What does Research that Reaches Out mean for me?

Faculty & Staff Guide (Macon traditional undergraduate programs) - Information for those faculty and staff who work with students in the Macon traditional undergraduate programs (College of Liberal Arts, Stetson School of Business and Economics, School of Engineering, Tift College of Education, Townsend School of Music, College of Health Professions).

Students - Most of the connections to Research that Reaches Out will be made through courses and work performed directly with faculty.  This page is an overview of opportunities that students can seek out.

University-level Guide (for all faculty, staff, and students) - Our target population for assessment of Research that Reaches Out is the Macon traditional undergraduate student population.  However, integrating research and service is a University priority.  This page highlights areas where the entire University can engage. 

What IS Research that Reaches Out?

The title "Research that Reaches Out" is an expression of our QEP topic on integrating research and service. It is a 5-year plan to enhance the education of our traditional undergraduate students in Macon. The guiding goals are to enhance student learning through service-focused research and to foster a culture of civic engagement through scholarship and service.

Want more information? Look at p. I and 1-2 of the QEP document and the pages throughout this website. The Faculty/Staff Guide is a great resource, and is regularly updated as the program is implemented.

How was the topic selected? How have we included the entire University in the topic selection and planning? How long have we been planning?

We started planning for our 2015 SACSCOC visit when the University's constituents were asked to propose topics in the fall of 2012. We received 19 total proposals from diverse groups such as students, faculty, administrative staff, alumni, a trustee, a standing academic committee, and a member of the college's board of visitors.

The proposals were reviewed by a committee and carefully considered, and the topic Integrating Research and Service was announced to the University in spring 2013. During the years leading up to the SACSCOC onsite visit, we had over 60 people working on determining the details for the QEP. The title "Research that Reaches Out" was developed by a student, and a student also gave us the idea for the logo design.

Want more information? Look at p. 2-7 and 98-101 of the QEP document and the Early Planning pages.

How is the topic related to Mercer's mission and strategic goals? How did we use data to develop the topic?

We have extensive data (quantitative and qualitative) of how our students are achieving in service-learning and in research. We have also examined how programs such as Mercer On Mission and the STOP (Sex-Trafficking Opposition Project) have made a difference in the lives of the students who engaged with those projects. In developing "Research that Reaches Out," we aim to provide opportunities for more students to integrate research and service activities, and will measure our progress toward our goals in order to determine what opportunities most influence student learning.

"Research that Reaches Out" connects directly to the University's mission and strategic planning goals in several places, and the Mercer name is on its way to becoming synonymous with the topic.

Want more information? Look at p. 7-15 of the QEP document.

What do we hope to accomplish?

Our topic is about integrating research and service rather than having add-on activities in either area. In many places, faculty, staff, and students are currently working on projects that are not currently aligned with the QEP topic, but that have the potential to be so. The QEP allows us an opportunity to intentionally focus our work in a variety of areas. For example:

  • Some current research projects may need a clearly-defined local, national, or global issue at which to address the research.
  • Some current service or service-learning projects need to have research or research methodologies incorporated into the projects to become truly integrated with the QEP theme.
  • Some projects need an audience (a "reaches out") in order to share the information learned with its intended community.
  • New projects will also be developed in a variety of areas.

The broad view mentioned above will be carried out in specific ways through the curriculum for our Macon traditional undergraduate students, through internships, through Mercer On Mission, through undergraduate research opportunities, and through co-curricular events and service opportunities. We have a series of student-learning outcomes and programmatic outcomes for the QEP, and will carry these out through an Expose, Explore, and Express model.

Want more information? Look at p. 23-25 of the QEP document.The Resources pages, the Faculty/Staff Guide, and the Expose/Explore/Express pages are regularly updated as the program unfolds. Assessment is regularly conducted, and results are shared with faculty, staff, and students in order to continue to enhance the educational experience at Mercer.

What do "Expose, Explore, and Express" mean?

We have a pyramid graphic to help us think about ways that students might progress through Research that Reaches Out and engage at different levels. At the foundational level (Expose), students will understand different issues or problems, and our goal is to have 95% of each entering student cohort receive exposure at this level in the first year at Mercer. For the intermediate level (Explore), students are starting to act, by engaging with issues or problems through integrating research and service. Our goal is that 50% of each student cohort has an Explore level experience during their undergraduate experience. The top level (Express) affords students the chance to create new knowledge and implementation plans for addressing specific issues or problems, and we intend that 25% of the student cohorts reach the Express level.

Want more information? Look at p. 26-35 of the QEP document and the Expose/Explore/Express page.

What are the Grand Challenges?

The purpose of the Grand Challenges is to provide large, conceptual issues that the entire campus can engage in during each year of the QEP. We will use the Grand Challenge topic of Social Responsibility in years 1 and 4 (15-16 and 18-19), Economic Freedom in years 2 and 5 (16-17 and 19-20), and Personal Well-being in years 3 and 6 (17-18 and 20-21).

A series of existing University events (Pilgrimage to Penfield, residence hall programming, MLK Day of Service, Founders' Day) will be integrated into the Grand Challenge theme of each year in order to connect co-curricular activities with curricular ones (Expose/Explore/Express). We will have a Grand Challenges module in the UNV 101 freshman advising program. We have a Grand Challenges resource page on the Tarver Library website to help faculty integrate the Grand Challenge theme into the context of their courses. Finally, we will have a "Visionary" student panels & projects initiative where students can present community needs and issues that they care about to the campus community and have an opportunity to have their projects supported.

Want more information? Look at p. 35-39 of the QEP document and the Grand Challenges pages.

What faculty development opportunities are available?

The QEP is designed to encourage faculty to integrate research and service into existing frameworks (classes, research projects, service projects, advising of student clubs, etc.) rather than adding on. Faculty development opportunities exist to help faculty learn new ways of using these pedagogies, to discuss good models for doing so, and to explore collaborations with faculty and student groups from across multiple Colleges. Travel for faculty will be supported, both for professional development and for dissemination of findings from projects. Research that Reaches Out-related faculty development events began in spring 2015, and will continue throughout the 5 year span of the QEP.

For direct support, we have planned a summer student research program for students and faculty teams to conduct Research that Reaches Out projects during the summer months, and the program includes stipends for both faculty and student, housing allowance for the students, and supply funding for the project.

Want more information? Look at p. 39-43 and 54-57 of the QEP document and on the Faculty Development pages.

How will we carry out the plan going forward?

We will have a series of Grand Challenge activities, curricular activities, faculty development activities, a summer student research program, dissemination activities, and assessment activities going on from summer 2015 through the completion of the program in summer 2020. Our first student cohort will be the entering class in 2015, and we will have a graduated roll-out of the levels for those students and for the cohorts of students to follow. The Expose (foundational) activities will begin in QEP year 1 (2015-2016). The Explore (intermediate) plans will begin in QEP year 2 (2016-2017), and the Express (advanced) plans will begin in QEP year 3 (2017-2018). The QEP office will coordinate and communicate regularly with everyone involved and to make sure we are following our timeline and reaching our goals.

Want more information? Look at p. 44-53 and 57-71 of the QEP document and the Timelines (General and Detailed).  The Resources link will be used extensively for running our program.

How is the QEP evaluated?

An onsite team was on the Macon campus from March 31 to April 2, 2015 and spent that time talking to various groups about the QEP.  A common evaluation rubric was used to ensure that our QEP met the standards.  We received no recommendations (i.e.- areas to address and revise) on our SACSCOC visit.  We submit our 5-year impact report in 2021.

Want more information? Look at the Quality Enhancement Plan Guidelines, from SACSCOC.