Visionary Student Panel Mini-Grant Program

Visionary Student Panel (VSP):  
A mini-grant program for independent student projects that address real-world problems

VSP mini-grants provide support for Macon undergraduates to pursue student-led projects that address real-world problems in the campus, Macon, or regional communities. The initiative provides developmental supports that help students take an idea and turn it into a realistic, actionable project proposal.

Applications for 2021 are closed, but you can watch the 2021 VSP presentations on YouTube at


2021 Visionary Student Panelists

Alex Shells and Amelia Patrick

Alex Shells and Amelia Patrick are working toward improving college access by providing education to high school students on college financial aid.





Arthi Shankar, Mira Patel, and Ashley Stephens

Ashley Stephens, Mira Patel, and Arthi Shankar are working to connect local partners to counter food insecurity in the Pleasant Hill community.

Ivy Clarke and Ashley Pemberton

Ivy Clarke and Ashley Pemberton are working to bring more diverse voices into publishing by offering poetry workshops to high school students.

Jasmine Lake

Jasmine Lake is working to improve the sexual health of college students with a week of educational programming and increased access to STI testing.

Liz Wassaffs

Liz Wassaffs is working to address implicit bias by developing a training for college students on recognizing and countering implicit bias.

Marlo Banton and Paulina Molina

Marlo Banton and Paulina Molina are working to address the environmental impacts of fast fashion by offering workshops on tailoring and mending clothes.

Zaria Brown

Zaria Brown is working to support the emotional well-being of people experiencing homelessness by working with people to create custom clothing with positive messaging.



About Visionary Student Panel

Phase One:  The Public Pitch (Spring semester)

With the support of one-on-one coaching, students develop a five-minute presentation about a real-world problem and their proposed project to address that problem at a local or regional level. Students deliver their presentations in a virtual public forum that is broadcast on YouTube Live. They receive feedback from a panel of expert judges and audience members.

Phase Two:  The Mini-Grant Application (Spring semester)

Students use the feedback from the judges and audience to write an application for a $500 mini-grant to fund their project in the upcoming academic year. Students receive support and mentorship from the Research That Reaches Out office as they develop their proposals, and a committee of faculty and staff review and score the grant proposals.

Phase Three: The Funded Cohort Experience (Fall semester)

Students who are awarded funding and accept the funding commit to participating in a one-semester cohort experience in the upcoming fall semester. Students participating in the cohort receive mentorship and administrative support as they implement their projects.

How do students sign up to present?

Students can apply to present by February 3 on BearPulse. Click here to apply! Any type of project, from the creative and performing arts to engineering, is enthusiastically encouraged as long as it relates directly to a real-world problem. To see examples of past projects, see the list below. Students must be planning to enroll as an undergraduate at Mercer for the Fall 2021 semester to be eligible to participate.

Applicants will be invited to an interview during the week of February 8. Decisions will be announced on February 12.

Note – if you have never used BearPulse before, login using the Single-Sign On (SSO) option for Mercer University and use your Mercer email to activate your free account.

What do student presenters have to do? 

Student presenters will receive one-on-one coaching via Zoom as they craft their five-minute pitches. At the virtual live-streamed event, students will address the following questions in their pitches:

  • What is the issue?
  • Why is this issue important to you?
  • Why should the rest of us care about this issue?
  • Is anything being done to address this problem?
  • What do you plan to do?

No awards will be given out at the event. Instead students will receive both judge and audience feedback to help them further develop their ideas, and participants who want to pursue funding from the QEP office will get special support in a grant workshop.

Examples from Past VSP Winners

  • Establishing a college student voter engagement competition (SoCon Votes)
  • Producing a documentary about sexual assault
  • Hosting a Hispanic Health Fair for Middle Georgia
  • Hosting deliberative dialogue discussions for Mercer students
  • Mapping recycling bins on campus to increase awareness about recycling
  • Creating and delivering a curriculum for high school students to introduce them to current events and pop culture in the Middle East
  • Challenging the stigma around depression and anxiety with a fun run/skateboard/bike
  • Developing a student-led, peer mentorship program to support students with disabilities in their first year at Mercer (ABLE Mercer)
  • Establishing an on-campus food pantry
  • Produce a student-led podcast to support student success on campus (Real Talk Podcast)
  • Develop multimedia content to expand virtual LGBTQ sensitivity training (Rainbow Connections)
  • Promoting life skill development for Mercer students with adulting classes
  • Creating low-cost, custom orthotics for people with flat feet
  • Establishing structured, on-site programs/resources to promote relationship development between incarcerated parents and their children

How can students apply for funding?

Only students selected to present are eligible for funding. No awards will be given out at the public pitch event. Instead presenters will receive both judge and audience feedback to help them develop their ideas for the grant application. Funding applications will be due on April 5, and decisions will be announced by April 9. Awardees will have until April 23 to accept the mini-grant award, and they will be able to spend their budget in Fall 2021.

Spring 2021 Timeline (all meetings will be conducted via Zoom)

January 7:  Application Opens

February 3:  Application Deadline

February 8 – 11: Interviews

February 12:  Selection Notification

February 16-18:  Coaching Session

February 23:  Presenter Head Shots

February 24: Community Engagement Workshop

March 1 – 4:  Coaching Session

March 9:  VSP Presentation

March 15-19:  Mini-Grant Workshop

April 5: Mini-Grant Application Deadline

April 9:  Funding Notifications

April 23:  Deadline for students to accept funding for Fall 2021

Learning Outcomes

As a result of participating in the spring semester public pitch and mini-grant application, students will be able to:

  • Articulate a real-world problem’s significance at the local level
  • Recognize connection(s) between local action and global issues
  • Identify existing initiatives that address a specific real-world problem
  • Design an actionable plan to address a real-world problem at the local level
  • Create a project budget
  • Write a grant application for project funding

As a result of participating in the one-semester VSP fall cohort, students will be able to:

  • Manage a project budget
  • Evaluate project outcomes
  • Establish relationships with appropriate stakeholders
  • Write a comprehensive project report