ATLANTA – Dr. Randal Henne recently joined Mercer University’s College of Education as a visiting scholar in the STEM Education and Innovation (SEI) Lab

Dr. Henne spent 30 years as a scientist, engineer and leader in the biomedical and technology fields. He worked for a variety of startups as well as large organizations such as NASA, DuPont, Amazon and Microsoft. Complementing his technical work were many projects focused on education, hiring and career development in an industrial setting.

After retiring from industry, he joined the Hines Family Foundation (HFF) as a subject matter expert focusing on STEM education. He holds degrees in chemistry and computer science from Florida State University, as well as a master’s degree in chemistry and a Ph.D. in molecular bioengineering from the University of Washington.

Dr. Henne’s appointment was made possible by a collaboration with the Hines Family Foundation and the newly formed HFF STEM Education and Training Alliance (H-SETA), which is a partnership among Mercer’s SEI Lab, HFF and the Georgia Space Grant Consortium.

Dr. Henne will work closely with Mercer faculty and graduate students, along with H-SETA partner organizations, to study critical issues related to the intersection of STEM education and industry as well as broadening participation in STEM among underserved student populations. 

One of Dr. Henne’s first projects involves directing research and evaluation of the upcoming Oko-STEM Research Experience for High Schoolers. The goal of this pilot study is to broaden participation in STEM among underserved student groups by providing support for enhanced STEM education offerings during the summer and over the course of the academic year in local venues such as high schools, community centers or local colleges and universities.

“I am very excited to be a part of the SEI Lab and work with the Mercer faculty,” said Dr. Henne. “I’ve spent my career working with people who are excited about STEM. However, I usually only meet these people after years of college and specialized training. This new work lets me take part in high school education when many students either get very excited about these fields or decide that it is not for them. I think projects like Oko-STEM are so important because they let more students experience real science, cutting-edge technology and world-class researchers. We want every student to have the chance to explore these fields and based on those experiences confidently say, ‘I can be a scientist or engineer.’”

This summer, students from Archer High School in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta International School will work in collaboration with research scientists from NASA, Mercer faculty, graduate researchers from Mercer and Georgia Tech, as well as H-SETA partner organizations to engage in project-based learning activities focused on current research being conducted on the International Space Station, Artemis program and Mars rovers.

“In the short time Dr. Henne has been on the team at the SEI Lab, he has made a profound impact. His understanding of industry research practices is expanding our ideas for how to more readily incorporate real-world STEM into the classroom environment,” said Dr. Justin Ballenger, director of the SEI Lab.

Dr. Henne’s appointment as a visiting scholar represents a unique collaboration among higher education, industry, K-12 schools and nonprofit organizations. He is the first tech industry professional to serve in this capacity in Mercer’s College of Education.

“As the Tift College of Education continues to expand its impact all across Georgia, the addition of Dr. Henne to the team marks another significant step in providing exciting opportunities to teachers, P12 learners and graduate students in relation to STEM education. He joins the efforts of the SEI Lab and Tift at bridging the gap between real-world STEM work and education, building innovative partnerships around educational issues and increasing access and opportunities for all learners,” said Dr. Rob Helfenbein, associate dean for research and faculty affairs in the College of Education.

About the College of Education

Mercer University’s Tift College of Education – with campuses in Macon, Atlanta and the University’s two regional academic centers – prepares more professional educators than any other private institution in Georgia. Named for the former women’s college that merged with Mercer in 1986, the College of Education offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and is guided by the conceptual framework of the “Transforming Educator,” which supports those who aspire to grow professionally throughout their careers, while also seeking to transform the lives of students. For more information, visit education.mercer.edu.

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