MACON – Mercer University junior McPherson Newell is one of 290 students nationwide recently named by Campus Compact among the 2020-21 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows.
The Newman Civic Fellowship is a yearlong program for students attending member institutions of Campus Compact, a Boston-based non-profit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.
Newman Civic Fellows are leaders on their campuses who demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing communities locally, nationally and internationally.
“When you sum up McPherson’s accomplishments, academically and in terms of social justice advocacy, three words come to mind: brilliant, authentic, unstoppable,” said Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, senior vice provost for service learning and professor of English and women’s and gender studies. “McPherson brings innovative vision and genuine passion to all their endeavors, whether engineering design or LGBTQ+ education. They truly fulfill the civic legacy of Frank Newman, for whom the award is named.”
Newell, a biomedical engineering major from Augusta, is a Goldwater Scholar, Stamps Scholar and Truman Scholarship finalist.
They serve as president of Common Ground, the University’s LGBTQ+ and ally organization; co-chair of the Rainbow Connection Committee, a student-led initiative to provide Mercer faculty and staff with information and resources to create an affirming environment for LGBTQ+ students; and a Disability:IN NextGen Leader, a national program for college students and recent graduates with disabilities who have demonstrated talent and leadership in the STEM, finance and business fields. They have received the Department of Mathematics Outstanding Student Award and a Mercer Visionary Student Panel grant.
“In my 25-plus years as a student group adviser, I have never witnessed a leader move to the top with so much purpose, professionalism and grace,” said Dr. Linda Hensel, professor of biology and faculty adviser for Common Ground. “Mac is an exceptional human being who is emboldened with a caring capacity for others, and they are devoted to giving back at a level that I rarely witness in young people. Moreover, they have done so both while matriculating one of the most rigorous degrees we offer at Mercer and while maintaining Honors status. Mac’s success on our campus has not wavered at any time.”
Newell plans to pursue an M.A. in disability studies, a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and a professorship in rehabilitation engineering at a research university, where they will advocate for accessibility in academia, conduct research on low-cost assistive technology and create research opportunities for LGBTQ+ and disabled students.
“I am incredibly honored to be named a 2020 Newman Civic Fellow, and I am thrilled to continue my work toward creating an affirming campus for LGBTQ+ students with the support of Campus Compact and under the continued mentorship of Dr. Linda Hensel. I am deeply grateful for the support and contributions of Dr. Hensel, Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, Ms. Hannah Nabi, and the current and past members of the Rainbow Connection Committee, as well as all of the Mercer faculty and staff who have attended Rainbow Connection, without whom this accomplishment would not have been possible,” said Newell.
The fellowship is named for the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who was a tireless advocate for civic engagement in higher education.
Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides the students with a variety of learning and networking opportunities that emphasize personal, professional and civic growth. Each year, Newman Civic Fellows are invited to a national, in-person conference and participate in numerous virtual training and networking opportunities. The fellowship also provides Fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and postgraduate opportunities.
“We are proud to recognize each of these extraordinary student leaders and thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with them,” said Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn. “The stories of this year’s Newman Civic Fellows make clear that they are committed to finding solutions to pressing problems in their communities and beyond. That is what Campus Compact is about, and it’s what our country and our world desperately need.”
The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.