Stacey Harwell’s face is not exactly an unfamiliar one on campus. As an Associate Pastor at Centenary United Methodist Church, Harwell spends a good bit of time working with students, like those with the Wesley Foundation and those who attend Centenary. Centenary is the closest church to Mercer’s campus and might be closer to MEP than the cafeteria is. Harwell was born in Lakenheath, England and lived in various states because her father was in the Air Force. She was a student at Mercer from 2003-2007 and majored in Christianity and Journalism. She loves Mercer and still shows her Mercer pride.
Cluster: What kind of things where you involved in at Mercer?
Harwell: Well, I was in the newspaper and with BCM, which used to be called BSU, and the Wesley Foundation and Christianity Honors Society TAK. Out of school, I was involved with Centenary UMC a lot. I tutored at an after school program at Memorial Gym. I was very busy and I kinda liked it that way.
Cluster: Did you have a favorite class or professor at Mercer?
Harwell: Wow. I liked a lot of my professors. I liked David Nelson, he was my Honors professor and my introduction to college. And I liked Jay Black. He was pretty much the only Journalism professor so I had a lot of classes with him. In the Christianity department, I really identified with Paul Lewis. To this day, I still really like Janell Johnson. There are a lot of professors I never had for class but I still really liked, but I won’t get into that.
Cluster: Do you have any special memories of Mercer you would like to share?
Harwell: I can narrow it down to two or three.
Back in my day, Mercer was aligned with the Georgia Baptist Convention, and they weren’t happy with us in those days and we were trying to figure out what we were going to do about that. Mercer had a pretty strong idea of what it wanted to be and they were trying to figure out how they fit into what the GBC wanted. We students watched and learned from the University on how to respond when what you believe does not fit with the organization in charge of you. It was a coming of age story for Mercer, and a lot of us were at that moment in life so we learned a lot from Mercer. We were being challenged by what we were learning in class when it did not necessarily match up with what we believed. For some of us that resulted in us switching political parties or churches and for some of us it ended up with us leaving church entirely. I really had a blast being involved with religious life experience. Especially with the Wesley Foundation. That was where I felt my calling to go into ministry. I feel like if I wasn’t at Mercer I would have been discouraged as a woman from going into ministry. Everyone at Mercer was really supportive, even in the Journalism department. They felt if that was what I wanted to do then I should do it.
Cluster: What things have changed since you left Mercer?
Harwell: The College Hill Corridor started when I was at Mercer, but it did not come to fruition until after I left. It was cool because it was started by a friend of mine and they didn’t know how big it was going to be. It is good to see how Mercer has become involved with the community. I remember when Mercer Village used to be a parking lot. I remember when the only place to eat on campus was the Caf because the UC was still being built. There used to be a building called Porter Gym where you could play basketball at 3:00 in the morning. It was a beautiful building. I think Mercer has overall been going in a good direction and I am proud of the way it is going. Two big changes: Mercer’s push for the Promise Neighborhood and the Center for Collaborative Journalism. Had I been there for the CCJ, I may not have gone into ministry because I may have been so excited about journalism and the type of work journalism students are now doing.
Cluster: What things have stayed the same?
Harwell: A lot of my favorite professors are still there. And a lot of the ethos of the departments are the same. The desire to have a good quality education is still there. And there are still a lot of students who really want to learn.
Cluster: Why did you decide to come back to Macon?
Harwell: There was a job available at Centenary. I knew Macon and liked Macon and I knew that I would have stuff to do. It was hard because I had fallen in love with Atlanta and the diversity in Atlanta, but at the end of the day there was not a big field for me in my profession. I started to discover Macon best in my last couple of months of Mercer. My friends and I took a tour on the trolley and discovered downtown. We have a lot of restaurants and museums. Because I didn’t have a car in college, I didn’t get to go downtown a lot. Now, I can explore Macon with my car and with money. I love Macon because it is right on the edge from being all it can be. We have the potential to be a really great city. I would definitely recommend people to live here now because it is a good city, and I really feel we are on the edge of something awesome.