Faculty and Staff Notables | December 2023

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Life-size state of Jesse Mercer sitting on bench among fall foliage on Mercer Macon campus

College of Education

Dr. Robert Helfenbein, professor of curriculum studies, with Penn State-Abington colleague Dr. Boni Wozolek presented “Critical Cartography, Necropolitics and Curriculum Inquiry: A Conversation” on the “Curriculum Studies Genealogy Project” podcast.

Dr. Leah Panther, assistant professor of literacy education, published the co-edited book Critical Memetic Literacies for English Education: How Do You Meme? with Darren Crovitz of Kennesaw State University. She presented the session “Connecting language, race, history, and place: Curricularizing language and linguistic justice” at the National Council of Teachers of English in Columbus, Ohio, with 13 members of the Linguistic Justice Collaborative, including Mercer doctoral students Merlong Taylor, Latise McCord and Rosi Sanchez. Dr. Panther was also awarded a grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center for the project Youth Participatory Action Research for Racial and Linguistic Justice in Stone Mountain with local educator and activist Sally Stanhope.

Dr. Katherine Perrotta, assistant professor of middle grades and secondary education, and Ph.D. curriculum and instruction student Katlynn Cross presented their paper “Same Storm, Different Boats: Promoting Historical Empathy with a Local History Research Project about the COVID-19 Pandemic” at the National Council for the Social Studies College and University Faculty Assembly annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Perrotta and Cross also presented the poster “Same Storm, Different Boats: Local History Research and the Library of Congress” with Julie Maurer, K-12 education director at the City University of New York Gotham Center at the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources poster session at the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Dr. James Eric (Jay) Black, Schumann Endowed Professor and chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, published the article “A new starting point for U.S., China business” in China Daily. Dr. Black wrote the article with Harley Seyeden, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China.

Debbie R. Blankenship, assistant professor of practice in journalism and media studies and director of the Center for Collaborative Journalism, co-hosted a college collaboration summit in partnership with the Center for Community News out of the University of Vermont and the Georgia News Collaborative. Held Nov. 3 in the Center for Collaborative Journalism, the event had representatives from 10 other Georgia colleges. The focus was on using student reporting and university resources to address needs in local news. Blankenship facilitated discussions around best practices for collaborating with media organizations and then provided a checklist of considerations for launching this kind of work.

Dr. Wallace L. Daniel, Distinguished University Professor of History, gave a talk about research in the Keston Archive and his forthcoming book “Freedom and the Captive Mind” at the annual meeting of the Keston Institute, Nov. 3-4, at the Royal Foundation of St. Catherine, London.

Dr. David A. Davis, professor of English, presented the paper “Ham and Punishment: Food and Power in Charles Chesnutt’s ‘Dave’s Neckliss’” at the American Studies Association conference in Montreal. He also organized a panel for the South Atlantic Modern Language Association undergraduate research forum featuring papers by three students from his literary criticism class. Arden Latham presented “‘By the Nose Seen’: A Sensory Study of Smell in The Sound and the Fury,” Megan Jackson presented “Garrulous and Empowered: Rosa’s Ghost in Absalom, Absalom!” and Devin Jones presented “‘I’m going to tech you kernel’: Analyzing Wash Jones’ Relationship With Sutpen Through a Queer Lens.”

Dr. Andy D. Digh, associate professor of computer science, co-presented “Checkpoint Classifier for CNN Image Classification” with Mercer computer engineering alumnus Jackson H. Paul at the 37th Annual Southeastern Conference Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges in Conway, South Carolina, on Nov. 3. The presentation was based on an article Dr. Digh co-authored with Jackson that was published in The Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges.

Dr. Chris Grant, professor of political science, presented the paper “A New Nation in Blue and Yellow: Ukraine and Its Differentiation from Russia” at the 2023 Georgia Political Science Association meetings in St. Simons on Nov. 8-10. Dr. Grant also served as a discussant for a panel on “Political Ideology and American Politic” and along with Dr. Lori Johnson, professor of political science and director of the law and public policy program, was a panelist on the “Greg P. Domin Roundtable on the Presidency.” Domin was on the Mercer faculty from 1998-2009. Dr. Grant and Dr. Johnson were elected to the board of the association with Dr. Grant being the 2024 program chair.

Dr. Matt Harper, associate professor of history and Africana studies, with And So We Go Productions, wrote, directed and produced four original documentary films about Macon’s racial history in the series “Refounding Macon.” The films, funded by the Griffith Foundation and the Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies, were screened at this year’s Beloved Community Symposium. They are now available on the Beloved Community Initiative’s YouTube channel. Dr. Harper also wrote an article that will be published in the next issue of the peer-reviewed journal Religion and American Culture. The article, “Contested Autonomy: Black Denominational Debates in the Early Jim Crow Era,” traces the debates within Black churches over the promise and perils of being in the same denomination with white Christians. 

