[sidebar title="CORRECTION:" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"] A previous version of the article used outdated election date information. Updated information provided by the Bibb County Board of Elections is now in use. [/sidebar] The deadline for voter registration in Macon-Bibb County is on May 11. As we gear up for the mayoral election, here are some things you might want to know. Secretary of the State of Georgia Brad Raffensperger sent 6.9 million registered voters absentee ballot applications in late March to deter the spread of the coronavirus. “They can request their ballot by mail to help minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Jeanetta Watson said. Watson is the Elections Secretary at Bibb County Board of Elections. The Bibb County Board of Elections said that the election will take place on June 9. Early voting will start on May 18 and continue through June 5. Five mayoral candidates qualified for the election: Lester Miller, Larry Schlesinger, Blake Sullivan, Cliffard Whitby and Marc Whitfield. Mayor Robert Reichert is not running for reelection. Many of the candidates are using social media to continue campaigning due to social distancing guidelines.Sullivan said that he has been sending out an email once a week and posting at least every other day. Miller suspended all in-person campaign events temporarily due to the virus, Miller said in a Facebook post on March 13. “Basically the campaign has really been effectively suspended,” Whitfield said. “It’s not a campaign anymore.” Whitfield launched his campaign website on April 4, but he said that he was worried digital campaigns would exclude voters over the age of 60 because many in that age group do not use social media. “They have more of a feel when they see you in person, and when they can see you eye to eye,” Whitfield said. For more information, contact the Bibb County Board of Elections. CORRECTION: A previous version of the article used outdated election date information. Updated information provided by the Bibb County Board of Elections is now in use. The Cluster apologizes for the errors.
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“Being black in America is a constant pain”: Meeting held to address professor’s denial of systemic racism
A meeting to address statements made by economics professor Antonio Saravia during an Oct. 23 debate was held in the Medical School auditorium on Oct. 28. The debate, titled “Is Social Justice Just?,” was organized and hosted by Students for Liberty and the Center for the Study of Economics and Liberty. Mercer professors Vasile Stanescu and Antonio Saravia participated in the debate with professor Will Jordan moderating. Stanescu argued that social justice is just, while Saravia took the opposing view. However, Saravia’s statements during the initial debate included repeated denials of the existence of systemic racism, citing the election of former President Barack Obama as a justification. In response, professor Chester Fontenot organized a meeting for students to voice their concerns about Saravia’s comments. This follow-up meeting was initially scheduled to take place in a Willingham classroom, but was moved to the Medical School’s auditorium as the size of interested attendees grew. The audience mostly consisted of students, though several professors were also in attendance. Genesis Cooper, a student of Fontenot and Junior Senator of Mercer’s Student Government Association, moderated. “I realize I’m not in friendly territory today,” Saravia said as the meeting began. He then gave a recap of the comments he made at the debate before the floor was opened for students and faculty to address him. Several students asked him about his statements on social justice, which Saravia said leads to a “partial application of the law.” He frequently referenced alleged sources that he had on hand, listing off supposed statistics and data that backed up his arguments — however, he did not state exactly who his sources were, how he found them or how the numbers were measured. When students and professors of color gave firsthand accounts of the racist interactions they have previously — and continually — encountered, Saravia said these were examples of individual racism, not systemic racism. Systemic, or institutionalized, racism is an embedded form of racism found within political, economic and social institutions. It affects everything from employment rates to income levels to criminal justice, and this widespread, ingrained discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to have the same opportunities as white Americans. Mercer student Cameron Wade asked if Saravia knew about the concept of intersectionality after Saravia said that class, not race, was the more prominent factor in incarceration. “Anybody could be poor,” Wade said. “But poverty disproportionately affects people of color.” Saravia then said that correlation does not mean causation, again citing his research. Later, he said that because he is Bolivian, he understands what it is to be profiled racially and to come from an economically disadvantaged situation. “You wouldn’t be sitting up there having this opportunity because minorities, almost all of us in this room, didn’t have the same opportunities,” student Nadia Pressley said. “We weren’t able to appeal to a judge … there had to be some sort of social justice movement to get someone to listen.” Fontenot spoke after several students and other professors expressed their concerns to Saravia, who repeatedly reiterated his debate arguments. “I’ve been trying to stay out of this,” Fontenot said. “Being black in America is a constant pain. We hurt all the time.” He said these issues are not simply theories, research or data. “The constant assault that we experience, even on this campus, this is why we’re here. This is what you misunderstand, Antonio,” he said. Michaela Jones, Vice President of Mercer’s SGA, said that she has been stopped by Mercer Police before and asked if she was a student here. She brought up Black Lives Matter and similar movements, saying