Graduate Student Highlight: Nicholas Mercer, MPA ’19

For the University of Charleston, SC student Nicholas Mercer, this summer was all about innovation and inclusion.

Nicholas, a second-year student in the Master of Public Administration Program, has been working with the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), a social justice non-profit that strives to achieve equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community right here in the Lowcountry. This partnership was made possible through Nicholas’ Graduate Assistantship with the Community Assistance Program (CAP). Housed within the Public Administration program, CAP students partner with various non-profit organizations in the region to help with necessary projects.

With AFFA, Nicholas has been working on the launch of the LGBTQ Community Needs Assessment, a survey which is first of its kind ever to be undertaken in the tri-county area. The survey is a replication of similar studies conducted in Spartanburg, SC, and Birmingham, AL. Nicholas was present at the launch event for the AFFA survey on August 2, 2018 at the Joseph P. Riley Center for Livable Communities and was recently interviewed by the Charleston City Paper in reference to the project.

The survey, called “The Tri-County LGBTQ Community Survey”, has become a passion project for Nicholas.

“This project is something that effects my community right here,” Nicholas explains. “And it’s research that’s never been done before in this area. Being involved in this effort right where I live is incredible.”

The survey aims to gather information on the various facets of an LGBTQ person’s life in the Lowcountry, such as religion, family life, and professional ventures. AFFA hopes to create a wholistic view of the experiences of LGBTQ community members, which is particularly exciting for Nicholas once the results come in. When asked about the how the data that is collected will be used, Nicholas had this to say.

“With this first-time assessment, the sky’s the limit! The results will help AFFA assist with the needs of the underserved LGBTQ community right here in the tri-county area.”

Working with AFFA through the CAP program has been invaluable for Nicholas. His focus within the MPA program is non-profit management, and his Graduate Assistantship position allows him to gain real world experience every single day.

“The CAP program has brought to life what I’ve been learning in class,” Nicholas says. “And the opportunity to work with AFFA has been such a richly rewarding experience.”

Nicholas will continue working with AFFA through the Fall 2018 semester and hopes to continue to work on the behalf of the LGBTQ community within the nonprofit sector after his graduation in the Spring 2019.

To learn more about The Tri-County LGBT Community Survey, visit AFFA’s website at To participate in the survey, visit For more on the Community Assistance Program with the Master of Public Administration Program, visit

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