Faculty-led ‘Real Talk’ series seeks to connect professors to students


Image: Photo provided by Di'Nasia Berry.

Students listen as Professor Stephanie Howard discusses her college experience at the Mercer Innovation Center as part of the Real Talk series.

Elizabeth Tammi, Lead Writer

Every year, Mercer University’s Research that Reaches Out offices chooses a grand challenge theme. This past summer, when Emily Halstead heard that this year’s theme was personal well-being, an idea began to form.

The idea she came up with: Real Talk.

“Real Talk is a conversation series featuring faculty or staff talking about navigating challenges in college,” Halstead said. “The goal is to be able to create conversations about challenges that are really normal, that everyone goes through.”

Halstead works at Mercer’s Office for Student Success as Student Success Counselor. She reached out to Hannah Vann, who serves as Associate Director of the Research that Reaches Out office. From there, plans set in motion.

“We had a focus group with students who were here over the summer,” Halstead said.

The focus group primarily consisted of resident assistants, and they discussed what issues they faced as college students and named professors that they wanted to hear speak.

“That gave us a really good foundation to launch off of,” Halstead said.

So far, there has been three Real Talk events, in which professors Stephanie Howard, Garland Crawford and Chester Fontenot gave speeches on their time in college. Vann and Halstead said they aim to let students see how their professors were once in their same situation, and to hear their ideas on how to cope with college issues.

“It’s important to share our vulnerabilities with people we trust,” Vann said. She said she hopes that through Real Talk, students will realize it’s okay if their life goals change.

Each speaker is asked to speak about their own college experiences, but Halstead said that so far, they’ve all taken a unique approach by speaking of a variety of subjects from self-discipline to personal relationships.

Halstead and Vann said that the Real Talk program will continue into next semester, next year and beyond.

“I think the uniqueness of the program is what makes it attractive,” Vann said. “It’s here to stay.”