Mercer students pitch ideas to make a better community at annual Visionary Panel


Visionary student panelists awaiting the judges. Photo by Adayah Glymph.

The Office of Research that Reaches Out at Mercer University hosted the fourth annual Student Visionary Panel on campus Oct. 25 and 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. Fifteen students spoke on the panel for the chance to win funding to support their vision.

This year, the theme was social responsibility. Each student presented for five minutes on what they thought was the most pressing issue in the Macon community and how they thought it could be solved. Afterward, the audience offered feedback and discussion.

Students Tayler Johnston and Regina Liu presented on the lack of financial resources for food available in the Macon community.

“It is a misconception that if you go to Mercer, you are not struggling,” Johnston and Liu said.

Johnston and Liu first discussed the lack of financial resources for students at Mercer. Even though Mercer students attend a private university with high tuition costs, it does not mean that they are immune to financial struggle, they said: roughly 70 percent of Mercer students have scholarships or extensive loans.

To make food more accessible in the local community, Johnston and Liu pitched food pantries created by collaborative efforts from Mercer and Macon.

Johnston and Liu were not the only ones who had ideas to help the city as a whole. Student Jackson Crean presented his idea on public service as well.

Crean said it’s more difficult to keep a community safe if there’s a lack of trust for civil servants. To alleviate this problem, he pitched a bridge between community leaders and citizens.

“The main focus of this project is to produce a neutral and lighthearted environment between the public and the civil servants,” he said.

Freshman student Gabrielle Miller attended the panel. She said student Victoria Whitehead’s presentation impacted her on a personal level.

Whitehead talked about the need to improve both health care and health education in the community, and Miller has a brother with chronic illness.

“There is a disconnect in understanding disease prevention, treatment, and management. Hospitals are making it difficult for residents to seek care and treatment,” Whitehead said.

Miller said the lack of health resources in rural communities is an important issue for her.

“Victoria Whitehead’s speech impacted me the most, because not only do I have a brother with a chronic illness, but I am also pursuing a major in biology,” she said.

Freshman Kymberly McCalla said the theme of social responsibility was relevant because it’s important to get involved in the community.

“It is important to learn about the community, so you can relate to those around you and be able to foster new relationships with others,” she said.

The student presenters will receive both judge and audience feedback to help them develop their ideas and create a grant application, as they are also eligible to apply for funding from the Quality Plan Initiative (QEP).

The winners will be announced by Nov. 30, according to the QEP website.