Q&A with Maciek Nowak, Ph.D.

Maciek Nowak, Ph.D.,

Dean of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and the Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair at St. John's University.

Meet The Dean of the Tobin College of Business

Maciek Nowak, Ph.D., began his tenure as Dean of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and the Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair on June 1, after serving as Senior Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning and Implementation at Loyola University Chicago. A member of Loyola’s President’s Cabinet, he previously served in various leadership roles at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business, including Interim Dean, Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, and Department Chair.

His leadership at the Quinlan School of Business led to notable accomplishments in faculty and staff recruitment and retention, scholarly growth, student success, curricular development, and donor engagement.

Dr. Nowak earned his Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in Engineering from the University of Michigan.

He has also served as a visiting scholar at Northwestern University and the University of Tunis El Manar, a visiting faculty member at Creighton University, and a Fulbright Scholar at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics.

Through his research, Dr. Nowak has worked with Federal Express, the United Parcel Service, the Polish Post Office, The Home Depot, and Bosch. He has also received grants for research from the US Small Business Administration, the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the US Department of Transportation, and the US State Department.

exterior shot of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business

What attracted you to St. John’s University?

After 15 years at a Jesuit institution, I couldn’t imagine working at a school that doesn’t have a mission-oriented focus. As I met with St. John’s students, faculty, administrators, and staff, I was impressed with how everyone shared their excitement and optimism about the leadership of Fr. Shanley and Provost Møller.

It became clear to me that this is an exciting time to join St. John’s and the Tobin family. Tobin has risen in academic rankings and reputation over the last few years, and I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to build on this strong foundation.   

What was your original career choice?

I always wanted to be an academic. My dad is a professor of civil engineering, having spent 25 years at the University of Michigan and currently serving as the Department Chair at Auburn University. Family friends would call me “little professor” when I was growing up. Raised in a campus town like Ann Arbor, MI, the son of a professor, the academic life is all I’ve ever known and it’s hard to imagine a better life. The one adjustment from my original career choice is that I wanted to get a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, as I hoped to develop more effective ways to desalinate water. However, my chemistry skills fell short, and I eventually realized that the field of Operations Engineering was a much better fit.   

What led you to your chosen field?

I took an elective course in transportation engineering in the last semester of my senior year at Michigan and loved it (note to students that it’s never too late to change your career direction if you find something you love). There was a professor doing research in transportation in a different department, Industrial and Operations Engineering, with a focus on logistics, or improving the processes we use to move things around the globe. After starting work on a project with him, I knew that I had found a career that perfectly fit my strengths. I moved to that department to continue my graduate studies and have never looked back—and love every aspect of my work in supply chain management.

Whom do you most admire?

My wife. She is incredibly successful at what she does professionally, working in development and alumni relations for Northwestern University. She somehow manages to balance that with being an amazing mother to our daughter. She’s who I most often turn to for advice as she has a great understanding of people and always offers a unique perspective on different challenges I’m faced with. I wouldn’t be in this position without her.

How have your previous positions prepared you for your current role?

As Interim Dean at the Quinlan School of Business, I was focused on our mission of building business for the betterment of society, educating future leaders who are interested in both profit and purpose. We undertook several major initiatives, which included working with minority-owned businesses throughout the Chicagoland area, developing a workshop tailored to underrepresented minority students interested in pursuing careers in academia, and enhancing collaboration with the School of Environmental Sustainability. These initiatives closely coincide with both Tobin’s and St. John’s mission, which further reinforced my excitement for this role.

In addition, I served on the President’s Cabinet, which allowed me to see firsthand how all schools and divisions operate together, providing unique insight into interdisciplinary opportunities and challenges. It is evident the deans at St. John’s are collaborative, and I look forward to working closely with them on initiatives that bridge the various academic units.

Lobby of Tobin Building St. John's University

What long- and short-term goals do you have as Dean?

Prior to developing long-term goals, I plan to take time to learn about Tobin and get to know more about its strengths and how those can be best utilized to benefit our various constituents.  Thus, my short-term goal is to speak with as many of our students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and industry partners as possible, hearing about their experiences as part of the Tobin family. From this, I will develop a better understanding of the many promising opportunities to guide Tobin forward and create a compelling vision for the future.

What is the biggest challenge of your position?

Balance, both personal and professional. A dean is pulled in numerous directions, engaging with faculty, students, administrators, staff, alumni, and industry. Each of these constituents could require all of a dean’s time. Giving each the attention they deserve is challenging—but it’s also incredibly important to get that balance right. From a personal perspective, it can also be challenging to balance time at the office with time for family, particularly as our two-year-old daughter is the most incredible little person in the world and it’s always difficult to be away from her.   

What is the most gratifying part of being Dean?

Honestly, all of it. Every day is different as a dean, with new challenges and opportunities to not only identify creative solutions to those challenges, but also develop strategic priorities that will continue to advance the academic experience, strengthen the College’s reputation, and deepen alumni and donor engagement. While it can be exhausting, I find there is something each day that leaves me feeling fulfilled.

How do you decompress in your free time?

I love to play racquetball—in fact, I won Loyola’s intramural championship a few times. If anyone is interested in playing, being new to the area I’m looking for competition. Short of that, our Peloton is my go-to source for decompression. I also like to relax with a good TV show (I just finished the first season of The Bear, which is set in Chicago, IL, not too far from where we lived), or book (I am reading The Night Agent: A Novel by Matthew Quirk right now).    

What is an important lesson you have learned from a student?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that every student has had a different life experience that impacts how they learn, how they engage with each other, and how they express themselves in and out of the classroom. This means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to how we educate our students, and it is important to bear that in mind as we think about the future of academia. It also reflects the challenges that we face as we work to make every student feel like they belong at Tobin and St. John’s.

What is the best piece of advice you can give a student?

Always be building your network. I often see students start looking for a job during their senior year as they approach graduation. The best time to look for a job is when you don’t need a job, and the easiest way to do that is by building your network. The contacts you make throughout your time here are the people who will be recruiting you or who you can reach out to when looking for a job. St. John’s has countless events bringing alumni and industry representatives to campus. Those are fantastic opportunities to connect with people in the field.

What is your proudest career achievement thus far?

Being asked to serve as the Dean of the Tobin College of Business!