Penfield College to Host AAC&U STIRS Initiative Workshops on Vertically Integrated Curricular Pathways


ATLANTA – Penfield College of Mercer University will host a series of workshops Sept. 29-30 by Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills (STIRS) Fellows on creating vertically integrated curricular pathways to promote student signature work.

The first session, Sept. 29, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., will help Penfield College faculty create assignments that encourage use of evidence-based reasoning to promote integrative learning.

The second session, Sept. 29, 1-4 p.m., and Sept. 30, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., will help program coordinators and department chairs intentionally scaffold curriculum to enhance students' capacities to produce signature work in capstone courses.

The final session, Sept. 30, 1-4 p.m., will help program coordinators and department chairs, in addition to faculty and administrators from Metro Atlanta community colleges and Technical College System of Georgia institutions, explore the possibilities of articulating scaffolded curricular pathways that bridge Penfield College's program outcomes with those of the two-year transfer institutions.

All three sessions will take place in the Trustees Dining Room on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta.

Penfield College was one of only four AAC&U STIRS institutions selected in May to participate in a two-year planning effort aimed at improving the capacity of students to use evidence to solve problems and make decisions.

Penfield's project proposal, titled “Redesigning Pathways to Signature Work for Nontraditional Students,” aims to create a pathway in the College's general education curriculum to lead nontraditional students toward the development of signature work in their program capstone courses prior to graduation.

Dr. Wesley Barker, assistant professor of religious studies, serves as the Mercer's AAC&U STIRS Fellow and project director. Dr. Fred Bongiovanni, chair of the Department of Liberal Studies, and Dr. Colleen Stapleton assistant dean and chair of the Department of Mathematics, Science and Informatics, are also contributors to the project.

The remaining four STIRS Fellows – Dr. Seth Anthony, assistant professor of chemistry at Oregon Institute of Technology; Dr. Tami Carmichael, professor of humanities and integrated studies at the University of North Dakota; Dr. Catherine Pride, associate professor of psychology at Middlesex Community College; and Dr. Ryan Zerr, director of essential studies and professor of mathematics at the University of North Dakota – will lead the three workshops at Mercer.

“Working with AAC&U and the STIRS fellows over the past year has been a true honor, and I am excited that the STIRS fellows are coming to Mercer to share their expertise on implementing integrated reasoning across the curriculum,” said Dr. Barker. “These workshops will be an opportunity for Penfield faculty to reflect on our curriculum and discover ways to ensure that our students are engaging in the type of critical inquiry and investigation that will lead them to produce signature work.”

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,300 member institutions – including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities and comprehensive universities of every type and size. For more information, visit

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, human services, human resources, informatics, criminal justice leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology, communication, homeland security and emergency management, and healthcare leadership. Programs are offered on Mercer's campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as multiple regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County and Newnan, and online. To learn more, visit