A talented student of science with an aversion for the humanities, Nichole Mercier ’94, Clark University '98, University of MA Medical School, PhD '05 never imagined she would win the senior class book award in English. Learning to see herself as an award-winning student instead of a reluctant reader was just one of many self-discoveries Nichole made at Montrose.
“I was always vocal about not liking the humanities,” she laughs. It took a gently persistent teacher at Montrose, Mrs. Joan Earls, to change Nichole’s mind. “She really found books and literature that appealed to me. She was the only person who could turn me on to it,” she recalled, ironically adding, “I loved Pride and Prejudice.”
Looking back, Nichole is grateful for Mrs. Earls and other caring and interested Montrose teachers who helped her discover talents she didn’t know she had. “Montrose provided the opportunity to get to know the faculty so well – to move past first impressions and let them become part of your life.”
Both inside the classroom and out, the spirit of the school made self-discovery possible. “It was so comfortable. You could be yourself. I loved that all the way through.”
After graduation, Nichole received the Presidential Scholarship, Clark University’s highest merit scholarship and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology. She now holds a PhD in tissue engineering from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and serves as Business Development Director at Washington University in St. Louis. She leads the efforts in partnering academic ideas with biotechnology companies to create products.
Nichole says her academic experiences at Montrose in both the humanities and the sciences “built a strong foundation” for her work. She is able not only to fully comprehend the complexity of the university’s research, but also to communicate this research to diverse audiences.
For Nichole, the process of self-knowledge extended from her academic into her spiritual life. She appreciated the way Montrose offered students time to develop their spirituality, whether by going to Mass or taking time for reflection during reading enrichment. “It was nice to have the option of spiritual time – to take time to read an enriching book or go to Mass. I don’t think I would create that spiritual time in my life now if I hadn’t done it at Montrose.”
“Montrose taught balance,” she says, “understanding your spirituality and working hard in your education. You learn to appreciate the world in a real way.”
Now a full-time working mother and wife, she notes that maintaining that balance can get harder, especially once the demands of a career kick in. But, by putting God at the center of her work and her family, Nichole says she and other Montrose alumnae have found a balanced perspective.
“You are not overwhelmed by life; you are always working toward that goal – being a contributor to this world, being a good person, getting closer to God.”
With the birth of their son Benjamin in 2008, Nichole and her husband Josh seriously contemplated how they wanted to “raise and shape” their family. They agreed that a commitment to service would be an important part of their family.
“Montrose taught me about charity…about valuing the dignity of others,” Nichole says. “We want our children to grow up learning how to give of themselves to others.”
After carefully considering what charitable organization was the best match for their family, Nichole and Josh signed up to volunteer with the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition. The couple, who hope someday to become adoptive parents themselves, host birthday parties for foster children and also educate them about personal finance.
“I love seeing these children happy and helping them reach their goals through education,” says Nichole. She hopes that, through their parents’ example, her children will know the importance of opening their family to those in need.