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Susan Merli, a white woman with medium-length auburn hair wearing a sparkly blue dress, smiles at the camera with her hands on her hips.

A cycle of gratitude and giving back: Susan Merli (BA '88) makes a lasting impact through mentorship, financial literacy and bursary support for Laurier students

Susan Merli (BA ’88) is passionate about fostering an inclusive, connected and empowered community.

“I am moved by making a difference as a mental health professional and as a leadership trainer,” she says. “I aspire to cultivate a sense of connection and inclusivity in our community where people feel seen, acknowledged and have the emotional and financial support to live up to their highest potential.”

It was that desire for a community “that fosters a culture of inclusivity and encouragement” that first led Merli to choose Laurier.

“When I look back on my days at Laurier, I’m reminded of the friends and faculty who supported me,” she says. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for those experiences.”

While Merli says she has many great memories of her life as an undergraduate student, she especially loved working on campus – “Writing for The Cord, working at The Turret, meeting up with friends in what is now called the FNCC, and drinking a lot of coffee!”

But just like many students, working on campus was not just a great way to stay connected with friends – it was a necessity. “I worked several part-time jobs to ensure I could complete my undergraduate degree without incurring financial debt upon graduation.”

Wanting to support current Laurier students in the same situation, she established the Susan Merli Money Management Certificate Bursary, an annual bursary that provides relief to an undergraduate student in financial need who has completed Laurier’s Money Management Certificate Program. “There are many students who struggle with the ability to cover university costs and rely on donations and bursaries,” she says. “Alumni-supported bursaries create a sense of stability for these students and make it a little easier for them to focus on their studies.”

Merli sees supporting Laurier students’ financial literacy as a valuable way to give back to the community that has given her so much. Merli graduated from Laurier with a Bachelor of Arts degree coupled with a Business Administration diploma, which she says brought a balance that positioned her for success in her career. She spent 24 years working in financial services before starting her own business, experience that showed her how understanding money management can build confidence and secure a greater sense of freedom. “By completing the Money Management Certificate course, I hope students will make informed decisions that lead to greater monetary stability and greater quality of life,” she says.

“Through knowledge, students can take more control of their finances and confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities they will encounter.”

For over a decade Merli has run Authentika Consulting, her private practice as a professional certified coach and leadership trainer in Waterloo, Ontario. Noticing that some of her clients were coming to her with issues that could be better supported through mental health resources, Merli returned to Laurier in 2020 to study psychology with a view to provide the full-circle care needed to help clients. The professors she met – in particular Anneke Olthof and Todd Ferretti – fueled her passion for psychology. “As a result, I pursued a master’s degree in counselling psychology [at Yorkville University] and now I’m registered psychotherapist in the province of Ontario.”

For Merli, giving back to Laurier is her way of expressing gratitude for her university experience and everything it has allowed her to achieve. She encourages other Laurier alumni to leave a lasting impact that benefits current and next-generation students by supporting or establishing student bursaries.

“Alumni donations and bursaries help you stay golden,” she says. “Everyone deserves to feel valued and by giving back, I hope to create that feeling and a sense of unconditional support that creates a ripple effect.”

To learn more about establishing your own scholarship or student award at Laurier, please email us at or support general student bursaries today.

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