Dr. Kristi Rulli had an unusual way of celebrating her graduation with a bachelor's degree from Northern Kentucky University in 2013. She became a professor there the same year.
"At the time, the NKU program for radiologic technology was a two-year degree," she said. "You have to have a higher degree than the students you are teaching. I had enough credits to teach before I had my master's degree."
More than eight years later, Dr. Rulli is going strong. She is in her 27th year at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood, Kentucky, and she teaches in the online Master of Science in Health Administration (MHA) program at NKU.
Dr. Rulli is also in her third year as an adjunct professor in the Master of Business Administration program at Thomas More University.
"I love teaching — at a distance," she said. "I have a calling to be in healthcare. I love both worlds. I like being able to make the connections for students that academic life is different than real life on a floor. For someone like me who lives in both worlds, I can make those connections."
Although she was a recent college graduate, Dr. Rulli had nearly 10 years of real-world experience in the classroom. She also earned a master's degree in health science from NKU and a Doctor of Science in Health Science from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences.
"When I started teaching, I had been working in the clinical setting since 1995," she said. "It was to test the waters. I took my passion for onboarding or precepting new hires to the hospital and found my way into the NKU radiologic technology program."
Dr. Rulli grew up in a small town, Moores Hill, Indiana, where she went to the same school from kindergarten through high school. As a result, her career path came down to two options.
"There's nothing earth-shattering about my interest in healthcare," she said. "I love bones. I was either going into healthcare or archeology and forensics. I ended up working with live patients. I am a science girl, through and through."
After completing her clinicals in 1995, Dr. Rulli landed a position as a computed tomography technologist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. She became a system radiology safety and accreditation manager 20 years later and is now the system interventional radiology manager.
"I was promoted to a management position, which required me to be at the hospital five days a week," she said. "I didn't have the flexibility to have a weekly in-person class. So, I found my niche. Teaching online is fluid. I've been online since."
Dr. Rulli brings her unique perspective to teaching online courses. She earned her bachelor's degree and master's degree in online programs, while her doctoral degree was a hybrid program.
"Students have to be very prepared as I deliver content to them in a fashion that builds," she said. "I set the foundation, and then we build each week on that foundation. I deliver the content differently than they're used to in a traditional face-to-face classroom setting, and they have to absorb it as I deliver it.
"I am not reading it out of a textbook and writing on a whiteboard; they are reading their book. It opens opportunities for people like me who have a full-time job to say, 'I want to take this to the next level.'"
Plenty to Dig
Away from work, Dr. Rulli is an avid reader whose favorite authors are Stephen King and Dean Koontz. She and her husband, Marc, have three children — Alessa (24), Jacob (21) and Dominic (18).
Alessa is an NKU graduate and archeologist with a love of bones like her mother. Jacob works in law enforcement. Marc is also an NKU alumnus.
"Dominic is extremely intelligent and blessed athletically," she said. "I chase him all over the northeast going to football games. He plays at a private high school in Connecticut. He has multiple Division I offers."
Dr. Rulli has no intention of slowing down her busy life any time soon, as she closes in on her 27th employment anniversary at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.
"I like to say it's unheard of, but there are a lot of us lifers," she said. "Sometimes I think I'm crazy teaching at two universities with a full-time job. That's a lot going on."
Still, Dr. Rulli is proud to be thriving in both of her worlds — as a healthcare administrator and an educator.
"I recently had an interview with an NKU student," she said. "As an alumna, I am paired with several of the NKU incoming freshmen, students who have aspirations similar to mine."
Dr. Rulli names "a servant personality, a desire to learn and a true love for humans" as her motivation.
"Every single day, you will give," she said. "Do not expect anything in return."
Learn more about NKU's online MHA program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.