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A Non-Traditional Path to Success

"Be aggressive and stay committed."

Lisa Voutsikakis

By Shelby Sanford | Photo provided by Lisa Voutsikakis


“I always felt accepted,” Lisa Voutsikakis said of her time as a non-traditional student here at Northern Kentucky University.

Voutsikakis chose to pursue her degree in communication at NKU “because of the ease of commuting and the online-based communication studies degree.” Being a non-traditional student comes with its own set of additional burdens, but Voutsikakis not only completed her degree in three years instead of four, but also graduated Magna Cum Laude. Quickly after graduation, Voutsikakis found herself interviewing for a job with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While Voutsikakis did not have a degree in science, she knew she was qualified for the job, but just had to show her qualifications. She took advantage of the many electives offered by NKU and took courses outside of communication, especially science courses.

“I am a communications major, but I am also passionate about science,” she said. “For example, the research paper I submitted during my application focused on GMOs and contained EPA and other federal agency research.”

Voutsikakis spoke highly of NKU’s Dr. David Brandt and his Research Methods in Communication Studies class and its applicability to her job with the EPA.

“At the onset of his course, I was apprehensive because I knew nothing about communication research,” she said, “but his class opened my eyes to studying communication, like a science. In fact, in my current role at United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), I am using lessons learned from Dr. Brandt’s course to design, implement, and assess internal communication channels.”

The flexibility of a communication degree is unsurpassed in many avenues as shown by Voutsakakis.

"One of Lisa's key strengths is her willingness to step out of her comfort zone,” Dr. Brandt said. “Lisa is willing to take on challenges and deal with subject matter that is not always familiar or easy. She does so carefully and thoughtfully.  This too contributes to her ability to lead others when needed/appropriate.”

Voutsikakis described an ever-changing day in the life of someone employed by the EPA. As the only person in her department with a communication degree, she is able to offer a unique perspective; a skill that is vital to a workplace.

“My current priorities involve the development of top-down and upward communication channels, creating scientific slide decks, designing visual communications throughout the labs, developing external reports for and strategically enhancing the access of available information found on EPA’s intranet,” Voutsikakis said.

In addition, in just four months of employment, she has been asked to serve as the director-nominated representative for an internal communication task team, as well as the only communications staff member working in EPA’s 50th anniversary committee.

As a piece of advice to non-traditional students Voutsikakis reminds learners to, “be aggressive and stay committed.” She also extended her thanks to the Communication Department for “practicing the methods you teach every day” and to the Organizational Leadership faculty for “teaching me lessons that I use every single day of my life.”