As one dug through their bag to look for a pen, April Merenda reached her hand out and asked, “You have my card, right?” Yes, that person did have her card, as every St. John’s University student should.
Merenda is the Assistant Dean for External Affairs. “My job is to facilitate student placement into internships to help them garner great opportunities,” she explained. “I help students get real-life work experience now while they’re in college, versus having to wait until they graduate.”
The question that Merenda asks every student that is seeking her help is “in a perfect world, where you could get whatever you wanted, where would you want to be placed?”
Merenda also mentors students who wish to pursue careers in hospitality, sports management and communications. In addition to her nine years of work at St. John’s, Merenda has 30 years of work in corporate America under her belt. She also taught classes in the Hospitality Management program.
“I came here to eventually teach,” she said. “But, I just developed into almost like a head-hunter here and I was good at it.”
By “it”, she meant her ability to find internships and jobs for students seeking opportunities and employment in their field of study.
Seeing that her guidance and connections left students contended, Merenda opted to remain where she was. “Seeing my students so happy to get them the opportunity to intern at Madison Square Garden, for the Brooklyn Nets or the Yankees, at ABC, NBC,” Merenda said. “Just affording them that opportunity and making a difference in their lives made me want to stick with it.”
Merenda has also worked for billionaire and founder of Icahn Enterprises, Carl Icahn. Icahn Enterprises is a diversified holding company that engages in many different primary businesses. While working at Icahn Enterprises Merenda was able to network and build a woman’s traveling company named Gutsy Women Travel.
Merenda is a former student from St. John’s University. She was given a four-year academic scholarship. Her passion to give back to the university without asking for much in return, in particular, is what makes unique.
“Had I not gotten that scholarship, I never would have been able to go to college,” she said.
Merenda emphasizes that students should join the workforce before they graduate, because students may find that they don’t like working in the field they studied for.
The ups definitely come with some downs. Merenda’s attitude changed when she stated that she hates not meeting students’ expectations.
“The difficult part of it is to meet everyone’s expectations,” Merenda said. “I feel bad that some students come in and they want to be with the Yankees, or American Express or even the FBI.” She reinforces that although students must be realistic, she does not want to diminish their expectations.
She works by learning about the students’ qualities before she pairs them with a certain position or company just so that the student and company could both benefit. “Finding the perfect match for someone’s personality, that’s the key,” Merenda said.
Merenda lives her life with her favorite mantra, “Do what you love and you will love what you do.”
Additionally, Merenda said the most important thing to do is to find a job. The first thing on her list is networking. She repeated the word three times before continuing.
“The second most important thing is to find a mentor,” she said. “When you have someone that you aspire to and that you listen and you respect their opinion, it helps guide you in the right path so you don’t waste time.”
Merenda lives up to her own words as she has mentored many students during her time at St. Johns. “The third is to develop yourself as a whole person, building your character,” she said. “It’s the people that we touched, that’s going to be our mark in life.”