New year, new beginnings and a new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council

Man stands behind podium. Projected on the screen behind him is a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. and the words Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Kirk A. Nooks, president of Gordon State College, speaks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Jan. 21, 2020, in Willingham.

Mercer University’s new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council is a group of faculty, staff and students that acts on behalf of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives to guide and make recommendations for the diversity, inclusion and equity processes of the University.

The council’s mission is to foster a campus environment that attracts the best talent, values diversity of life experiences and perspectives, fosters inclusion, and promotes equity in the pursuit of inclusive excellence.

When I became director and opened the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives in 2019, many people reached out and wanted to be a part of the diversity, equity and inclusion network. This council, which began meeting in fall 2020, is an excellent way for faculty, staff and students to contribute.

The council works closely with me to ensure tight alignment with the University’s overall mission, vision and heritage while promoting practices that support and accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion goals. It helps to create strategic accountability for results, provides governance and oversight on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and promotes University-wide communication on the progress. And, it is a critical driver in fostering institutional change, establishing a dedicated focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity priorities, and managing diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives for all campuses.

Mercer’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council is designed to address gaps in representation or inclusion. Therefore, the council’s members, who serve two years, mirror the diversity within our institution. Meet our 2020-2022 inaugural council members:

  • Rylan Allen, member of the Student Government Association
  • Tracy Artis, executive director of TRIO programs and Minority Affairs
  • Dr. Felicia Baiden, assistant professor of clinical practice in the Tift College of Education
  • Dr. Nadia Barnett, assistant professor and program coordinator of the Master of Science in Human Services program in the College of Professional Advancement
  • Justin Brown, center day coordinator in Douglasville
  • Dr. Chester J. Fontenot Jr., Baptist Professor of English and director of the Africana studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Dave Garber, associate professor and director of distance learning in the McAfee School of Theology
  • Jasmine Garrett, doctoral student specializing in adult gerontology acute care in the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing
  • Dr. Jeff Hall, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor in the Tift College of Education
  • Athea Harris, site coordinator for the Educational Opportunity Center
  • Dr. Melinda Hollingshed, assistant professor in the School of Engineering
  • Tracy Jackson, registrar in the School of Law
  • Retired Lt. Col. Scott Mahone, director of Regional Academic Center operations in Henry County
  • Tonja Meadows, student in the School of Theology
  • Dr. C. Peeper McDonald, assistant professor of counseling in the College of Professional Advancement
  • Dr. Chinekwu Obidoa, associate professor of global health studies and Africana studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Suzianne Painter-Thorne, professor in the School of Law
  • Dr. LaDonia Patterson, lecturer in the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing
  • Dr. Marcus Reddick, associate professor and director of percussion studies in the Townsend School of Music
  • Elexandaria Reese, area coordinator for Housing and Residence Life
  • Alexandria Sherwin, graduate student in the clinical mental health counseling program in the College of Professional Advancement
  • Dr. Vijaya Subrahmanyam, associate dean and professor in the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business
  • Wanda Thomas, clinical reference librarian and instructor and assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion in the School of Medicine
  • Kay Torrance, director of communications and marketing in the College of Pharmacy
  • Dr. Nannette Turner, professor and chair of the Department of Public Health in the College of Health Professions
  • Hannah Vann Nabi, associate director of the Quality Enhancement Plan
  • Terri Walker, director of special programs in the School of Medicine

Priorities for the council include:

  • Writing a diversity and inclusion universal statement
  • Conducting a campus climate survey
  • Holding universal diversity and inclusion training
  • Collecting data
  • Setting a five-year strategic plan
  • Recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff
  • Ensuring diversity in the curriculum

The council’s upcoming meetings are Jan. 13 and March 10. For more information about how to participate, please contact me at (478) 301-2856 or

Also, please save the date for Mercer’s third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream event, which will be held 4-6 p.m. Jan. 14 at Willingham Auditorium. I hope to see you there!


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