Dr. Sahar Hasim, assistant professor of biology; Dr. John P. Stanga, assistant professor of biology; and Dr. Megan D. Pannell, assistant professor of biology, advised several students who received research grants from the Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society. Bradley Akin and Logan Baker received $750 for “Exploring Caspofungin Unmasking in Candida auris to Enhance Macrophage-Mediated Antifungal Immunity.” Deborah Roh and Sanjeevini Nalla received $750 for “Enhancing Antimicrobial Efficacy and Biofilm Inhibition Using Nanomaterial-Based Coatings on Medical Devices.” James Haywood and Rachel Thigpen received $550 for “Characterization of Mutants and Mechanistic Insight into Biofilm Biosynthesis in Streptococcus mutans.” Caroline Zueck and Nupoor Patel received $400 for “Utilizing Reverse Genetics to Explore SMAX1 Dependent Seed Germination in Arabidopsis.” Diana Tejera-Berrios received $300 for “Inhibitive effects of Tyr-15 and Tyr-45 on biofilm in B. subtilis,” and Ryan Brownlee and Ji Won Parkreceived $150 for “Significant Inhibition of NorA efflux pump activity in Staphylococcus aureus.” Dr. Hasim is the faculty advisor for Mercer’s chapter of Tri Beta.

Dr. Gordon Johnston, professor of English and creative writing, gave a reading and signing from his fiction collection Seven Islands of the Ocmulgee at Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 22, and he was among the presenting poets at Bill King Writers Week at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, on Oct. 23-26. Dr. Johnston’s kayaking memoir “Scaring Herons” was nominated for a Best of the Net award in nonfiction by the online journal Susurrus, and his poem “Dearth of the Cool 2017” will appear in the Blue Mountain Review. Three of Dr. Johnston’s clay pages, poems fired by Roger Jamison, a Mercer emeritus professor of art, onto stoneware tablets, were included in the art show “Macon: 200” at Macon Arts on Nov. 3-17. An interview with Dr. Johnston by Jill Neimark appeared in the Atlanta Jurnal-Constitution print and online editions in October.

Dr. James Davis May, assistant professor of English and director of creative writing, read with poets Victoria Chang and Vievee Francis as part of the 22nd Bourne Poetry Reading at Georgia Tech. Dr. May’s poem “The Patron Saint of Airport Sparrows” appears in the December issue of The Sun, and a companion poem, “The Patron Saint of Heat Waves,” which was originally published in Presence, was reprinted by Verse Daily on Nov. 3. 

Dr. Erin McClenathan, assistant professor of art history, presented a paper titled “Towards a Free Revolutionary Art? Collecting Dyn’s Feminist Vision” on Nov. 10 at the International Society for the Study of Surrealism’s 2023 conference, jointly organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Menil Collection; University of Houston; and Rice University.

Dr. John Thomas Scott, interim dean and professor of history, and Dr. Achim Kopp, associate dean and professor of foreign languages and literatures, published The Journals of the Moravian Mission to Georgia, 1734-1737: From Herrnhut to Savannah with Lehigh University Press/Rowman & Littlefield. The volume includes the journals of four Moravian leaders, detailing the group’s negotiations with the Georgia Trustees in London, their voyage to the colony of Georgia and their daily life in the newly founded town of Savannah. The journals are housed in the Moravian Archives in Herrnhut, Germany, and have been unpublished to date. Dr. Kopp curated the translation of the journals from German to English, and Dr. Scott provided the historical context in the introduction and annotations.

Tennille Shuster, associate professor of graphic design, has been selected to participate in “Faces and Places,” a group exhibition of artists’ books from the Cynthia Sears Artists’ Books Collection at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Washington. The exhibit will feature Shuster’s artist book created in collaboration with artist Kandy Lopez-Moreno titled I Look At The World and will be on display through Feb. 4, 2024.

Dr. Barry Stephenson, associate professor of biology, with former Mercer undergraduate student Jorden Christensen had the article “The relationship of body colouration to morphological traits in a population of green frogs from Georgia, USA” published in Amphibia-Reptiliai.

Dr. Adrian Vasquez, assistant professor of biology, spoke on the “Predatory and parasitic impacts of water mites on mosquito and mosquito-borne disease in the urban setting” at the annual Georgia Mosquito Control Association (GMCA) conference. Dr. Vasquez received a travel award from the GMCA to attend the conference held at Villas of the Sea on Jekyll Island.

Evey Wilson Wetherbee, assistant professor of practice in journalism, spoke on “Storytelling Across Mediums” at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, America’s longest continuously operating photojournalism conference, on Nov. 4. She also served as a judge for the conference’s photography competition. 

