technology for you to handle? Or is it that you do not like the green message boxes that ruin cleverly named iMessage group chats? My Android is thinking of several cleverly-named group chats for being ignored by you right now. Is it the issues that it has with photo compression? I promise that it will not compress your beautiful bear card display of my freshman year picture that will follow me for the rest of my life. Is it because my Android has a headphone jack? I assure you, you will not be impaled when I plug my headphones in. Is it because I prefer having a navigation bar with three buttons to the iPhone's single home button? I know three buttons can be a little confusing, but I am sure you can figure it out. My phone has desperately tried to channel its inner Bear Card these past few years with a stick-on wallet. I guess it will have to live one more year in a dollar store wallet, being pressed up against credit cards and real IDs, than live as zeroes and ones on my device for eternity. On the bright side, I will not have to worry about being able to get into a campus building if my lovely Android is dead, unlike some of the Apple models. I can also get my favorite meal at Chick-Fil-A with a dead phone, assuming I have money and Chick-Fil-A has chicken, which can both be large assumptions. In all seriousness, I understand that programming an iPhone vs. everything else can be incredibly difficult. I do wish these versions could have come out at the same time so that my Android could finally channel its inner "Go Bears!" Sincerely, A neglected Android user
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the 2019 film "The Lion King." In the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” Walt Disney tells P.L. Travers that he wants to take her to Disneyland. She responds by saying, "I cannot begin to tell you how uninterested - no, positively sickened I am at the thought of visiting your dollar-printing machine." While “Saving Mr. Banks" was based in the 1960s, today Disney has an entire arsenal of dollar-printing machines. This now includes their live-action remakes of classic animated films including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Jungle Book,” “Dumbo” and the most recent film, “The Lion King.” The original film premiered in 1994 in 2D animation and since then has become a favorite movie for an entire generation. I remember when I first got it on VHS and proceeded to watch the movie on a loop; who wouldn't love singing along to a care-free meerkat-warthog duo? Live-action remakes have become the bread and butter of Disney, making billions in the box office and having world-wide popularity. This did not stop me from seeing a remake of one of my favorite childhood movies. I went into this movie with the assumption that it would follow the original storyline, but I was not sure how realistic-looking animals would affect the experience. I arrived at the theater prepared with my smuggled candy and a travel Kleenex pack for the inevitable wildebeest scene. I can now say I did not need the Kleenex, but I definitely shed a tear when the inevitable scene arrived. The film closely followed the original script. There are a few exceptions, though. The “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” scene, which was originally shown at night, was portrayed in the middle of the day in the rendition. There was an unexpected “Beauty and the Beast” reference that I found absolutely hilarious. A few minor characters were introduced, but they did not end up changing the overall plot-line. Since this was a live-action remake, the most obvious change was the visual quality — the scenery is absolutely stunning. Between the music and opening scene, I was left with goosebumps. The animals looked so realistic that it felt like I was watching something off of the Animal Planet channel. However, since this movie sticks to realistic-looking animals, it’s hard to judge emotion based on the face of a lion. The emotion changes more in the voice-over and background music. Speaking of music, the soundtrack for this movie is on point and brings back every original song with the new voice actors. I will definitely be listening to it in my car. Overall, do not go to this live-action remake expecting a new, revitalized plotline. Simba cannot wait to be king, Scar is still evil and you do not have to worry about Hakuna Matata — it made the final cut. Instead, go to this movie to see the jaw-dropping scenery and striking realism in animal animation unparalleled by any other existing film. Go for the revival of some of our favorite songs from the original film, and of course, to see the adorable baby Pumbaa flashback. The live action “The Lion King” was made for pure nostalgic purposes with an amazing cast and a highly realistic picture. However, if I had to choose between this and the original, I would still choose the original every time.