that those movements fight for her to have equal opportunities. Later, when speaking of the American enslavement of people of African descent, Saravia compared it to inter-African slavery. “Black people also enslaved other black people in Africa,” he said. This statement prompted some students to leave the auditorium. Saravia’s words ignored the plethora of differences between the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery within Africa historically, while also implying that all black people are African. “I don’t think you really get it. I don’t think you understand,” professor Michele Prettyman said. “Everything you’re saying is ahistorical.” Professor Kedrick Hartfield shared his experiences with police mistreatment. “I know because I have experienced it my entire life,” he said. During his second year at Mercer, he was pulled over by police on Riverside Drive, and he remembered “the talk” that many black fathers have with their sons about police. He made sure to turn on all the lights in his car, and he was dressed in a suit and tie. He put his hands out the window. The police officer asked for his license and registration, and when Hartfield reached for his back pocket, the officer drew his gun. “Biggest gun I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hartfield said. “I don’t know of one black guy who doesn’t have a story like mine … I don’t know how that’s not systemic.” Cooper said she felt like after hearing Saravia’s statements that she didn’t want to go to Mercer, to which student Alvaro Garcia said, “Then don’t.” Cooper left the room, and the crowd expressed their support on her behalf. “Enough is enough. I’m shutting it down. We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns,” Fontenot said. “This is over.” Overall, the event lasted for well over an hour and several students stayed after to confront Garcia and speak with Fontenot. Student organizations are currently finalizing plans on forward action, and this meeting has sparked discussion among faculty members. Check back here for updates. This story was updated Nov. 4, 2019, to include information about Students for Liberty. Excerpts from an internal Canvas announcement sent to students by economics professor Robi Ragan have also been redacted. The Canvas announcement was critical of Saravia's statements in the debate and was published in The Cluster without Ragan's knowledge, and we regret that decision. Ragan had offered the debate as extra credit in his course and sent the internal Canvas announcement to apologize to students who had attended.
This year will be Mercer senior Adam Penland’s second time serving as the president of the Student Government Association (SGA). Before that, he served as the freshmen and sophomore class president. “I learned that no administration is the same,” he said. “Even that will be true with mine...it will be different my second time.” As he embarks on his fourth and final year at the helm of SGA, Penland will work alongside newly elected Vice President Michaela Jones, also a senior. The pair said they want this term to have an emphasis on promoting mental health awareness and resources on campus, such as the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) office. “Michaela and I are working on improving mental health awareness, mental health initiatives around campus for positive mental health, because that’s such a big deal,” Penland said. “We’re going to be working with CAPS very closely.” Penland said that especially for new students, mental health resources are critical. He said that SGA plans to form a stronger partnership with CAPS so that both organizations can help one another with their initiatives and ideas. “We want this to be a home for freshmen,” he said. “We know that can be really hard sometimes when you’re battling with homesickness or depression.” As a president, one personal goal Penland has for this year is to make connections with SGA newcomers. “I’m gonna try my best to do more one-on-one time with newer senators and younger senators,” he said. “I want to mentor them and help them get ready, because eventually one of them will be SGA president.” Vice President Jones is no stranger to Mercer’s SGA, having worked as a class senator since her sophomore year. As she prepares to assume her new leadership position, Jones said she looks forward to continuing the work she’s been doing the past two years, while also keeping tabs on the SGA committees. “We don’t want anybody feeling like they’re not doing anything,” she said. Jones said she wants to help create and define roles for committee members. Additionally, she and Penland said they hope to establish stronger communication outlets throughout campus. “One thing we really want to push is student-to-student-government communication, but also the relations between the students and the administrators,” Jones said. Jones is also in talks with Mercer Police to explore the possibility of creating a new way for students to pay off parking tickets. She’s working to establish partnerships with local food banks and community organizations so that Mercer students could instead donate canned goods and children’s toys rather than pay monetary parking ticket fees. For incoming freshmen who want to get involved with SGA, Senate qualifications will open on Aug. 28. Members will be available at tables throughout campus to answer questions and provide more information. Freshmen elections will take place Sept. 3 and 4, and the first Senate meeting will be held Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. at Connell Student Center. “We also want to let people know, even if you don’t get elected a Senate position, we still have student correspondent positions open, specifically aimed at freshmen,” Penland said. These student correspondent positions aim to promote dialogue and communication between SGA and the student body. Two student events traditionally planned and hosted by Mercer’s SGA will take place later this semester; Pilgrimage to Penfield, an SGA event geared toward freshmen, will be held on Oct. 