The Mercer community has helped raise over $17,000 in eight days for a women's soccer player whose parents recently died. Two weeks ago, Kim Murphy's dad died from a heart attack, and her mother died of cancer three days ago, according to a GoFundMe page created by Murphy's aunt, Kimberly Cropp. "Kim is in desperate need of our help and would never ask for it herself. I am certain it is hard for us all to imagine the pain that Kim is dealing with right now. If we all could help ease some of the financial burden that she will encounter over these next few months, I know she would be extremely grateful," wrote Cropp on the page. Her father was the only source of income for the family, and due to her mother's cancer, the family had defaulted on their insurance premiums. The money raised will relieve financial troubles for Murphy throughout her remaining years in college, said the head coach of the women's soccer team, Tony Economopoulos in an email to Mercer faculty. Once hearing of the tragedy, Mercer students and student-led organizations, such as the Mercer Maniacs, stepped in to donate money and share the page over social media. The GoFundMe page has received more than 300 shares on Facebook and more than 90 tweets. As of now, 184 people have donated $17,005. The goal is to raise $25,000. "Thank you so much to the Mercer University Soccer Team and community for your concern and support of my niece Kim Murphy. My brother was so proud of her accomplishments at Mercer. You have made a very sad time for our family much more bearable. Thank you," wrote Patti Villnave, a relative of Murphy's.
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In a nation that prides itself on the evolution of its civil, social and economic principles, watching the newly released “Selma” simultaneously provides one with a thought-provoking history lesson and sketches a map for future progress. Based on the historical events taking place in the early stages of the Civil Rights movement, the film depicts how far we have come today and, at the same time, how much we still have left to accomplish to achieve equality for all. The title of the film seems to be a gesture toward the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and throughout the rest of the country, otherwise it could have been named “MLK” or something similar. Locales become infamous for what goes on there. The people of Selma, Ala., were subjected to brutality almost daily. I’m sure that you have heard about the occurrences in Ferguson last year. It may be a different time, but it feels like the same thing. And with that feeling comes a steady realization that maybe the United States has not progressed as far as we think. Have we grown stagnant on the issue of equality? “Selma” has gained media attention in the past weeks, both for its deficient Oscar nominations and its depiction of a supposed champion of civil rights, President Johnson. Although speculation circulated that director Ava DuVernay may become the third woman ever nominated for Best Director, and the only African American woman, when the nomination didn’t come, DuVernay was not upset. She shared her feelings, and frankly radiated positivity, in an interview with Bob Simone on “60 Minutes” Sunday. “I never thought it would happen anyway. So when the nomination didn't come, it didn't do damage to me,” DuVernay said. Despite recent criticisms for the movie’s portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson, DuVernay said that she disagrees with the naysayers and stands by her decision to shed light on his character. “History is to be interpreted through the lens of the people who are reading it and experiencing it on the page or at the time,” DuVernay said. “And this is my interpretation.” In DuVernay’s adaptation of history with “Selma,” events ensue in an ordered succession that causes one to examine in detail the unfair treatment that African Americans faced. An opening scene shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Such a proud moment in the African American community is juxtaposed with one of the least expected turn of events—the unfathomable bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Four young girls lost their lives, and like so many other racially motivated crimes of those turbulent years, it was believed to be carried out by a white supremacist group. About 15 minutes into the film, the major topic of African American suffrage is illustrated and explained in great detail. A woman, Oprah Winfrey, tries countless times to gain her right to vote. She gathers all the necessary documents and studies answers to ridiculous questions, to no avail. With the ability to vote not carried out by law in the South, African Americans could not serve on a jury, so a “fair trial” was far from commonplace in the days of the 1960s. Each little injustice had rippling effects on the community as a whole, and DuVernay does an outstanding job of capturing it on the screen. The movie will surely make you cry. I did more than once. But it should also make you think of our human responsibility to be kind to one another. Because we only have one world, and everyone has a birth right to share it with one another.
The start of February ushers in African American History Month, a time to pay homage to the hardships that African Americans faced on the road to full citizenship. With so many notable African Americans who called Macon their home, it seems most fair to honor their life’s work in no particular order and with great pardon for omissions—to enumerate everyone would call for the writing of a book, or rather many books. Little Richard Penniman Born in 1932 in the Pleasant Hill community, Richard Penniman grew up submersed in the church, where he was first influenced musically by Gospel. Penniman took the name Little Richard while performing with the Buster Brown Orchestra and soon began his recording career in Atlanta, laying down such famous tracks as “Tutti Frutti” in 1955. This hit song was the first in a string of hits that topped the Billboard charts. Little Richard’s distinctively captivating personality and his electrifying live shows set him apart from other popular performers of the day, even drawing in mixed-race audiences in the segregated South. He received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Mercer University in 2013. He has received many accolades for his music career. “There is no one more influential than Little Richard. He was copied by so many,” said Jeff Bruce, curator at the Tubman African American Museum and contributor in the compilation of the names and histories of the people within this article. John Oliver Killens A founder and chairman of the Harlem Writers Guild, John Oliver Killens has been called the “most famous local author that many Maconites have never heard of” by The Macon Telegraph. He graduated from Howard University and did much of his writing in New York, where he met notables like Maya Angelou. His writing explores themes of racial pride and resistance to injustices in a world unready to hear such proclamations. His first novel, “Youngblood,” was published in 1954 and was set in a location meant to resemble Macon. He had a profound impact on fellow Macon author, Tina McElroy Ansa. He died in 1987, still perpetuating the idea that black history should be observed year-round and that Macon was particularly full of an important black heritage. Beverly Buchanan Now living in Ann Arbor, Mich., Beverly Buchanan spent almost 10 years of her life working as an artist in Macon before moving elsewhere in the state. Buchanan, a sculptor, painter, drawer and photographer, is well known for her depictions of ramshackle buildings that dot the Southern landscape. In 1984, she was the Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. While in Macon, she was the recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Wilfred Stroud A sidewalk artist and window clerk at the Macon Post Office for 30 years, Wilfred Stroud embodied creative expression. He was best known for his portraits, especially