Mercer students find community through minority mentor program


Mercer students gather on Cruz Plaza

For any college student, the adjustment from high school to college can be an experience of uncertainty, anxiety, and anticipation. However, for students of racial, religious, and ethnic minority backgrounds, the transition into college, especially to a predominately white institution, can be filled with fears of isolation and discrimination. It can feel hard to find a support system to help stay motivated and successful. But through programs offered by Mercer University, such as the Minority Mentor Program, minority Mercer students are finding the sense of community that will help them through college and beyond.

The Mercer University Minority Mentor Program, also known as MMP, started as a means of providing a space for minority students on the predominately white campus.

“The Minority Mentor Program was actually born out of the TRIO programs,” said Danae Brunner, the  student support services counselor at Mercer. TRIO programs are federally-mandated programs meant to support first generation college students, students with disabilities, and students from low income backgrounds.

“However, there wasn’t a space for our minority students that didn’t meet those qualifications,” Brunner said.  “And so the staff said, ‘We really want to create something for our minority students here at Mercer’.”

Today, Mercer works to build connections and a sense of community among historically underrepresented students through MMP. The program, which begins the week before classes start in the fall, helps minority students connect with others of similar backgrounds, as well as find a mentor who will help them adjust to college and campus throughout their first year.

“First coming to Mercer, I knew I was coming into a PWI (predominately white institution), but of course, when it’s at a scale like this versus a high school, it’s very life changing, because I’m just not used to not seeing as many of my own kind around me or in my own classrooms,” said Rheana Clermont, a senior at Mercer and MMP mentor.

Clermont said that at first, she and other minority students were “closed off”, but that MMP, as well as other multicultural organizations, showed them that Mercer has opportunities to come together.Minority Mentor Bear Launch

“These students, they may come in as an individual, by themselves. But imagine coming in early to college, meeting a group that can potentially become your best friends. You already have that built in space,” said Ansley Booker, Mercer’s director of diversity and inclusion at Mercer.

MMP has been a way for minority students to connect with one another, but its impact goes beyond just creating friendships.

“Students tend to matriculate at a better rate when they have spaces or environments where they feel supported,” Booker said. “They get additional resources, they get help, they get tutoring, they get advising, they have mentors, someone who’s basically journeyed the way for you. It’s really an opportunity to help to make sure that all students thrive and are successful.”

It is not just programs like MMP that help create a culture of diversity and inclusion on Mercer’s campuses. Booker said it is a collective effort.

“It’s various departments, various professors, various multicultural student groups on campus, and we’re really trying to help bring that educational awareness so we can all continue to be the change we want to see in the world,” Booker said. “When they say ‘Mercer Majors in Changing the World’, you know, we’re basically bringing the world to Macon, Georgia, to Mercer, and our various campuses”.

Across the country, many institutions of higher education have come under intense pressure to eliminate or significantly restrict curriculum and programs that address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Booker said she believes diversity is beneficial for all students, not just those affected by  discrimination.

“It increases your acceptance for people that are different from yourself,” Booker said. “When you start talking about inclusivity and at an earlier age, whether that’s in college or high school, you build that as part of your core values; having diversity, you’re automatically accepting of it. You automatically understand it.”