News from Penfield College

2018 Penfield faculty

Dina Schwam
Dr. Dina Schwam

Penfield College’s new faculty members include Dr. Dina Schwam, assistant professor of human services and psychology, who earned Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in educational psychology from Georgia State University and a B.S. in psychology from the University of Maryland. Prior to joining the Mercer faculty, Dr. Schwam served as project director for the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy at Georgia State University. Her research explores individual differences in self-regulated learning in online classes. She has ongoing interest in exploring individual differences in cognition and human behavior in populations in order to increase successful opportunities for all individuals.

Peeper McDonald
Dr. Peeper McDonald

Dr. Peeper McDonald, assistant professor of counseling, received a Ph.D. in counselor education and practice, Ed.S. and M.S. degrees in professional counseling from Georgia State University, and a B.A. in psychology and religious studies from Agnes Scott College. She worked as a career and disability specialist, and her research interests focus on motivational interview training; mixed methods in group research; standards for multi-cultural research; effective counseling and social and cultural diversity; suicide and self-injury and professional counseling conceptualizations; identity development of multiracial individuals, color-blind racial ideology, and discrimination in multiracial individuals; and innovations in teaching counseling assessment and research courses.

Tri Le
Dr. Tri Le

Dr. Tri Le, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, received Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in statistics from the University of Missouri, and an M.S. in probability and statistics and B.S. in mathematics and informatics from Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Sciences. Dr. Le worked at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a predictive computational statistician. His areas of research interest include Bayesian analysis, decision theory, model uncertainty and prediction, and data mining and machine learning.

Dr. Awatef Ben Ramadan
Dr. Awatef Ben Ramadan

Dr. Awatef Ben Ramadan, assistant professor of health informatics, holds an MBBCh in medicine and general surgery from Tripoli University, MPH from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Ph.D. in health informatics from the University of Missouri Informatics Institute. She has worked as a graduate research assistant at the Missouri Cancer Registry and Research Center at the University of Missouri and as a physician and supervisor of the immunization program in community health centers in Tripoli.

Jared Champion
Dr. Jared Champion

Dr. Jared Champion, assistant professor of writing and interdisciplinary studies, earned a Ph.D. in American Studies with a Certificate in Teaching College Writing from Boston University, an M.A. in literature with a Certificate in American Studies from Florida State University, and a B.A. in English from Carson Newman College. His research and teaching center largely on gender, humor studies and postmodern social engagement.

Paul Smith
Dr. Paul Smith

Joining the faculty in January 2019 will be Dr. Paul Smith, assistant professor of counseling, who earned a Ph.D. in counseling and counselor education with a cognate in women’s and gender studies from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and an M.A. in counseling and B.A. in religion with minors in international studies and in entrepreneurship and social enterprise from Wake Forest University. Dr. Smith has published in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling, among other journals, on a framework for international work in the counseling profession. He received a grant to conduct research in Malawi focused on the development of the counseling profession.

Atlanta Commencement

Penfield College attained full eight-year initial accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) for the M.S. in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program. All three Master of Science programs in counseling, including school, clinical mental health and clinical rehabilitation, achieved full eight-year accreditation.

Students from the school and clinical mental health counseling programs attained a 100-percent first-time pass rate on the Comprehensive Professional Counselor Examination (CPCE) for spring 2018. Students scored above the mean on components related to all standards.

Students in the clinical rehabilitation counseling program attained a 100-percent first-time pass rate on the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRC) for spring 2018, compared to a national first-time pass rate of 59 percent. Students scored above the mean on components related to all standards.

Students in the M.S. programs in counseling attained a 100-percent first-time pass rate on the National Counselor Examination (NCE) for spring 2018.

Enrollments in the M.S. counseling programs exceeds 300 students with more than 48 enrollments in the Ph.D. program.

