The goal of this project is to apply a place-based, co-learning approach to revitalize a poverty-stricken, high unemployment, marginalized area of the City of Atlanta and invigorate the community socially and economically by means of community conversations. The project is centered on three key principles: 1) Community conversations aim to help community stakeholders gain intergroup understanding, increase positive intergroup relationships, and promote intergroup collaboration. 2) In order to prepare for an increasingly diverse society and to help students navigate diverse learning environments, many institutions of higher education have developed programs that support student learning and competencies around inter- and intra-group relations. 3) Mercer University, as a research university, can be a place-based anchor institution for the purpose of playing a critical role in the civic life and economy of the metropolitan Atlanta neighborhoods, as Mercer’s mission is to teach, to learn, to create, to discover, to inspire, to empower, and to serve.
Dr. Bernstein's research merges her specializations in political communication with her longstanding interest in public engagement, appearing in journals such as International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, Communication Quarterly, Sex Roles, and Women & Language and in books such as Communicating Politics and The Millenial Election. She currently is conducting research in Critical Thinking in Online Discussion and Intergroup Dialogue. In 2007, she won the Top Paper Award at the International Public Relations Research Conference for her paper Ethnic Differences in Participative Public Relations in Community Planning. Dr. Bernstein has taught university students for 20 years and has a passion for service learning that integrates her experience in community planning with her academic knowledge in communication processes and effects. Her service learning program has included community partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill Industries, Partnership for Southern Equity, City of Dunwoody, and Foster Children's Foundation.