20. Mercer’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting is slated for Dec. 5. More information about Mercer University’s SGA can be found on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Canadian author Amelinda Bérubé’s debut novel “The Dark Beneath the Ice” released on Aug. 7 from Sourcebooks Fire. This story falls under the young adult genre, geared towards a teenage audience but still riveting for older readers as well. “The Dark Beneath the Ice” follows a Canadian teenager, Marianne Vandermere. Marianne hasn’t felt normal for quite some time. With her parents’ bitter divorce looming, her once-tight family begins to unravel, and recent occurrences– strange, creepy episodes that Marianne can’t explain– threaten to consume her. Marianne struggles to keep herself together, even as the being inside of her starts to threaten the ones she loves. One disastrous attempt at an exorcism only worsens the situation. As Marianne gets closer to the truth of what’s happening to her, she’s forced to reckon with the darkest, secret parts of herself. This thrilling debut was so intense in the best way possible. I’ve never really read a ‘horror’ book before, but Bérubé pulled it off in a really interesting and creepy way. With elements reminiscent of “Black Swan,” Marianne’s psychological crisis is intertwined so tightly with the supernatural occurrences unfolding around her that it becomes impossible to differentiate the two. But unlike too many horror stories that often rely too heavily on shock value and cheap thrills, “The Dark Beneath the Ice” manages to be dreadfully intriguing without sacrificing genuine characterization and development. Marianne’s first-person narration carries the story with a fascinating and haunting perspective while the supporting cast of characters also feel fleshed-out and significant. The story explores themes beyond the supernatural; Marianne’s tentative romance with another girl is an excellently crafted subplot, and Marianne’s family drama permeates the story with realistic and relatable issues. The ending takes a while to fully register and comprehend, which is a little confusing after such a strong and intense build-up, but is ultimately acceptable. “The Dark Beneath the Ice” is a fantastic novel and a sure sign of great things to come from Bérubé.
Though the school year’s only just begun, it’s never too soon to consider what comes next. If you’re interested in pursuing a music or performance-related field at the graduate level, here are some advanced degrees offered by Mercer University. Church Music, M.M.: Offered by Mercer’s Townsend School of Music at the Macon campus, this Master of Music degree program is ideal for candidates who have already completed an undergraduate degree in music and who want to enter the world of church music ministry. The degree is for “church musicians who want to focus on conducting, piano, collaborative piano, voice and organ studies,” according to the Townsend School of Music’s website. Overall, the degree takes 37-39 credit hours to complete. This degree, along with all the others on this list, typically take three or four total semesters to complete, according to the Townsend Graduate Handbook. Conducting, M.M.: Also offered from Townsend, this program can be completed with either a focus in instrumental or choral conducting. It requires two semesters of residency, and candidates should have their undergraduate degrees in music. Both tracks require 33 credit hours to complete. Collaborative Piano, M.M: As another Townsend graduate program, the collaborative piano program also seeks candidates who have already completed undergraduate music degrees. This program differs from the piano performance graduate program, since “a collaborative pianist requires a different focus in training, with an emphasis on accompanying and chamber music,” according to Townsend’s website. Students must decide whether to pursue a vocal or instrumental focus to this program. Performance, M.M.: This program is “designed for exceptional musicians who have completed an undergraduate degree in music” and requires two semesters of residency, according to Townsend’s website. Students focus on voice, piano, instrument or organ. The aim of this program is to either prepare students for future doctoral studies or for entering a professional music career. Application materials for all the aforementioned programs include three letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, a short essay and a completed application form along with $100 application fee made out to Mercer University. Check Townsend’s admissions website (http://music.mercer.edu/admissions/) for further details.
This fall, Macon’s biggest theater will begin its 24th season. The Grand Opera House has a Broadway Series, and performances of “Spamalot” will occur on Nov. 14 and 15 at 7 p.m. In a press release, Grand Opera House Executive Director Gram Slaton said that “2019 is going to be the year we realize ‘A Grander Grand,’ starting at the curb and ending with wild applause for our Broadway and concert selections.” For those less interested in musical theater, The Grand Opera House also has performances lined up for their Concert Series. The first up is “Live and Let Die”, a tribute to Paul McCartney, on Nov. 18. For the holidays, “Celtic Angels Christmas” takes the stage on Dec. 11. Other Christmas performances include the 20th “John Berry’s Christmas Concert” on Dec. 22 and “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 15, performed by the Montana Repertory Theatre. In addition, The Grand Opera House will also screen many films. To help celebrate Halloween, they’ll host a double-feature of “Nosferatu” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” on Oct. 26. Other movies shown this fall include “Casablanca”, “Funny Girl” and “Love Actually”. “Many of our films celebrate either their 50th or 75th anniversary in 2018-19,” said Slaton. “These also happened to be landmark years for filmmaking, and it’s great to give these films a fresh look on the big screen, the way they were meant to be seen.”
