Mercer University is one of the nation's best colleges fostering social responsibility and public service, according to The Princeton Review and Campus Compact, a national organization committed to the civic purposes of higher education. The University is one of only two institutions in Georgia— along with Spelman College— featured in the forthcoming book, Colleges with a Conscience: 81 Great Schools with Outstanding Community Involvement, which will be available in bookstores on June 21.
"A college with a conscience," said Robert Franek, Princeton Review vice president for Admission Services, "has both an administration committed to social responsibility and a student body actively engaged in serving society. Education at these schools isn't only about private gain; it's about the public good."
The Princeton Review and Campus Compact winnowed a list of 100 schools from a pool of more than 900 colleges. From this shortlist, the editors collected extensive data about institutions' service programs and policies, surveying their students and faculty/staff. Finally, 81 schools were chosen for Colleges with a Conscience.
Mercer faculty in all disciplines are committed to integrating service-learning into curricula, and students across the University are actively engaged in community service projects both inside and outside of the classroom.
Last semester, a group of students in Atul Saxena's "Principles of Finance" course in the School of Business on the Macon campus counseled new homeowners in financial literacy in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity. This semester, students in Mary Alice Morgan's "Women's and Gender Studies" course are working with the Salvation Army Battered Women's Refuge, assisting children with their homework and working on the hotline.
Through the Mercer Center for Service-Learning and Community Development, a group of four students in the University's Communication and Theatre Arts program are working with eight high school students to develop news videos to share with their classmates. Also this semester, students from the Department of Family Studies and the Sociology Department are working with the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition to help people file their taxes at no cost.
In addition, students enrolled in Mercer's First-Year Seminar Experiential (FYX) course tutor children weekly at local elementary schools in addition to participating in other community service projects throughout the year. A listing of further community service initiatives in which Mercer students are involved can be found at the end of this news release.
Dr. Peter Brown serves as associate vice president for the Mercer Center for Service-Learning and Community Development—a center devoted to fostering student involvement throughout the greater Macon community.
"Mercer's inclusion in Colleges with a Conscience recognizes the tens of thousands of hours that Mercer undergraduates contribute to the community as tutors, interns, volunteers and service leaders," Brown said. "It also is a tribute to the innovative faculty at Mercer who understand that civic engagement offers students exceptional learning opportunities that strongly complement classroom instruction."
Randy Harshbarger has taught FYX for the past four years, and his class recently completed a project in which they researched and memorialized individuals buried in the Lynwood Cemetery. The students wrote profiles of individuals buried in this cemetery, much of which was covered in brush, and created a book which they shared with the community in honor of those buried there. Mercer students are continuing to assist the community in clearing brush from the cemetery.
"We have an obligation to the community around us," said Harshbarger, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at Mercer. "Our students are going to be leaders, and as leaders, they need to be active citizens in the community. We must expose them to the realities around them so they can elicit change."
The Princeton Review partnered with Campus Compact to develop Colleges with a Conscience and choose the schools featured in the book. The book's editors also invited dozens of organizations with expertise in campus community service and student engagement to nominate colleges for inclusion. Criteria included: the college's admissions practices and scholarships rewarding community service; support for service-learning programs, student activism, and student voice in school governance; and level of social engagement of its student body.
Each institution in Colleges With a Conscience has a two-page profile that provides detailed information about civic engagement and service-learning programs on campus, in the classroom, and in the community, as well as advice for applicants. The book also includes a section on researching colleges with service-learning programs and gaining financial support for service. Profiles of 15 students share perceptions and feedback about their civic engagement activities, advice, and experience.
Additional Current and Upcoming Mercer Community Service Projects (not all-inclusive)
1. Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, Out & Up, Inc.
· Mercer students who are certified fitness instructors facilitate community fitness classes on Wednesdays.
· Mercer students tutor at the after school program that is held for Burke Elementary and community students at the church on Monday - Thursday
2. Vivian Hatcher Memorial Gardens at Burke Elementary
· Dedicated last year in honor of Dr. Hatcher, longtime principal of Burke Elementary, the Gardens stand as a testimonial to the collaboration of Mercer and the youth in the community. This year, the Gardens will be used as a teaching platform for a class of 3rd grade students, assisted by MCSCD and Mercer University students.
3. Central High School
· Mercer undergraduate and graduate students give presentations to Central High School students on various science topics including environmental health and cardiovascular health.
4. Boys and Girls Club of Central Georgia
· Mercer students will serve as facilitators for a youth health program that addresses physical fitness, health education and financial literacy. The program is sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Central Georgia.
· Mercer Master of Public Health students will work with the Boys and Girls Club to facilitate a community forum to address the health needs of the community in regards to obesity in children.