Ready to bundle up with a cup of hot cocoa and watch Christmas movies all day? Here are a few movies sure to give you some holiday cheer: It’s a Wonderful Life This bittersweet classic has entranced audiences of all ages since 1946. George Bailey (James Stewart) has an unexpected surprise after he wishes that he never existed. He quickly learns how much of an impact he has in the lives of the people around him. Perhaps the most memorable thing he learns is that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. Home Alone Home Alone pulls viewer's emotions in all different directions with a comedic theme combined with an undertone of loneliness. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), a bratty but resourceful 8-year-old from Chicago, has to grow up quickly when his family mistakenly leaves him behind as they travel to France for Christmas. Unaware that they left, Kevin wakes up to an empty house and, of course, throws himself a party. Little does he know what is to come as burglars case the neighborhood of empty houses. While Kevin’s first instinct is to hide in his parents bed at the sight of the burglars, he motivates himself to defend his own house, and the burglars have no idea what they are up against. Miracle on 34th Street Susan Walker (Mara Wilson) is a six-year-old Santa Claus skeptic whose disbelief comes from her Santa-doubting mother. Because of this, Susan does not expect much from the magic of Christmas, until she meets a special department store Santa Claus, who gives her the most important gift of all: something to believe in. Die Hard For people who are not overly fond of cheesy Christmas movies, Die Hard is an action-packed thriller. New York police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting his family in California for Christmas. McClane must take actions into his own hands when a terrorist takes over the building where the company his wife works for is holding a Christmas party. The Santa Clause Tim Allen stars as Scott Calvin, a non-believing businessman who doesn’t know how to cook a Christmas turkey. His life suddenly changes when he causes a man dressed in a Santa suit to fall off of his roof on Christmas Eve. He and his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) are magically transported to the North Pole, where Scott is told by an elf that he is the new Santa Claus because he put on the old Santa’s jacket, as stated in the Santa Clause. Scott wakes up the next morning thinking it was all a dream, but he is in for a rude wake-up call. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King, just presided over another successful Halloween, but he can’t help but feel like there is something missing in his life. That is, until he discovers Christmastown, and decides to take Christmas as his own holiday as well. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you know the rest of the song. This traditional family favorite about a beloved red-nosed reindeer always brings Christmas cheer. As an outcast, Rudolph must find a way to redemption in the eyes of his parents, friends, Santa, and himself. This sets him on an adventure to silver, gold and the island of misfit toys.
Calvin Langman, a student of Mercer’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, has played the cello for 10 years. Although he is only a freshman, he has accomplished a great deal in his first few months of college. He is involved in music not only on campus, but he is also in a band, The Happy Fits, that he and his friend Ross Monteith started in high school. “Ross really liked my original songs. Over the summer, we started covering more and more songs and starting creating original songs,” Langman said, “Around a month later, I had words and melodies to Ross’s songs. Ross would write more riffs, and I would write more lyrics. By end of summer we had created 14 to 15 songs together. That’s when we decided to release an EP. After a week of the EP being out, we made top 5 on Spotify’s Top 50 USA Vital Chart.”[infographic align="right"][/infographic] After the band’s almost instant success, the boys are now working on finalizing a West Coast tour from May to June. They are planning an East Coast tour as well. The Happy Fits were invited to play at Penn State in December and are planning more gigs for the future. Influenced by bands like Reptar, Givers and The Killers, Langman said that he enjoys music that is more soulful and personal. Langman comes from a musical background: his brother is a violinist and pianist, his sister is a pianist and his grandfather was an amateur violinist. “I chose cello because I wanted to do something different than my brother and sister,” said Langman. “No one else in my family played the cello, so that’s when I started.” Langman not only plays the cello, but also the piano and a little bit of the ukulele. Langman chose Mercer over other big name music schools because it offers a small program where professors can pay closer attention to individual students. “There is an amazing program here. The professors are amazing, and the students are amazing,” said Langman, “It allows me to bring out my inner child.” For the new faces coming in who are interested in music but worried about being stigmatized as a music major, Langman has some advice. “People always think that people are thinking about them, judging them,” said Langman, “But something I learned is that most people don’t care. You shouldn’t stop yourself from doing something just because you are afraid people are going to judge you.”