the mural that he painted for the Tubman called “From Africa to America.” The wall-sized portrait illustrates a timeline of African Americans with each person’s face meaning to reflect the individual’s story. His mother taught him how to draw in kindergarten, and according to a Macon Herald article dated Dec. 1, 1977, Stroud said, “I kept thinking that someday, if I kept trying, I might become a painter.” Minnie Singleton Although born and raised in Fitzgerald, Ga., Minnie Singleton graduated from Beda-Etta College in Macon. She was a talented public speaker and “had the natural gift for newspaper work,” according to an obituary written in The Macon Telegraph in 1949. Singleton served as editor for what was known as the colored page of The Macon Telegraph, and her life motto centered around the responsibility of her work, dealing with it sincerely and holding it sacred. “For such a life as Mrs. Singleton’s we are confident that the episode which we call Death is not the end… we are confident that He will preserve the spirit of those who do their part in making the world more beautiful and better,” said L. M. Price, a friend of Singleton’s, in a tributary article published by The Macon Telegraph on Oct. 13, 1949. Rev. Pearly Brown Blind from birth, Pearly Brown grew up in Americus, Ga, but in due course, he moved to Macon, where he soon became a local fixture on the streets, singing and playing his guitar. A local rumor suggests that Brown mentored Duane Allman and Dickey Betts on the slide guitar. “The majority of (these) people came up in time of turmoil and still managed to do what they wanted to do with their art,” said Muriel Jackson, who works in the Genealogy Department at Washington Memorial Library and who helped in brainstorming names for this article. There is so much left to say about the lives of each person listed here, and so many others that were unable to be included in the article. If you have any interest in learning more about prominent African Americans who influenced the Macon community, visit the Washington Memorial Library or the Tubman African American museum, set to open their new location on Cherry Street in May.
“I close my eyes and can see men drawing lines in the dust. America pushes through the membrane of mist and smoke, and I’m a small boy again in Bogalusa.” It is poetry like this that earned Yusef Komunyakaa the Sidney Lanier Prize for his contribution to Southern writing. Since 2012, Mercer has annually awarded an author for his or her high quality prose or poetry and the impact that it has made. The Sidney Lanier Prize is an honor that signifies a poet’s career contributions to Southern writing in drama, fiction or poetry. The award was named after Sidney Lanier, who was born in Macon, Ga. Dr. David Davis, chair of the Lanier Prize Committee, said that the writers whom they select deserve their recognition. “The Sidney Lanier prize recognizes career contribution to Southern writing,” Davis said. “Each year, a panel of Southern literature scholars and members of the Macon community deliberate about writers and their works and how they shaped the course of Southern culture.” Davis also said that the authors selected are major figures in their genres, and as such are major contributors to American literature. Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, La., and he began writing poetry when he was a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He has studied at multiple universities, and he has a Master of Fine Art in creative writing. Davis said that Komunyakaa is famous for his ability to write lyrically about difficult topics. “In poems such as ‘Tu Do Street’ and ‘Facing It,’ he writes about the complicated memory of the Vietnam War, and in poems such as ‘My Father’s Love Letters’ and ‘Jasmine,’ he writes about himself and his complicated relationship with the South and the past,” Davis said. “His ability to eloquently vocalize complexity is astonishing.” Komunyakaa has taught poetry in New Orleans and Indiana, and he now is a Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University. The Sidney Lanier prize also gives scholarships to high school juniors who are high-achieving in the realms of writing. The juniors are invited to submit works of fiction or poetry to the scholarship committees. The scholarship funding can award up to $20,000 to students who enroll to Mercer University. Komunyakaa said that he is thankful for all of the people who have faith in his work. He also said it will be an honor to visit Mercer University. The ceremony presentation for Komunyakaa will take place on Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m in the President’s Dining Room.
It’s not often that we get to hear a harp perform in concert. Less often are six to eight harpists filling a hall at one time. Such was the treat in Fickling Hall this last week, as adjunct harp professor Calista Anne Koch led a thorough harp recital. Koch was the front-woman and chieftain of the group, which was primarily composed of students. The program included a blend of ensemble works as well as solo works over which Koch took the reins. Prior to each piece in the well-balanced program, Koch provided some insight to the music. She revealed the interesting challenges involved in bringing the music to life on the harp. She also enlightened the audience to the work that she has undergone in making each piece unique to her individual performance preferences. Koch would often elaborate and improvise on otherwise spare musical material. Furthermore, she took the liberty of arranging all the orchestrations to function for harp ensemble. The solo pieces included a wide range of musical styles. The most familiar work was the Vivaldi Concerto in D Major, originally written for lute. Half the ensemble performed the original lute part, while the other half supplied the accompaniment. The performance was tight and refreshing, making one wonder if the work were not better off as a harp arrangement. Other group pieces included the popular Intermezzo from the Opera “Carmen” and a lovely Sicilienne from “Pelleas et Melisande” by Gabriel Faure. The “Carmen” excerpt consisted of an entire re-orchestration of the original score. Each section of the typical orchestra was thus assigned to a side of the harp ensemble. Meanwhile, Koch provided the original harp part as it appeared in the authentic score. The Sicilienne was a beautiful representation of the harp’s natural elegance. The students impressively delivered the serenade in exemplary fashion. The most rewarding part of the concert, however, were the pieces in which Koch performed solo. Her mastery of the daunting instrument is unparalleled by anyone in Middle Georgia. She demonstrated this fact with the opening works, selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Pieces for Harp or Piano Op. 12.” The prelude was a virtuosic character piece indicative of Prokofiev’s enigmatic style. The energy was forthright and the technical execution infallible. The eleonora movement was a gorgeous piece full of spirit and vibrancy. While listening, one is easily reminded of Rembrandt paintings depicting serene landscapes. The other solo work was the Angelus from “Feuillets D’Album” by Henriette Renie. Somewhat of a capstone for Koch, the piece was revealed to be the result of a large research undertaking. Thus, she had a very personal connection with the work, having been responsible for its conception in its present form. Koch is an underrated blessing for the community of Middle Georgia. She is truly a master at her instrument, a dedicated musical scholar and an inspiring artist. She can be seen at nearly every concert in the area that features the harp; no group would pass the chance to utilize her skills. Though she teaches privately, she currently has no students at Mercer. The only thing preventing her from teaching here is lack of awareness. Yet, Koch made her presence quite well known with this recital, and it won’t be long before students enroll in Townsend exclusively to study harp with her.
