Debra S. Merchant, JD, Vice President for Student Affairs, is responsible for the development and implementation of university-wide programs designed to support the student experience outside of the classroom. As a member of the Provost’s senior leadership team, Merchant provides leadership toward student residential life, engagement, leadership, identity development, advocacy and multicultural programming. As the Senior Student Affairs Officer, Merchant is a member of the President's Cabinet, the Executive Oversight Committee for University Compliance, and the Athletics Advisory Committee. Merchant offers a unique perspective given her breadth of experience that includes UC’s number one priority – students. In her role, she collaborates with colleagues across the campus while continuing to advance the “students-first” philosophy.
Before coming to UC in 1998, Merchant held various professional positions providing advocacy for students with disabilities, organizational development and strategic planning. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Learning and Behavior Disorders from Morehead State University and the University of Kentucky, respectively. She is also a graduate of the University of Kentucky, College of Law. Prior to attending law school, Merchant was a special education teacher in a public elementary school.