Millions of people in the United States are affected by cancer, and October has been recognized for years in many ways across the country as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Kirby Southard, the senior center for Mercer’s football team, is no stranger to pink. Every October he wears pink in his uniform to honor his mother, a survivor of ovarian cancer, as well as other families affected by cancer. Along with his mother, Southard said he himself previously suffered from skin cancer. “The first time I [wore pink], it caught my mom off guard,” Southard said. “Every year I want to do it in every game for the month of October. It’s really nice for everyone to be able to come together with the same common thing that affects a lot of people. It’s not about whether it matches the orange and black. It’s about what it means to people.” In the past, Southard has worn pink undershirts with his uniform and more recently tapes his ankles and the club he has to wear on his right hand because of an injury in pink. Since his family is from Georgia, they never miss a game. “I really liked Mercer because it was in Georgia and that’s where my family is. They’ve been to San Diego, and they go to every road game and every home game,” Southard said. “It lets you know that they are always there for me. It’s special. Both my parents work, but they still are able to schedule around it for my games every single week.” In a larger effort to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the football team wore pink ribbon stickers on their helmets for their home game against Western Carolina University on Oct. 15. Several breast cancer survivors carried a large American flag onto the field for the National Anthem as well. Southard and the football team aren’t the only ones raising awareness. The women’s soccer team also joined in the festivities. [gallery ids="20306,20305,20304,20303,20302,20301,20300"] “[The] women’s soccer team had an annual Pink Out match [on Oct. 12] where the team wore pink uniforms, the game balls were pink and t-shirts were sold,” said Patrick Walsh, assistant athletic director for media relations, in an email. For Southard, this time a year is a reminder of the struggles that his family has faced when dealing with cancer. "Our family is already close together. That's not going to bring us any closer than we already are." Southard said. "It makes you appreciate every day you have. You don't take a day for granted with your family, no matter what you are going through. Every family fights, argues and bickers, but at the end of the day it's the big picture in life.”
Senior cross country runner Victoria Rogers is leading her team towards success as she is constantly pushing herself to be the best she can be. She was Mercer’s top finisher in its first three meets and then its runner up in the latest meet. While she is hitting her stride now, running was not always Rogers’ favorite sport. She first took up cross country in the fall of her seventh grade year to get ready for soccer in the spring. She ended up not making her middle school’s soccer team, but her dad encouraged her to keep her head of up and run track instead. Ever since, Rogers has been in love with running. “My dad originally inspired me to run since he was a runner, too,” Rogers said. “I try to do good for him and obviously my teammates and my coach who is always there encouraging us, too.” Rogers had been playing soccer since she was five, but she never felt the confidence playing soccer that she did after she started running. While playing soccer her skills remained stagnant, but when she ran she was able to quickly improve and build up a lot of confidence over time. Rogers’ passion for running now translates into confidence in everything she does. “It’s good to be confident in what you do. I was not really a good runner at first,” Rogers said. “You finish a race and you know who was the best and who wasn’t, so it’s very clear and straightforward.” As a senior on the team, Rogers saw that she needed to step up to encourage her teammates to get to the next level. She said while she motivates her teammates, they also motivate her to keep moving forward and be the best she can be. “Victoria is an all-around great person, not just at meets and practice, but all around campus. She always has a positive mood and is willing to do anything it takes to get better,” said freshman cross country runner Julia Turbyfield. “She pushes herself to her full potential, and at the same time she is supporting and encouraging us to do our best.” Rogers wants to motivate her teammates to keep improving and one of her small-term goals is to influence the people around her. “I try putting a smile on a face and also to be a friendly person, just make other people’s day,” Rogers said. [pullquote speaker="Victoria Rogers" photo="" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]“Whenever I talk to people at my high school and they say, ‘I don’t know if I want to run cross country in college,’ I always tell them to do it because it was the best decision I ever made.