Mercer kicked off a three-year commitment to remember the Vietnam War with a Founders’ Day event meant to honor veterans and their contributions. This opportunity will allow Mercer to host two events each year until 2017, events that will honor the veterans who served in the Vietnam War. Mercer alumnus and Trustee Lt. Gen. U.S. Army Retired, Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter was the keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony. Kicklighter was in Mercer’s class of 1955, and he has over 35 years of highly-decorated service in the military. “It’s always a great honor to come back to Mercer,” Kicklighter said. “Mercer gave me the foundation that I needed on my journey of service.” Kicklighter said that Mercer is a special place to him and that he owes the University much more than he could ever pay back. “Founders’ Day is a time to reflect on our heritage and remember how proud we are of what this University is today,” Kicklighter said. President Bill Underwood said that Founders’ Day and the special guests whom Mercer has had in the past are important. “Founders’ Day was created and organized by students,” Underwood said. “We are able to pause and reflect on our past and recognize that each new generation helps us shape the course of Mercer University.” Kicklighter dedicated two duties of service in the Vietnam War, and since his retirement, he has continued his public service in the Defense, State and Veteran Affairs departments. Kicklighter showed the audience a video of what it means to be a Vietnam veteran and to be thanked for their service. “A Moment of Truth” showed a glimpse a veteran’s appreciation for being recognized for fighting for our country. Dr. Garland Crawford, who is chair for the Vietnam Commemoration Committee, said that Mercer’s contribution is a small part of a national recognition that the veterans deserve. “We want to say thank you to a group of men and women who have been overlooked for too long,” Crawford said. Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert A. B. Reichert was also in attendance at this years Founders’ Day as a member of three different dimensions: Mayor of Macon-Bibb, a Vietnam veteran and a Mercer graduate. “I am proud to be here as a member of all of my capacities, and I want to say thank you to Mercer for your economic impact, your cultural impact, your societal impact and the way you work on the missions here in Macon. You continue to make a difference,” Reichert said. The Founders’ Day activities also recognized other Mercer graduates who served in the Vietnam War. They were given special pins and honored by Underwood, Kicklighter and the audience.
Picture what New York or Los Angeles might have looked like 200 years ago. Likely desolate and spare, only foundations and necessities would be in place. An awkward coming of age for a city when the place is grasping for identity and purpose. Such a place exists now but in a much stranger way. Ordos is a primarily rural region in China, tucked within the pocket of Inner Mongolia near the Gobi Desert. For hundreds of years, the villagers of the area have farmed and cultivated the land with their bare hands. Now, the Chinese Government is stepping in to urbanize the area. The “New Ordos City” is the result of this vast and peculiar project. Adam James Smith is an English filmmaker with personal ties to China. In his post-graduate exploration of the area, he stumbled across the eerie city that is New Ordos. There he found a substantial metropolis, fitted with malls, condos, high-rises, office buildings and restaurants. The only problem is that no one was there. He described the empty city as a “new-born ghost town, retrofitted for some absent populace.” The surreal nature of this discovery led Smith to research and document the facts behind the region. He found that the intent of the city was to house the scattered population of the rural workers and their families in the Ordos area. The government had begun to implement a 20-year plan to urbanize the people and to take control of the farmlands. Thus, citizens are being approached by the government, told that they must trade their land for a condo and job in the new city by a specific deadline. Smith returned a year later to find that the city was substantially populated. In an incredibly short time, a wave of people had immigrated into the city to start new lives there. Without a second thought, Smith knew that he would create a documentary to reveal the bizarre aspects of the city and the perturbed people who were living there. The documentary primarily focuses on the struggles of the older generations who are attempting to adapt to this unfamiliar lifestyle. Once people who grew all their own food, lived on homemade medicine and never paid a dime for rent, these people now live in these condos neighboring Walmart-style supermarkets. Many appear lost and confused, unsure of how to spend their time. Smith recounted an example of the older generation attending the single movie theatre to see “Iron Man 3” multiple times a day. The ill-fitted job assignment process has people doing mundane tasks such as sweeping dust from the streets every morning. Where they once had the purpose of farming and livestock patrol, they now only need obscure ways to pass the time. The government has instituted a number of insufficient services such as pep rallies and disco clubs. Yet, seeing the bored old farmers look in befuddlement upon these odysseys only strikes one with a pungent feeling of absurdity. Smith found his presence unwelcome. To be able to film, he had to ask permission from the Chinese government and to get approval for every scene. Only one hotel would house him during his stay, and there were no fully functioning restaurants to eat at. Smith believes that the Chinese government was scared by the global financial crisis of 2008. China realized then that it could no longer be dependent on foreign trade and needed to develop some domestic demand to boost its internal economy. Thus, it wants to push this large rural population into places where they desire to buy goods such as electronics, fast food and media. Furthermore, the government hopes to acquire the land for purposes of controlled industrial farming. The last image seen in the film is of an old man wandering alone through the desolate streets of the city. He had set out to find a job but then figured that his time was better spent enjoying the sunset. This peculiarity is one that we can hardly imagine in the world that we know today. Yet, such an eerie situation exists, and the truth of it is rather unsettling. Smith believes the city will be in full-gear within another seven years, at which point the rapid modernization process will be complete. We have plenty of questions, and it won’t take long before we see the ultimate result.
