“Winning Over Others,” that is. She’s putting that part of her personality in the forefront as Columbia College’s new director of Alumni Relations.
“I like to meet new people. I like to listen to their stories. I like to network, connect them with other people or resources,” Merrifield says. “I always believe that the glass is half full … or maybe even more than half full.
“I do think it’s the energy, the enthusiasm, the positivity, the ability to communicate are the things that they’re probably going to notice.”
Like the recent alumnus who came into the Alumni Relations office looking for work and Merrifield helped put in touch with a local business that is hiring. Or Nancy Turner Blitz, a 1968 Christian College graduate who planned a quick stop at the alma mater with her husband while the two were in town for her high school reunion.
Merrifield helped turn it into an extended nostalgia trip.
“We really kind of took a walk down memory lane, walked her down to the Archives so she could take a look at some of the memorabilia that we have,” Merrifield said. “When people stop in this office, it’s because they’ve really appreciated their time at Columbia College and they want to come back and say ‘hi’ and figure out what’s been going on.”
Merrifield has been learning as much as she can about the history of Columbia College and its alumni since taking over her new post in late June. For three years prior to that, she worked as director of business development in the college’s Marketing department. Before that, she owned five restaurants and was a corporate trainer working with employers to help find qualified job candidates.
She plans to cull aspects from all of her previous career stops — recruitment, customer relations, promotion, education — into heading Columbia College’s Alumni Relations team and serving the college’s more than 80,000 alumni worldwide.
“You really start to grow alumni from the minute they walk through the doors at Columbia College,” Merrifield said. “There’s a brand awareness that, as a marketer, we spent every day creating. I think our alumni can be great recruiters for us. If they’ve had a good experience here, then why wouldn’t they tell others that they’ve had a great experience and they should come to school here?
“I’m always amazed with, whenever I run into anybody that’s been associated with Columbia College, they never have anything bad to say. And I think that says a lot for us, not only the quality of education we provide, but the level of customer service we provide here as well.”
Merrifield said she stepped into an Alumni Relations office that was already a “very well-oiled machine” with associate director Carolyn Preul, assistant director Stasia Sherman and administrative assistant Heather Williams. Her task is to keep the momentum going.
She’s looking for ways to foster more collaboration between departments at the college. She’s seeking to enhance the reach and efficiency of opportunities for alumni interaction at events. She wants to make sure Nationwide location alumni feel as connected to Columbia College as those who graduate from the main campus.
And, in all of her community activities — she’s an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, for instance — Merrifield is always looking to promote the college.
“I want to talk about it when I go to these different ribbon cuttings,” Merrifield says. “Every time anyone comes into contact with us, we’re representing the institution. We can be proud of the institute we represent. It’s easy to say, ‘We Are CC.’”
She’s seen that kind of pride firsthand with alumni such as Blitz, who get lost for hours in joyful memories of their time at Christian — or Columbia — College. She’s excited to continue making meaningful connections with those who have already enjoyed their time at the school, as well as those who will in generations to come.