The Research that Reaches Out Podcast features stories from Mercer University faculty and staff about working with students to address real-world problems by integrating research and service. Scroll down to view episode descriptions, access transcripts, and listen.
After 26 years of teaching a philosophy intro course, Dr. Charlotte Thomas at Mercer University threw out the thought experiments and partnered with The Daybreak Center, a Project of St. Vincent DePaul, to ground her students’ theoretical work in community-engaged projects. She talks about adapting her classroom-based service-learning project for an online format for a summer class and in response to the Covid-19 mid-semester shift to online learning.
Lauren Shinholster is leading the charge in college student voter engagement at Mercer. After earning multiple awards for the university in regional and national college voting competitions, she shares her strategies for successfully engaging student voters and adjusting for elections in the midst of Covid-19.
In her usability class at Mercer University, Dr. Pam Estes Brewer’s students’ research findings have informed the designs of dozens of websites and apps for partners like the Department of Homeland Security and the Georgia PINES Library System. Hear how Dr. Brewer manages the demands of project-based learning in her classroom and how she turned the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity for students to develop new professional skills – adjusting to environmental changes without sacrificing project outcomes.
In Summer 2019, Dr. Laura Moody from Mercer University’s Department of Industrial Engineering/Industrial Management took on two full-time undergraduate research assistants on a project to collect data from senior citizens on the amount of strength required to push buttons on everyday household items. Dr. Moody discusses the process of training and supervising undergraduate service-research students, the value they bring to the research process, and the role of undergraduate research experiences in developing students’ academic and professional skill sets.
After a successful foray into public access theatre with Shakespeare in the Park, Mercer University’s Theatre Department decided to continue providing free, public access to the arts by producing a public access theatre production of Pinocchio for children and families. Hear from Professor Frani Rollins from Mercer’s Theatre Department about the process of producing public access theatre, the importance of making the arts available to children, and how Mercer’s theatre students’ learning was positively impacted in the process.
Every year, Mercer University deploys as many as 350-400 tutors into area schools and nonprofit partners to support reading and math education in K-5 classrooms. In Summer 2019, Dr. Vicki Luther embarked on a research project with two undergraduate teacher candidates to evaluate Mercer’s work-study and service-learning tutoring program and develop accessible resources to support Mercer students as they provide literacy tutoring to children in grade K-3 in Macon-Bibb County. Hear from Dr. Luther about what her education research looks like when working with undergraduate students, key findings and responses to tutor training needs, and her strategies for transitioning in new research assistants to continue the project.
In part one of this five-part series on inclusive teaching practices, Dr. Laura Simon, assistant professor of sociology in Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Vicki Luther, associate professor in Mercer’s Tift College of Education, discuss the importance of inclusive teaching practices in creating welcoming environments that foster student engagement with the course material.
In this second installment of the five-part series on inclusive teaching practices, Dr. Simon and Dr. Luther from Mercer University explain the importance of acknowledging major cultural events that may impact students’ sense of well-being, such as the nationwide protests against police brutality in response to the police-perpetrated murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dr. Simon and Dr. Luther emphasize the difference between acknowledging difficulties and leading discussion about injustice with students and recommend ways faculty can assess their own readiness to address these topics with students without causing harm.
In this third installment of the five-part series on inclusive teaching practices, Dr. Simon and Dr. Luther from Mercer University outline the seven forms of bias and provide recommendations for inclusive teaching practices that faculty can adopt in their classrooms. These strategies are accessible to faculty who have limited flexibility in content or preparation time and can still yield high impact on student engagement with the course.
In part four of the five-part series on inclusive teaching practices, Dr. Simon and Dr. Luther from Mercer University issue a challenge to faculty to engage in critical reflection and self-assessment about unconscious bias in their courses and offer examples of strategies faculty can use in a variety of disciplines, including STEM classes, to expand inclusion in their courses.
In this final installment in the five-part series on inclusive teaching practices, Dr. Simon and Dr. Luther from Mercer University encourage faculty to acknowledge the key insights that students have into their teaching practices and, despite the difficulty of accepting critical feedback, remain open to considering alternative perspectives as they develop their courses.
In his capacity as Director of Machine Intelligence & Robotics Laboratory in the School of Engineering at Mercer University, Dr. Anthony Choi has developed an open-access lab model that supports peer education, campus and community outreach, and an environment that encourages tinkering for the sake of independent learning. Dr. Choi discusses his philosophy of problem-based teaching, the evolution of the robotics lab to its current open-access, student-led model, and his work empowering undergraduates as mentors and coaches for regional robotics competition teams in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and First Tech Challenge (FTC) networks. You can read more about Dr. Choi’s work with the Robotics Lab on MercerNews by clicking here.
Since 2008, Dr. Mary Alice Morgan (English) and Dr. Eimad Houry (International Affairs) have partnered as faculty leaders of a service-learning study abroad program to Cape Town, South Africa. The program, part of the larger Mercer On Mission program, enables students to work closely with partners on the ground to implement mutually beneficial service projects based on community-identified needs. Drs. Morgan and Houry discuss their commitment to centering ethical engagement and critical reflection in student learning, the impact of leading international service-learning on their personal and professional development, and the procedures they’ve developed to prepare students for thoughtful, reflective, ethical engagement before, during, and after travel.
With more than 20 years of experience working with undergraduate researchers at Mercer, Dr. André Butler, Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental and Civil Engineering, developed a long-term research project in 2017 that affords undergraduates the opportunity to study air quality both at home and abroad in El Cercado, San Juan, Dominican Republic. Dr. Butler discusses his commitment to helping his students recognize the human element connected to the research data as well as the risks and rewards of working with undergraduate research students.
When Dr. Sinjae Hyun (Biomedical Engineering) learned about the potential for 3-D printing technology to create portraiture that is accessible to people who are visually impaired, he established a partnership with the Georgia Academy for the Blind and recruited a partner in Dr. Scott Schultz (Industrial Engineering & Industrial Management) to collaborate on the production of 3-D printed yearbooks. Three years later, the partnership has expanded to include collaborations in South Korea. Dr. Hyun and Dr. Schultz discuss their work on this project in Macon, Georgia, the role that engineering undergraduates play in design and production, and their collaboration with the Drim School and the Junbuk School for the Blind in South Korea. You can read more about the Touch3D project in The Den, Mercer University’s digital news site.
Since 2016, Dr. Philip McCreanor (School of Engineering) and Dr. Sybil Keesbury (College of Education) have run the Go Baby Go! program at Mercer University. Go Baby Go!, founded by Dr. Cole Galloway at the University of Delaware, is a national initiative that provides modified ride-on cars to children who experience limited mobility. Through their multi-disciplinary partnership, Dr. McCreanor and Dr. Keesbury have developed an impressive process for sustaining the car builds that utilizes undergraduate engineering and education students. Hear about the origins of the initiative at Mercer, the process of recruitment, preparation, and implementation for Mercer’s Go Baby Go! builds, and the value of disciplinary contributions to strengthening the overall program.