Class of 2021: Pamplin’s Cerchio continues to ‘exceed expectations’
Marisa Cerchio is what you would call a multihyphenate. The senior is a marketing-major-Spanish-minor-student-athlete-liaison-PRISMite. And, for Cerchio, that still may not be enough.
“I am always searching for more,” Cerchio said. “I am a student, but also a student-athlete. To me, that’s still not enough. I took on a role with PRISM. Even still, I wanted to do more. So, I joined the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.”
Cerchio’s search for more is what led the Cincinnati-native to enroll at Virginia Tech in the first place. “While going through the recruiting process for volleyball, something I was focusing on was academics. I had scholarship offers from other schools, but academically speaking, Virginia Tech was my best offer.”
She continued, “I wanted to be able to set myself up for success in the work world.”
Part of the process in readying oneself for success after college is by participating in business internships, most of which are offered during summer break. Unfortunately for Cerchio, the prospect of a summer internship was nigh impossible due to her abbreviated summer schedule.
“As a volleyball player, I miss out on summer internships because I come back to campus early during the summer,” she explained. “Most internships are 10 or 12 weeks, and I only get about a six-to-eight-week break. But, I still wanted to be able to do something to immerse myself more in the marketing world.”
This is where Virginia Tech's faculty-led, student-run digital marketing agency, PRISM, comes in.
Recommended to apply to the interdisciplinary ad agency by a fellow student-athlete, Cerchio joined PRISM in October 2019. Her experience has proved to be more fruitful than any three-month internship.
“Working as an account manager with PRISM has allowed me to work directly with my client, First & Main,” Cerchio explained. “I have weekly meetings with their team, pitch social media campaign ideas, and present on analytics.”
“When I think back to when Marisa applied to Prism, I recall how excited she was to join a team that would challenge her, uplift her and change her,” said Donna Wertalik, professor of practice for the Marketing Department and faculty advisor for PRISM. “Marisa has done all of that and more and left a legacy in PRISM with her hard work, resilience, and openness to adapt. She will go beyond expectations in her sport and in her career and we will always be here supporting this incredible Prismite every step of the way.”
Last semester Cerchio did a field practicum with First & Main, performing a semester-long study on the shopping center’s social media efforts. The practicum ended with a near-hour-long presentation to First & Main leadership.
As Cerchio explained, her experience with PRISM has enabled her to get comfortable with the professional-client relationship.
“I can work with and report to a client,” she said. “I hear what their needs are, and I work with my team to identify how we can best meet those needs, and ultimately execute strategies.”
Cerchio’s search to do even more and to “exceed expectations in whatever I do,” is what inspired her to come back to Virginia Tech for a fifth year, as she wanted to accomplish a goal she set for herself as a freshman. “I wanted to get 1,000 career kills, which is very hard to reach in just four years.”
In volleyball, a kill is awarded to a player any time their offensive attack is unreturnable by the opposition, thus leading directly to a point.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020-21 sports season – the women’s team played only 17 matches that season, as opposed to 30-plus matches in a normal season – the NCAA voted to give student-athletes a one-year extension on their eligibility, meaning that Cerchio had an extra year to accomplish her goal.
Which she did. In her final match as a Hokie, Cerchio became only the 17th player in Virginia Tech history to reach the milestone, finishing with 1,008 kills.
While Cerchio made an impact for her team on the court, she also made one off of the court, serving as a team representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
A leadership group consisting of student-athletes representing all sports at Virginia Tech, SAAC members serve as a conduit of communication among student-athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators to improve the student-athlete experience.
“For every sport there are two student-athlete representatives who act as the team liaisons, serving as the voice for their respective teams,” Cerchio said. “For example, we had difficulty getting our water bottles refilled in our practice facility because there were too few water fountains, and they weren’t very good when it came to refilling bottles.”
She continued, “Our team discussed the problem, and then I brought our concerns up at a SAAC meeting. Now we have water bottle fill stations throughout the facility.”
Cerchio added that her experience with SAAC has made her more comfortable speaking up for both herself and others to those in leadership positions.
In addition, her time as a collegiate student-athlete has afforded Cerchio experiences and opportunities that will benefit her professionally.
“Playing a collegiate sport has given me experience that not many others have had,” she said. “Leadership opportunities, working with a team, attention to detail, being conscientious about everything I do. In volleyball, I can’t show up to practice and just go through the motions. That’s not going to keep me on the team, that’s not going to get me on the court.”
She added, “The attention to detail is something that carries over from athletics to my academics and, ultimately, to my work.”
That work may have to wait a bit longer, as she is not quite done with athletics. Cerchio stated that she is hoping to play professional volleyball overseas next year, she’s just not sure where. Now that her collegiate career is over, she is free to meet with agents and begin negotiating with teams.
As for life after volleyball? Cerchio has a plan for that.
“I see myself in a brand management role after volleyball,” she explained. “There are so many different possibilities in marketing – there is never just one clear answer.”
And for Cerchio, just one answer is never enough.