5 things to start your week: Kappa Sig's 'Ring of Fire,' Macon-Bibb firefighter memorial, Snowpocalypse 2.0 and more
Kappa Sigma went down, down the burning ring of fire Mercer’s Kappa Sigma Fraternity witnessed the lyrics to Johnny Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire” before their own eyes on Sunday afternoon. Instead of love igniting the fire though, it was a lighter. A lighter exploded with a “loud crack” and caused alarm to a group of sophomores chatting at the front of the house, including Austin Davis, a 19-year-old brother of the Fraternity. Davis ran inside to investigate the cause of the noise and noticed a fire out back near the patio. He grabbed a rag and tried to smother the flames. The fire was extinguished at 3:07 p.m., and now a black pit marks the grass where the ring of fire once burned. Saturday Night Live Turns 40 If you didn’t watch Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary Special, you missed out on a major topic at the water cooler for the week ahead. With numerous comedians and famous musicians in a three-and-a-half-hour spectacular, SNL40 brought back crowd-favorite sketches and paid homage to the funny people who no longer grace the stage. The special aired Sunday at 8 p.m. with an hour long red carpet pre-show hosted beforehand by the Today Show’s Carson Daly, Susan Guthrie, Al Roker and Matt Lauer. There were awkward moments, like Jim Carrey’s joke about Brian Williams, and there were too many nostalgic sketches to count, but there were laughs galore for the celebration of the longest running sketch comedy show in American history. Governor Deal declares emergency, excluding Macon Students had their fingers crossed with whispers of an incoming snow storm circulating through the air, but it seems Snowpocalypse 2.0 will not come to pass this week in Macon. Northern counties, with cities including Blairsville, Dahlonega and Dalton, are expecting a much harder hit. Gov. Nathan Deal declared a State of Emergency Sunday for northern counties lasting until Tuesday. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant also issued a State of Emergency for northern parts of the state until Monday. A wintry mix of snow, ice and sleet will making driving dangerous, if not impossible, in the worst affected areas. Mardi Gras Preview Mercer Village will turn into a mini New Orleans on Feb. 17 for Mardi Gras festivities. Merchants will offer cajun-inspired food specials for lunch and dinner, like Francar’s traditional beignets or crawfish nachos with red beans and rice from Margaritas. Harold “The Hurricane” Thomas will supply jazz music throughout the day. The event is free and open to the public. The celebration will begin at 11 a.m. and last until 8 p.m. In case you miss it, next week’s print issue of The Cluster will have a photo spread of the event. Macon-Bibb County firefighter mourned by community Monday, funeral causes road closures This President’s Day will coincide with the aching loss and burial of a Macon firefighter, Lt. Randy Parker, who was killed in the line of duty last Wednesday. Firefighters travelled from all over the state to attend the visitation Sunday. According to the U.S. Fire Administration’s website, Parker’s death represents the 10th on-duty firefighting death in the nation so far this year. His funeral will take place today at 11 a.m. at the Macon City Auditorium. Some parts of downtown will be closed off beginning late Sunday until about 3 p.m. Monday, Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore said in an interview with The (Macon) Telegraph. First Street from Cotton Avenue to Riverside Drive will be closed until 3 p.m. along with sections of Poplar and Cherry Streets.
