All About Commitment

Ali Merchant, fall 2023 UNT ring recipient

Fall 2023 Ring Award recipient, Ali Merchant (’23), reflects on his involvement as a student and the lifelong bond he has with UNT   

The stage was all set on the UNT Union South Lawn, a clear December sky above and a crowd of hundreds excitedly buzzing below in anticipation of the UNT Ring Ceremony and Eagle Ring Dive. Ali Merchant (’23) sat on that stage, his parents by his side, with plenty running through his mind as he prepared to take the podium and deliver his swan song address about the university he so passionately represented for the past four years.

Merchant, a Carrolton, Texas native and first-generation college student, was eager to become involved in activities on the University of North Texas campus. In fall 2020, as campus activity partially picked back up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Merchant decided to pursue involvement in a Greek Life organization. He joined the UNT Phi Kappa Tau chapter that semester and never looked back.

“I just saw the beauty of being involved on a campus with over 450 organizations,” Merchant says. “And being involved in some of them just grows you as a person more than just being a student in a classroom. I think that every single student should be part of an organization in some way.”

Merchant subsequently became involved in the UNT Student Alumni Association, a program designed to enhance the UNT experience of every student member through social and professional events that help them navigate college and build a meaningful Mean Green network.

“I got into SAA and shortly after, I went into an executive role as the assistant director for outreach,” he says. “And then this last semester, I became involved with the Student Government Association.”

Merchant says he believes that when students are on campus enough, their experiences can inspire them to want to make a larger impact.

“I think that is one of our obligations — contributing to this campus in the same way that the campus contributes to us,” he says. “We spend four years here and we get a degree and students go off and have a career, but I think the main part is you can give back — not just as an alumni but also as a student.”

All of Merchant’s on-campus involvement coincided with his academic commitments. Having so many different areas of interest, Merchant pursued several options, changing his major five times and ultimately settling on studying hospitality management in UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism.

Merchant says his hospitality management revelation occurred to him after becoming the social chairman for Phi Kappa Tau.

“I was in charge of hosting events for the fraternity and when I started doing that more, I was like, ‘man, I want to do this and get paid for it,’” Merchant says. “I looked at different programs and hospitality is really what drew me in, because it’s a very broad degree and I really like how there’s event planning, there’s management, there’s a lot of different options. Any career I go into within hospitality, I know I’m going to be happy because it mirrors my fraternity experience very closely.”

Sam, Salima and Ali Merchant at the UNT Fall 2023 Ring Ceremony and Eagle Dive
(From L-R) Sam, Salima and Ali Merchant at the UNT Fall 2023 Ring Ceremony and Eagle Dive.

For fall 2023, Merchant was selected as the UNT Ring Award recipient. The Ring Award is presented every semester to a student who embodies the spirit and traditions of the university and has made a positive impact on the campus community. Merchant’s parents, Sam and Salima Merchant, presented his ring to him on stage at the UNT Ring Ceremony and Eagle Ring Dive in December.

Reflecting on his time at UNT and this recent honor as the fall 2023 Ring Award recipient, Merchant says he believes what he should be doing now is trying to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

“Even with how much I’ve done, there’s so much more left to do,” he says. “I think that if students can take inspiration, the one thing I would let them know is: get involved. If my involvement and experiences can be viewed as just a bare minimum for the campus, then students can achieve success that I could never even imagine on this campus during my four years here.”

Immediately following graduation, Merchant began working as a chapter services consultant for the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity Executive Offices, which he says will involve traveling and time away from the North Texas area, but he is confident his bond with UNT and those he met here will only become stronger.

“I don’t necessarily call this a chapter closing, no way,” Merchant says. “I would describe my experience with UNT as a lifelong commitment. I’d like to think that I ‘rented’ the University of North Texas experience while I was here, but I embody it after graduation as I give back to the university.”