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As several Mercer students envisioned their spring break having fun on the beach, reality made them wonder if they had started winter break. Students on group vacations at Florida beaches experienced unpleasant conditions of 60 degree temperatures in addition to constant wind gusts over 20 mph.
Although the groundhog did see his shadow this year, are the early dates of spring break a recurrent problem?
Most university students associate spring break as time spent outside on a beach or by the pool. However, the bitter conditions drove my friends and I back inside for the majority of the day. Venturing outside of the hotel required several layers of clothing, and unless we had gone to tropical islands for the week, we could not enjoy the true beauty of spring break.
Mercer University junior Emma Williams lived in Florida before moving to Macon and understands the subprime weather in early March.
“I mean I lived in Florida my whole life and the first week of March is never hot enough to go to the beach,” Williams said.
Williams expressed discontent with the timeframe of spring break because visitors do not get to experience everything Florida has to offer.
However, tanning on beach chairs is not the only fun activity that Mercer students participated in over the break. Instead of flocking south, junior Sam Orjuela and a group of Mercer students camped and hiked at Tallulah Gorge.
“The venue and the scenery was awesome, but yes, it was absolutely freezing,” Orjuela said. “It did not feel like spring break.”
Orjuela and his friends slept in tents outdoors, and often at night the supposed spring weather dropped below freezing and made them rethink their decision.
“I would rather have spring break well into the actual season of spring so that the vacation options are open to warmer weather activities,” Orjuela said.
Alternatively, some more adventurous students took flight and explored the mountain ranges. The early parts of March may contain bits of the snow season, which is ideal for snow sports.
Mercer University junior Justin Rypel and three of his friends journeyed to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for a snowy five days in the mountains.
“The snow quality was definitely better due to the early spring break,” Rypel said. “Oftentimes the snow may melt if it is late March.”
Mercer University along with other colleges such as Wake Forest gear their spring break towards the midpoint of the semester. Although this may be a sound idea, in theory, it limits the adventures that students can partake in during their only full week off in the spring semester.
Another proposition is to follow Georgia Tech’s calendar and schedule spring break during the third week of March. This two-week delayed break allows for warmer beach conditions while catching the tail-end of the snow sports season. This mid-March spring break compromise could make everyone happy while maintaining the same end dates of the semester.
With a new year commencing, Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism adds three more staff members to its team.
According to a press release from Mercer University, The Center for Collaborative Journalism, funded by a $5.7 million grant from the Knight Foundation and Peyton Anderson Foundation, connects students, experienced journalists and the local community.
WMUB, Mercer’s news station in partnership with the CCJ, added Amyre Makupson, an experienced broadcaster, and William Maddox, a specialized engineer.
Makupson graduated from Howard University with her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and continued her education at Wayne State University with a master’s degree in communication.
A former evening co-anchor for WGXA-TV, Fox 24 and ABC 16, Makupson will now primarily manage news interns as Mercer’s broadcast news director. She will work with Maddox to bring a student-run show to WMUB as part of the student production class, she said.
“I am going to work with Maddox, and we are going to get a student show that will be Mercer related,” Makupson said. “Maddox and I will have our own show concept, talking with city leaders, health leaders, community activists, and stuff going on in Macon.”
Maddox said he previously served as an operations manager in WMAZ’s engineering department and as an assistant chief engineer for Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Stimulated by the student activity at Mercer, Maddox said he will use skills to oversee WMUB operations. He said his main goal is to expand broadcasting and to modify the existing equipment so that students can do their jobs in the field with more ease.
“I would love to go over to Mercer Village and see WMUB being played so students and staff and local people can go over there and see what’s going on in the community,” Maddox said.
Overall, both Makupson and Maddox said they will work together to expand WMUB’s coverage and make it the main news source in Middle Georgia.
“Once we get our show developed, I want it to be weekly, and hopefully in the long-run, daily. I want it to be the source not only for Mercer, but for the Middle Georgia community to look to when they want to know what’s happening,” Makupson said.
Sonya Green also joined the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s staff as the new engagement coordinator. Green said she recently completed a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan before coming to Mercer. She said she will also be serving as a reporter for the Macon Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Outside of community engagement, Green’s work is focused on practicum, where she helps students gain real-world experience and translate their stories across different mediums, she said.
“What I would love to be able to do is have a project that the students can work on collaboratively and get them involved in all aspects of a project, not just writing but also the engagement aspect,” Green said.
Green’s past experience at TV and radio stations in Seattle as well as working with students will help her grow the program into a multipurpose center for engagement, she said. In the future, Green said she hopes to prepare students to encounter and thrive in the ever-changing journalism industry by incorporating different platforms and data sets into their work.
“Journalists have to be really great storytellers, but they also have to be so much more than that today,” Green said. “I definitely want to contribute to the program by creating some well-rounded journalists with skills beyond the basics.”
While most sports teams resided in Macon over the summer for training, Mercer’s Women’s Basketball took a more tropical approach and ended the summer with a six-day trip to Costa Rica.