For Mercer’s newcomers, the city of Macon has plenty to discover, especially from an artistic standpoint. Read on to find how you can get in on the scene. MUSIC Macon has a storied history in the world of music, with bragging rights as an influential home to music legends like Otis Redding, Little Richard and The Allman Brothers Band. With such a legacy, it’s easy to find the musical roots of Macon. Go downtown and have dinner at one of the many restaurants that have live music, like Parish on Cherry and sometimes The Rookery. Go to one of the performances of the Grand Opera House’s Concert Series, like “Live and Let Die” on Nov. 18 that serves as a tribute to Paul McCartney. Pay a visit to the Big House-- the home-turned-museum of the Allman Brothers on Vineville Avenue. ART Visual art also has a strong presence in downtown Macon. In downtown, the Macon Arts Alliance is home to an art gallery that hosts the work of over 200 artists, local and regional. The Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences also has beautiful galleries (and a planetarium!). Entry is $7 with a student ID. Pay a visit to the Tubman Museum, home of African-American art and culture. The museum also has a massive mural that “travels through time exploring the feats of African Americans from past to present,” according to their site. THEATER If you’re in the mood for a play or musical, several Macon venues have big fall seasons forthcoming. The stunning Grand Opera House will be home to some traveling Broadway productions, including “Spamalot” and “Evita”. The Macon Little Theatre on Forsyth Road will put on productions of “The Mousetrap” and “She Loves Me”. In downtown Macon, catch a show of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” or “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at Theatre Macon.
Macon is home to a handful of community theaters. If you’re interested in taking to the stage, helping out backstage, or maybe just going to see some performances, here are some upcoming local opportunities. Mercer University Theatre: Right here on campus, Mercer’s theater department has big plans for their fall season. The cast for their first production was selected last spring, but you can watch in September, as “Interactive Fantasy Theatre” takes to the stage. This show aims to be a bit unorthodox, with the audience heavily involved. The theater department’s Facebook page describes it as a “theatrical, D&D-style production.” In November, the theater department will put a new spin on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” by setting it in an anime-style Verona, according to their Facebook page. Auditions are to come, and information can be found in their Facebook group. Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/2203844106/ Macon Little Theatre: Located on Forsyth Road, the Macon Little Theatre plans to perform the Agatha Christie classic “The Mousetrap” in October and the musical “She Loves Me” in December. Check out their website for audition information: www.maconlittletheatre.org Theatre Macon: According to Theatre Macon’s website, the next auditions for their fall season will take place on Sept. 10 and 11 for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The auditions take place at the theater’s location on Cherry Street at 7:30 p.m. Auditionees will be given scenes to read at the audition. If you’re more interested in a musical, auditions for Disney’s “Mary Poppins” will take place Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the same time and location. The website advises auditionees to prepare 16 bars of a musical theater song and to bring sheet music for their accompanist. In addition, be prepared to learn a short dance routine or perform cold-reads of the script. Though not required, the website advises bringing a headshot and resume. More information can be found on their site at www.theatremacon.com/auditions.
Mercer University senior Catherine Crowe has a clear passion for activism. Last year, she held a strategic training session open to students entitled ‘Activism 101’. Crowe said she wanted to start a culture of activism on Mercer’s campus, and while a lot of students had passionate opinions, she said she noticed not many had the time to take action on them. “I wanted to provide people an outlet...and also to ease tensions on campus,” Crowe said. That was one of the reasons she started Daring Dialogues, a discussion-based program that invites Mercer students of any political affiliation to talk about controversial issues. “People can come and try to learn from the other side or better understand them,” Crowe said. As a double major in anthropology and international affairs, Crowe has held two Daring Dialogues. On Nov. 16, she held a discussion about gun rights and violence. “Both sides learned a lot about the other side’s opinion that they didn’t know before,” she said. “It got people thinking about things they don’t usually think about.” Earlier in the semester, there was one centered on race, which Crowe said didn’t go as well as she’d hoped. “People were more hesitant to talk. When people did explain how they felt, the other side wasn’t very receptive,” she said. “I think it’s more personal, which just makes it harder.” This program ties into Crowe’s research for a class she’s currently enrolled in, Activism and Anthropology, an inaugural independent studies course that she said Mercer professor Natalie Bourdon hopes to make into a recurring course. Her research project seeks to understand and evaluate Mercer students’ perception of activism and political discussions. “A lot of Mercer students have opinions, but compared to other campuses, they’re pretty quiet about it,” Crowe said. The Daring Dialogues program was initially spurred by Crowe, but she was also assisted by students John Williams and Ansleigh Seaver. Crowe will graduate at the end of this semester, but said that Williams has plans to continue Daring Dialogues. For more information on future events, see their Facebook page.