Diane Lang, administrative assistant to the Vice President and Dean of Students Dean Pearson, announced earlier last month that she would be retiring from her full-time position in the Student Affairs Office. Lang came to the university in 2004 and has served as a behind the scenes player in major university events like Pilgrimage to Penfield, Founder’s Day, and Baccalaureate. Lang also sent Bear Blurbs and Weekends at Mercer (WAM) newsletters via e-mail to keep students informed about campus events. Below are quotes from students and members of the administration that have come to know and love the woman. “I am honored to be chosen as Diane's successor and look forward to learning how to do everything that she does. However, after the first official day of training, I do not know if I will ever know how to do everything that she does! Diane has always been someone that I could confide in and count on to give advice on everything from writing to saving money. I consider Diane to be a great friend as well as an awesome co-worker.” – Michele T. Josey, Diane Lang’s replacement. “I knew coming in as the Vice President, that I wanted to put students first and foremost in our minds as a division. Hiring Diane was one of the most critical decisions I made that helped to accomplish that goal. She has touched so many students in so many ways, that one can’t understate the impact she has had on this institution. I will miss having her as part of my immediate team, and hold out that I may someday entice her to come back to Mercer. I will [also] miss learning about all the new and upcoming artist once she has gone, as many Fridays she would crank up the speakers and treat us all to the newest tunes or talent going around." - Vice President and Dean of Students Douglas Pearson “Diane is an amazing person, and I have enjoyed getting to know her this year. She is my favorite kind of boss - in control and fun at the same time. She makes me feel confident in my work and my contribution to the school, and I'm so thankful to her for that." – Rebekah Fulton, SGA Senator (Sophomore) “[Diane] is such a wonderful woman and friend to look up to. She is so willing to help out anyone in need. She is such a likable and enjoyable person to have around--the fact that she is leaving brings such a sadness to those in the Mercer family, especially for those who had the pleasure of getting to know her. She will always be the Mercer Mom.” – Amelia Neiger, SGA Senator (Senior) “She is the quintessential Mercer Mom who knows the answer to every question you may have. I can't tell you how many times I would just go ask for her advice and talk with her about life in her office. She loves getting to know people on a more personal level and has always been there to help with whatever you need. Ms. Diane is not one who loves credit, but she deserves it and so much more. I'm a better person simply for knowing her. She's selfless, caring, witty, and most importantly...genuine.” – Victoria Conley, SGA Vice-President
Love, desolation, anger or apathy: one of these emotions will likely be present once the calendar hits Feb. 14. Whether you’re cuddling up next to that someone special, hanging out with friends or in bed alone, you’ll probably end up in front of a screen somewhere ready to get lost in a movie. Here are four movies that you should watch this Valentine’s Day: “SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”: - This 2012 comedy stars Aubrey Plaza as Darrius Britt. A cynical college graduate in her mid-twenties, Britt lives at home with her father, interns at Seattle Magazine and is unhappy about the direction that her life is taking. Staff writer Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson) pitches a story idea to investigate an unusual classified ad. The ad-writer is seeking a time travelling companion. Schwensen gets the story approved and selects Britt and another intern, Arnau (Kara Soni), to join in the hunt. Hijinks ensue once the group locates the ad-writer, Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass). Aside from some familiar faces, the movie’s message resonates. Belief is a powerful motivator in a cynical world. Moving performances and quality dialogue put this film over the top. Find someone to cuddle with and be prepared to laugh. It’s quite the journey. “(500) DAYS OF SUMMER”: - This 2009 romantic comedy tells the story of hopeless romantic Tom Hansen (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) and his failed relationship with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Following the end of their relationship, Tom is distraught. The non-linear narrative structure documents their past as Tom tries to piece together why Summer left him. It’s not cynical nor is it sentimental. It’s a raw and unapologetic look at a relationship, the all-consuming power that comes when someone walks out of your life and the eventual recovery that follows. The powerful evolution of Tom’s character will resonate with audiences. “AMERICAN BEAUTY”: - Don’t let the rose petals fool you. Want to feel good about being single? Here is your movie. “American Beauty” chronicles the story of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey). Lester, a middle aged magazine writer and family man, despises his dull suburban life. He becomes infatuated with his 16-year-old daughter’s best friend and vain cheerleader, Angela Hayes, after watching her perform a halftime routine. Lester shirks his adult responsibilities, and the world around him descends into chaos. Apparently, being married, living in the suburbs and working a 9-5 office job is hell on earth. The film is a kaleidoscopic adventure that leaves you feeling conflicted once the credits roll. Not to mention, Kevin Spacey’s performance is magnificent. “SAY ANYTHING”: - Whether or not you recognize the title, its pop culture impact is undeniable. The film follows the relationship between the trenchcoat-wearing, boombox-lifting Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack) and the high school’s Valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye), during the summer following their graduation. It’s a classic. Who doesn’t want someone outside their window with Peter Gabriel pouring through the speakers? This film’s young soul and humane qualities appeal to a mass audience. It’s a must-watch that will soften the hardest of hearts.
Thirty million to 60 million people are affected annually by allergic rhinitis, the technical term for having a runny, red nose and watery eyes. One Mercer University student has gained attention by using online searches to track changes in pollen counts, which will hopefully keep people better prepared for allergy season. During a summer internship with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Matthew Parker realized that Google Trends could be used as a proxy measure to follow the ups and downs of pollen counts. His research secured him an invitation to the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting on Jan. 7 in Phoenix and a featured article in Science News, a nonprofit news site committed to engaging the public on scientific research. Parker, a molecular biology major, said he was lucky to have been able to work for the Climate and Health program at the CDC, categorizing pollen data. “As I was doing the research, it didn’t feel like I was doing research,” Parker said. “(Data) from 1992 to 2011 is a daunting amount of pollen counts, (but) it helped me learn I am more research-oriented.” Currently, the only way to determine when pollen spikes occur is through data collected by pollen monitoring stations, which must be managed by staff with expertise, Parker said. About 19 states lack certified monitoring stations while the rest have anywhere from one to 11 stations scattered within their borders. Parker said the specialness of his work lies with its public access—anyone can use Google Trends and receive the same results. When people search for “pollen” or “allergies” or any top brand antihistamine medications like Zyrtec, the Trend data spikes when actual pollen spikes, Parker said. He compared the Google Trend data from 2004 to 2011 with information collected at the pollen monitoring station, specifically focusing on ragwood, pine and oak allergies. Both measures matched and even accounted for an unusual double spike in 2011. Parker believes Google Trends, although not a perfect system, has advantages for being a proxy measure. It makes the data more simple to understand by normalizing it. Each weekly search spike is divided by the highest peak, so the numbers are between one and 100. Google Trends has proven successful for other health issues such as Lyme disease and influenza. One flaw is that Google only stores search information for locations with a sizable internet traffic. Another drawback of the proxy measure, in Parker’s opinion, is the lag time. The trend data illustrates spikes on a weekly basis, but if the statistics of every day could be obtained, the counts would be more accurate. “If we see trends occur over several years, we can possibly predict when they are going to happen later on,” Parker said. Parker says students should care because he guarantees people are affected here. “People will now be able to look online and say, ‘Oh, pollen peaked yesterday. I should go buy some Claritin, so I won’t be so drowsy,’” Parker said.