[/pullquote] While cross country overall is a team sport, most practice and training is individualized for each athlete to know where they need to improve and how they can push towards their goals. Rogers runs with her old high school’s teammates over the summer and then during the season has workouts given by the coach. Rogers says that usually during the season, cross country runners can run between 45 and 50 miles per week, while in the summer they run between 55 and 60 miles per week to build a higher endurance. In terms of setting goals to improve, Rogers hopes to keep getting better. Since cross country can be highly individual, she can see her improvement over time. She wants every race to be better than the one before, and each week she strives to improve a little more. “Anyone can run — that’s what I love about it,” Rogers said. “People will say, ‘No, I can’t do it,’ but really anyone can run whether it’s one mile or ten miles or a marathon . . . Not everyone can play basketball — I can’t — but everyone can run.” Rogers encourages everyone to run collegiately or for fun. “Whenever I talk to people at my high school and they say, ‘I don’t know if I want to run cross country in college,’ I always tell them to do it because it was the best decision I ever made,” Rogers said. “It was just a great way to meet people and get involved with the school. It keeps you motivated and on a schedule, and it teaches you time management. I would highly recommend it for everyone.” Rogers also runs on Mercer’s track team, participating in both the 5K and 10K events. “The 10K is 25 laps on the track, so it’s mentally really tough. You just keep going. I count it one lap at a time and try not to think about how many more you have to go. I just worry about one lap at a time and over time you [finish],” Rogers said. After college she still plans to run for fun, and wants to run at least one marathon. Rogers is a Biology major on a Pre-Physician Assistant track and plans to go to PA school. “I hope that I’ve left a positive mark [on Mercer] and inspired other people to be better,” Rogers said.
Lauren Lightfritz always sets her eyes on the prize. At her first college tournament, Lightfritz finished as the top Mercer golfer. Golfing since the age of seven, Lightfritz has worked tirelessly to get where she is today as a freshman NCAA Division-I (D1) golfer. At the age of 11, she started playing tournament golf, which is when she realized her dream was to become a part of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) — and to get there, she knew she wanted to have a scholarship to play golf in college. Golf has played a central role in her life as her training and fitness pushed her to go to the next level. “[Being at the D1 level] means everything because my goal has been to go to the LPGA, and I feel that it is part of my life to go there,” Lightfritz said. “It’s a learning process. Coach [Michele] Drinkard is really going to help me. She knows a lot about the game, and she can teach me a lot.” Lightfritz says she enjoys the higher level of competition that comes with collegiate golf, and she continues to look forward to the rest of the season. “[The first tournament was] kind of like the beginning of momentum,” Lightfritz said. “I was nervous, but once I started playing I realized it’s just another golf tournament . . . I think it’s a sign for the future and for the next couple of tournaments throughout the year that I’m gonna play very well.” Nearly everyone that comes to Mercer has a story about why they came to Mercer. Lightfritz, originally from Suwanee, Georgia, was not thinking about Mercer until she got an email from the coach and visited campus. “I visited Mercer and I just instantly fell in love with it. It was the feeling you get when you come on campus and that it was closer to home. It also felt like home even when I was away from home,” Lightfritz said. Lightfritz says that at each tournament, the team learns a lot from the experiences and tries to take away the positives. At the same time, they try to focus on what they can do to improve for the next tournament and encourage each other to succeed even more. While Lightfritz is dedicated to the golf course, she is also pursuing a degree in finance and wishes to open her own business that sells children's and women’s golf apparel. “I want to open up a clothing business for golf, to make better girls golf clothes and apparel that are more comfortable and fit better,” Lightfritz said. “I feel like they don’t make them as comfortable as they should be; golfers should be more comfortable while they are playing.”