Head Coach Susie Gardner guided the team to two consecutive wins over the Costa Rican National Team. Both wins were delivered convincingly with a 74-48 victory followed by a 90-53 win in the second game.
Despite the scores, senior starter Kahlia Lawrence said she learned a lot from the Costa Rican team’s different playing style.
“Regardless of what the score was, the [Costa Rican] national team gave us a different look than any team we have ever played in the United States. They were actually a little more aggressive in Costa Rica, which was really good for us. It helped us see a different playing style,” Lawrence said.
Gardner and Lawrence both acknowledged that this trip helped the team learn as much off the court as it did on the court. With a slightly different group this year, the journey to the Caribbean allowed for the players to adjust to their new team before the official start of the season.
“We were able to practice a little bit before we went to Costa Rica, and I think that was a great thing for us. Considering we have pretty much the same team back and we have incorporated two new freshmen, I think it was wonderful for them to play with us just a little bit before the season came around and we actually started our in-season practices. We were able to build a little bit of chemistry before that type of thing comes up,” Lawrence said.
Additionally, Lawrence said she believed Costa Rica gave the team the chance to bond as both friends and teammates in a more relaxed setting, thus forming an even more tight-knit team.
“I also think it was just a moment for us to learn more about each other off the court. This Costa Rica trip, which we were especially grateful for, just was able to do that for us. We learned more about what our teammates like, the type of things that we do in our off time, and just the type of people that we are.”
Gardner said she had similar thoughts and was not entirely concerned about how everyone played, but instead saw this trip as an opportunity to reward the large junior and senior classes that worked so hard to turn the program around.
“I wanted to reward them and thank them for taking a chance on our program when we were not necessarily at the top. I wanted our players to experience something that they would not normally get to experience by going out of the country.”
Although the team did play two games during their stay, the remainder of their stay was spent in San Jose and Jaco Beach touring the island. After hiking waterfalls, seeing exotic animals and zip lining on the island, the team visited and played with children that were part of the San Jose Catholic Church Orphanage.
“That was the most humbling experience seeing those little kids who don’t have a home but make the orphanage their home. And to see people help those children and the families like that was just amazing,” Lawrence said.
Both Lawrence and Gardner agreed that athletics gives you opportunities to go places that you would not ordinarily go.
“I think these experiences are part of the student-athlete experience. It’s not just the academics on campus—it’s not just the playing between the lines—it’s also what can we do outside of basketball,” Gardner said.
“A lot of us, including myself, would probably never be able to go to Costa Rica on a trip like this without basketball—without being here at Mercer. We’re definitely thankful and grateful for the opportunity that our athletic department gave us,” Lawrence said.
The lights illuminate the court as the sounds of shoes squeaking and balls hitting court to racket fill the air inside the Leroy Peddy Tennis Center. While most activities around campus are winding down, 8 p.m. is the start of training time for the Mercer club tennis team.
Club tennis has become a regular part of their lives at Mercer, said sophomore members Nick Cordista and Julia Stephen.
“We have about fifteen regular members on our team, including both guys and girls,” Cordista said.
The club tennis team prefers practicing late at night usually two to three times a week. The practices consist of some drills, but mainly fun games led by club president Josh Allison. The team practices both semesters because their season is year round.
“Each semester we will have three to four tournaments,” Stephen.
This averages out to about one tournament a month, which are all within driving distance. The team has travelled across the southeast and prefers to take their own cars instead of buses.
“We have recently been to Kennesaw State, UGA, Auburn, and have hosted one here at Mercer,” Cordista said. “The smaller tournaments typically host about 15-20, and the bigger tournaments like Auburn have about 40 teams.”
With only a few days to complete the tournament, the vast number of teams are ranked in pool play and then can play teams with a similar level the rest of the weekend.
“Depending on how many teams there are, each team is placed in 4-8 pools. You then have a round robin within your pool, and you play all the teams,” Stephen said. “Depending on each team’s game-win percentage, the highest team will get placed in the gold bracket, the second highest team will get placed in the silver bracket, and the lowest team will get placed in the bronze bracket.”
After the teams are placed in their according draws, teams will advance in the traditional bracket format. Like the tournament draws, the actual scoring format is unusual as well.
“We play a total of five matches — one guy singles, one girl singles, one guy doubles, one girl doubles, and one mixed doubles,” Cordista said. “Each match plays one no-ad set to six with a five-point tiebreak at 5-5 and sudden death at 4-4 in the tiebreaker.”
Both Cordista and Stephen say they are extremely dissatisfied with the way the scoring is formatted to apply more pressure, as it is not how traditional tennis is played.
“There are so many situations where one point decides the entire match over and over.” Stephen said.
The club team claimed their biggest win at the Auburn tournament this semester with a 28-17 win over UGA. With a few more years on the team, both Cordista and Stephen believe that their team can achieve their goal of getting a bid to the national club tennis tournament held in Arkansas.
“We are improving, we are getting more members, and we are going to win tournaments,” Stephen said.
Although there are no more tournaments this semester, the team is always open to new members and anyone can join by coming to practice Mondays or Thursdays at 8 p.m.