Coming off of a strong 2014 season, the Mercer Men’s Baseball Team is prepared to begin its much anticipated 2015 season. Last year, the Bears finished 38-17, and the team was eliminated by the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers on the second day of the Atlantic Sun Championship. The Bears’ 2014 season was filled with memorable feats from strong programs, which include two wins against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and a win against the University of Florida Gators. The Bears will return to Claude Smith Field with the loss of eight seniors and one junior who was drafted into the MLB. Although the Bears have added 10 freshmen and three transfers to the roster, their 2015 schedule will still prove to be difficult. The team opens at home facing the Virginia Tech Hokies On Feb. 13. Along with facing other top division one programs, the Bears’ closing pitcher, Dimitri Kourtis, believes that long-time rivals still exist. “I would have to say Georgia Tech is our biggest competitor outside of the Southern Conference,” said Kourtis. “They will be ready for us after we have won four of the last six in the past three years.” Along with facing Georgia Tech, the Bears will also compete with in-state rivals, Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia. While these contests will prove to be difficult for the Bears, the team is excited to be able to compete in the Southern Conference. In a recent coaches poll, the Bears were picked to finished third in the conference while they were picked to finish second overall in the media poll. Three players, Eric Nyquist, Charlie Madden and Howard Joe, were all recognized for their stellar performances in 2014. Nyquist was the only member chosen to be a part of the All-SoCon Preseason First Team. The senior pitcher for the Bears started in 13 games posting an ERA of 3.12. Nyquist was also named to the All-Atlantic Sun First Team and led the conference with two shutouts and four complete games. Both Howard Joe and Charlie Madden were chosen as part of the All-SoCon Preseason Second Team. Joe, a redshirt infielder for the Bears, competed in 30 contests during the 2014 season and hit .220 with nine runs scored. Madden, the catcher for the team, played in 47 games with 39 starts as a true freshman. He hit .269 on the year and drove in 22 runs on the year. Kourtis believes that Madden was a vital part of the team’s success in 2014 and will be crucial, along with other players, for the Bears to continue their success. “We have a bunch of good assets this year. Kyle Lewis and Charlie madden have been hitting really well in scrimmages,” said Kourtis. “From a pitching standpoint, Ryan askew has improved tremendously. Also, having DJ (Johnson) back this year will be vital to our success.” After sitting out a season, Johnson will be a valuable asset returning for the Bears. In the 2013 season, Johnson was the starting pitcher for their Sunday games. He started in 14 games and posted a 3.06 ERA, which was 10th in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Overall, the Kourtis and the rest of the team are excited to get back on the field and show the Southern Conference what the Bears are about. “This season is a new conference, a new team and an exciting chance to win two different conference championships,” said Kourtis.
After a year of practice and hard work, the Mercer Women’s Lacrosse Team is ready to take the field against an actual opponent. Throughout the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014, the team has been recruiting, practicing and preparing for its inaugural season. The team started with nine players in the fall, but only ended up with six in the spring. Taylor Horner, a sophomore midfielder for the Bears, admits that the team had a hard first year, but she is excited is show off their hard work. “Last year was rough. We had three girls quit, leaving us with six, but that didn't stop us. We became well adjusted to the level of intensity that we would be experiencing this year. We conditioned nonstop and practice concepts over and over,” said Horner. “We were becoming mentally and physically prepared. In terms of this year, the returning sophomores and incoming freshman will all experience a certain level of college play together, which we couldn’t really experience without games.” Even though the team only ended with six members in the spring of 2014, the team now has 25 active members. Even with the 18 new members, the Bears are still extremely underestimated in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The team is unestablished, but Horner genuinely believes that it is prepared to take the competition field for the first time. “I think we are most looking forward to playing games and competing. We were ranked 7/8 for preseason, but that was expected,” said Horner. “We are a new program, but we have a lot to prove because we have been working so hard. It'll be nice to see that hard work pay off.” The Bears’ competition slate consists of 14 games, seven of which will be on Bear Field. Their first seven games are non conference, which will offer them a great deal of experience before they have to take on their opponents in the Atlantic Sun. The Atlantic Sun will be challenging for the team, but Horner believes that they will be able to compete with the best of them. “Our biggest competition in the Atlantic Sun will definitely be Jacksonville. They are a fast and well established team. It'll be tough,” said Horner. “Our biggest rival would probably be Kennesaw though, just because of the schools' history. I also have a friend from high school who plays there who I would love to beat.” The team has a lot to look forward to this upcoming season, but Horner is most impressed with the amount of improvement she has seen from her teammates thus far. “We have some great players this year. Both of our goalies, Haleigh and Michelle have showed so much improvement from the beginning of the fall. Our midfielders are fast and they also have crazy good shots along with the attackers. We also have an aggressive defense,” said Horner. “Fiona Stockton, a defender from England, can literally intercept any pass, which is impressive. I swear she has some type of magnet that attracts the ball to her stick. Our biggest asset would be that we are so beyond well conditioned, so even if we can't keep up with other teams (skill wise), we can outrun them.” The Bears will begin their inaugural season and their three-game home stretch on Feb. 20 against the Delaware University Hornets. The game will start at 4 p.m., and the team encourages all Mercer students to attend.
