Mercer University junior honored as Newman Civic Fellow 

headshot of Yash Jani
Yash Jani. Photo by Marin Guta

MACON — Mercer University junior Yash Jani was one of 154 student civic leaders selected to Campus Compact’s 2023-2024 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. 

Jani, a neuroscience major and Stamps Scholar from Albany, joins students from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico to form the cohort. 

Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges and universities working to advance the public purposes of higher education. The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes students who stand out for their commitment to creating positive change in communities locally and around the world. 

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. In the spirit of Dr. Newman’s leadership, fellows are nominated by Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors, who are invited to select one outstanding student from their campus each year. 

Jani is committed to helping address unmet health care needs in the community. He is deeply invested in his hometown in Southwest Georgia, where he volunteered at health fairs and hospitals. 

“Growing up in Albany, I recognized the widespread issues in my community, particularly obstacles to attaining adequate health care resources for indigent, underserved populations,” he said. “I recognized the value of preventative measures in bettering the lives of these individuals as well as the health of my community, which not only fueled my passion for community engagement but also led me to Mercer.” 

While in high school, Jani founded a nonprofit organization, Ray of Hope Foundation for Grieving Children. The organization grew out of his experience with intense grief over his cousin’s terminal illness diagnosis and eventual death, as well as seeing the impact it had on other loved ones. 

“The experience allowed me to understand the implications that a diagnosis can have on the family members of the afflicted,” Jani said. “This is a recurring issue, particularly for children whose parents are diagnosed with terminal illnesses and are soon to pass away. As a result, I saw these parallels and launched Ray of Hope.” 

Since its founding in 2019, Jani has expanded Ray of Hope to three locations and raised more than $25,000 to provide bereavement services to children whose parents are in hospice care. His next goal is to expand the foundation to support children across the state of Georgia. Successful expansion increases capacity at the local level in supporting the mental health and well-being of children who are experiencing loss. 

At Mercer, Jani was a finalist for the Graydon L. Ware Award for the top junior biology student, was recognized as Outstanding Student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and has been named to the Dean’s List and President’s List. He serves as president of Mercer Ambassadors and was the historian/social media chair for Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, past vice president of Order of Omega, past freshman class president for the Student Government Association, and a member of MU Miracle. 

After graduating, he plans to attend medical school and become a community physician. 

“Yash is a great student. He is the type of student who combines great ideas with a strong work ethic and is results driven. Great things can happen when those energies are focused toward positive change in communities,” said Dr. Joshua Rodefer, associate professor of psychology. “His philanthropic activities are a perfect example of what service-oriented students like Yash can accomplish. Being named a Newman Civic Fellow is a great recognition of his efforts to better the lives of families impacted by unfortunate circumstances. I have no doubt he will be a successful clinician-scientist after graduation from Mercer.” 

Jani said he was honored to represent Mercer as a Newman Civic Fellow. 

“It is an incredible privilege, and I am extremely excited to enrich my social service skill set and passion by learning from distinguished individuals in this field,” he said. “I am grateful for my faculty mentors, Dr. Jean Sumner, Dr. David Davis, Dr. Linda Hensel and Dr. Rodefer; professors; and peers, Luke Jones and Michelly Pereira, who have all supported me during my time at Mercer as this achievement would not be possible without their invaluable support.” 

Campus Compact provides fellows with a year of learning and networking opportunities that emphasize personal, professional and civic growth. Each year, fellows participate in numerous virtual training and networking opportunities to help provide them with the skills and connections they need to create large-scale positive change. 

The cornerstone of the fellowship is the Annual Convening of Fellows, which offers intensive skill-building and networking over two days. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and postgraduate opportunities. 

“We are honored to recognize such an outstanding group of community-committed students,” said Campus Compact President Bobbie Laur. “One of the best parts of the Newman Civic Fellowships is the richness of students’ perspectives, experiences and backgrounds — and how these varied stories all led to their passionate engagement with the social, political and environmental issues impacting our world. These students will be the catalysts for change on many levels, and we are privileged to help empower them to create that change.” 

About Campus Compact 

Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. Campus Compact supports institutions in fulfilling their public purposes by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility. As the largest national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, we provide professional development to administrators and faculty to enable them to engage effectively, facilitate national partnerships connecting campuses with key issues in their local communities, build pilot programs to test and refine promising models in engaged teaching and scholarship, celebrate and cultivate student civic leadership, and convene higher education institutions and partners beyond higher education to share knowledge and develop collective capacity. Visit

About Mercer University 

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer Medicine, the clinical faculty practice of the School of Medicine, is based in Macon and operates additional clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay, Putnam and Harris counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit