GSU Valedictorian Aims High, Works Hard, Achieves

St. Lucia student finds the university is the special place he needs for encouragement, friends.

GRAMBLING (GSU Media Relations, E'Vonne Gipson) -- A Grambling State University senior with characteristics of an overachiever set exceptional academic goals in hopes of pursuing his dreams after graduation. Though the journey was challenging for him, he continuously stood out as a dedicated, determined and dutiful student who earned exceptional marks.

Andre Merille, 25, a mathematics and physics major with a concentration in biomedical sciences is the spring 2014 undergraduate graduating class valedictorian. The university’s commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center on the campus. The graduation is free and open to the public.

The St. Lucia native said he never set being valedictorian one of his goals, but it became more of a reality that it was even a chance during his junior and senior year. “It took a lot discipline to maintain my grades but I often focused on avoiding distractions,” he said.

One of his professors, Naidu Seetala, said Merille is a special student. “Andre was a very studious student receiving a 4.0 grade point average. He did all of his work in a timely manner,” said Seetala, a GSU physics professor for 27 years. “He has worked with me and participated in competitions and conferences for two years. I am very impressed with his accomplishments and I can say it paid off for him.”

Merille won a first place district national conference student competition at the Emerging Research Conference in Washington, D.C. in February 2013. His work focused on rare-earth oxide nano-particles calculus observance. The conference aims to help undergraduate and graduate students enhance science communication skills and to better understand how to best prepare for science careers.

His perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout his undergraduate studies earned him the top academic spot.  “I admit it took a lot of sacrifice and hard work. There is no way around it. I was just persistent and worked toward gaining knowledge, and not the grade,” said Merille.

Merille first heard about Grambling State University in 2009 from one of his high school classmates. Later when he heard from GSU’s international recruiter, Merille looked more thoroughly into the school and decided it was the right place for him. He arrived at Grambling in 2010 he began to make new friends, feeling welcome. As time went along he built even more bonds creating a support system.

The 2014 valedictorian said, “During my four years at GSU I have had my periods of discouragement and depression. However, praying, working out and talking to my family, friends and girlfriend kept me grounded and focused.”

The summa cum laude graduating senior had other responsibilities and was involved in other things such as being a GSU residential housing assistant, a member of the physics club, and participating in the materials and discipline of research conference with the mathematics and physics department. Merille also had an internship in Batavia, Illinois, at Fermilab, an internationally recognized particle physics laboratory outside of Chicago.

“I sometimes got pretty busy, but I would like to believe that I am naturally a hard worker. I think I received that trait from my father. I am this determined because being given this chance is a blessing….. I also wanted to put myself in a position where I can provide abundant blessings to my family and country. I keep thinking that God gave me these skills so that I can help multitudes of people,” said Merille. 

Merille did not study math every day; he studied every other day. He didn’t always know all the answers to each and every question, but he was determined to find out and get the answers.

After graduation Merille would like to attend Columbia University to study electrical and computer engineering in New York City. He cannot afford that now, so he will be looking for a job in New York until he can start graduate school.  He hopes to become a biomedical or engineering professional.

“Graduating is bittersweet,” said Merille. “I will miss many people that I have known these four years. I will now be able to share the knowledge that I have gained for a good cause.”

-- E'Vonne Gipson, GSU Media Relations Bureau

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