Summer Reading Program

The Mercer Reader: Essential Texts and voicesA core component of Mercer traditions and history is its students. To learn from another student’s story is to learn about the heart of Mercer. Raymond Partolan tells a personal story of setbacks and challenges, as well as successes and the impact that one person, one Mercerian, can make on their community. Sam Oni describes his experiences from growing up in Africa to attending Mercer University, and his encounters with the Southern Baptist Church and racism. Maureen Walker discusses the psychological impact of racism and the impact this had on her time at Mercer. These Mercerians’ stories are not only personal portrayals of living history at Mercer University and inspiring stories of overcoming challenges; it is an invitation for Mercer’s incoming first year students to begin to think of each other complexly.

Alongside President Underwood’s 2016 Convocation Address, these summer reading assignments will introduce students to the foundations and ideals of the University, and the intersection of race, the Southern Baptist Church, and the history of Mercer and the Mercer experience. President Underwood concludes his address, “Let us commit ourselves to considering fairly the views of others, to having the humility to entertain the possibility that we are wrong, and to engaging in civil dialogue, discourse, and debate with those of differing perspectives.” Engaging with Partolan’s, Oni’s, and Walker’s stories, both individually and in UNV 101, gives our first year students the opportunity to begin to put those ideals into practice as they join the Mercer community.

Summer Reading Essay Contest

We strongly encourage all new students to take part in our Summer Reading Essay Contest. This year’s readings are from the Mercer Reader, a collection of essays and stories as well as documents related to Mercer’s history and interviews of faculty, staff and students. You will read 2016 graduate Raymond Partolan’s story, interviews with Maureen Walker, Class of 1971 and Sam Oni, Class of 1967, as well as President William D. Underwood’s 2016 Convocation Address. While you read, consider in what ways these Bears embody the values President Underwood outlines in his address. Think of the ways in which Partolan engaged in his Mercer education both in and out of the classroom, and how you might become an active and engaged participant in the Mercer community. What can we learn from Oni’s experience of Mercer’s history with the Southern Baptist Church and from Maureen Walker’s expertise on developing racial identities and understanding racism? How does this apply to Mercer today, and how will it impact your experience? These alumni exemplify how every Mercer student majors in changing the world through the impacts he makes in his community and the world after graduation. Reflect on how you might you use your experiences at Mercer to make a difference in your communities.

A committee comprised of faculty and staff will select the winner. The winner will receive a gift card to the Mercer University Bookstore.

Essay Questions

Please respond to the following questions in a single essay:

  • How do you think your Mercer story will go?
  • What contributions do you hope to make?
  • How will you come to understand and learn from the different experiences of your peers?

Be sure to answer these questions in the context of the readings.

Submission and Deadline Information

Create a well- developed, two-to-five-page, double-spaced essay using appropriate MLA or APA citations. Submit the essay as a Word attachment to an email sent to by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 23. The winner will be announced during Fall Convocation in August, and will be awarded a certificate and bookstore gift card. For additional questions, please see or call Academic and Advising Services at 478.301.2078.