Dr. Bryan J. Whitfield, professor and chair of religion, published two columns on the Book of Joshua through Working Preacher in November: “Commentary on Joshua 3:7-17” and “Commentary on Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25”.  

Dr. Johnathan Yerby, associate professor of computer science, and Dr. Jennifer Breese, assistant professor of information technology at Penn State, published their paper “Applied Steganography: An Interesting Case for Learners of all Ages” in the Cybersecurity Pedagogy & Practice Journal. The paper is based on an applied learning activity that the professors have been using and refining for 10 years. Dr. Yerby, Dr. Adeel Malik, assistant professor of computer science, and Jesse Sowell, computer systems manager, are faculty advisors for the cybersecurity competition team, the Mercer CyBears, that has been ranked 98th out of 521 colleges and universities in the Cyber Power Rankings for the fall 2023 National Cyber League competition season.

College of Nursing

Dr. Justus Randolph, professor, co-published the article “A hot mini-Neptune and a temperate, highly eccentric sub-Saturn around the bright K-dwarf TOI-2134” in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dr. Linda A. Streit, professor, was asked to continue her service with another two-year term on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Organizational Leadership Network Steering Committee. She serves as secretary.

College of Pharmacy

Dr. Clinton Canal, associate professor, co-authored, with graduate students Tanishka S. Saraf, Yiming Chen and Richa Tyagi, “Altered brain serotonin 5-HT1A receptor expression and function in juvenile Fmr1 knockout mice” for publication Nov. 3 in Neuropharmacology.

Dr. Nader H. Moniri, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and associate dean for research, with graduate students Kirti Singh and Razan Teyani, published “Agonists and hydrogen peroxide mediate hyperoxidation of β2-adrenergic receptor in airway epithelial cells: Implications for tachyphylaxis to β2-agonists in constrictive airway disorders” in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy.

Dr. Mohammad Nasir Uddin, assistant professor, co-authored “Microsponge-Based Gel Loaded With Immunosuppressant as a Simple and Valuable Strategy for Psoriasis Therapy: Determination of Pro-Inflammatory Response Through Cytokine IL-2 mRNA Expression” on Nov. 1 in the MDPI Journal special issue Advances in Hydrogels for Biomedical Applications.

College of Professional Advancement

Dr. David Lane, professor of counseling, was recognized with three awards for his Children’s book I Have Questions, Lots and Lots of Questions: A True Story of Christmas. He was named a finalist for the Independent Author Network Awards in the category of Holiday Fiction. The awards are designed to recognize and support independent authors. The book was also named to the Long List for the Little Peeps Book Awards for Children’s Literature. The Little Peeps Book Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in Early Readers. The Little Peeps Book Awards is a division of Chanticleer International Book Awards. Dr. Lane also won the Gold Medal from Pinnacle Book Awards in the category of Children’s Holiday Picture Book for I Have Questions, Lots and Lots of Questions: A True Story of Christmas. The Pinnacle Book Awards honor some of the finest independently published and small press books in a wide variety of categories.

Dr. Tyce Nadrich, associate professor of counseling, with Dr. Ryan Coughlan, associate professor at the City University of New York, Baruch College, co-presented “The Commodification of Racial Diversity in Postsecondary Education: A Comparison of Reported Racial Demographics and Projections of Racial Diversity in Social Media” at the Association for the Study of Higher Education’s 2023 General Conference on Nov. 16 in Minneapolis.

Dr. Dustin Peone, liberal studies adjunct instructor, had his book Making Philosophy Laugh: Humor, Irony, and Folly in Philosophical Thought published. In the book, Dr. Peone makes an apology for the comic side of existence and its use in philosophy and demonstrates the social and moral uses of humor and analyzes its significance for speculative thinking. 

School of Business

Jody Blanke, the Ernest L. Baskin Jr. Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Law, attended the annual conference of the Southeastern Academy of Legal Studies in Business in Greenville, South Carolina, at which he presented his paper titled “ChatGPT, The Sky is Not Falling,” moderated an academic paper session and was an invited panelist at the Special Plenary Session “ALSB Centennial Series: The Next 100 Years of the ALSB.” Blanke also was the recipient of SEALSB’s 2023 Larry A. DiMatteo Senior Scholar Award.

Dr. Carol Springer Sargent, associate professor of accounting, along with her co-authors, presented the paper “Internet of Things (IoT): Users’ Concerns About Privacy and Security” at the 63rd IACIS Annual Conference in Clearwater, Florida, on Oct. 7, and the article was published in Issues in Information Systems. Dr. Sargent, along with her co-authors, also had their article “Big Data Analytics: From Leadership to Firm Performance” accepted in Industrial Management and Data Systems. Also, Dr. Sargent and Ashley Herman, associate director of career management services, conducted Mercer’s second Annual Accounting and Finance Meet the Firms event where students learned professional skills through mock interviews and networking with 23 regional professional firms. Forty tables set up in the Presidents Dining Room hosted 106 students engaging in “micro interviews” of five minutes each. As students moved from table to table during the event, they gained experience with a wide range of different firms and different interview styles. 

