New award recognizes Mercer staff serving students in extraordinary ways


A new Mercer University initiative is celebrating staff members who go above and beyond to meet the unique needs of their students. The Bear Excellence Committee for Student Service has created a monthly superlative called the Excellence in Student Service Award.

The committee was created in January with the purpose of celebrating, advising and resourcing student service initiatives at Mercer. It serves students through the Four Paws of Student Service Excellence: commitment, pride, hospitality and innovation.

The committee’s 14 members have 160 combined years of student service, said Nathan Cost, creator of the committee and director of admissions for the School of Theology.

“We realized, especially during the pandemic, students are finding themselves in some of the most challenging situations maybe in their entire lives,” he said. “We also had staff members who were responding to those challenges in extraordinary ways, who were using the resources and processes to make sure that every student was served. We wanted to find a way to highlight those Mercer staff members who were giving not just 100 but 110% for their students.” 

The new award will recognize staff members who have made a positive impact, from small interactions behind the scenes to initiatives that impacted hundreds of students. Nominations can be submitted online or by email.

“Mercer staff are working so hard to meet the needs of the whole diverse range of students, and that means taking each student on their own as they are,” Cost said. “We want to highlight the culture of student service that exists here at Mercer to our current students, prospective students and their families.”

Cost hopes the award will also help inspire Mercer employees and give them ideas for ways they can go the extra mile for their students.

“One of the hallmarks of the Mercer experience is the care with which we serve our prospective and current students,” said Dr. Penny Elkins, senior vice president for Enrollment Management. “We established the Bear Excellence Committee to reinforce and acknowledge that high standard of service and support given to our students across all of Mercer’s locations. This monthly Excellence in Student Service Award will serve as one small way that we can show appreciation to our staff who work diligently every day on behalf of our students and the Mercer community.”

Another initiative from the committee is a pilot survey for Macon undergraduate students who used services within the Stembridge Center for Student Success — which houses the offices of Student Success, Student Financial Planning, Registrar, Bursar and Student Loans — at the end of August. 

Students provided feedback on the way they navigated the different departments, and the survey results will help determine if any processes need to be streamlined, Cost said. 

A lot of times, students are unsure which department they need to visit to resolve an issue, said Maria Hammett, associate vice president of student financial planning and member of the survey committee. 

“The ultimate goal is to find out if we’re meeting our student’s expectations. Are we truly a Center for Student Success? Are we helping them resolve their issues so they can complete their degree?” Hammett said. “What we’re trying to do as a ‘Center for Student Success’ is ensure we meet the needs of all of our students in an efficient manner so that they leave with a positive experience and are excited about pursuing their degree program.”

Visit or email to nominate a Mercer staff member for the Excellence in Student Service Award.


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Andrea Honaker is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She writes feature stories for The Den and creates and maintains content for primary University web pages. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.