Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
Leah Nixon’s career began in a newsroom after she earned her journalism degree from Central Michigan University.
Fast forwarding from those humble beginnings, she earned an MBA from Ferris State University and embarked on a new career in higher education marketing and public relations.
Today, she directs a team of professionals at Grand Rapids Community College that handles media and public relations, social media, advertising, graphics, and web-content development, in addition to supporting various special communications initiatives.
Biggest career break?
My biggest career break was being hired at GRCC. It allowed me to take the next step in my career and really cut my teeth as a leader. It’s a hands-on role, so I’ve been able to learn while at the same time expand my team and foster their potential and growth.
My proudest moment was completing the Traverse City Bayshore Marathon. Running a marathon takes physical strength, but it was the emotional journey — that epiphany moment when I crossed the finish line — where I realized anything is possible. It has allowed me to take a different perspective on life, and I developed a mental toughness that drives me in much of what I do today.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I cannot remember where I read this quote, or who said it, but I wrote it down on a Post-it note that I keep next to my computer: “Don’t get lost in the challenges. Capitalize on what you do well.” Maybe that doesn’t qualify as “advice,” but it has been a go-to for me when I feel stressed out or overwhelmed. It reminds me to focus on the positives in a situation. And, as a very dear friend would say, you do you!
How did you make your first dollar?
I made my first dollar as a lifeguard at Anderson Water Park in Saginaw.
Most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is time with family and friends. It allows me to be in the moment, to be present with the people who mean the most to me, and to share in life’s joys and upsets.
I am a creative at heart, so the ability to think and work outside the box ignites a spark in me. While I cannot pinpoint a specific job and say that’s what I want, in particular, I do see myself growing into larger leadership roles. I am good at turning an underdog situation upside down by seeing the potential in a team, or project, and then empowering the talent around me to grow to their fullest potential. My dream job would be a mixture of being outside the status quo while inspiring success in others. Where this takes me, and in what role, only time will tell.
If I were President for a day, I would …?
I am passionate about active lifestyles and healthy living, so I would advocate for community-based programs that provide access to not only educational resources and activity options, but access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods with high nutritional value. Healthy food should not be a luxury; it should be the norm.
Last book you’ve read?
I am in a leisure reading phase, and I am a sucker for murder mystery books. I am also a book re-reader. During the past year I have gone back and re-read The Scarpetta Series by Patricia Cornwell, and I just finished “The Scarpetta Factor.”
Last thing you Googled?
I last Googled articles on hypertrophy. I am trying to learn more about weight lifting and muscle building to take a more proactive approach to my strength training.
Your worst habit?
My worst habit is that I am a procrastinator.
To unwind, I like to …?
Being active is how I like to unwind. Fitness has become my go-to when I need to decompress, reflect on life, burn off tension and relieve stress. It’s also my time to get lost in my thoughts, so I have a balance of solo and group activities. My favorite activities are running, yoga and weight lifting.
I have always wanted to go to Hawaii. It’s been on my bucket list as long as I can remember. I love the outdoors, the beach, and swimming in the ocean, and Hawaii gives you the best of all worlds — both on and off the beaten path.
Pizza! And I don’t discriminate. Thin-crust, deep dish, New York, Chicago … if pizza is on the menu, count me in!
Person you most admire?
This is a hard one. There are many people that I have admired throughout the years. I cannot say that right now I admire any one individual, but I appreciate the movement around empowering young women and girls to challenge the status quo, to stand up and be proud of who they are, and to go after their dreams.