MACON – Mercer On Mission – the University's unique initiative blending study abroad, research and service – is set to send its largest cohort of students to a dozen locations around the globe.
Begun in 2007, Mercer On Mission provides life-changing experiences for students through a combination of academic instruction, cultural immersion, meaningful service and spiritual reflection. To date, 873 students have participated in trips to 77 sites in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and other areas of the world.
"Mercer On Mission is pushing new boundaries as we prepare to launch our ninth year," said Dr. Craig McMahan, dean of chapel and University minister who oversees the initiative. "We will be bigger than ever, and we will be engaging in some of the most diverse, creative and important projects that we have ever undertaken."
This year, 180 students and 30 faculty members will travel to 12 locations in the developing world to work on projects that range from improving access to education, health care and clean water, to preventing hazardous exposure to mercury among artisanal gold miners, to fitting amputees with prosthetic devices. Mercer On Mission's largest cohort prior to this year included 144 students.
"I am very proud of the work that we will be doing. It will be life-changing for the communities we serve and transformative for our students, who will get a chance to use their skills and expertise to make a real difference in the world," said Dr. McMahan.
"I am especially delighted to add a pilot program this year involving the Center for Collaborative Journalism (CCJ) that will embed journalism students in Mercer On Mission programs to document our work. Under the leadership of CCJ Director Tim Regan-Porter, these students will learn the craft of storytelling and advocacy journalism and then use those skills to tell the stories of Mercer On Mission teams in Cambodia, Honduras, Kenya and Vietnam."
This year's Mercer On Mission's sites include:
School of Medicine faculty and staff Dr. William F. Bina III and Gayle Bina will lead a team of third-year medical students, advanced pharmacy students, nursing students and pre-med undergraduates to the Kampot Province of Cambodia.
The team will provide primary care and refer chronically ill patients to a partner hospital.
Dr. Adam Kiefer, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts, and Robert Kaplan of the University of British Columbia will lead a team of chemistry and biology students to Ecuador.
The team will educate gold miners regarding the danger of using mercury, demonstrate safer mining techniques and monitor mercury levels to determine "problem areas" that need to be remediated.
College of Liberal Arts faculty members Dr. Achim Kopp and Dr. Scott Nash will lead a team of students to Greece.
The team will partner with Children's Ark Roma Education to provide tutoring and supplemental educational opportunities to prepare Roma children for success in public schools. The team will also engage in community development projects to enhance the status of the Roma community.
School of Medicine faculty and staff Gayle Bina and Dr. Fred Girton as well as Dr. Jose Pino, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures in the College of Liberal Arts, will lead a team of third-year medical students, advanced pharmacy students, nursing students and pre-med undergraduates to the rural Olancho Valley of Honduras.
The team will provide primary care and refer chronically ill patients to a partner hospital. Additionally, Spanish majors who are taking a course in medical translation, will serve as translators for the group.
Dr. Laura Lackey, professor of environmental engineering in the School of Engineering, and Randall Harshbarger, associate professor of cultural studies in the College of Liberal Arts, will lead a team of students to rural Kenya.
The team will build, distribute and install point-of-use water filters and test the effectiveness of previously installed filters. Additionally, the team will install a solar-powered pump to bring water to the village's 10,000-liter holding tank.
Tift College of Education faculty members Dr. Michelle Vaughn and Dr. Martha Lee Child will lead a team of students to Cape Town, South Africa.
The team will partner with non-governmental organization Celda to teach in schools and lead faculty development workshops in the large and deeply impoverished township of Mitchells Plain.
Republic of Georgia
Dr. Chris Grant, associate professor and chair of political science in the College of Liberal Arts, and Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili will lead a team of students to the Republic of Georgia.
The team will collaborate with local Muslim and Christian students on community development projects, including the physical restoration of local mosques, participating in games and sports with children, surveying needs with an emphasis on health, and studying a curriculum of reconciliation. The team will aid Yazidi refugees who have fled ISIS in Syria and Iraq with obtaining basic needs while also documenting their stories.
Stetson School of Business and Economics faculty members Dr. Gerry Mills and Dr. Etienne Musonera will lead a team of students to Rwanda.
The team will create a training program designed to teach widows entrepreneurial skills and to evaluate market options, allowing them to provide for their families in the wake of the 1994 genocide that left thousands of widows and orphans without financial resources necessary to survive.
Dr. Linda Brennan, professor of management in the Stetson School of Business and Economics, and Harold Tessendorf, executive director of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, will lead a team of students to Cape Town, South Africa.
In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the team will participate in the Nelson Mandela Legacy Build in the newly devised integrated residential development at Pelican Park. This event is part of a multi-agency South African initiative aimed at both providing affordable housing and bringing an end to segregation. The team will contribute leadership development and business consultation in addition to assessing the economic impact of this unique initiative.
Dr. Sinjae Hyun, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering, and Dr. John Thomas Scott, professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts, will lead a team to South Korea.
The team will partner with the Dream Christian School to educate some of the 25,000 North Korean refugees who have fled to South Korea. The team will provide English and basic robotics training to aid the students in finding work and integrating into the larger culture.
School of Engineering faculty members Dr. Ha Vo and Dr. Edward O'Brien will lead a team of students to Vietnam.
The team will continue work that has been done since 2009 to provide and fit prosthetic legs to some of the country's more than 100,000 amputees at no cost to them. At the personal invitation of the minister of foreign affairs, the team will work in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and return to Ben Tre, where a clinic was recently established. The team will assess the work of local technicians who were trained by a small Mercer On Mission delegation earlier this year and also visit regions north of Hanoi to explore the potential for a new clinical base.
College of Liberal Arts faculty members Dr. Natalie Bourdon and Dr. David Nelson will lead a team of Mercer Service Scholars to India.
The team will work with Chilla, a home for children of sex workers, HIV orphans and children in conflict with law. Engineering students will design a tank to provide to fish farmers to help their production and yield. College of Liberal Arts students will teach English and design a curriculum for school lessons on LGBT rights.