Every year, Mercer University’s Research that Reaches Out offices chooses a grand challenge theme. This past summer, when Emily Halstead heard that this year’s theme was personal well-being, an idea began to form. The idea she came up with: Real Talk. “Real Talk is a conversation series featuring faculty or staff talking about navigating challenges in college,” Halstead said. “The goal is to be able to create conversations about challenges that are really normal, that everyone goes through.” [related title="Related Stories" stories="21494,17222,20705" align="right" background="off" border="none" shadow="off"] Halstead works at Mercer’s Office for Student Success as Student Success Counselor. She reached out to Hannah Vann, who serves as Associate Director of the Research that Reaches Out office. From there, plans set in motion. “We had a focus group with students who were here over the summer,” Halstead said. The focus group primarily consisted of resident assistants, and they discussed what issues they faced as college students and named professors that they wanted to hear speak. “That gave us a really good foundation to launch off of,” Halstead said. So far, there has been three Real Talk events, in which professors Stephanie Howard, Garland Crawford and Chester Fontenot gave speeches on their time in college. Vann and Halstead said they aim to let students see how their professors were once in their same situation, and to hear their ideas on how to cope with college issues. “It’s important to share our vulnerabilities with people we trust,” Vann said. She said she hopes that through Real Talk, students will realize it’s okay if their life goals change. Each speaker is asked to speak about their own college experiences, but Halstead said that so far, they’ve all taken a unique approach by speaking of a variety of subjects from self-discipline to personal relationships. Halstead and Vann said that the Real Talk program will continue into next semester, next year and beyond. “I think the uniqueness of the program is what makes it attractive,” Vann said. “It’s here to stay.”
Daphne’s 525 boutique is nestled into the bustle of downtown Macon’s Cherry Street. Owned by husband and wife Aprill and Dennis Maxwell, the boutique moved to Cherry Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd earlier this year. “We wanted to be one of the landmarks of downtown,” Dennis said. He and Aprill often hung out downtown when they were younger, and they said they wanted their store to be a part of that scene. “We really think the goal of downtown is to eat, and shop and have a good time,” Aprill Maxwell said. Jenna Eason The boutique is named after Daphne, Aprill’s mother, who died when Aprill was young. Daphne was born on May 25, hence the ‘525’. Daphne’s 525 started small. [related title="Related Stories" stories="22383,22218" align="right" background="on" border="none" shadow="on"] “Initially, I started out doing hairbows,” Aprill said. Creating customized fashion items soon became a boutique for women and children. Aprill continues to make custom items, like tutus and monograms, but also sells clothing and accessories from other vendors. Custom orders can be placed online or in-store and range anywhere from t-shirts to tennis shoes to monogrammed cups. “We’re just trying to stay trendy,” Aprill said. For people who live or work close to downtown Macon, Daphne’s 525 offers a “Downtown Advantage” discount on custom items and in-store purchases, in addition to monograms. Dennis and Aprill have five kids, who sometimes help out at the store. The Maxwells are the only current employees of Daphne’s 525. “We are a family-oriented business,” Dennis said. You can connect with Daphne’s 525 on their Facebook page.
One of Mercer University’s newest approved organizations is the Mercer Vegan Club. Students Chelsea Mackay and Nishi Patel are the co-presidents and founders of the club, and they both lead a vegan lifestyle. “You try to eliminate causing harm to animals as much as practical and possible,” Mackay said. “You eliminate animal products to a reasonable extent.” Patel said it’s not just about food, but also items like wool clothes or makeup that’s tested on animals. [related title="Related Stories" stories="22535,21980,19591" align="right" background="off" border="none" shadow="off"] She and Mackay said they wanted to create the club to hold outreach events to educate Mercer’s students about the environmental, ethical and health benefits of going vegan. They want to get in touch with other vegans on campus and share tips, recipes and hacks for on-campus dining. “It’s open to everyone,” Patel said. “We want people who are vegan, people who aren’t vegan. We just want people to come if they find it interesting.” Patel said the club is still getting off the ground, but that they’ve already seen a lot of other students express interest. “It’s even better if people who have never heard of it before come out,” Mackay said. “That way we can educate them on it.” Mercer Vegan Club’s first meeting will be on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Knight Hall, room 304. “I hope that it can grow and that we can actually see people getting interested in it,” Mackay said. You can connect with the organization on their Facebook group, called Mercer Vegan Club.
