Allissa Heim, workhorse scholarAllissa Heim is a focused individual, and through that focus has begun marching forward toward her life goals. In doing that, she also earned this inaugural year’s top scholarship of $3,000 from the Erickson Merkel Foundation.

Currently, Allissa is working toward her degree at Hamline University. There, she juggles her work with the Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress with her main job responsibilities at Piper Jaffray & Co. Additionally, she works as the student coordinator at the university’s student center.

Heim hails from Lewiston, Minn., where she was raised by parents Gary and Jodie, and grew up with brother, John. Each had different characteristics and values that she sought to emulate throughout her life.

Allissa was quick to credit her father for the “amazing example” he set for her.

“I credit him with my accomplishments and drive for success,” Allissa said. “He came from nothing and opened his own successful business through very hard work and dedication. I learned from him where hard work and commitment could take you.

“My mother and brother gave me examples of kind-hearted, caring individuals who care more about others than themselves,” she continued. “They showed me how self-satisfying helping others can and should be. I grew up going to a small, private elementary school so my friends and I participated in all activities together. We created a family among each other and have stayed close because of that.”

That family – both immediate and extended – proved to be a great foundation. While she didn’t have one clear-cut idea of what her future profession would be, she knew to set her sights high.

“I would say set your goals high and don’t be afraid to change your goals,” she stated. “You may be more successful if you decide to change your goals based on your own personal characteristics.”

She knew, from a very young age, that only one person could be responsible for her future – herself.

“I was in fifth or sixth grade and thought my parents could always control my future,” she noted. “However, one night my parents made me sit down and do all of my homework and study for what seemed like a never-ending amount of time. That time paid off with very high test grades. I realized then that my hard work and actions can shape my future. Ever since then, I have studied tediously and worked hard in all my activities to be successful.”

In addition to her family, she’s considered herself fortunate in the other mentors she’s found – one in particular.

“I have one mentor who is outstanding and helps me sort out life decisions and always guides me along the correct path,” Allissa said. “She has a very similar personality as me so she understands my thinking. She tries to not let me make the same mistakes she did, but also lets me make risky decisions for the learning experience and possibility for success. I always go to her when I am not sure what to do or am at a crossroads. Even if she doesn’t have an answer, she helps me sort out the benefits and consequences of each possibility. Without her, I would have made a lot more mistakes and wouldn’t have understood myself as well.”

In general, she finds inspiration in strong female leadership.

“I don’t think there are enough of them in this world, and I strive to be one someday,” she said. “I read articles on behavior and discrimination in the workplace to learn about ways to navigate these issues and also find solutions for them.”

Allissa added that she felt strongly about equal rights for all, and considered herself an activist to that end.

“No one should be discriminated against because of their characteristics whether it be sex, race, religion, etc,” she stated. “I also want to end sexual violence and implemented the ‘It’s On US’ campaign at Hamline University as a first step.”

She’s working hard to get to her goals and has a long history of work to back it up. Her first job was working at her dad’s business, doing whatever was needed. Once in college, she started working for a supervisor other than her dad and got a glimpse into how great it could be.

“I needed money to pay the bills, and I loved the self-satisfaction it gave me,” she said. “Since I started college, I have worked as many as four jobs at one time.”

She keeps motivated through work and study by one simple concept: thinking about her future.

“I know where my hard work can take me, and that makes me excited,” Allissa said. “Thus, I love to study and get good grades, and I love to work and learn about different professions.”

Aside from her professional goals, she wants her personal goals to help create a life like the one she grew up in.

“My personal goals are to get married and have a family-centered life,” she said. “My family has been a dynamic part of my life, and I want to continue that. I would love for someday to become a senior financial analyst and be a manager of a team, eventually moving into high level management. Another career route I have been thinking about lately is working for the federal government as an analyst or economist. International relationships intrigue me especially trade, GDP, and currencies. When I retire, I also think it would be interesting and rewarding to be a professor.”

In order to meet the needs required to get to those goals, she’s long understood the importance of managing her finances and encourages others to, as well.

“It is very important for undergraduates to have a clear understanding of their debt and finances because it could affect their life greatly,” Allissa said. “Their debt could prevent them from making certain life decisions like buying a house, having children, etc. They need to have a plan in place for their finances so it doesn’t have unwanted effects.”

Having a plan for herself will help her reach her immediate undergraduate goals, as well as give her a better chance when she potentially goes for advanced academic degrees in finance, economics and/or federal policy.

Allissa felt she exemplified the virtues of a ‘workhorse scholar’ through her commitment to hard work and excellence in education.

So does Erickson Merkel Foundation.

Matt Erickson

Matt Erickson

In exceeding 40 hours of work per week and attending Hamline as a full-time student, she brings all her effort and ambition to bear working diligently toward the future she knows only she can create. Through that work she’s also able to minimize her student loan debt and she’s paid off a portion of it already even while still attending school.

Director Matt Erickson said Allissa embodied the virtues the foundation was looking to reward.

“While Allissa’s work ethic is evident in the fact that she works three jobs totaling over 40 hours while a full-time student at Hamline, what most impressed me is the deliberate way she has selected her jobs,” Matt said. “One is aligned directly with her, providing experience, mentorship and networking, which should pave the way for her further success after graduation; while the other two (along with her volunteer efforts) show her more human intentions to make life better for others. She is working hard now to ensure a better future not just for herself, but for those around her. She is a great example for others.”

“This experience is truly rewarding and pushes me to work even harder so my debt is at the absolute lowest it can be. …These sacrifices are worth it as I won’t have large amounts of outstanding college loans because of my hard work while in college,” she stated, adding that through this scholarship, she wouldn’t have to look to take out other loans for this year’s tuition.”

That dedication and clear vision is what made Allissa Heim one of this year’s Workhorse Scholars.