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Alumna Ellie Patounas Learns Value of Higher Education at Mercer


West Windsor, NJ— For first-generation American Ellie Patounas ’00 (A.A., Criminal Justice), enrolling in college was a special moment for her, as neither her father nor mother graduated from high school.

“I’m the first in my family to obtain a college degree,” said Patounas, adding that Mercer gave her the foundation she needed to continue her education and earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

Today Patounas is the account leader for the Office of the Vice President for Marketing and Public Affairs at Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton.

A current Lawrenceville resident, whose parents were born in Greece, Patounas grew up in Hamilton and attended the Hun School.  Upon graduation she was unsure of her career path and took some courses at Rider University before enrolling at Mercer. 

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in at the time,” Patounas said. “At Mercer I was able to explore several different subject areas to help me decide what I wanted to do.”

Among the other courses she took at Mercer were Art History, Graphic Design, and Photography.  She remembers one professor, Dr. Peter Horne, as the person who first drew her to the criminal justice field and helped her decide to focus her studies there.

Mercer alum Ellie Patounas '00 (A.A. Criminal Justice)

“I had such a great experience at Mercer.  My classes were very engaging,” she said, adding that her evening classes worked well for her because she was also working full time and needed to have a flexible class schedule.

“A lot of my instructors also worked during the day and could provide us with real world experiences in the classroom,” Patounas said.  “They were very passionate about their work and really helped me get a better understanding of the subject they were teaching.”

With the intent of getting a job in law enforcement after graduation, Patounas took the civil service test for Hamilton and scored in the 99th percentile of her class.  Then, just before graduating from Mercer, she took an administrative job at ETS, one she believed would be temporary.

“Thirteen years later, I’m still here,” said Patounas, who has worked her way up through various roles in the Marketing and Public Affairs department until she became manager of the Project Management Group, and then the account leader in 2009.

In her current role, Patounas provides strategic counsel for internal and external communication efforts for ETS, and handles marketing and advertising materials for the company.  Most recently she was recognized for her support of ETS Cares, an annual employee giving initiative.

Patounas has won various awards over the years for her print marketing and internal communications materials for the company.  She has also been the face of ETS, as she modeled for print, web and video publications used by the company.  Since 2009, she has served on the board of the New Jersey Communications, Advertising and Marketing Association.

Building on her MCCC education has been a priority for Patounas, who continued her studies after Mercer by taking night and online classes while working full time for ETS. She earned a certificate in Advanced Project Management from Northeastern University, and then went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.  “I spent a lot of nights and weekends doing nothing but schoolwork, but I knew in the end that the hard work would pay off," she said.

In 2010, Patounas earned her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration and Organizational Management from Drexel University.

 “Mercer helped me build the pathway to where I am today,” said Patounas, who noted that working for an educational institution enables her to help others and shows the value that comes from pursuing higher education.

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