When entering MCCC, you can’t miss the life-sized images of students hanging from the lamp posts lining the perimeter campus drive. The “Faces of Mercer” campaign has put these faces on the MCCC website, on brochures, and all around campus. But who are they?

Turns out, these students are selected by Wendy Humphrey and Jim Gardner in the Public Relations office. The student models are usually chosen through a recommendation from faculty members at Mercer and based on of their commitment to Mercer and their involvement in things like clubs, sports, or band.

The use of student models is, in part, a reaction to a debacle in 2014 when the winter course catalog used a stock photo image of young people–who didn’t appear to be going to college–one of whom had a black man’s head photoshopped poorly onto a white man’s body and was positioned lurking behind three white girls

The photo may have been intended to display campus diversity, but instead the vexing image was posted to  “photoshop-battles” on Reddit, the popular online discussion website (As of this reporting it has 14k views). The Internet lost no time in responding. As the image got thousands of views, people downloaded and photoshopped in all kinds of other images before re-uploading

New versions included other types of “diversity” including a man in a wheelchair, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a child in a raincoat, and a duck. Students from other schools posted similar PR gaffs.

Jim Gardner told The VOICE, “In the past there was a period of time where a lot of the students that were portrayed were from a photo library, and we quickly realized it’s more impactful to have actual students.”

Both Humphrey and Gardner remarked that the use of non-student models was due to financial difficulties, but still should not have been done. “You can’t replace actual people, which is a lesson that we learned,” Humphrey stated.

The student models are not only used to show their involvement in school activities, but also to show diversity among the MCCC campus. Dr. Jianping Wang who is the President of Mercer believes that “Faces of Mercer” should identify the real population among the students that attend the school. “We want to have a mixed representation. That’s the only instruction I give to the marketing team,” said Dr. Wang.

Most colleges have a student model campaign where current students are used to show what the majority of students are like. As Mercer is only a 2 year institution a lot of the models used are no longer current students.

Dr. Wang stated, “By the time we take the photo and put them into all these publications you graduate and you move on. So a lot of times you walk around and say, ‘Hey this person is no longer here.’”

According to Humphrey and Gardner, a student that is in their first semester can be chosen to model and represent “Student Success.” This is reaffirmed by model, Ashley Castillo who is a current Liberal Arts major at MCCC, she was chosen to model for Mercer during her first semester, in Fall 2015.

Although it is hard to tell who will become successful and who will not, the fact remains that  majority of the student models were heavily involved in extracurricular activities, and had noteworthy intentions to become successful through their academic grades.

Mani Kissling was approached by  Humphrey after being photographed playing for Mercer’s soccer team. She was asked to attend a golf benefit held by Mercer, and after her photo was posted onto Mercer’s facebook page she was asked by Humphrey to do a photoshoot as part of “Faces of Mercer.” Kissling completed 5 semesters at Mercer then transferred to Monmouth University.

Kissling noted that Humphrey reached out to her to be one of her models and next thing she knew, her face was everywhere. “I was very thankful for all the opportunities that had been given to me, and I think she [Humphrey] recognized that,” Kissing said.

While at Mercer, Kissling was involved in soccer, basketball, and cross country. Along with that she worked hard to keep her grades up in the classroom. When The VOICE asked Kissing if she had considered herself,  “Student Success,” Kissling replied “Yes, I do…I would consider myself ‘Student Success’ because I worked for it, I worked really hard for it.”

Another student model used as a “Face of Mercer” is Ousman Joof. His accomplishments at Mercer included being part of the International Student Organization, being part of the Graphic Design Club, involvement in Student Government Association, partaking in Cross Country, and serving as Editor in Chief of The College VOICE. After 5 semesters at Mercer,  he transferred to Drexel University.

“During the Spring into Success function in 2015 I was approached by Francis Paixao I guess I got lucky because other student[s] could have been picked.” For being considered an example of “Student Success” Joof said, “Yeah I would say I was a good representation of Mercer, but you’ll have to ask around to see if that’s true,” Joof said with a smile.

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Tim O'Boyle
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