School of Medicine 

Dr. Mohammed Abdelsaid, assistant professor of pharmacology in the biomedical sciences department on the Savannah campus, had his study “SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Intensifies Cerebrovascular Complications in Diabetic hACE2 Mice through RAAS and TLR Signaling Activation” accepted for publication in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Dr. Jennifer Barkin, professor of community medicine and OBGYN, and the Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities, co-hosted a perinatal mental health training with the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center that was featured by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The training was funded by Pew Charitable Trusts as part of a larger, national suicide risk reduction initiative. The event was livestreamed by Georgia Public Broadcasting and is estimated to have reached 180-200 health care providers, trainees and public health professionals.

Dr. Keisha Callins, assistant professor and chair of the department of community medicine, and third-year medical student Fatima Humayun co-published the blog post “ASAP (Accelerated Support and Advocacy Plan) for Rural Gynecologic Cancer Cases” on the Society of Gynecologic Oncology website.

Dr. Brian H. Childs, professor and chair of the bioethics and medical humanities department on the Savannah campus, had his essay “Research Involving the Recently Deceased: Ethics Questions That Must Be Answered” published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (BMJ). Discussion on this topic was also published in the BMJ Medical Ethics Blog.

Dr. Bonny L. Dickinson, senior associate dean for faculty affairs, director of medical education research, and professor of microbiology and immunology in the biomedical sciences department, was selected to serve on the Association of American Medical Colleges Research (AAMC) in Medical Education (RIME) program planning committee, which is responsible for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the RIME component of the annual AAMC Medical Education Meeting. Dr. Dickinson will serve on the committee through 2027.

Dr. Edward C. Klatt, professor in the biomedical sciences department on the Savannah campus, published the paper “Cognitive factors impacting patient understanding of laboratory test information” in the Journal of Pathology Informatics. Dr. Klatt also served as a reviewer for the journal BMC Medical Education in November.

Dr. Anthony J. Kondracki, assistant professor of community medicine on the Savannah campus co-authored a research article in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology titled, “Childhood adversity and accelerated reproductive events: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” published on Oct. 9. Dr. Kondracki also presented a research poster titled “Exploring the Causal Association Between Maternal Smoking Patterns and Postpartum Depression Modified by Antenatal Depression Status: Use of a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG)” at the Marce of North America 2023 Perinatal Mental Health Conference in Alexandria, Virginia, on Oct. 26. Co-authors on the poster were Dr. Jennifer Barkin, professor of community medicine and OBGYN, and Dr. Kimberly Roth, assistant professor of community medicine on the Savannah campus.

Dr. Kimberly McElveen, associate dean for faculty affairs and interim chair for pathology and clinical sciences on the Columbus campus, presented “Effective Resident as Teacher Programs: Developing Educators for Today and Tomorrow” at the Generalists in Medical Education Conference Nov. 2-3 in Seattle.

Dr. Peter Papadakos, volunteer faculty, internal medicine, co-authored the article “The Epidemic of Violence in American Hospitals” published on the TIME Magazine website.

Dr. Kimberly Roth, assistant professor of community medicine on the Savannah campus, presented work at the annual conference of the American Public Health Association in Atlanta. She had a poster presentation with Anna Rios, administrative coordinator of the Academic Resource Center, on “Immigration age and neighborhood composition influence on cognitive ability within the elder Hispanic population” and an oral presentation on “Childhood predictors of unnatural death among a cohort of Baltimore young adults: The importance of neighborhood characteristics.” 

School of Music

Dr. R. Timothy McReynolds, associate professor of collaborative piano, gave a masterclass with soprano Mary Boehlke Wilson for Concerts by the Pond at St. John’s of Cold Spring Harbor in New York, and he’ll return in May 2024 for a recital with Wilson. Dr. McReynolds most recently returned from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he gave a recital of new music with Jennifer Piazza-Pick, soprano at Queens University.

Dr. Nathan Myrick, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies, presented “Mosh Pit Methods: Team-Based Collaborative Fieldwork at a Hardcore Punk Festival” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Ottawa, Canada, on Oct. 21.

Staff and Administration

Tony Kemp, associate vice president in the Provost’s Office, completed regional judging assignments for the Georgia High School Association’s one-act play competition, region 5-AAA at the Monroe County Performing Arts Center in Forsyth, region 1-AAA at Carver High School in Columbus, and region 4-AA at Davidson Fine Arts in Augusta. The events showcased dedicated high schools, students and teachers from their respective regions before their state competitions in November.