McPherson Newell embodies the principles of the Newman Civic Fellow Program: to prepare students for the long-term work of civic problem-solving and of building equitable communities.
As a biomedical engineering student, McPherson is researching disability theory and user-centered design to improve assistive technology for people with varying types of disabilities. Currently, he is modifying the design of Medicaid-covered rollators into forearm walkers for improved mobility and lower cost for users.
McPherson is also leading Mercer’s LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, Common Ground, in providing training on LGBTQ rights and inclusive practices with the goal of insuring that Mercer is a welcoming campus. By developing an on-line curriculum for training, McPherson has increased participation in training by 125% already, and modules will eventually be available across all of our campuses.
As a transgender student, a large portion of my academic career has been shaped by others’ questions about and responses to my identity. I have learned how to educate those around me about the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for equal treatment of LGBTQ+ people on a local, state, and national level through my leadership in Common Ground, Mercer University’s LGBTQ+ student organization, and advocacy organizations such as Georgia Equality. My experiences explaining issues that affect me as a transgender person, from using unfamiliar pronouns to housing and employment discrimination, have prepared me to lead Rainbow Connection, a student-led program that provides Mercer faculty and staff with tools, information, and resources necessary to make Mercer an affirming community for LGBTQ+ students. We have developed a self-paced Canvas course for the curriculum in order to expand its impact, and we are currently working to engage faculty and staff across all Mercer campuses, as well as ensure the long-term sustainability of the program. In the future, I plan to network with other LGBTQ+ student leaders in order to make our program available to them for modification to address issues faced by LGBTQ+ students at other schools across the country.