Although the Mercer Women’s Tennis Team has started off the season on a rocky note, its non-conference slate is fully preparing the players for their Southern Conference schedule. In its first five games, the team has been defeated by Arkansas University, Murray State University, University of Tennessee and Georgia Southern University. Although the matches have not turned out in the Bears’ favor, there have been a couple of doubles teams and individuals who have come out victorious. Against the Georgia Southern Eagles, Haley Powell defeated Daria Vasekina 6-2, 6-3. Haley Powell and her partner Xandra Fougner defeated Georgia Southern’s Jordana Klein and Giulia Riepe 6-2. Mercer’s Laura Kelly and Liza Klyachkin defeated Francisca Norregaard and Daria Vasekina. This is the most successful that the team has been since its season began. Roxy Bartz, a junior on the team, is disappointed in the results so far, but she is excited to continue with the season. “I am looking forward to being able to compete with this new team we have,” said Bartz. “We are really young and don't have much experience, so it will be good to see how everyone does throughout the season.” Bartz has been a valuable member of the team for the past two seasons. Last season alone, she contributed two wins against Savannah State University, Alabama State University, Northern Kentucky University and Fort Valley State University. Although Bartz is dissatisfied with the start of the season, she realizes that the team’s recent opponents are strong programs and that these games will help prepare them for their ongoing season. “So far, we have played Arkansas and Tennessee, which are really solid teams,” said Bartz. “We think we can bounce back, especially against our rivals, Kennesaw State University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. As the Bears continue to face strong opponents in their non-conference schedule, the Southern Conference consists of tough competitors as well. Last year, the Samford University Bulldogs and the Elon University Phoenix faced off in the 2014 Southern Conference Women’s Tennis Championship. In the end, the Phoenix defeated the Bulldogs 4-2 to take home the ring. Although Elon and Samford will be tough competitors for the Bears, Bartz believes that the entire Southern Conference will be challenging for the Bears. “I think each match in the SoCon is going to be a dogfight,” said Bartz. “I believe Samford is going to be tough win, but I am not exactly sure as to who the tough teams are in this particular conference.” Bartz is only one of two upperclassmen on the team, and the rest consists of one sophomore and three freshmen. With such a young team, Bartz realizes that the freshmen are going to have to step up for the team to be successful. “The freshmen that we have are really good players and they will play high in our lineup,” said Bartz. “We only have six players total, which means everyone is going to play at least one match every game day. So everyone is going to have to do their part to make this season a successful one.” The Bears’ next game is Feb. 12 at the LeRoy Peddy Tennis Center on Mercer’s campus. They will compete against the Savannah State Tigers at 1 p.m. All Mercer students are welcome to attend.
Mercer’s debate team has been selected to compete in the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, the most selective and competitive national debate tournament in the country. This is Mercer’s first time qualifying for the tournament, and Mercer is the only team in Georgia’s history to attend the competition. Mercer’s debate team recently debated in the Utah Mile High Swing, a tournament held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Lead by Dr. Vasile Stanescu and assistant coach Erica Eaton, two Mercer teams entered the competition: seniors Hunter Pilkinton and Lindsey Hancock, and freshmen Jazmine Buckley and Kyle Bligen. The seniors advanced past the preliminary stage and into the out-stages. “It has been one of our goals to break at a West Coast-style parliamentary tournament since we started debating together as sophomores, because tournaments that take place on the western side of the nation are much more competitive than the ones we typically compete in here in the South,” said Hancock. “Our freshmen team, Jaz and Kyle, also had a 2-3 win-loss record at the tournament, which is huge because they were competing in varsity. Very few freshmen anywhere in the nation are doing that well on the varsity debate level.” Each of the four debaters ranked among the top 50 individual debaters in the tournament. Hancock ranked 17th, Pilkinton 21st, Buckley 30th and Bligen 45th. They competed against 80 teams and 160 debaters. “On Mercer's team, we believe that debate is more than just a game of winners and losers, but rather, an opportunity and a platform to speak the truth and seek higher truths. We use our debate rounds to spread messages, so we were very proud to be able to break at the tournament while doing this,” said Hancock, who was very happy with her team’s performance. Pilkinton and Hancock’s success at the Utah Mile High Swing, along with their winning record this season, earned them enough point to qualify for the National Parliamentary Tournament.
The Knight Foundation announced 126 finalists in its Knight Cities Challenge, and four of those finalists are Maconites. Their ideas involve retaining talent, creating opportunity, and enhancing community engagement. The finalists said they are excited to move forward in the process and hope to have the chance to make a difference in the Macon community. The Knight Cities Challenge originated from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, an initiative that started in Macon nearly five years ago. Around 7,000 contestants submitted their ideas from 26 different cities for a chance to receive a grant from a $5 million pool. The remaining 126 finalists have to submit another application which goes into more details about their ideas. Finalists will send in information about where the funding will go, how the project will be staffed, how the project will be sustained, and more in depth information about their individual ideas. “When we heard back that we had been chosen to be a finalist, it was very exciting, and we hope that we can make it happen for Macon,” Josh Lovett, a Mercer University graduate and a member of the staff for College Hill Alliance said. Lovett submitted an idea called Operation Export Macon. If he receives a grant from the Knight Foundation, the money will go towards fixing a trailer to showcase the best food, Macon made products, and activities in Macon, he said. The trailer will go to sporting events, festivals, colleges, neighborhoods and other events in Macon to make people aware of what Macon has to offer, Lovett said. “We really want to go out there and show you where the places are to eat, what are the things to do, how you really get involved in Macon and really make Macon your own.” Lakey Boyd, a community and economic development consultant and recently made Maconite, submitted an idea called Make It Happen in Macon Community Capital Fund. “I think it’s impacting the culture here around sharing ideas, around risk taking, around starting something for yourself.” Her idea is to provide funding for startup businesses or existing small businesses, social innovation and causes within the Macon community, Boyd said. Every quarter of a year the program would give away $15,000 for 18 months. Expert judges will choose finalists, but there will be an open slot for people to vote their favorite idea for a people’s choice award, Boyd said. The winner from one quarter are supposed to return to share their progress. The idea is supposed to create a forum in Macon where people can discuss ideas and gain opportunities to succeed. “I think this is a great thing that Mercer students could ultimately participate in,” Boyd said. Geoffrey Boyd, a landscape architect who recently moved to Macon with his wife, Lakey Boyd, also submitted an idea to the Knight Cities Challenge called Park Advocate Macon. “There were so many submissions. It’s exciting and an honor. It’s really amazing.” Boyd said that when he came to Macon, he saw many different groups that were dedicated to improving and maintaining certain parks throughout the community. His idea for the Knight Cities Challenge consists of bringing these groups together to better coordinate, leverage resources, and share experiences. He said the idea is to “start thinking together about all the parks collectively.” The fourth finalist is Robert Betzel, CEO of Infinity Network Solutions. Betzel is also involved with SparkMacon which inspired his idea for the contest. It is called SparkMacon is Sparking Innovative Thinking for Macon-Bibb. SparkMacon is a fully volunteer based makerspace in downtown Macon that is for public use. It has tools and equipment for people of the Macon community to use to bring their ideas to life. His idea for the Knight Cities Challenge is to provide SparkMacon with the funding to have a full time director and provide programs for the community, Betzel said. “We’re not asking to start something, but to expand what we already have.” The 126 finalists were given roughly three weeks to work out the details of their ideas and have to submit the application by February 1, Betzel said.
