Erickson Merkel Foundation: Tell us a little bit about your family and friends growing up, and any positive effect that they had on your formative years.
Devin Merz: Growing up I have always had my parents behind me and supporting me no matter what it was I wanted to engage myself in. My parents placed me in dance when I was three years old and I stuck with it up until my senior year of high school. Through this I became engaged with a “family” at dance as I was on the competitive traveling team and spent every day after school and in the summer with these girls for 14 years. I surrounded myself with people who were driven and determined to reach similar goals and we pushed one another to succeed with friendly competition. My parents were however, the main people who had an impact on my development in a positive way. Whenever I would get down about a performance or my abilities in the dance world my parents would tell me the truth and let me know the things I could work on or improve and help me to practice in order to better myself and technique. They devoted weekends to traveling with me to competitions and being there for anything I needed. They also placed me in a private Christian School from kindergarten through sixth grade. I know this also had a positive impact on my formation over the years and gave me a strong foundation to grow from.
EMF: When you were going through elementary, middle or high school, did you have a clear idea on what you wanted to do when you ‘grew up’?
DM: Throughout my educational career, I was never truly sure what I wanted to do in life, in elementary I bounced around from wanting to be a fashion designer to dance teacher to moving into middle school with the desire to own a bakery. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school and planning prom that I found my passion for event planning and knew I wanted to become my own boss one day.
EMF: When was it that you realized that only you could be responsible for your future, and in what ways did you take control of your life after?
DM: I cannot pick a defining moment when I realized only I could be responsible for my future. It may have been around my junior year of college when I realized I needed to choose some place affordable or with lots of scholarships to earn my degree. After this I got a job for my senior year and worked in efforts to save money for college. I started budgeting for my life and the next four years and realized what I was going to need to do and change now in order to make it happen. I’ve always been extremely determined to do things on my own and college was one of those things I knew I wanted to try and handle by myself, of course my parents help but it is nice to know I would be capable of conquering it all by myself.
EMF: Were there any people you looked up to when you were younger, and why?
DM: I have always looked up to my parents because of their determination to provide for my brother and I and the self-made people that they are. My dad is a successful business owner which is most likely the reason I would like to continue this and own my own business as well. My parents are so kind hearted and giving and have a great relationship with one another and in their faith that they have always been my role models.
EMF: Do you have any mentors now? If so, can you tell me about them and what they mean to you?
DM: I cannot say there is one specific person who is a mentor to me, I am consistently learning from everybody that I engage with, from professors, fellow peers and even people that I work for. There are always opportunities to grow in life and I believe that everyone around you is capable of teaching you and impacting you if you allow them.
EMF: Are there any people living or dead who you draw inspiration from?
DM: I am always looking for new people and places to draw inspiration from, my dream would be to move to Charleston South Carolina and work in the wedding industry before beginning my own business. One planner that I am always drawn to is Samantha Anderson, she runs her own event planning business and is always on the creative edge of things in the event world.
EMF: Are there any causes that you feel strongly about, that you would like to give back to someday, or that you’ve been able to help out so far?
DM: My sorority, Chi Omega is partners with the Make-A-Wish foundation and I absolutely love this cause! Make-a-wish grants children who have serious medical conditions a wish and help make their wildest dreams come true. Each year we put on a golf outing in October to support Make-A-Wish and have the families and kids whose wishes we have granted come and speak and take part in the outing! This is the most amazing reward to see and hear all about their wish and how thankful they are that we helped make it happen. We also throw a wish week which is a series of events that benefit MAW for a whole entire week. I will always hold a special place in my heart for MAW and would love to help plan events for them one day and hope to become a wish granter when I am of age. I also love supporting local causes and all throughout high school and being involved in student senate we were dedicated to giving back to our community and supporting those causes rooted at home.
EMF: When did you get your first job, where was it, and what prompted you to get it?
DM: My dad being an entrepreneur sparked a fire in me to want to follow in his footsteps, since I was little I had always been creating my own businesses and trying to sell things. I had a ton of my own businesses before getting my first real job.
My first job was at Biggby Coffee as a barista, my friend had recommended me when I had mentioned I was on the hunt for a job. I went in for an interview and got hired on the spot! I knew I needed to begin working to earn money for school and with not having dance every night and weekend during my senior year this was the perfect job to fill my time and get my start in the working field.
EMF: What keeps you motivated through long weeks of work and study?
DM: My main motivation through the long weeks of work and study would be exercise because it helps me to clear my head and keep me focused. On top of this I like to have a little inspiration board to remind me why I am at school and why it is so important that I keep a job and do well so that I can reach all those goals that I have for myself. I think of where I will be in the next few years and how all this hard work and determination now will all be worth it when I am where I want to be in my career and in the world.
EMF: What are your personal and professional goals?
DM: My goals include moving to Charleston South Carolina and becoming a wedding and event planner. I hope to move down there next summer after graduation which is another goal of mine, graduating from college early. I then hope to get a job for an event coordinator to gain experience and make connections in the area I desire to open my own business. I hope through this I will be able to give back to the community by doing something that I am truly passionate for.
EMF: Why do you think it’s important for today’s undergraduates to have a clear understanding of debt and finances?
DM: It is so important for today’s undergraduates to have a clear understanding of debt and finances because it is something that is going to follow you and even though you may be done with college you are still going to be paying for it in the future. It is not something that just goes away and smart financial planning can help people avoid the long-term debt or at least lessen the burden that they will face when college is over and the real world begins.
EMF: Are you planning on any further academic pursuits after completing your current degree?
DM: After completing my current degree, I plan to move to Charleston South Carolina and begin work in my professional field. After having a few years of experience, I will decide if furthering my education is necessary or not.
EMF: After dedicating yourself to work and study, what do you do to wind down?
DM: I absolutely love to work out as my form of a break and winding down, for some reason completely exhausting my body helps me to relax and increase my endorphins and take a great break from everything else. I find it the perfect me time and I know I am still helping my body and health when I do it! I also enjoy photography and being outside, I love paddle boarding and riding bikes or going on hikes with my dad. Aside from this I have a crafty side and if I really need a break or am feeling inspired I will create something new.