Merrimack Medal Winner Reflects on Time at College

The Merrimack Medal is the College’s highest non-academic award, and is given to the graduating senior who exemplifies outstanding character and achievement of service to their classmates and the Merrimack College community.
Photo of Nicholas Barber accepting the Merrimack Medal from Provost John “Sean” Condon.
Provost John “Sean” Condon (right) delivered the Merrimack Medal to Nicholas Barber at this year's L.E.A.D. Awards on April 26.

High schooler Nicholas Barber, who had difficulty speaking in front of groups, would be in awe of college student Nicholas Barber and his ability to capture an audience’s attention.

A key to his growth was getting involved during his time at Merrimack College.

“Coming to Merrimack and getting involved with the things I’m passionate about and joining groups that meant a lot to me, I think, was everything,” said Barber ’23. “I joined a lot but I don’t regret a single bit of it because I think it really changed me and made me who I am today.”

Barber’s involvement in Merrimack over the past four years, his passion for the success of his fellow students and his dedication to service is in part what led him to being named the 2023 Merrimack Medal, the College’s highest non-academic award that recognizes a graduating senior who exemplifies outstanding character and achievement. Barber was announced as this year’s winner during the L.E.A.D. Awards on April 26.

“I’m beyond honored,” he said. “I think, to me, it’s a culmination of all the work that I’ve done here. While I didn’t do anything for an award or recognition, it means a lot that the things that I’ve done and I’ve tried to achieve with helping people was seen.”

From a young age, Barber knew he’d pursue a career in politics or law. So, from the moment he stepped onto campus, he planned out how to get the most out of his double major in political science and history.

“Going on tours and talking to the professors here when I came on Admitted Student Day about the political science department, I figured it would be the best route to go to law school and go on from there,” he explained.  

Through the political science department, he worked alongside professors Kirstie Dobbs, Stephanie Garrone-Schufran and Laura Hsu as a SCURCA research assistant teaching civic engagement classes to middle schoolers at the Lawrence YMCA.

“Getting to do a lot of the hands-on research that we learned about in class was really remarkable and it’s definitely something I won’t forget,” he said.

Barber was a member of the Student Government Association for four years, ultimately being elected president his senior year.

“I wanted to get something achieved from a sustainability standpoint,” Barber said of his presidential campaign. “We got the College to agree to a single-use plastic water ban, we’re trying to get a reusable water bottle for every student and we’re working on getting more bubblers.”

In addition, Barber gave tours of the campus to potential Merrimack students as an admissions ambassador.

“My tour was what pulled me to Merrimack,” he said. “I was given the most real experience of any other tour (I went on) and I wanted to give that to every student I could. On tours, I tried to be as honest as possible and I think it worked out because I know a lot of students who’ve come here and said, ‘Hey, I was on your tour.’ That means more to me than anything else.”

On top of all this, Barber picked up an internship at the Massachusetts Trial Court during his sophomore year. 

“We work specifically with the Lawrence Court Service Center,” he explained. “I get to help litigants who can’t afford attorneys with navigating the court systems.”

Barber said he’ll be attending law school in the fall – he’s still waiting to hear back from some of his top picks. From there, he hopes to find a position in public policy promoting environmentalism. Somewhere down the line, he also hopes to run for office.

“I just want to make a difference and help other people,” he said.

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