Alexandra Nikolich is not one to let an opportunity go to waste. As the pandemic put life on pause in 2020 and forced state workers to take mandated furlough days, Alexandra, an alum of Lee Business School and the Senior Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives in UNLV’s Business Affairs division, decided to take advantage of the free time that had suddenly come her way.
“I always wanted to return to the classroom to pursue a master’s degree, but never committed,” she explains. “The pandemic forced me to shift my perspective and self-reflect, which led to setting new personal and professional goals.”
With unused vacation leave and furlough days – “I did not feel guilty taking every other Friday off to attend classes,” she says – making it easier to commit time to the program, Alexandra joined Cohort 19 and began her journey. It wasn’t long before she was implementing themes from her business courses into her day-to-day work, and her co-workers and manager were taking notice.
“While I expected the degree to pay off in the long term, I was happy to receive an internal promotion several months prior to graduation!” she says.
Alexandra cites the project management and leadership lessons of the EMBA as being most useful in her career, and the work that she’s done with fellow cohort members made her recognize the importance of leveraging the skills of individual members of a team. Prior to joining the program, she admits having “felt the need to enter work situations as an expert.” But as she progressed, she forced herself to “let go and learn from, and rely on” her peers in the cohort.
They not only served as the perfect partners for group projects, but the cohort has now become part of her social circle. She and her peers grew closer celebrating each success in the classroom, and would gather off campus for happy hours and meals.
Like others that have come through the program, Alexandra has learned that her fellow students can teach her as much as her professors, even though they all come from different industries.
“In the first cluster of classes, I realized that the skill sets required to be successful in hospitality are the same as in higher education (leadership, communication, teamwork),” she says. “These skills crossover between industries and presented themselves in the group work we completed.”
Though Alexandra has finished the EMBA, becoming a UNLV alum twice over, she’s not about to quit the business habits that she picked up along the way, including her morning reading regiment. She’s also looking forward to passing on what she’s learned to future cohorts, while she keeps in touch with hers.
“I am committed to maintaining friendships with the members of my cohort, as we continue to remain active participants in the local community,” she says. “We may have graduated from the program, but they are not rid of me yet!”