The faculty and administration at Utica College have selected Meredith Merchant as the salutatorian for the graduating class of 2012. Merchant has a GPA of 3.98.
Merchant, 22, was born and raised in Rome, N.Y. She is the only child to her parents, Mary Ellen and Kevin Merchant.
Merchant said when she came to Utica College in 2008, she was unsure of the possibility of being No. 2 in her class.
“Although I was the valedictorian of my graduating class at Rome Catholic School in 2008, I knew coming to Utica that I was going to be a small fish in a big pond,” she said. “Also, as a freshman, I wasn’t looking that far into the future. All I strived to do was take one day at a time, and put my best effort forward each day.”
Merchant is a physical therapy major in the physical therapy program at Utica College. She is in the 3+3 program and finished all of my undergraduate classes last year, and began the DPT program this past fall. In the fall, Merchant will be going out on her first clinical experience, although a placement has not yet been made.
Merchant said her goal coming into UC was not to be top of the class.
“Although I am absolutely thrilled to be named the salutatorian of the Class of 2012, as it is such a great honor, my goal coming to college was not to be the valedictorian or the salutatorian,” she said. “My goal was to try my hardest and do my best everyday in order to achieve the best grades I possibly could.”
Merchant said she realized that she was at the top of her class after a phone call with a certain individual.
“I started to get an idea that I was above the rest when I received a call from the secretary to the provost, asking me to set up a meeting with the provost regarding ‘honors,’ she said. “When I had told my cousin about the call I received, she’s like ‘Oh, I bet you’re at the top of your class.’” But even then, although I knew I had good grades, I had trouble believing that I was at the top of my class. It seemed too good to be true.”
Merchant said a back injury she suffered during a high school basketball career was the driving force behind her joining the physical therapy program at UC.
“After seeing the difference my [physical therapist] was able to make in my life, I was inspired to do the same for others in the future,” she said.
Merchant said she tries to keep a balance between hard work and fun.
“[My program] is extremely demanding, but also very rewarding,” she said. “It is hard to find time for hobbies because, in my book, school responsibilities should come first. I’m not saying there’s no time for any fun, because there is, but there has to be a good balance. Overall, it’s very important to find time for yourself, even if it’s just relaxing alone or in the company of family and friends. Although school is important, family, along with your own health and happiness, should always come first.
A balance between studying and having fun is important. In order to balance my time, I would make sure anything that was coming due was completed before any upcoming plans. Because knowing that my responsibilities were taken care of allowed to me to enjoy my time more easily.”
According to Merchant, she accomplished the honor by being motivated and dedicated to learn.
“I did it by practicing good self-discipline and time management skills,” she said. “If there is any advice I have to offer, it is just to do your best everyday. Be your best self, put your best effort forward, and try your hardest everyday. If you do that, there’s no way you can’t succeed.”
Merchant said her inspiration to strive for the top is her family.
“My inspiration for being so dedicated can definitely be attributed to my parents and my grandmother, who has since passed away,” she said. “Seeing how proud I was able to make them with each accomplishment or good grade I shared with them is definitely what kept me reaching for the stars. They are definitely a driving force behind my accomplishments because they are the ones who continue to convince me that I can do anything, as long as I set my mind to it.”
Merchant will graduate with a doctorate in physical therapy degree in May 2014. Upon graduation, she is hoping to work with the pediatric population.
“No matter what setting I work in, I am eager to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Merchant said she has enjoyed my time at Utica College.
“I am especially thankful for the relationships I was able to build with my professors, due to the small class sizes,” she said. “Most of all though, I am thankful for all the people I have met here, as I am sure that most of them will turn out to be lifelong friends.”