If not for a conversation with her best friend during her junior year in high school, Alexandria Merritt, ME’03, is not sure what professional path she would have pursued.
One day as she was switching classes at Normandy (Mo.) High School, Merritt asked her best friend about her career plans. When her friend told her she was planning to become a chemical engineer, Merritt replied, “Me too.”
“I didn’t even know anything about engineering, but I decided that if she could do that, so could I,” Merritt says. After graduation she enrolled at St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus through the Emerson Minority Scholarship Program, then transferred to Missouri S&T.
Today, as the quality and regulatory operations manager at General Mills Inc.’s plant in Lodi, Calif., she ensures the safety and quality of everything produced in the facility. The products include brands like Honey Nut Cheerios, Betty Crocker cake mixes and Hamburger Helper.
She also devotes much of her spare time encouraging young people to pursue their passions and dreams. “I realize that there are a lot of students every day who make decisions just like I did, by talking to their peers,” Merritt says. Unfortunately, she adds, many peers aren’t always positive influences.
“I’m a flat-out believer in the scripture that says ‘To whom much is given, much is required.'”
“I’m a flat-out believer in the scripture that says ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’” Merritt says. She has helped establish programs on her former high school’s campus that give students access to engineering and science resources. Those programs include the National Society of Black Engineers’ Pre-College Initiative (NSBE) and Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA). She also founded Project Mirror, a program designed to give students access to alumni who can help them understand what values and characteristics should be “mirrored” to achieve excellence in any educational or professional pursuit. The program’s motto — “I’m a Reflection of Excellence” — underscores its purpose.
In her new home state, she volunteers as a mentor to girls with the Betty Shabazz Academy in Sacramento and serves on the board of directors for People Reaching Out, another civic organization in Sacramento. She is also on the advisory board for Missouri S&T’s Women in Science and Engineering program and an alumni member of NSBE.