Nicole Small wants to ‘see students become their best selves’ | Worker Bears

Nicole Small
Nicole Small

It takes a lot of people to make Mercer University the institution that it is. The students have and always will be the lifeblood of our University, but Mercer wouldn’t be Mercer without expert faculty members to pass on their knowledge and highly skilled staff members to manage day-to-day operations. Our “Worker Bears” series highlights the Mercer employees who work tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to care for our University and our students.

Meet Nicole Small

Title: Assistant director of TRIO Student Support Services and program adviser for the Office of Minority Affairs

How long she’s worked at Mercer: 13 years

What she does: TRIO Student Support Services is a federal program that provides support to first-generation and income-eligible college students as well as students who use access and accommodations services. As assistant director of this program at Mercer, Small helps to carry out federal grant requirements and direct the needs of her office. In addition, as the program director for the Office of Minority Affairs, she serves as a mentor and adviser to minority students. Through campus programs and events, the office works to increase awareness and acceptance of diverse populations and help facilitate connections and networking with alumni.

“Through both of these offices, I manage the Minority Mentor Program and the Opportunity Scholars Program,” Small said. “The Minority Mentor Program is focused on campus community development as a tool for retention and persistence for historically excluded groups. Those groups can include but aren’t limited to racial and cultural groups, religious minorities and underrepresented sexual orientations and gender identities. The Opportunity Scholars program is focused on the retention and persistence of our first-generation college students. The program is available for the entirety of the student’s Mercer tenure to ensure academic progress and success. With both programs, students are provided support and mentorship, exposure to cultural activities, and our first-year students are invited to participate in our Bear Launch orientation as a bridge from summer to freshman year.”

What she loves most about her work: “Honestly, I love working with my students. Watching them discover their own agency and personhood is wonderful and inspiring. Higher education comes with an abundance of transferable skills and hands-on experiences, but most of all it is the shaping of minds that brings the value. I enjoy helping my students navigate the transition into young adulthood.

“My main goal is to make sure each student that I interact with leaves my office better than they came. I’m a counselor at heart, and I want to see students become their best selves however their journey unfolds. I take pride in the mentorship and support that the office and I provide the students and the campus as a whole.”

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