As a four-year starter on the Meredith softball team and a double major in biology and chemistry, Erica Occena, ’18, challenged herself on the field and in the classroom.
Occena helped lead Meredith’s softball team to a USA South East Division Championship. She also has collected three USA South All-Academic honors to go along with a USA South All-Conference honor and two All-East selections. She is Meredith’s all-time leader in stolen bases and sits third in runs, triples, and walks.
“My favorite things are the friendships I’ve made with my teammates and all the good memories that we have. At first it seemed like [college softball] just changed me as an athlete, but now I can look back and say it changed me as a person.”
She also credits the faculty and staff for making her stronger and helping her overcome challenges.
“Between my sophomore and junior years, I decided that I needed to make myself be more outgoing,” said Occena. “I wanted to start networking harder to make sure I had an internship the following summer and set myself up for a better situation after graduation.”
Occena reached out to faculty in Meredith’s biology and chemistry departments along with the Office of Career Planning for help. “The faculty and staff have always been there to help me when I needed it and were as interested in my well-being as I was. [It was] a big part of what helped me the most and what I’ve enjoyed at Meredith,” she said.
Besides being a student-athlete, Occena was an Honors Scholar and a chemistry tutor. She was also a member of the College’s chapters of Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honors Society, Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society, and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, for which she served as club secretary.
Occena enjoyed earning her double major even though balancing softball and academic life has been tough.
“It was a challenging course load, but I had a love for chemistry in high school and I knew that’s what I wanted to do as a freshman,” Occena said. “I really decided on the double major when I took biochemistry my junior year with Dr. [Karthik] Aghoram. Seeing
interdisciplinary connections and how those two worlds come together made me want to go into biology as well.”
Now Occena is taking on her next challenge as a global manufacturing sciences associate in analytical chemistry at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
“I’ll have three rotations over three years to experience different roles in various departments at GSK,” said Occena. “At the end of the rotations, they hope to offer me a full-time job where I’ll be in a leadership position.”