Loud drills, fenced off grounds and huge orange construction equipment have attracted even the most oblivious eye to Newton Chapel. The former Tattnall Square Baptist Church has been a part of Mercer University’s history since 1978 in honor of Dr. Louie Newton. The chapel is known for holding religious services and various events inside its corridors, but what many people may not realize is that the chapel has a twofold purpose. In addition to the Chapel, the attached Newton Hall contains extra classrooms for students to utilize. Over the years, Newton Hall’s usage has died down significantly. According to Dr. James Netherton, the executive vice president for administration and finance, the hall used to have roughly 150 students utilize the offices. While it started as a place for students – especially music students – to study or practice, the hall now is barely visited by any students. Netherton admitted that people rarely, if ever, go into Newton Hall at all. However, as the student population has decreased in frequenting Newton Hall in the past few years, the overall faculty and student population has increased exponentially. In response, Netherton advanced the planned 2019 Newton Hall remodeling to 2014. “Newton Chapel’s staying the way it’s always been for a while, but Newton Hall must be renovated for the development of the school”, Netherton said. The exponential progression of student population has pushed Mercer’s administration to seek radical progression for development on campus as well. In the next four years, Mercer’s plans for the University include a new science building, residence hall and Newton Hall. “The old Newton Hall was deteriorated,” Netherton said, “and in need of serious attention. We could have torn down the whole building, but as a historical community, we respect the old.” Thus, Mercer is in the process of totally gutting and redoing Newton Hall. Attached to the chapel will now be 32 new offices, five reception areas, new restrooms, a conference room, a sprinkler system and extra stairs. The landscape around the building will also receive a major transformation; like the recently-built Cruz Plaza, the area around Newton Chapel and Newton Hall will be surrounded by a grassy plaza, wooden benches and more functional sidewalks for the benefit of students. Instead of the awkward sidewalk and parking area across from the McCorkle Music Building, there will be one big sidewalk for students either walk across or drive their cars on. Because of its planned completion date of fall 2015, Newton Hall will become a “flex space” for the teachers and staff during the construction of the science building and residence hall. Netherton’s plan for the hall focuses on both providing teachers with a nicer place to relocate while buildings are being reconstructed and giving students another place to socialize and study. “The chapel has and will always be a special place on Mercer’s campus,” Netherton said. “With the redone hall, the special events during Homecoming, conferences, religious services and marriages will accentuate the grandeur of memories we wish Mercerians to make.” The University’s goals center on making campus the best possible home for each person who comes on its grounds.
The Southern Conference (SoCon) announced Dr. Ha Van Vo as the recipient of the Southern Conference inaugural Faculty Member of the Year, according to a news release. Vo is “the first recipient of this conference-wide honor,” President Underwood wrote in an email to students. The chief academic officers of the 10 institutions within the league each submitted a nomination for the award. These universities nominated faculty members who have made “a significant impact on the lives of students at Southern Conference institutions.” The winner was then chosen by the SoCon’s faculty athletics representatives. Voting criteria included “demonstrated service to the institution; proven record of high scholastic achievement among students; recognition for a research project or written academic piece; and contributions to campus life and the local community,” according to a news release. Vo’s nomination and award were based on his work in prosthetics. He is recognized as an Eminent Scholar and associate professor of biomedical engineering. During Vo’s nine-year tenure at Mercer, he and a team of students have developed a below-the-knee prosthetic that costs only $200. The typical prosthetic can cost more than $10,000. However, the lower price does not compromise the integrity of the item. Vo’s prosthetic is made for easy fitting in the field and extreme durability. Beyond the development of the prosthetic, Vo has taken his prosthetic to Third World countries through Mercer on Mission trips, primarily focusing on Vietnam, his home country. He also has traveled to and Haiti, the victim of a level 7.0 earthquake in 2007. Through the program, he has trained over 100 students across the disciplines and and fitted more than 3,000 prosthetics. In addition to the titular award, Vo will receive complimentary tickets and hospitality passes to the SoCon basketball tournament. As the recipient of honor, he will be awarded a $4,000 stipend from the Southern Conference.