Pictured, from left, are Penfield College Associate Professor of Counseling Dr. Karen Rowland, SACES President Dr. Notoya Haskins and Penfield College Assistant Professor of Counseling Dr. Tyler Wilkinson.
  • In recognition of outstanding training in core and specialty counseling areas, the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (SACES) named Mercer’s master’s-level counseling programs the 2018 Outstanding Master’s Counselor Education Program. SACES is the largest region of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, composed of more than 1,500 active members consisting of counselor educators, supervisors and students from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. SACES cultivates an inclusive community of counselor educators and supervisors who develop leaders and counselors committed to professional advocacy and dedicated to client equity and well-being. The Outstanding Master’s Counselor Education Program Award is given to programs that educate master’s-level counseling students and demonstrate outstanding pre-service and in-service training in core and specialty counseling areas.
  • Building on recent grants to Penfield College from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to develop evidence-based reasoning, scientific thinking and integrative reasoning skills in liberal studies and informatics senior capstone courses, the College, led by mathematics, science and informatics chair Dr. Colleen Stapleton and undergraduate informatics program coordinator Dr. Feng Liu, is one of 24 institutions nationwide out of 134 applicants – and the only college in Georgia – to receive an AAC&U mini-grant to advance civic learning and social responsibility as expected dimensions within student majors. The grant proposal is assisting informatics faculty in making the incorporation of civic responsibility more intentional in informatics program outcomes and in making informatics a rich landscape for civic learning. Dr. Judith Hoffmann, director and professor of social innovation and social entrepreneurship at Texas Lutheran University, led one of three grant-supported faculty development workshops for mathematics, science and informatics faculty.
  • The College received approval for continuation based on satisfactory annual progress reports of a five-year $956,956 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Services Administration that funds the Rehabilitation Scholars Program. Scholars receive full tuition for three semesters and funding for professional travel to present their research. Dr. Suneetha Manyam, associate professor of counseling, serves as project director.
  • Facing HomeThe College benefitted from a five-year $500,000 grant from the Georgia Compassion Project in support of the Center for the Study of Narrative’s activities, including study abroad for counseling students, faculty professional development and narrative research with students, service-learning within Atlanta community agencies, distinguished lecturer symposia, and showcases of student work. Funded projects included: in history, service-learning and research by faculty and students consisting of cemetery mapping and descendant interviews with African-Americans on St. Simons Island; in mathematics, narrative interviews with students enrolled in math classes to determine ways of enhancing student success in math courses; in creative writing, student and faculty work culminating in student and faculty participation in a five-week playwriting workshop experience; in communication, attendance by a communication faculty member at the StoryCenter workshop focused on use of storytelling in class and in the community; in counseling, a faculty presentation exploring international rehabilitation counseling and narratives of a cultural immersion experience presented at the National Council on Rehabilitation Education conference and a presentation by a faculty member and doctoral student at an international family systems conference on narrative creation and risks associated with adolescents and social media; in science, a presentation on adult learners and science anxiety at the 2018 Narrative Matters conference; in religious studies, a project on ordination and narratives of Baptist women in the ministry. Dr. Don Redmond serves as project director.

A few highlights from Counseling:

  • Dr. Caroline Brackette at ACA
    Dr. Caroline Brackette completed a two-year term as president of the American Counseling Association (ACA) Georgia chapter and received the ACA Southern Region Leadership Award.

    Dr. David Lane, professor of counseling, received the Dr. John C. Burns III Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Licensed Professional Counselors Association (LPCA) of Georgia in recognition of demonstrated leadership within the profession; promotion of the profession of counseling and the LPCA mission to key constituencies and decision-makers; education of the counseling community, general public and legislative community on the importance of mental health care and the use of licensed professional counselors; and dedication to the responsible growth of the counseling profession. Dr. Lane also received the Dr. Linda Painter Service Award given by the LPCA to an individual who has demonstrated leadership qualities of an exceptional nature; effectively integrated experience with education in an outstanding effort to help people; demonstrated the willingness to take risks for improved clinical supervision; demonstrated the ability to enlist public support for improved mental health services; represented the professional ethics of counselors; shown outstanding achievements and contributions with a lasting impact; and demonstrated creativity and courage.

