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Graduate Aims to Change the World by His Own Merritt

Supply Chain Management Graduate Starts Career at Union Pacific
Graduate Aims to Change the World by His Own Merritt
Graduating senior Elijah Merritt sought out a number of experiences to grow as a supply chain management professional and a leader with a focus on making the world a better place.

Elijah Merritt demonstrates an intense focus on his community and how he can make the world a better place. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln supply chain management major graduates in December and plans to do just that as he embarks on a career at Union Pacific. 

“When you ask me what I want to do in 10 years, I want to help my community. That’s one of the biggest things I strive to do — to be able to help the community that raised me and just help the world in general,” he said.

Elijah Merritt studying abroad in italy.
Elijah Merritt rides in a gondola in Venice while studying abroad in Paderno del Grappa, Italy, about an hour away from the floating city.

With a natural talent for building community, he sought out ways to make campus home. He served as president of Brother2Brother, a peer mentoring organization, and as a peer mentor for the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services (OASIS). A member of the Black Student Union and the African Peoples Union, he also served as a diversity ambassador for the Office of Admissions. In this role, he provided outreach to first-generation and underrepresented prospective students and families.

“One of the biggest things I want to be able to accomplish is that people feel welcomed and that we are able to all get through college together,” Merritt said. “I told my mentees that while you are a student, you are a human first, so make sure you’re taking time to enjoy and live your life and don’t let the stress build up.”

Being able to see its potential impact, Merritt supported the creation of the College of Business Diversity and Inclusion Gathering Space — called DIGS for short — located near the Welcome Center in Hawks Hall. As a student representative on the college’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board, he helped celebrate its grand opening in fall 2021.

“It was exciting to be able to cut the ribbon and open up this new space for people to come together in Hawks Hall,” he said. “After seeing it open, you can see the impact on students’ lives that we had a hand in creating.”

For Merritt, the ability to change the world also influenced his career choice. He chose to study supply chain management because it combines his interests in people, computers and business.

“Pretty much everything we need in life is affected by supply chain management. This type of career allows me the opportunity to have various contacts and clients across international boundaries daily, discussing everything from transportation needs to supply problems,” he said.

A Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother connected him to a 12-week internship opportunity at Union Pacific’s Loup Logistics. He said his coursework helped him make the most of his experience as a logistics and operations intern for their auto team, moving cars and auto parts from Mexico throughout the United States using Union Pacific’s railroads.

Elijah Merritt ringing the Success Bell.
Merritt rang the Success Bell in the Business Career Center to celebrate accepting a full-time job as a senior logistics specialist at Union Pacific in his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska.

“As a supply chain management major, many of my classes helped me in my role by providing an in-depth understanding of various aspects I have to consider, such as lead times, procurement, distribution and inventory management,” he said. “The team created a great sense of belonging and community while I worked there, helping with my decision to return as a full-time senior logistics specialist.”

While he knew his goal was to return home to Omaha, Nebraska, after graduation, Merritt appreciates the global aspect of his job. His appetite for global adventure led him to study abroad twice — first in the college’s six-week Nebraska in Barcelona summer program with Laurie Miller, associate dean of undergraduate programs and curriculum and associate professor of practice in economics, and again in the following summer in Paderno del Grappa, Italy, through the CIMBA program.

“Studying abroad widened my horizons in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It challenged me academically by exploring different teaching strategies and learning through multiple languages. Personally, the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone is scary at first but only makes you better in all aspects,” he said.

Merritt noted the experience helped him gain a better understanding of the world, and he is also more comfortable traveling internationally.

“On one of the first days of our time in Barcelona, we did a hike up to Sants-Montjuïc. We were turning a corner that was unfolding this view of an art museum, the Olympic Stadium and of the city below, and Elijah quietly said, ‘How do I go back home after this?’” recalled Miller. “It was so neat seeing his first glimpse at a different world. It’s the reason I love to be part of study abroad programs because whether the student is well-traveled or not, they still can be awestruck by the world around them.”

He often traveled around the city to visit modern art museums and cultural spots. Miller shared that one trip led to him meeting something he didn’t expect.

“With our entire group, I shared that if you get lost, you can step off the train and get on the one going back in the direction you came from to find your way back. Elijah had done just that, but when he stepped off the train, he came face to face with a wild boar! Apparently, during the pandemic, with fewer people around, they became a real issue in the outskirts of the city,” said Miller. “In a new place, you never know what you’ll encounter, and Elijah handled the situation and got back safely. He’s ready for anything now!”

Between accidental learning moments and purposefully looking for ways to serve as a positive role model, Merritt describes his time as a Husker as a time of growth that “only happens in a community that values commitment to excellence.”

“Graduating from Nebraska as a native Nebraskan is not just an academic accomplishment for me. It is a testament to my journey of self-discovery, independence and development of valuable life skills,” he said. “It’s a reflection of my roots, a connection to my community and a source of pride as I now move forward in my life and career.”

Published: December 13, 2023