Merry Willis Prepares for Fulbright Program in New Zealand

WALESKA, GA — Reinhardt University adjunct professor and Carmel Elementary School (Cherokee County) teacher Merry Willis will find herself studying abroad for six months in New Zealand next year.

Merry Willis  studying abroad for six months in New Zealand in 2017

The trip is part of her prestigious Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Grant given by the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She will be learning about how technology impacts student learning throughout the country, focusing on classroom resources, collaborative relationships and cross-cultural professional development for teachers.

Upon receiving notice of her assigned advisor, Dr. Louise Starkey, distinguished senior lecturer in the School of Education at Victoria University of Wellington, Willis said, “I am so excited about collaborating with and working with Dr. Starkey to complete my inquiry project ‘Sharing technology globally: Creating professional learning to impact student achievement.'”

Preparing for a six-month trip, she said, has been quite daunting. Wellington, New Zealand, where she will be living, suffered an earthquake in November, decimating some of the areas.

“It caused lots of damage to housing, including the flat that I had arranged to rent,” Willis said. “However, I am working on a plan C (plan B already fell through), and I am confident that will resolve itself quickly.”

As she continues to work on securing housing, Willis also is navigating through paperwork for ethics approval and clearance to visit schools, among other things.

“I have also formed my ‘bucket lists’ both of professional personal goals while I am in New Zealand. New Zealand is such an amazing country that I could just keep adding to both lists. One thing is for sure – I will not lack for things to do while I am abroad.”

Willis’ flight leaves Jan. 29 and she will arrive in New Zealand in February. She will go into orientation with other Fulbright award recipients Feb. 2-3 so she can learn about the culture and history of the area. In addition, there will be a welcoming ceremony known as a pōwhiri (a Māori welcoming ceremony involving speeches, dancing, singing and greeting). She will stay overnight in the Waiwhetu Marae (Māori meeting ground).

Willis, who joined Reinhardt as an adjunct in 2015-16, has been teaching “Technology to Enhance Teaching Strategies in Responsive Classrooms” in the MAT program, will continue teaching that class via Skype, allowing her to pass on what she is learning immediately to her students.

“I am so excited about connecting via Skype with classrooms and teachers in Cherokee County while I am abroad, and teaching the MAT Technology in the Responsive Classroom class for RU in Spring 17,” Willis said. “I think they will greatly benefit from my experiences abroad throughout the semester.”

Dr. Cindy Kiernan, dean of the Price School of Education, said Willis is a fabulous role model for candidate teachers, showing them to think outside the box and use technology wisely in the classroom.

“She has been a strong addition to our PSOE faculty,” Kiernan said. “She is extremely innovative in the ways she integrates technology into classroom instruction.”

Willis will not only will be connecting with her Cherokee County School District and Reinhardt students virtually, but she also will keep travel and project blogs. To follow her journey, visit or

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, according to the State Department, and is “designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has given 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to “study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.” Prominent Fulbright alumni include: Muhammad Yunus, founder, Grameen Bank, and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient; John Hope Franklin, noted American historian and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient; and Riccardo Giacconi, physicist and 2002 Nobel Laureate.

About Reinhardt University

Founded in 1883, Reinhardt University is a private, comprehensive university grounded in the liberal arts and affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Reinhardt offers 46 graduate and undergraduate programs, ranging from business and education to music and theater.

Reinhardt’s main residential campus is located in Waleska (Cherokee County), Ga., and offers selected programs in other regional centers including Cartersville, Canton and Woodstock, as well as online programs. Additional attractions on the Waleska campus include the Falany Performing Arts Center and the Funk Heritage Center.

For more information, please contact Reinhardt at (770) 720-5600 or see

Rep. Tom Graves Named ‘Hero of Main Street’

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14) received the “Hero of Main Street” award from the National Retail Federation for his support of legislation critical to the retail industry. Rep. Graves is part of a bipartisan group honored for their support on a wide range of issues including trade, infrastructure investment, tax reform and labor issues.

“It’s an honor to be named a ‘Hero of Main Street,’” said Rep. Graves. “The retail industry is a vital part of Georgia’s economy, and I’m proud to support free-market policies that help retailers in our communities thrive.”

(From left to right, David French, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the National Retail Federation, presents Rep. Graves with the “Hero of Main Street” award along with Charles Miller, Group Vice President for Government and Public Affairs at Macy’s, Inc., December 7, 2016)

“Rep. Graves has shown through his legislative support that he cares about retailers big and small, and values the role these businesses play in communities around the country,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Rep. Graves has shown his commitment to a thriving Main Street and to the long-term growth of retail – our nation’s largest private-sector employer.”

The Hero of Main Street award was created by NRF in 2013 to recognize members of Congress for support of the retail industry’s public policy priorities. Award eligibility is based on key votes, bill sponsorship and advocacy to advance the industry’s priorities. The “heroes” have supported policies and initiatives defined by NRF that recognize the contributions of the retail industry, and have worked to encourage a “vibrant, sustained and healthy” retail sector.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.

Deal Expands Access to Emergency Tool to Parents to Help Fight Opioid Epidemic

Gov. Nathan Deal today provided an additional tool that will expand access to a life-saving drug to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic. In a request to the Georgia Pharmacy Board, Deal asked that naloxone, an emergency drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, be removed from the dangerous drug list and rescheduled as a Schedule V exempt drug. The Georgia Board of Pharmacy approved the emergency rule to remove naloxone. At the same time, Deal directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue a standing order to allow naloxone to be dispensed over-the-counter by pharmacists across the state.

“The state of Georgia and the country as a whole are currently experiencing an opioid abuse epidemic. In the fight against this trend, naloxone has come to be considered an important and life-saving tool in treating opioid overdoses. We are now building upon our previous efforts to expand access to naloxone for first responders and others who regularly encounter overdoses as they are occurring by placing this tool in the hands of Georgians, especially parents, who are both firsthand witnesses and victims of opioid overdose. We will continue working to implement similar efforts to save lives across the state.

“Yesterday, The 21st Century Cures Act, bipartisan health care legislation that includes additional federal funding for states to fight the opioid crisis, was signed into law. Funding from this legislation will expand access to naloxone and help lower its price. I commend the Georgia Board of Pharmacy for acting quickly on this matter and DPH for issuing a standing order, basically a statewide prescription, to ensure that this life-saving drug is available to those who may need it.”

Naloxone does not produce a high and adverse effects are rare in therapeutic doses. Deal signed the Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law in 2014, making Georgia the 19th state to extend legal protections to those who administer naloxone to someone experiencing an overdose. Deal intends to introduce additional legislation in the upcoming session to continue fighting the opioid epidemic plaguing Georgia.

“Naloxone is a powerful weapon in the fight against the increasing epidemic of opioid abuse that poses a threat to public health in Georgia,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “The governor’s decisive action to make this drug accessible to anyone in a position to assist persons at risk of overdose will save countless lives.”