In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. Sheryl Merritt (BSHE ’88) is a member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed her to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the university.
When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?
I graduated from UGA in 1988. I was hired by Macy’s in their Executive Training Program and went to work there with intentions of moving up the ranks through management into a buyer role. However, I didn’t enjoy retail. I got my MBA in marketing from Mercer University and took a management buyout package to leave AT&T and begin my career in entertainment. I’ve worked for 20 years in various roles from radio stations (Hot 97.5), record labels, production companies (Organized Noize, Rowdy Records, Arrow Records) and a performing rights organization (BMI). I am a writer who has authored three books, “Dates With Jesus,” “Climbing Mountains,” and “Jesus Mark: Identifying Your Service Mark.” I also write for BMI’s R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, the Trailblazers of Gospel Music and Gospel Artist Dorinda Clark Cole’s TV Show.
How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?
I first got involved with the Alumni Association when I was asked to serve on the Multicultural Planning Committee. Shortly after, I spearheaded efforts with the DeKalb County Chapter and served as vice president, and later, co-president. I was asked to join the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors and served for 3 years. Now, I am a proud inaugural member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council.
Which Black Alumni event are you most proud of?
I am most proud of our first fundraiser we hosted last year. I am also proud of the homecoming tailgate and how it has grown. The support the Alumni Association gave us last year was phenomenal. Homecomings are special at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) and for so many years, that wasn’t the case for black alumni at UGA. Now, we also have something to look forward to – someplace to go and see old friends while meeting new ones.
How has serving on the Black Alumni Leadership Council benefited you?
I get greater access to the university, its staff, students and other alumni through the events, activities and meetings. It has also connected me with a great group of council members – our synergy is amazing! We work hard and get the job done.
What is the most important thing you learned as a student?
I learned that it was important to develop my leadership skills and to not follow the crowd. As president of the Zeta Psi Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and member of the Black Affairs Council and Panhellenic Council, I was able to flourish and activate my leadership style.
What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?
I would advise them to get to know students who are culturally different from them so they can learn about them and their experiences. I would also advise students to network with alumni and their teachers for greater opportunities. Lastly, take advantage of all the university has to offer.
UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?
My commitment is to use my creativity, alumni connections and resources to effectively collaborate with others to further the mission of the Black Alumni Leadership Council – to recruit, retain, engage, donate and serve. I have mentored students from UGA throughout my career– through the Alumni Association and on my own. I will continue to give back and ensure that students of color receive every advantage and graduate!