Program in Leadership and Community Service

The Program in Leadership and Community Service (PLS), located in room 103 in Wiggs Hall, is a trans-disciplinary program that enhances traditional liberal learning through supervised and extensive periods of community service. Students serve here and abroad with community organizations on projects designed to enhance the common good. Students becomes a part of a service-learning community designed to strengthen inclusive human communities, meet individual needs, promote intercultural literacy, and enhance the development of students as leaders, citizens, and neighbors.

The goals of PLS are: (1) to deepen the students’ understanding of and commitment to personal, cultural, and ultimate values, (2) to help students develop the skills and values necessary for effective servant leadership roles, (3) to promote the common good both here and abroad, (4) to help meet unmet human needs in diverse communities, and (5) to provide an academic foundation for civic engagement, leadership, and community service.

PLS Facts

  • PLS is Mercer’s oldest leadership and service program.
  • PLS is affiliated with more than 25 nonprofit organizations.
  • PLS allows students to double major (more than 2,500 students have participated to date).
  • Students from different divisions of the University (Liberal Arts, Engineering, Business, Education, and Music) can participate and complete the PLS program.
  • PLS prepares students for careers and/or graduate work in a variety of fields.
  • PLS students or participants can receive academic credit for service abroad and Mercer on Mission Programs.
  • PLS provides the academic and service-learning requirements for the Mercer Service Scholars program.

How to Become Involved in PLS

Any student can become involved in any activity associated with PLS by signing up for a course or by volunteering for a project.

Great Results

Direct Service Impact:

  • Since 1994, a total of 1,612 children have been served in a preschool program created by PLS participants; 14 percent of the children had one or more developmental disabilities. In 1994, 36 children were being served per day in the preschool program located within the First Street Arts Center. Ninety percent of the preschool children served exceeded the Georgia criterion for school readiness while 25 percent exceeded criterion for entrance into first grade. In 2001, the preschool was awarded National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. The reviewers cited the presence of Mercer students as a contributing factor in the receipt of this honor.
  • In 1994, the PLS program created and managed of a dynamic new arts-based after-school and summer camp program in the building housing the preschool. Since then, 1,025 school-aged children (ages 5 to 8) have participated. Ninety-five percent of the children maintained or improved their GPA by subject by 15 percent or more. Children with disabilities in the program improved in every developmental domain (language, motor, and cognitive) by 25 percent as assessed by professional service providers. They also maintained their gains throughout the summer months.
  • In 1999, PLS participants helped create an additional after-school/summer camp program within the Georgia Children’s Museum. The program served 226 new children between the ages of 8 and 12. The museum program now serves an additional 124 children. Data indicated that their school performances matched those in the other school-aged programs mentioned above.
  • PLS students developed an early childhood behavior management curriculum for other non-profits to replicate. The system is called R.I.S.E. (Respect, Include, Support and Encourage).
  • In February 2003, the Central Georgia Center for Independence: The Disability Connection awarded its annual “Inclusion Award” to Mercer for its successes in including students and adults with disabilities in all aspects of programming. In addition, the children in the after-school program were invited to perform and showcase their work at three of the last six national conferences on Inclusion held at the University of Georgia.

Student Development Impact:

  • Eighty percent of the interns who completed their terms of service increased their understanding of citizenship as measured by scales created by the Corporation for National and Community Service and Mercer. All earned college credit for completing the citizenship and leadership curriculum.
  • Ninety percent of the students reported a new respect and appreciation for human diversity because of their work with children with disabilities. Eighteen percent of the students who served had one or more developmental disabilities. Eighty-eight percent of the students who completed internships improved their leadership skills by 75 percent by developing, managing and completing 124 service projects designed to meet human and community needs (e.g. ramp building and home and building renovation projects for persons with disabilities, neighborhood clean-up projects, blood drives, children’s festivals, etc.).
  • More than 40 percent of PLS participants have gone on to graduate schools in law, public policy and planning, psychology, social work, nonprofit accounting, marketing and public relations, church ministry and theology, physical and occupational therapy, as well as medical school and business.

Community Strengthening Impact:

  • Students helped improve programming and indirectly leveraged $4 million in capital improvement foundation grants for the renovation of three historic structures.
  • Students helped renovate and save the First Street Arts Center building, now valued at $1.2 million.
  • Students also helped renovate and save two historic buildings in downtown Macon as well. These buildings now house the Georgia Children’s Museum and its Educational Annex. These buildings are now valued at $3.2 million dollars. Two of the six floors of the museum opened to the public in May of 2005. Since the museum opened in May of 2005, 16,000 individuals have visited the museum. Museum planners estimate that the building will serve 125,000 visitors annually when fully operational.


  • PLS participants have recruited more than 18,120 volunteers and logged more than 48,000 service hours since 1994. The value of their service was estimated to exceed $275,000 annually.

Faculty Contact

Dr. Thomas J. Glennon
Reg Murphy, Professor of Leadership
Director, Program in Leadership and Community Service
Acting Director, Mercer Service Scholars
(478) 301-2971