  • Dr. Caroline Brackette, associate professor of counseling, completed a two-year term as president of the American Counseling Association (ACA) Georgia chapter and received the ACA Southern Region Leadership Award. Dr. Brackette was appointed as a Fulbright Specialist for a three-year term and is part of the University of Michigan-based Diversity Scholars Network for the National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is a Regional Priorities Process Lead for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Region 3 Advisory Council, and was faculty sponsor for Mercer junior Clairissa Cole at the Black Student Athletes Summit at the University of Texas-Austin on cultural competency in college athletics.
  • Dr. Suneetha Manyam was appointed co-chair of the Diversity and Equity Council for the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE) Board.
  • Dr. Kristina Henderson, assistant professor of counseling, was the recipient of the Penfield Award for Excellence in Advising.
  • Dr. Tyler Wilkinson, assistant professor of counseling, is editorial board member for Counselor Education and Supervision and for the Association of Humanistic Counseling. He is an American Counseling Association (ACA) Conference program proposal reviewer.
  • Dr. Don Redmond presented, along with Dr. Sabrina Walthall, associate professor of science, on “Narrative Theory and Study Abroad: Metaphorical and Literal Travel” at the Narrative Matters Conference in Enschede, Netherlands. Dr. Redmond chaired a panel on narrative care and presented on the theory and practice of narrative inquiry at the conference.
  • Dr. Karen Rowland, associate professor and chair of counseling, served as subject matter expert for Georgia assessments for the certification of educators School Counseling Study Companion.

A few highlights from Leadership Studies:

  • Jacqueline Stephen
    Jacqueline Stephen is president-elect and program chair for the Association Supporting Computer Users in Education.

    Dr. Lynn Tankersley, associate professor of criminal justice, and Dr. Caroline Brackette were accepted for the FBI Citizens Academy program. Dr. Tankersley is completing a process and program evaluation of the Douglas circuit Felony Drug Court which is one of the accountability courts established as part of Gov. Nathan Dean’s criminal justice reform initiatives. As part of the evaluation, she is assessing graduation rates for the first years of the court using demographic data and level of risk for rehabilitation.

  • Dr. Richard Martin, professor of criminal justice and public safety, was named to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Research Advisory Committee.
  • Jacqueline Stephen, instructional designer and instructor of instructional technology, is president-elect and program chair for the Association Supporting Computer Users in Education (ASCUE). She and other Penfield faculty members present annually at ASCUE.

A few highlights from Liberal Studies:

  • Wesley Barker
    Dr. Wesley Barker (right) receives the Penfield Award for Excellence in Teaching from Dr. Priscilla Danheiser.

    Dr. Wesley Barker received the Penfield Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her work as a Fellow for the Association of American Schools and Colleges on creating intentional curricular pathways for scientific thinking and integrative reasoning was published in the AAC&U journal Peer Review. Dr. Barker serves on the board of advisors for the Irigaray Circle focused on Luce Irigarary, French feminism and Continental philosophy author, and is co-chair of the Philosophy and Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion Southeast Commission on the Study of Religion and Philosophy.

  • Dr. Zipa Vokhiwa, associate professor of science, completed a two-year term as president of the Board of Directors for Fulbright Georgia. Dr. Vokhiwa and Dr. Charles Roberts, associate professor of mathematics, were selected to serve on the Association of Public Land Grant Universities’ (APLU) Network of STEM Education Centers’ Committees to advance education in STEM. APLU has a National Science Foundation grant to create a national network of STEM Education Centers and links 201 STEM Centers at 163 institutions.
  • Dr. Hollis Phelps, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies, was invited speaker for the Political Theology Network conference at Emory University. He presented a series of lectures for the prestigious Westar Institute: God, Process, and Politics.
  • Dr. Colleen Stapleton received promotion to full professor and Dr. Kathy Robinson received promotion to associate professor. Dr. Kyra Osmus and Dr. Art Williams were recognized as members of Mercer’s emeriti faculty.

