Lifelong Lerner: Nicole Merli

As a member of the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics’ Class of 2023, Nicole Merli, MBA candidate with a concentration in business analytics from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has demonstrated remarkable dedication and resilience during her time at UD. 

Merli was nominated for this series by the UD Graduate Programs Department which stated, “We would like to recognize the efforts of Nicole Merli who has worked hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA while balancing work and life.”

In this profile, Merli shares her favorite UD memories, how she has changed during her time at UD and her plans following graduation.



Lerner: How do you think you have changed from your first semester at UD to now?

Merli: Overall, the changes I have experienced from my first semester at UD to the present day are multifaceted. I have grown academically, socially, and personally, acquiring skills and insights that will undoubtedly serve me well in the future. My time at UD has been transformative, shaping me into a more confident, capable, and well-rounded professional, ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.


Lerner: What have been some of the challenges you have faced during your college experience and how did you overcome them?

Merli: I started this master’s program in the fall of 2020, when the whole world was still stopped and there were not too many other competing priorities on the calendar. A year into the program, the world looked a lot different. I had to learn how to juggle the demands of the coursework in addition to the demands of a full time job (with a 50 mile commute) and the demands of home life raising three boys. I even got married in the middle of this program! It has been a wild ride.

Lerner: What was your favorite signature UD experience and why?

Merli: As both a student and an employee of the university, my favorite signature UD experience is actually “Take Your Kids to Work” day. While the pandemic has curbed UD’s ability to provide programming here recently, I have been able to bring my children a few times since I started working here in 2017. Exposing children to different careers and work settings at a young age can inspire them to explore various fields and consider their future career paths. The event provided my children with an opportunity to observe and learn about various careers and industries firsthand. They were able to explore different work environments, ask questions, and gain insights into what employees do here on a daily basis – their mother included! And a work day that I get to spend having fun with my family? Who wouldn’t love that?


Lerner: What does being a “Lifelong Lerner” mean to you?

Merli: To me, being a “Lifelong Lerner” means embracing a mindset of continuous growth, curiosity, and intellectual exploration throughout one’s entire life. It goes beyond formal education and encompasses a deep-seated desire to expand knowledge, acquire new skills, and broaden perspectives.

But lifelong learning isn’t in just one direction and acquiring knowledge and skills for personal gain; it also involves using that knowledge to make a positive impact on oneself and others. It means applying what we have learned to solve problems, contribute to our communities, and promote positive change in society. Being a “Lifelong Lerner” is thus an attitude that enables us to adapt, thrive, and find fulfillment in an ever-evolving world.


Lerner: What advice would you give to incoming freshmen to make the most out of their college experience?

Merli: Well, my story is certainly atypical. I came into this program in my mid-30s with an already-established career and family. But for those in a similar boat, I’d say, “Don’t talk yourself out of being worth this investment.” Your family is important. Your job is important. But YOU are important too. Education is always worth it. 


Lerner: Did you have a Lerner professor or staff member that had a big impact on your UD experience?

Merli: There have been a ton of Lerner professors with the MBA program who have made an impact on my UD experience. There was not a single course that felt irrelevant. I was able to walk away from each course feeling like I learned something valuable and applicable to my current professional trajectory. Dr. Darwin Davis, Dr. Adam Fleischhacker, Dr. Wendy Smith, Dr. Suresh Sundaram, Dr. Jack Baroudi, and Dr. Liying Mu stand out the most in my mind. These individuals inspired, mentored, challenged, and supported me in various ways, contributing to my personal and academic growth. 


Lerner: What are your plans following graduation?

Merli: Well, I am grateful to already be serving as the assistant director of business development for a federally-funded research institute at UD (the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals). But the sky’s the limit! Who’s hiring?



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