Penfield College Professor Awarded $50,000 Grant to Support the Development of Earth Literacy


ATLANTA – A professor in Mercer University’s Penfield College has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the InTeGrate STEP Center – a center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) – to support the development of Earth literacy.

InTeGrate – Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future – supports the teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues both within geosciences courses and across the undergraduate curriculum. InTeGrate is a five-year NSF STEP Center program administered through the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College.

Dr. Colleen P. Stapleton, associate professor of science and chair of the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Informatics in Penfield College, authored the grant proposal and will serve as Mercer’s lead project director. Dr. Jane Metty, assistant professor of education in Tift College of Education, will serve as co-director of the project. They will be assisted by faculty team members Dr. Sabrina L. Walthall, assistant professor of science in Penfield College, and Dr. Timothy D. Craker, associate professor of comparative literature and philosophy in Penfield College.

“I am thrilled that Mercer has been selected as a participant in the InTeGrate initiatives and grateful for Dr. Stapleton and her team’s creative work to design an extremely meaningful project,” said Dr. Priscilla Danheiser, dean of Penfield College. “I am particularly excited about the many ways that our involvement in this interdisciplinary work will enhance the general education offerings we provide adult learners in Mercer’s Regional Academic Centers and on the Atlanta campus and about the additional contributions our students will be equipped to make within their communities that will result.”

“When environmental sustainability issues exist half a world away in areas that are culturally and regionally different from what we know, it can be difficult for us to comprehend how those issues affect our own lives. The resources of InTeGrate will allow us to offer opportunities for Mercer students to link their own lives and communities with global issues of sustainability,” said Dr. Stapleton.

The two major goals of InTeGrate are to develop curricula that will dramatically increase Earth literacy of all undergraduate students and to increase the number of majors in the geosciences and related fields who are able to work with other scientists, social scientists, businesspeople and policymakers to develop viable solutions to current and future environmental and resource challenges. Other institutions participating in the program include Gustavus Adolphus College, Grand Valley State University, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, the University of Massachusetts Boston, the University of Texas at El Paso, Wittenberg University and a consortium of Washington State colleges and universities.

At Mercer, InTeGrate will enable faculty members to increase the number and diversity of students who develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related literacy, especially Earth literacy. The program will also strengthen the University’s general education offerings through the development of virtual field trips and integration of specially designed learning modules. Additionally, it will support Mercer’s continued efforts to aid K-12 teachers who want to develop STEM-related literacy in their students.

“We will develop digital field trips so that students can travel virtually to areas in Georgia and the southeastern United States that suffer from environmental sustainability problems that are similar to other areas of our planet,” said Dr. Stapleton. “In collaboration with Mercer’s Center for the Study of Narrative, we will use student narratives to evaluate how students will apply their new perspectives on Earth and its resources in their personal and professional lives.”

About Penfield College of Mercer University

Penfield College of Mercer University, established as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies in 2003, is committed to serving non-traditional learners and currently enrolls more than 1,300 students. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to working adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Educational programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary programs that integrate theory and practice. The College offers general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer. Another initiative called the Bridge program transitions students enrolled in Mercer’s English Language Institute and other international students to undergraduate programs throughout the University. Areas of study include organizational leadership, counseling, school counseling, human services, human resources, informatics, public safety leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology and communication. Programs are offered on Mercer’s campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as multiple regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County, Newnan and Eastman, and online. To learn more, visit

Kyle is senior director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he serves as editor of the Mercerian alumni magazine and News@Mercer e-newsletters, and he coordinates hometown and university news releases.