Mercer University has a variety of campus organizations that cater to students on pre-health tracks. One of those organizations, Mercer Pre-Medical, more commonly known as MerPMed, uses relationships with other disciplines to prepare their members for multiple aspects of their future medical school applications. According to MerPMed’s Facebook group, the organization “assists students through their pre-health tracks while furthering the intellectual and professional development of the organization's student body.” Sekhar Tummala, a junior at Mercer, has been a member of MerPMed since his freshman year. He now serves as the organization’s president. After a dive in membership and attendance during the last few years, Tummala says the club is on the rise again after efforts to revamp the organization took place. “We had 210 members sign up at Bear Fair,” Tummala said. Photo provided by MerPMed Their subsequent first meeting brought in a large crowd. “I’d honestly guess at least 100 students came,” he said. Tummala said that makes MerPMed the largest pre-health club on Mercer’s campus. “We’re trying to incorporate a lot more business elements,” said Mark Boland, who serves on MerPMed’s executive board and is in charge of their finances. He’s a business student, not pre-health, but students from any discipline are welcome to join MerPMed. Boland said that by giving members opportunities like interview preparations, public speaking workshops and resume reviews, they will be more competitive during application season. “We want them to be as competitive and as efficient as possible,” Tummala said. He said it’s important that students succeed not just academically, but professionally. MerPMed helps instruct members on appropriate interview attire, conduct and follow-ups, in addition to other career-building skills. “If you’re looking for shadowing or internship opportunities, MerPMed is the place to go,” Boland said. Tummala said one of the club’s other draws is that it’s unique to Mercer, and not a chapter of a national organization. One event MerPMed is currently planning for later this semester is entitled “Healthcare Around the Globe”. Tummala said this event will include lots of Mercer’s pre-health clubs and cultural organizations. They also plan on hosting resume and interview workshops, in addition to hosting panels of medical professionals. Questions about membership can be directed to the organization’s email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instead of going back to classes this January, senior Kaitlyn Koontz will travel to Ethiopia as part of the Peace Corps. Koontz is a global health major with a minor in international affairs. She’s long been interested in nutrition and started researching Macon food deserts last year, in addition to interning at a Macon food bank over the summer. When one of her older sorority sisters was accepted into the Peace Corps in Cambodia, Koontz looked more into the program. “I was really interested in that,” Koontz said. “After she got accepted, I did more research on what the process was like.” Koontz also said a Mercer on Mission trip to South Africa gave her a love for international travel and service. It also sparked an interest in the problems of the region. [related title="Related Stories" stories="21443,21061,21530" align="right" background="off" border="none" shadow="on"] “The issues that plague Africa interest me,” Koontz said. “Especially ones that focus on nutrition and undernutrition of children.” Koontz began her application in May. She found a Peace Corps mission that involved food nutrition and personal hygiene. “It focused a lot on global health and nutrition, which is my focus,” Koontz said. After a lengthy application process, she got her acceptance email while she was working at the Academic Resource Center at Mercer over the summer. She said she immediately started crying out of happiness, prompting her supervisor to ask if she was okay. Koontz then called her mom, who also joined in on the crying. “I’m an emotional person,” she said. “It was really great.” In January, Koontz will leave to spend two years in Ethiopia, though she does have a few furlough weeks for visits home. “I think it’ll be a really great experience,” Koontz said. “The two year timeline is much more useful when it comes to volunteer missions than short term trips. You’re able to get to know the community a bit more, and invest in a long term project that can be continued after you leave.” The program takes place in a farming community, so the Peace Corps will help farmers focus on what they’re growing and how to make it sustainable. Koontz said a big issue is that they focus too heavily on what’s able to be exported, and not what’s going to sustain their community. “In Ethiopia, they grow coffee, which is great, and it’s a big part of their exports,” Koontz said. “But you can’t really eat coffee to sustain yourself.” The Peace Corps want to focus on diversifying the types of crops grown there. She’ll also work with the WASH program (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) which is designed to educate people on water sanitation, how to get clean water, and other sanitary practices. “I’m really looking forward to meeting people from a different community,” Koontz said. She said she’s excited to learn more about their language, culture and perspectives. In her global health classes, Koontz said she was taught that in order to make a change in a community, volunteers need to interact with community leaders and figure out how to move forward together. “I’m really excited to see that process in action and to be a part of that action,” she said. This fall will be Koontz’s final semester. Over her undergraduate experience at Mercer, she’s been involved as a peer advisor, Great Books preceptor, president of Model Arab League and a member of Greek life. She said she’s very grateful to her professors for their encouragement and assistance throughout the application process.
After their initially scheduled meeting was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, Mercer’s Student Government Association met for the first time this semester on Sept. 18. Newly elected senators and student correspondents were sworn in by this year’s president, Olivia Buckner. After the Dean of Students, Douglas Pearson, gave them a brief welcome address, they discussed upcoming student events and SGA initiatives. Two bylaw amendments were passed unanimously after Senator Adam Penland brought them to the table. The first dictates that one student representative, rather than two, can now meet with SGA regarding Bear Grant funding. The second clarified a mistaken contradiction written during the final meeting of last semester. Bear Grants, which help fund student organizations, are given at the SGA’s discretion. Applications are due by Sept. 22, which Penland said is a hard deadline. “I will say, point blank, that I try to work banker’s hours,” Penland said. He said he would only be willing to meet with applying organizations’ representatives over the weekend if they have no other availability. Senator Chase Peplin said he wants to revamp the Mercer app, and make it have less external hyperlinks and more direct communication with SGA. Peplin also said there is a possibility that the weekly Mulberry Market in Tattnall Square Park will begin accepting Bear Bucks. “We’re considering doing outreach hours in the caf,” he said. This means that SGA members would work in the Fresh Food Company, and help serve the food to students. He said it’s a good way to show that SGA is involved on campus, in addition to connecting with students. Other upcoming events include Pilgrimage to Penfield on Oct. 15 and MU Formal on Oct. 20. SGA will resume their regular meeting time of 6 p.m. on Mondays starting on Sept. 25. Students are always welcome to attend and watch.