Atlanta Research Conference
The Penfield-led Atlanta and Regional Academic Center Student Faculty Research Conference featured presentations and poster sessions by more than 70 undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members from seven Mercer colleges.
  • Dr. Kathy Robinson, associate professor of counseling, led the Atlanta campus suicide awareness and prevention week, “Reach Out, Speak Out.” The initiative provides a culturally relevant action agenda and support for students, faculty and administration that encompasses awareness and consciousness – raising, education, research, training and academic initiatives to reduce stigma and prevent suicide. The initiative grew out of recent statistics showing suicide as the second-leading cause of death in college-age students.
  • Penfield College held its Fourth Annual Narrative Showcase sponsored by the Center for the Study of Narrative, which featured Emory Theology Professor Dr. Karen Scheib, who spoke on “Restorying in the Wake of Grief.” Dr. Scheib serves on the faculty of the Emory Center for Ethics and teaches practical pastoral theology at Candler School of Theology. The showcase included presentations by Mercer faculty and students.
  • The Penfield-led Atlanta and Regional Academic Center Student Faculty Research Conference featured presentations and poster sessions by more than 70 undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members from seven Mercer colleges, including education, health professions, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, theology and Penfield. Dr. Cameron Miller, assistant professor of psychology, along with a team of conference committee members and proposal reviewers from schools and colleges on the Atlanta campus and in the Centers, led the planning and implementation of the conference, now in its eighth year. Dr. William Randall, professor of gerontology at St. Thomas University, presented the keynote focused on narrative gerontology and narrative care with older adults.
  • Penfield College held a public presentation at the Harrington School on St. Simons Island to showcase the latest work in a seven-year research-based, service-learning effort led by Dr. Melanie Pavich and her students to document African-American history in coastal Georgia. Penfield students have conducted interviews with members of the African-American community on St. Simons in collaboration with the St. Simons African-American Heritage Coalition. The goal of the student and faculty research and service is to preserve the history of African-Americans in the area and to make this history more available and visible to a broader public. This year’s presentation was titled “Facing Home: Stories of St. Simons Island and Rural Putnam County” and included interviews by students from Putnam County High School in Central Georgia. Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly, has awarded Dr. Pavich two grants in support of the student presentations held each May on St. Simons.
  • Penfield hosted Atlanta Metropol on the Atlanta campus. Dr. Steve Ruegger, associate professor of criminal justice, represents Mercer as a member of the organization consisting of leadership of professional law enforcement and private security. As a result of the College’s relationship with Metropol, Mercer will host law enforcement from Tampa, site of the 2020 Super Bowl, for a training program on Super Bowl security conducted by Atlanta Police involved in security for this year’s Super Bowl.
Informatics Day in Atlanta
Penfield’s Informatics Club and User Experience Club recently held their second annual Informatics Day on the Atlanta campus.
  • Penfield College’s Informatics Club and User Experience (UX) Club collaborated to host Mercer’s second annual Informatics Day on the Atlanta campus. Speakers included Lisa McMichael, senior strategist for Perficient Digital, who spoke on design and UX; Kathryn Brooks, owner of, who spoke on brand marketing and UX essentials; and a panel of informatics alumni that included Kimberly Spear, QA test engineer for LexisNexis.
  • The Department of Leadership Studies conducted a forum for undergraduate and graduate organizational leadership students featuring Retired Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter and Mercer Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Penny Elkins, who spoke with students on best practices and guiding principles for leaders.

  • Dr. Wesley Barker, along with Dr. Rob Nash from McAfee School of Theology, led a Mercer On Mission study program to India. Dr. Barker taught special topics courses that included “Comparative Religious Ethics: Texts and Practices in the Hindu, Christian and Muslim traditions” and “Loving God and Neighbor: An Action-based Approach to Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration.” The service project location was Aligarh Muslim University and the Ahmadi School for the Visually Challenged. By engaging sacred texts of different religious traditions, the community of Mercer students identified religious and cultural stigmas associated with physically challenged persons and were able to articulate theological and ethical perspectives to reframe the stigmas.
  • A Master of Science in Health Informatics/Pharm.D. dual degree program was launched in August representing a new collaborative relationship between Penfield and Mercer’s College of Pharmacy.
  • The Liberal Studies Department developed an accelerated special consideration program through which highly qualified students pursuing the B.A. degree with a religious studies concentration have the opportunity to earn both the B.A. degree and M.Div. degree from McAfee School of Theology in a reduced time frame. Admitted students will be able to complete the B.A. by enrolling in McAfee’s foundational-level courses that align with the Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies.
  • Faculty in the Liberal Studies Department developed a 12-credit-hour certificate in globalization and engagement that includes four cross-disciplinary, experience-based courses on one or more of the following learning outcomes: communicate effectively with others across cultures and around the world; explain how global systems change the world and our cross-cultural relations in it; interpret the cross-cultural and global texts, practices and artifacts that constitute our worlds of meaning; and engage the values that are at stake in relationships across cultures and around the world. The hybrid courses that make up the certificate are built around a nine- to 10-day immersion experience.
  • The Liberal Studies Department implemented an ePortfolio requirement for students in its courses. At a minimum, students will save their syllabi and major assignments/projects to their ePortfolio for all liberal studies general education, major and concentration courses, archiving learning, progress and achievement. Upon graduation, students take their ePortfolios with them to aid in career searches by showcasing their work for employers. Students think more carefully about how the disciplinary requirements of their concentrations intersect with the interdisciplinary nature of the major and have a better understanding of how it all combines with general education to make a meaningful degree.
  • Penfield’s Office of Distance Learning, led by instructional designer Jacqueline Stephen, sponsored a weeklong faculty institute focused on online course delivery and design for effective learning. In the institute, faculty selected on the basis of their project proposals attended presentations led by experts in instructional design from across the University and from other institutions nationwide and completed proposed projects designed to improve courses and learning through incorporation of technology.

