Lisa Schulz

From Bodybuilding to a School Building: An Alumna’s Unconventional Path to Success

Written by Jacquelyn Eubanks

In an ideal world, Hillsdale grads would walk the stage, receive their diplomas, celebrate, and start their new careers right away. It didn’t happen that way for Lisa Schulz, class of ’87. She graduated with a teaching degree in the midst of a teaching recession.

“I couldn’t get hired because teachers were getting pink-slipped,” Lisa said. “I was disappointed because Hillsdale had an 80-something percent employment rate after graduation, and I couldn’t get a full-time teaching job for seven years.”

Lisa, who ran cross country and track while in college and achieved the titles of Academic and Athletic All-American, decided to try alternative career paths after graduation. While part-time substitute teaching, she got into bodybuilding. She won several major competitions, earning her prestigious titles including the Ohio Buckeye Champion of female bodybuilding and Miss Detroit. She competed for five years after graduation but stopped before reaching national competitions.

“I went as far as I could without taking steroids,” she said.

During this time, Lisa got involved in pageants of a sort. Think Miss America, except all of the contestants are super athletes and bodybuilders. She competed in Miss Fitness USA and Galaxy, where she won first place and got to travel to Germany. These competitions may sound like typical beauty pageants, but they have a sporty twist: besides modeling in evening gowns and swimsuits, the contestants complete an obstacle course set up by the US Air Force.

After bodybuilding, Lisa tried to pursue a career in law enforcement. She applied to be a police officer, a firefighter, a sanitation engineer, and even a Secret Service agent.

“I took all the tests!” she said laughing. “I couldn’t pass the math section.” She found herself working at Blockbuster Video and waitressing just to pay off her loans. Life after Hillsdale was not a cake walk. “It was kinda an eye-opener,” she said. “I never realized how much money it costs to live and all the bills—you don’t realize it when you’re in college.”

With hard work and optimism, in time Lisa got what she wanted. She eventually landed a full-time teaching job at a high school in Michigan. And Hillsdale had prepared her well.

“I wasn’t an all-A student, but I think the discipline and persistence I learned through not just the sports but the academics at Hillsdale helped prepare me for the future. You have to work hard if you want to get somewhere, and I learned that there.”

Even though Lisa’s life didn’t follow the ideal path of “graduation directly to dream job,” she still found ways to pay the bills and enjoy herself in the meantime. Her story serves as an inspiration to any college senior facing graduation, or any alumnus still looking for that job opening. Just because you’re not where you want to be in the moment doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. Just keep going, and don’t stop until you’re where you want to be.

Jacquelyn EubanksJacquelyn Eubanks, ‘20, is an award-winning author with a passion for books, tea, and mountains. Someday she’ll be a world traveler, but for now you can find her typing away at her newest novel.

Published in November 2018