One of Mercer’s newest campus organizations brings together students from various artistic disciplines for the purpose of bringing more art into the Macon community. The Mercer Public Art Coalition was founded during the spring of 2017, and this fall, founding member Anna Stallings now serves as the coalition’s president. “We use our art skills and our skills from Mercer to help the community in different ways,” Stallings said. The club was created after Stallings and other founding members noticed a gap between Mercerians of different art disciplines, and between Mercer and the downtown Macon community. Although the Mercer Public Art Coalition is a young organization, they have plans set for the upcoming semester. “We’re looking to potentially raise money for students who don’t necessarily have access to musical instruments,” said Kevin Sabusay, who works as the Mercer Public Art Coalition’s community relations director. The group also plans to participate in the upcoming Open Streets Macon and the One City Arts Festival, and hopes to complete a mural on a nearby water tower. Last semester, the Mercer Public Art Coalition was involved with First Fridays and Kid’s Day Out, where they engaged with the Macon community through arts and crafts. “We want to just make art accessible to everyone in the community,” Stallings said. The Mercer Public Art Coalition had their first meeting on Sept. 5, but prospective students are welcome to attend their next meeting. The location and time are still to be decided, but details will be provided on the organization's Facebook page, ‘Mercer Public Art Coalition’. Sabusay said that is the best way to contact the group. “You don’t necessarily have to be the most artistic,” Sabusay said. “You just have to have the drive, the passion to grab a paintbrush, grab an instrument.”
Several Mercer students spent their summer breaks at prestigious labs across the world, completing research relevant to their undergraduate majors. Here’s what a few of them worked on. ADAM CORN Adam Corn completed research at North Carolina State University. He worked in Melissa Pasquinelli's Laboratory of Multistage Modeling from the Nanoscale. This lab focuses on using “simulation techniques ‘from the nanoscale’ to optimize the properties of soft materials, starting from the molecular building blocks and working toward the microscopic and macroscopic scales,” according to their website. Corn’s work involved polyurethanes. These “are a versatile family of polymers used for a variety of purposes,” according to his research abstract. “The goal of our work is to predict how a carbon nanotube filler can affect the impact resistance and mechanical properties of polyutheranes.” He is currently working on getting his work published in a scientific journal. PERRY HICKS Perry Hicks spent her summer participating with the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Rochester in New York. Hicks worked under Lisa DeLouise in the Medical Center. Her research involved tracking silica nanoparticles (SiNPs) and finding out which cells they interact with to alleviate allergic responses to urushiol, a hapten found in poison ivy oil. “This research demonstrates the potential to design nanoparticle-based lotions that could prevent redness and irritation from poison ivy and other skin allergens,” Hicks wrote in a Facebook message. “Maybe one day, I'll be able to say I contributed to the invention of allergen-proof lotions!” After graduating Mercer, Hicks hopes to pursue a PhD in chemistry. MEGAN HINKLE Megan Hinkle completed research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as part of their Chemistry REU program. She worked in the University’s Life Sciences Institute in the lab of Anna Mapp on chemical biology research. “I was able to learn a lot of new techniques while I was there,” Hinkle wrote in a Facebook message. “I had the opportunity to work with instruments that we don't have at Mercer.” Hinkle’s work focused on protein-protein interactions involved in gene transcription. She said working at the University of Michigan’s lab has prepared her for grad school. JESSICA RESNICK Through the Amgen Scholars program, Jessica Resnick worked this summer at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research centered on the host response to the infection from H5N1, more commonly known as the ‘bird flu’. “The lab I was working with had identified a fairly novel protein called IFI35 whose expression was correlated with susceptibility to infection and severity of disease,” wrote Resnick in a Facebook message. The lab she worked with focused on figuring out how IFI35 modulates the inflammatory response that comes after being infected with H5N1. ZAC RICE Zac Rice was given a grant by the DAAD RISE, which stands for Research Internships in Science and Engineering, to work and live for 10 weeks in Ingolstadt, Germany. “In particular, I collaborated with my supervisor on modelling polymeric solar thermal flat plate collectors using MATLAB and Simulink software,” Rice wrote in a Facebook message. According to the software’s website, “MATLAB combines a desktop environment tuned for iterative analysis and design processes with a programming language that expresses matrix and array mathematics directly.” Rice’s work was a part of the Institute for New Energy Systems at Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt. At Mercer, he is currently a senior engineering student. The research completed by Mercer students over the summer has prepared them for graduate school and provided resources to help with their current studies.