Through the continuing partnership among Penfield’s Human Services and Psychology Department, Counseling Department and the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), the College enrolled a third cohort of 19 GVRA employees in an 18-credit-hour undergraduate certificate program in professional rehabilitation services for fall 2018. GVRA Executive Director Sean Casey (third from left) and Penfield College Dean Dr. Priscilla Danheiser (far right) were on hand for the certificate ceremony.

For the third year, the College’s leadership studies faculty conducted a non-credit workforce development training program in executive leadership for Georgia’s Department of Public Health (DPH) district employees. More than 150 public health employees have completed the program. In addition to leadership development training programs conducted for Georgia’s DPH districts and the FBI cybercrimes unit, leadership studies faculty members have conducted two six-week leadership development training programs leading to a Mercer certificate for members of Robins Air Force Base 78th Comptroller Squadron and 78th Operations Support Squadron. The 78th Air Base Wing supports combat operations and provides physical, military and community operations infrastructure processes for the base and 39 associated units. Through the continuing partnership among Penfield’s Human Services and Psychology Department, Counseling Department and the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), the College enrolled a third cohort of 19 GVRA employees in an 18-credit-hour undergraduate certificate program in professional rehabilitation services for fall 2018. The certificate equips recipients to work within middle and high schools to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. In response to the addiction healthcare crisis and the need for more qualified addiction counselors, the College’s counseling program, led by Dr. Kathy Robinson, offered a fully-online substance abuse counseling certificate program. Additionally, Dr. Lynn Clemons conducted training in strategic planning for the Georgia Women of Achievement Board.

Robins Executive Leadership
Penfield College recently held a graduation ceremony for members of the Robins Air Base 78th Squadron, which was attended by base commander Col. Lyle Drew (far right). Participants completed the Certificate in Executive Leadership offered by Penfield’s Department of Leadership Studies.

Melissa Waller
Doctoral counseling student Melissa Waller was selected for the Atlanta Regional Commission and United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Regional Leadership Institute and recognized as one of Atlanta’s top government employees under 40.

Students in Penfield College’s graduate counseling programs presented alongside faculty members at state, regional and national conferences, including the National Law and Ethics in Counseling Conference; the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision National Conference; the National Youth at Risk Conference; the Southeastern Expressive Therapies Conference; the International Narrative Matters Conference in the Netherlands; the International Death, Grief and Bereavement Conference; the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia’s Annual Meeting; the Association for Death Education and Counseling; the Alabama Counseling Association Annual Meeting; and the International Family Therapy Association World Congress in Bangkok. Rehabilitation Service Scholars presented at the National Council on Rehabilitation Education conference, at the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Meeting, and at the national Vocational Rehabilitation meeting in Washington. Doctoral students published in the Kentucky Journal of Professional Counseling, the Journal of Counseling Research and Practice, Tests and Assessments in Counseling, and SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2.

Doctoral counseling student Melissa Waller was selected for the Atlanta Regional Commission and United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Regional Leadership Institute and recognized as one of Atlanta’s top government employees under 40. Recent doctoral program alumna Dr. Thommi Lawson received the National Board of Certified Counselors Foundation Clinical Supervision Training Award, given to only one recipient each year in recognition of efforts to advance professional identity and development of counselors and to ensure the highest standards of clinical practice. Student Connie Mitchell served as an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Forum with Georgia Sen. David Perdue.