An Interview with Steve Merriam

Professor in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies Department at San Diego State University | Board member of International Academy of Jazz.

Steve Merriam, Ph.D., has 30 years’ experience in teaching, research, project management, instructional design, and curriculum development. Dr. Merriam teaches graduate courses in professional writing at San Diego State University and the University of California Extension, specializing in corporate and foundation grant writing for nonprofit organizations. 

As a board member of the International Academy of Jazz, Steve enjoys supporting the nonprofit through his grant writing skills. His love for jazz and passion for playing inspired him to get involved. The support he has given has been instrumental in the sustainability of our programs. We sat down with Steve for an interview and discovered more:

How did you first come to know about IAJSD and Guy Gonzales?
I met Guy through Rob Thorsen and Gilbert Castellanos back in 2014, just as IAJSD was taking off. I was immediately struck by Guy’s sincerity, honesty and commitment to education, especially to underserved kids. So many people say they’re doing something to help the community, but in low-key but powerful way, Guy is really doing it. 

What the most inspirational memory you’ve had as a partner in this organization?
I can’t name just one. I love teaching, so all my inspirational memories are associated with our practices and rehearsals. I love watching great teachers like Kamau and Tonga work with young musicians. As a grant proposal writer, it’s important for me to put a face, or faces, to our mission. I’m able to do that every time I go to a practice or rehearsal.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you and your music?
Hugging my double bass gives me comfort. I’m too old for that to sound weird. 

Favorite instrument: Toss up. Double bass or the Musical Saw. No, the bass.

Favorite collector’s item: My great- great-grandfather’s Enfield Three-band rifle. He used it in the Civil War.

What impact do you see with the kids that are going through the iajsd program?
More confidence. Stronger leadership abilities. Having fun learning about music. Just having fun. I wish I knew as much about playing music as our students do!

How do you feel your board and grant writing experience has helped nurture iajsd?
IAJSD went thought some very healthy changes three years or so ago. We had to soul search and refocus on what we wanted to do. In other words, we were given the opportunity to remake the organization, which changed my work focus. Although I haven’t written many grant proposals lately, I have helped with strategic planning and board development, and I believe we are a stronger organization now than ever before. IAJSD has a committed board, and Guy is leading us into new and exciting areas. Just wait and see!

In May 2018, he was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences from the College of Arts and Letters at San Diego State University.

He has served as Interim Director of the Professional Writing Program in SDSU’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies, and currently directs the university’s undergraduate Business Communication program. 

Dr. Merriam has also served as a faculty adviser for the Qualcomm Social Internship Program at San Diego State’s Entrepreneurial Management Center where he has overseen projects with such partners as the San Diego Symphony, Volunteer San Diego and the San Diego Foundation. From 2008-11, he was the grant writer for Girl Scouts San Diego. In 2009, he co-authored San Diego Homeless Court: Service Provider’s Toolkit with Steve Binder for the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty.

Specialties: Teaching, writing, development, project management and strategic planning. 

A really great professor who will learn your name and is super accessible to give feedback on your work. Felt like the first business class that will actually prepare me for real life since it involves writing a resume, cover letter, bad news message, etc.


The Daily Aztec sat down with a few San Diego State professors to learn more about their lives. This professor showcase features Dr. Clarissa Clo (Italian Studies), Dr. Victor Camp (Geological Sciences) and Dr. Steve Merriam (Rhetoric and Writing Studies).

Steve Merriam
Course Coordinator, RWS-290 
Business Writing and Rhetoric

Office: Storm Hall 120B
Phone: (619) 594-6331


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