This year, Mercer’s Student Government Association will be led by President Olivia Buckner and Vice President Oge Onuh. The duo won with 63.6 percent (636) votes in the run-off against opponents Michael Smith and Catie Byrd. [related title="Related Stories" stories="21344" align="right" background="on" border="none" shadow="off"] Over the summer, Buckner attended the Presidential Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. alongside outgoing president Elizabeth McKay. “They learned about policies affecting college campuses, sexual assault prevention, diversity and inclusivity, mental health, and first amendment rights alongside over 100 other leaders,” according to a post on the SGA’s Facebook page. “Olivia is excited to implement and begin work on these topics during this summer and into the fall!” In addition, the previous year’s Campus Safety and Improvements Committee added new deck chairs to the Plunkett Pool. According to the Presidential Report for the upcoming fall semester, much of SGA’s efforts will be focused on Bear Fair and attracting freshman candidates for elections. Preparations for the annual Pilgrimage to Penfield are also underway. Furthermore, the Bear Grant Senate is projected to take place on either Sept. 25 or Oct. 2. Representatives from new and old student organizations will apply for funding for events and other expenses. “Approximately 60 percent of our total budget is designated for Bear Grants as SGA is here for the students,” read the Presidential Report. “Student organizations comprise a substantial portion of student life here on campus.” Sign up and Qualifications for Freshman Senator elections will occur August 31. SGA will have a table set up the Connell Student Center from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Voting for these positions will occur on Sept. 5 - 6. To vote, visit the MercerVotes site during the election.
The newest class of Mercerians has over 900 students, according to statistics provided by Academic and Advising Services. “The Class of 2021 is our largest class ever at Mercer University,” said Amanda Carls, who serves as Mercer’s Assistant Director of New Student Programs. Fifty-four percent are female and 46 percent are male, with just over one-tenth of the student body participating in one of Mercer’s athletic teams. Slightly over half of the class of 2021 is on a pre-professional track, while 11 percent are undecided. The vast majority of incoming bears come from Georgia, while only 151 of them are from out of state. There will also be 12 international students.
Most of Mercer’s students left campus for the summer, so here’s all you need to know about what went down before the fall semester. CSC CLOSING The Connell Student Center was closed from July 21-28 in order to remove traces of asbestos from the exterior windows’ glazing compound. Asbestos is a silicate mineral often used in construction. During this closing, dining and mail services were disrupted. Mail services were handed over to auxiliary services, and the Fresh Food Company served out of the Farmer’s Market location instead of the cafeteria. “We will be stabilizing it in a few places and painting over it to encapsulate it,” said Associate Vice President of Facilities at Mercer’s Physical Plant, Russell Vallo. He said the building was closed in an effort to limit exterior traffic and as a general safety precaution. NEW GRANT FOR THE CENTER FOR COLLABORATIVE JOURNALISM The Knight Foundation awarded Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism $2 million on July 25 to fund the school, equipment needs and Macon-centric journalistic opportunities. “With this grant, the Center will establish a community engagement desk that will explore new ways to engage audiences and keep them motivated and interested in the news that really matters to them,” said Tim Regan-Porter, director of the CCJ. From this funding, the CCJ secured a partnership with local television outlet 13WMAZ, where students will work with professional reporters on community centered stories. WMAZ is joining the present partners including The Macon Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting. In addition, several students will be attending the Online News Association conference in Washington D.C. over fall break. NEW DIRECTOR OF CAREER COUNSELING Terri Walker will serve as the new director of career counseling at the Medical School of Mercer University, according to Mercer’s recent news article. She was appointed to the position by the dean of the medical school, Dr. Jean R. Summer, in June. Walker received a master’s from Troy University in public administration. She attended Columbia College and majored in public affairs for her undergraduate degree. She has worked for Mercer since 2008, and her job as director of career counseling requires her to help both existing and graduated students of Mercer with guidance in employment and higher education. “Additionally, Walker will serve as a liaison to rural communities and hospitals that have positions available or are actively recruiting graduates,” said Mercer’s news release. NEW SCIENCE BUILDING The Spearman C. Godsey Science Center is on track to be finished in December, bringing an end to the construction by the Plunkett parking lot that’s been in progress since May 2016. The increasing number of students enrolled in Mercer’s STEM programs will be accommodated through the construction of this building, which completes a new science quadrangle that is connected with the School of Medicine, School of Engineering and the Willet Science Center. According to Mercer’s website, the Spearman C. Godsey Science Center will have 32 faculty-student research labs and 28 teaching labs, in addition to offices and classrooms. From renovations to grants, Mercer University had an eventful summer. Editor's note: This story was updated August 26, 2017 to clarify Terri Walker's title.