Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Photo by Avery Lewis

This year Mercer University welcomed its largest freshman class ever, totaling over 700 students. Many upperclassmen had to be relocated in order to accommodate the new students, while still maintaining housing for upperclassmen. The dorms for freshmen are also older, and are beginning to show their age.
            Students are required to live on campus their first three years at Mercer. Students are not allowed to live off campus until they are 21. This means that many times seniors that had planned on living on campus their final year, couldn't.
            Avery Lewis, a junior, said, “We had a really big freshman class this year, and as a result a lot of the juniors and seniors didn't find out about their housing assignment until a couple of day before the semester started. A lot of them got told that they didn't have room for them in housing, and they had to find somewhere else to live off campus.”
            Mercer is currently building new lofts on College Street, but these are going to be reserved for upperclassmen, and it does not change the current state of freshman housing.
            “Housing definitely needs to be updated, especially Plunkett,” said freshman Colin Sharpe. “But even if there were just more housing, more variety, it would be better.”
            The nicer housing is reserved for upperclassmen, but the divide between upperclassman and freshman housing is staggering. “I’ve been in Sherwood, and it’s really nice,” Sharpe said. “The lounge is great. The rooms are great.” It is evident where the work has been done on campus.
            “Freshman dorms are a little under par,” said Kyleigh Hucaluk, a freshman woman at Mercer. “We have a hole in the ceiling above our shower covered by a piece of plywood on Dowell second [floor].”
            Living on campus is a great thing though, especially for freshmen. While there are problems with the housing situation, most people enjoy it. Alex Lucas, a freshman, said “I’m pretty happy with housing.” And this sentiment is shared by many others.
Living on campus gives access to events on campus more easily and helps with the adjustment to living alone. By moving into dorm life, there is a bridge in the gap between living with parents, and going out into the world.
Dean Doug Pearson, dean of students, said, “If trends and growth continue, we will probably need to look into more housing. As the dean of students, it feels great, the idea of more students living on campus.”
Although it may be inconvenient at times, most students like the set-up. Even the boys in Plunkett love it, though the building is not up to the best standards.  “Plunk City is great, smell and all,” said Sharpe.

Mercer is already in the process of creating more housing, and as growth continues, so will the effort to build even more. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photo from Google

            Thursday night, the 11th Hour Award Show was held at the Cox Theatre at 7:00 p.m. The 11th Hour is a magazine published every other week, covering news and entertainment about middle Georgia, especially Macon. The 11th Hour Awards are readers’ choice, meaning that the readers chose the winners in each category.
            There were several categories, ranging from Best Neighborhood and Favorite Lunch Spot, to Favorite College Bar and Best Pizza. There were also several live performances. Throughout the entire show, the feeling of pride for Macon was tangible. The presenters, winners, host, and everyone in the audience showed so much pride and excitement about being at the show.
            Danny Davis, known around Macon as ‘The Captain,’ was this year’s host, making it Davis’s second year as host. He brought the show to life and it was easy to see why he was selected as host. “Last year I was voted Favorite Local Celebrity,” Davis said. And the crowd reacted to him as such.

            Davis presented all of the presenters and live musical acts. Presenters included GPB’s Adam Ragusea and his wife, Lauren Morrill Ragusea, who opened the night with humor and witty banter. The pair announced awards including Best Neighborhood (College Hill), Best Annual Event in Macon (The Cherry Blossom Festival), and Best Local Blogger and Twitter Account (The Blue Indian and Floco Torres, respectively). Adam Ragusea also accepted GPB’s award for Best Radio station.
There were also several awards for the Macon food lover. Laura starling and Vance Shepard presented many of these awards. Ingleside Village Pizza won two awards in the Best Place to Bring Kids and Best Pizza categories.
            Live performances were done throughout the night, spanning many genres. Robert McDuffie, founder and namesake of Mercer University’s McDuffie Center for Strings, performed. The crowd responded well to the violinist, who did not play songs that people generally think of when they think of the violin. The music was more contemporary, causing people to get up from their seats to dance. He received a standing ovation.
            Other local artists, Houston, Jubee and the Morning After, Woolfolk, Boothill, and Floco Torres performed. All of those artists were nominated for one or more music awards. The people of Macon respond well to live music, and that was evident at the 11th Hour Awards.
            There was also a large amount of downtown restaurants nominated for awards, showing the progress that the downtown area is making. Downtown Macon was actually nominated for the Best Neighborhood award. Davis said of Macon, “Our city of Macon has progressed a lot in the last year and we’ve become a larger entity in many different areas. Through the 11th Hour Awards we are showing the people that will continue to help making these changes.”
            The 11th Hour Awards are designed so that the people of Macon are able to thank the people and businesses that make living in Macon so enjoyable.

           The Mercer University Women’s Choir performed their last concert of the year, Voices of Spring, Sunday afternoon at Fickling Hall in Mercer University’s McCorkle Music Building. A crowd of about 70 people listened intently as the group of thirty-five women sang nine songs.
            Dr. Stanley L. Roberts directed the choir, with Anne Armstrong as their accompanying pianist. The show opened with a piece called “A Simple Song,” which included a featured flautist, Kennedi Johnson. Johnson preformed in one other piece, joined by oboe player Brian Lyons. Lyons performed a solo piece in the concert as well, accompanied by Armstrong on piano. Cara Schlecker was also featured on violin.
            Dr. Roberts, who is in his nineteenth year of teaching at Mercer’s Townsend School of Music, chose several songs that had religious themes. “The whole concept of singing really comes through the church,” Roberts said. Two of the songs were psalms, which were the songs of worship in the Jewish and Christian faiths. Roberts has a Master’s degree, as well as a Ph. D in Church Music and Conducting, so it takes him back to his roots to conduct pieces that are more religious.
            Armstrong also has a background in religious music. She is an organist and Music Associate at First Baptist Church in Macon. She is also the adjunct accompanist for the Women’s Choir and the Mercer University Children’s Preparatory Choir. “The music here at Mercer is just great and I’m so glad to be a part of it. The entire program is just amazing,” said Armstrong. 
            One of the songs with the best audience reception of the concert was Psalm 23, which was also Dr. Robert’s favorite song of the day. The women sang the words to what is one of the most well-known Bible passages, and a hush came over the audience. “It was actually my favorite song that we did,” said Jennifer Fussell, a freshman in the choir. “It’s something that everybody knows, and you can sort of see the people in the audience mouthing along. It’s really a cool experience.”
            After the concert, Dr. Roberts spent almost half an hour talking to the families of the students in the choir. “These families are what keeps the girls going, keeps the choir going,” said Roberts. He did not hesitate to speak with parents, grandparents, or other various family members.
            This was the final concert performance for the Women’s Choir this year. They have previously performed in Fickling Hall, as well as several churches around Macon. They are always met with support from Mercer students and community members.

            The choir consists of thirty-five women, with only four being music majors. “The group has been in existence about twelve years and it is continuing to improve,” said Roberts. “It’s a great way to participate. Kind of like intermurals, a way to get involved, even if it isn’t something you want to pursue seriously.”
Image sourced from Sameera Yusuf

If you ever see a fast moving girl wearing a scarf and carrying a cup of coffee, speeding by you on your way to class, there’s a good chance it was Sameera Yusuf.

An implant into the Fayetteville, Ga. area, Sameera Yusuf is a Queens, NY born Indian middle child who is studying Journalism with a minor in Christianity at Mercer University. Her mother is a fifth generation Indian from Eastern Africa, and her father is Pakistani. Sameera considers herself Indian, but admits that she is “pretty mixed.”  Growing up, it was Sameera and her two older brothers, that is, until she was about seven. At this age, her younger sister was born. Yusuf can laugh at the seven year age difference, saying, “It was an accident,” Sameera Yusuf said. She does, however, love her sister, and would not trade her for the world.

With the addition of the younger child, Sameera gained more responsibility in the family, and she did not have much free time. “We owned lots of businesses, lots of gas stations and that sort of thing,” Yusuf said. “So a lot of time was spent there instead of at home. I never really got to play outside and that kind of thing, because I was always with my parents at our stores.” Working this hard at an early age really paid off, though, and set Sameera on a path of hard work that would carry her even to this day.

Throughout her life, Sameera expected to attend Emory University. However, when her response from Emory came, it was a rejection. “Which was traumatic, which was very traumatic,” Yusuf said.

Sameera was struck by good luck when someone suggested that she apply to Mercer. At that point, Sameera was going to attend her local college and stay at home, hoping to transfer to Emory at a later date, she said. However, Sameera had also gotten into Agnes Scott College, a women’s college in Atlanta. She and her mother had decided that she was to attend Agnes Scott. In a very timely decision, Sameera checked her email before accepting the decision at Agnes Scott, and learned of her acceptance to Mercer. She visited campus and fell in love, making her decision to attend Mercer that much easier.

Sameera entered Mercer as a political science major, on the pre-law track. “That’s just kind of the mainstream route that everybody takes,” said Yusuf. However, the decision did not stick after a traumatic experience within the political science department. “My freshman year, I took a 300-level political science class, which beat me up, basically,” Yusuf said. “I wasn’t necessarily very fond of anyone in the department. I just wasn’t excited.” Sameera also took a class within the journalism department, to complete a general education requirement, and loved it. “Writing comes very easily to me, but my style of writing is very fluffy,” Yusuf said. “Journalism forces me to be concise and focus. It challenges me to be a better writer.”

Sameera is currently the section editor for Her Campus Mercer, president of the pre-law society, and a Resident Assistant, who is interviewing for the Senior Resident Assistant position. If she does not get the position, she plans on studying abroad in Scotland. With all of this going on, it’s a wonder how Sameera keeps it up. “Well, I never sleep and I drink a lot of coffee,” Yusuf said. “I always keep my planner on me, and I pan out basically every hour of my day.”

After this year, Sameera has one more year here at Mercer, then she plans to attend law school to study Healthcare Law. “I know many people in healthcare, and I want to make a difference,” Yusuf said. “Hopefully, I can help develop laws that have a positive impact on our country, but if not, at least I can help hospitals stay in good standing so that they can use their money to help as many patients as possible.” Sameera has big aspirations, and she hopes to achieve them all.